6 Tips for Developing an Impactful Email Onboarding Series
Most brands send a welcome email, but highly successful ones focus on an email onboarding series. With close to one-third of newly acquired subscribers leaving an email program within the first month, according to the "Lifecycle Benchmark" report by Return Path, it is critical to use this time to make a positive first impression with new subscribers. The first 30 days of the subscriber lifecycle, known as the onboarding phase, is often the first experience a subscriber has with your brand and the messages you send during this time play a key role in turning new subscribers into active subscribers and customers.
The lifecycle benchmark data from Return Path also shows that engagement rates are the highest for the first onboarding touch but decline slightly over the next 30 days. Attrition rates are also elevated during this time with a full 34 percent of newly acquired subscribers leaving the program within the first month. This highlights the importance of focusing on an optimized onboarding program to help set the foundation for a lasting relationship.
Whether you’re looking to create an email onboarding series or overhaul your current strategy, follow these guidelines in order to implement engaging and impactful messages that will drive results:
1. Start With the Welcome
New subscribers should receive a welcome message immediately upon signing up for your program. The message should thank them for signing up and reiterate important email benefits and next steps to get started interacting with the brand.
Example: Red Wing Shoe’s welcome email highlights the type of information which will be included in future emails and encourages the new subscriber to get to know the brand and find the closest store location.
2. Educate the Subscriber
After the welcome message, follow up with a few additional messages aimed at introducing the subscriber to your brand and everything your company and website has to offer - whether that’s free shipping on all orders, 24-hour customer service, or interesting blog content. While these messages can contain special offers or incentives, the main focus should be on educating the subscriber and making their experience with the email program as positive and meaningful as possible.
Example: In their second touch onboarding message, Carter’s highlights five reasons why the new subscriber will love the brand including chances to earn rewards, free shipping to stores, and cute styles at a great value.
3. Make It Fun
One of the best ways to spark subscriber interest is through interactive content. Whether you feature how-to-videos, website tutorials, or polls and quizzes, adding an element of interactivity is a great way to encourage engagement from new subscribers while getting them excited about your brand and letting your voice and personality shine through. You can also use the onboarding series as an opportunity to promote your social media channels and alternate methods of communication.
Example: During their onboarding phase Peleton welcomes new subscribers to the community and encourages them to take a quiz to find the best instructor for their fitness needs.
4. Ask for Preferences
Use the onboarding series as an opportunity to collect additional subscriber information. From demographic and geographic information to preferred message categories and frequency, this will help personalize future messages, making content more relevant and enticing for subscribers.
Example: Panera Bread collects additional data during their onboarding phase by including a call out for new subscribers to update their profile.
5. Don’t Overwhelm Them
During the time new subscribers are receiving their onboarding messages, which may occur over the course of a few days to a week or two (depending on how many messages you have in your onboarding series), hold off on sending additional messages, especially promotional ones. Bombarding new subscribers with too many messages right after sign up is a common reason subscribers disengage or worse, mark your messages as spam.
6. Testing Is Key
With any new email communication, testing is the most effective way to determine what strategy works best for your specific audience. From subject lines and content to message timing and cadence, running a/b tests can help you optimize the email onboarding series for improved results and long term success.
Not only will a strategic email onboarding series help improve subscriber loyalty and engagement, but it can also help decrease subscriber complaints, improve deliverability, and ultimately increase your bottom line.
Alexandra Braunstein has been helping world class brands grow and optimize their email marketing strategies and initiatives for over a decade. As an email strategist for Return Path, Alexandra uses her passion for analytical and creative thinking to help marketers refine their email programs, resulting in more emails getting delivered to the inbox, improved subscriber engagement, and increased ROI.