4 Ways to Squander the Welcome E-mail Opportunity
The welcome e-mail is probably the single greatest opportunity e-mail marketers have to engage subscribers and drive action. Welcome messages generate superior open rates and, when done well, create a halo effect that boosts subscribers’ engagement with subsequent promotional and trigger e-mails.
After examining the welcome e-mail practices of 112 of the largest online retailers for a recently released Retail Welcome Email Benchmark Study, I've put together a list of four ways to squander that welcome e-mail opportunity:
1. You don’t send a welcome e-mail. Given the golden opportunity that welcome e-mails present marketers, it’s unfortunate so many still let the moment pass. Only 76 percent of retailers in our study send welcome e-mails. While that’s up from 72 percent in 2007 and 66 percent in 2006, it’s disheartening that more companies aren’t seizing this key marketing moment.
2. You take longer than 24 hours to deliver your welcome e-mail. First impressions can be everything — and a quickly delivered welcome e-mail is a critical element of this. Twenty-three percent of retailers took more than 24 hours to deliver their welcome e-mails, greatly diminishing their effectiveness.
“If you can’t deliver a welcome e-mail in the first 24 hours, many times the opportunity is lost, and the message strategy should be adjusted,” says Stefan Pollard, senior strategic consultant with e-mail service provider Responsys, which partnered with us on the study. “So get it there immediately, if you can.”
I encourage marketers to get their welcome e-mails into new subscribers’ inboxes within 10 minutes. A solid majority of retailers (62 percent) already do this. If you’re in the minority and take more than 10 minutes, 24 hours or even a week to deliver your welcome, you risk unsubscribes and spam complaints because of your delays.
3. Your welcome e-mail doesn’t set expectations for future e-mails. While some subscription processes are rich with detailed descriptions and sample newsletters, most are not, which heightens the need for detailed welcome e-mails. However, retailers do a poor job of setting content and frequency expectations. Only 76 percent explain the benefits of being a subscriber, for example.
Regrettably, retailers have become less and less open about the frequency with which they’ll e-mail subscribers. This year, only 6 percent say — even in somewhat vague terms — how often subscribers should expect e-mails. That’s down from 13 percent in 2007 and 17 percent in 2006. Considering that overmailing is one of the top two reasons people unsubscribe, this failure to set volume expectations is a real liability.
4. Your welcome e-mail doesn’t have any calls to action. Welcome e-mails aren't subscription confirmation e-mails; they're your first opportunity to engage subscribers and demonstrate the value of your e-mails. The clearest indication that retailers are missing the point: only 87 percent include a link to their homepages. Providing that link is the most elementary avenue of engagement. Retailers miss many other opportunities to engage new subscribers with promotional, multichannel, loyalty and viral elements as well.
If you haven’t examined your welcome e-mail in a while, I encourage you to compare yours against the benchmarks in our study and look for ways to communicate your brand strengths and engage your subscribers.
Chad S. White is the author of "Email Marketing Rules" and research director at Litmus, which provides email teams with powerful tools for email creation, testing, analytics, and collaboration. He has written more than 3,000 posts and articles about email marketing trends and best practices. A former journalist, Chad previously served as lead email marketing researcher at Salesforce.com, ExactTarget, Responsys, and the Direct Marketing Association.