12 Days of Christmas: Show Some Holiday Hospitality with a Warm Welcome

Being a native New Yorker living in London with a geographically dispersed team of consultants and clients in multiple countries, I do a lot of international travel. As a result, I have learned to cope reasonably well with the various hassles associated with long-haul plane journeys, including the inevitable delays, bad food, cramped seats, turbulence, lengthy lines and jet-lag.

While it’s impossible to ignore the mind-numbingly repetitive, time-consuming and occasionally unpleasant nature of travel these days, one part of the process never fails to put a smile on my face. It happens when I’m on the immigration line at whichever U.S. airport I frequently travel to—JFK, DEN or SFO—and the immigration officer finishes with the questions, stamps my passport and says “Welcome home.” For some reason, that greeting alone makes everything else worth it.

Email marketers could learn a lot from this positive experience. Sending a welcome message to new subscribers reaffirms that the marketer appreciates the steps the subscriber took to sign-up and provides the marketer with the opportunity to make a great first impression with email. New subscribers are likely to be more engaged and hungry for information about the brand, its products and services and the email program.

Welcome messages are the ideal way to leverage the nature of this early-stage relationship, extend a symbolic handshake and prime subscribers to start opening, clicking, browsing and purchasing. And yet, according to two Return Path studies, this basic best practice is often overlooked: we found that 60% of U.S. companies and 55% of U.K. companies did not send a welcome message. These marketers are missing out on a huge opportunity to drive immediate engagement and boost the value of the email address they recently acquired. Where can you start? Beyond just sending a welcome message, make sure you implement these best practices:

Acknowledge the point of sign-up: If you have a multi-channel business (i.e., ecommerce website, retail locations, catalogs and call centers), be sure to use the welcome message to recognize the channel the subscriber used to sign up. Subscribers will have had unique brand experiences across different channels, so use the welcome message to build upon that while educating them about other ways they can interact with your brand and purchase your products and services.
Address your subscribers’ needs: Make sure you are clear about the benefits of the email program. How will your messages improve your subscriber’s lives? Why is your email worth anticipating and interacting with? What are you doing differently or better than your competitors?
Give them what they want: Provide an incentive or discount for subscribers to start browsing and shopping your site, especially if you’re a retailer. By giving subscribers access to exclusive “email only” savings, you’ll get what you want in return: conversions, purchase activity and revenue.
Use subscriber data: If you’ve asked subscribers to provide you with information like a zip code/post code, preferred product categories, first/last name or username during the sign-up process, incorporate that information into the welcome message. For example, use a subscriber’s geographic location to feature the address of the retail store that’s closest to them, or include images from their preferred product category or area of interest. The more targeted and customized your welcome message, the more relevant it will be. Establishing this tone and providing value early on in the relationship will prime subscribers to engage with your subsequent messaging over the long-term.
Set expectations: Include information about the email program in your welcome message and let subscribers know what to expect in terms of content, message types and frequency. If you have a preference center, the welcome message is a natural place to promote this feature by including a link to access it. Allow subscribers to choose what they want to receive, when, how often and in what format.

This article is the final post in our multi-post blog series covering 12 tips for optimizing your email program for the holiday season. Don’t forget to download our tip sheet here. You can also access previous posts by Stephanie Colleton, Guy Hanson, John Pollard, Tonya Mitchell, Bonnie Malone, Julia Peavy and me using the links below. We hope your festive season is filled with opens, clicks and lots of subscriber engagement! Happy Holidays!

Previous posts in our 12 Days of Christmas series:
Learning from last year
Scrooge Isn’t The Only Complainer At Christmas Time!
Don’t Stuff the Inbox with Fruitcake
Leverage Your Good Reputation with Certification
Holiday Fashion Tips for Your Email
The Art of Giving
Don’t Forget the Holiday Wrapping
Silent Night (and Day!) – When Your Subscribers Stop Engaging
The Mobile Questions and Answers That Will Impact Your Email Program All Year Long
It’s the Mobile Wonderful Time of the Year
The “Silver and Gold” of Your Marketing Program

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