New Welcome Message Study: Find Your Best Customers

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Last week, Return Path released a new report on welcome messages. We took Internet Retailer’s Top 100 list, found 75 that send welcome messages and monitored engagement levels for 180 days following the welcome message. Do you send a welcome message for your program? If not, you should be. Why? A welcome message sets the stage for your relationship with your subscriber. People read welcome messages at very high rates.  Plus, those who do read a welcome message tend to read subsequent messages at a higher rate than those who do not read their welcome message. We saw the greatest increase in longer term read rates for subscribers who opened all three messages in a three-part welcome series.  People who read all three messages read 69% of the brands’ email going forward; people who read none continued to ignore the brand’s messages, reading only 5%.

Why is this important? This provides you with a way to identify very early on who is most likely to be engaged with your program and therefore who is most likely to become a valuable customer. By looking at welcome message open rates, you can immediately begin to segment your file and send different offers or content to those who opened versus those that didn’t. For example, maybe the more engaged group doesn’t need strong discounts in order to be interested in your products and you can save those discounts for those that need more incentive to respond. On the flip side, maybe your incentives are better spent on those you know are more likely to respond in the first place. Only testing will show what makes the most sense for your program.

If you’re looking to launch or redesign a welcome message, here are some key best practices:

  1. Send your welcome message right away so the subscriber can tie their sign-up action together with the message.  It reinforces that they asked to receive email from your brand.
  2. Thank the subscriber for signing up.
  3. Tell them what to expect from your brand. What types of messages will they be receiving? About how often will they receive them?
  4. Include any discount that was offered at the point of subscription. Interestingly, we found that offering a discount had no impact on future email engagement rates. Consider testing the necessity of even offering a discount.
  5. Action links – to shop, read, download.
  6. Take the opportunity to gather more information about your subscriber.  If you have a preference center and actively use the data you collect there, feature it in your welcome  message.
  7. Showcase your content. Do you have buying guides, a blog or an active social media presence? This is an opportunity to let your email subscribers know about all the content or services you have to offer.
  8. Make it clear that the subscriber is free to unsubscribe at any time and include an unsubscribe link.
  9. Include whitelisting instructions.

Sound like a lot? It is, so you’ll need to prioritize and play with design to make sure the message is not overwhelming. It’s also a reason to consider the welcome message series which allows you to spread out your content. Let’s take a look at one of the welcome series we saw as part of our study.

Crate and Barrel uses their welcome series to showcase their brand, products and features by introducing different features in each message. The first message has the subject line “Welcome to our home.” The first message shows all the categories of products available, one way to shop (by top-rated) and social media links. The second message is sent three days later and uses the subject line “Welcome to entertaining made easy.” This message focuses on entertaining products, the company’s designers, the pick-up in store option and the gift registry. The third message is sent two days later and has the subject line “Welcome to beautiful furniture made to last.”  This message discusses furniture workmanship, introduces the store credit card and promotes the catalog.

Welcome to our home.


Welcome to entertaining made easy.


Welcome to beautiful furniture made to last.


Read our study today to learn more. If you don’t send a welcome message today, add it to your list for 2015. If you already send one, when was the last time you looked at it? Have you looked at your response rates? Are you taking any actions based on those rates?  Add welcome message optimization to your list as well.



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