Not all welcome e-mails are created equal. The exceptional ones have certain elements, the most important of which is consumer engagement, says Stephanie Miller, vice president of strategic services at New York-based Return Path, an e-mail performance management company.
What should go into that first communication with a new customer? Miller lists basic requirements: Welcome her, thank her for signing up, remind her what she signed up for (including how often it will be in her inbox) and ask her to whitelist the company e-mail address.
The message's most important mission is to create consumer engagement that doesn't overpower the welcome itself. Miller says many retailers provide a discount, such as free shipping on a first order. While this is a good tactic, she points to Sephora as having an exceptional welcome that shows customers the depth of its product offerings and allows them to click straight through to them.
Backtracking a bit to find out where customers signed up for the e-mail interaction can go a long way toward making consumer engagement relevant. Miller says if a registrant entered via the homepage, she's likely familiar with the brand. If the request for e-mails came in on a co-registration site, the consumer may need more information before feeling inclined to make a purchase.
Welcome e-mails also should be timely. "The best way to do it is to have it be automatically triggered," she says.
Finally, Miller suggests that senders think of the welcome message more as a welcome series. A time frame of two weeks is ideal, with the initial welcome message and offer followed every few days by a total of three more. The subsequent missives should be pithy, perhaps with one highlighting "the three coolest things on the Web site," another providing quick tips about how to use the product, and another containing a small article and a podcast link.
"They may not buy four times in those two weeks," Miller says. "But you've engaged with them four times in those two weeks, and this is the most vulnerable part of your relationship."