A recent report by growth marketing provider Iterable, ‘User Engagement Top 100 Report: Email Marketing in E-Commerce‘, analyzed the welcome emails of the top 100 U.S. e-retailers (according to Internet Retailer). The results provide an insight into the email strategies of some of the most successful e-commerce brands, covering industries such as consumer technology, sporting goods, fashion and luxury.
A full list of all 100 e-retailers is available in the report, along with some practical tips to help optimize your own welcome campaign.
Key insights from the report:
- Welcome emails are common. 87 of the 100 companies sent at least one email to welcome new users, with 49 committing to a series of welcome emails.
- Many brands send just a single email. Of those that engage in a welcome campaign, 44 sent just one email, 34 sent two, 17 sent three, and 5 sent four or more.
- Offers are rare. Only 26 offered a sign-up discount or other incentive. 73 of those who did offer a discount preferred to offer a % discount (15% was the most common). 19 offered a dollar-amount-off discount, and just 8 offered a free gift.
- Not everyone is on board. 13 have yet to implement any kind of welcome campaign.
Here are some of the key ways that ecommerce brands in the report are making use of welcome email, the pros and cons of each technique, and what retailers can learn from them to optimize their email campaigns.
Content produced in partnership with Iterable.
Types of welcome email
Although welcome emails are common practice among major brands, their executions vary wildly. The right approach for you should depend on your industry, audience and goal.
But before we get into that, let’s take a look at some examples to see how the big brands are doing it.
1. Just say thanks
Barring transactional emails like confirmations, welcome emails have one of the highest open rates of any email type (around 50-60% by some estimates). So while a simple, text-based ‘thank you’ isn’t offensive, it also misses a huge opportunity.
The style adopted by Foot Locker in the example below may have been motivated by improving load time or dodging spam filters, but it fails to deliver the same brand experience as the rest of their online channels.
2. Convey the brand proposition and encourage consumers to explore
Fashion and sporting goods brands tend to favor this approach: reminding the user why they signed up, giving more information on the brand’s history and values, and using the CTA to funnel them back to the website.
Online fashion retailers Nordstrom, for example, use large images to capture attention, and concise copy to convey unique features of the service.
3. Showcase products and push to purchase
Although not technically retailers in their own rights, online marketplaces like Etsy are still an important part of the e-commerce space – offering a platform on which third-party retailers can reach customers.
It makes sense, then, that their welcome emails focus more heavily on their products than their brand proposition.
The benefits of a welcome email
According to the 2010 Welcome Email Strategies Report, a welcome email can increase long-term engagement with a brand by 33%. And while it can also play a role in driving short-term, measurable results like increased traffic, click-throughs and conversions, it’s also an important touchpoint to build your brand. It sets your tone of voice for direct communications, and opens a dialogue with your customers.
This welcome email I received from Bed Bath & Beyond was perfectly inoffensive in terms of content…
…but was sent from a customer service email address. This was a missed opportunity to engage me with the brand, and instead made it clear that the email was automated.
Customers subscribe with certain expectations about your brand, and it’s important that those met by your first email. A welcome email that is poorly-targeted or doesn’t match the rest of your brand experience will challenge their beliefs about your brand.
The excitement and brightness of Dick’s Sporting Goods’ homepage…
… is not matched by their welcome email…
A great welcome email, however, can make customers feel excited about your brand, and motivate them to return to your website carrying that good feeling.
Nike maintain a consistent look and feel – clean and modern – on both their website and their welcome email:
Practical tips for marketers
Send a welcome email as soon as possible. Catch customers while your brand is top-of-mind. Quick confirmation validates their signup action and provides an opportunity to set their expectations going forward.
Say thanks. Signing up to a newsletter or creating an account is a signal that a customer likes you and wants to engage with you. Saying ‘thank you’ lets them know you appreciate the effort they’ve taken.
Consider adding a reward. Better than a simple ‘thank you,’ validate their action even further by providing an exclusive discount, voucher or gift. This is a positive interaction that will influence the customer’s perception of you going forward. It also reminds customers why they signed up in the first place and makes them more open to future marketing messages.
Give them a next step. This is arguably the most important step to include – omitting a call to action wastes a huge opportunity to influence customer behaviour. Most retailers provide a call to action that drives users back to their website – typically encouraging them to explore their product catalogue, try advanced features or provide more information about preferences.
Say how often you’ll be sending emails. Customers are savvy – they know what handing over an email address entails. Being upfront about the frequency of your email sends and giving them an opportunity to manage their preference minimizes the risk of annoyance.
To learn more about email marketing in e-commerce, download the User Engagement Top 100 Report from Iterable. It has original research and analysis from the welcome campaigns, cart abandonment campaigns and blast campaigns of the top 100 US e-retailers – yielding detailed, practical insights.
This article was produced in collaboration with Iterable. Click here to read ClickZ’s collaborative content guidelines.