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So Just How Important Is a Welcome Campaign, Anyway?

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by: Richard Austin (@biggestof)
29 November 2012

What motives lie behind someone visiting your website and signing up for email?

Let’s look at one example: A prospective customer has searched online, “Facebooked” friends for recommendations and ended up visiting your site. He hasn’t purchased yet, but he’s signed up for your email programme.

Consider the real-life equivalent — a man walks into your store and browses through several different items, but doesn’t buy anything. On his way out, he asks if you can send him further information about the products he was looking at.

Would you watch him walk away, or take some time to tell him why he should buy from you, educate him on the great product range you offer, present a few customer favourites and highlight your no-quibble returns policy?

This, in essence, is a welcome campaign.

And if you were thinking that in the example above you’d ask about exactly what he was interested in or how much he had to spend, then you’ve just thrown a preference centre into the mix.

So, if you’d be proactive in the real world, why not in the digital one? Given that open rates can fall by 25 percent a few weeks after sign-up if no initial welcome message is sent, the importance of a welcome campaign is clear.

So what makes a great welcome programme?

Let’s start with what consumers expect businesses to know, according to the Email Experience Council:

  • The types of products or services they like (64 percent)
  • The types of offers they like (61 percent)
  • Whether they’re a new or returning customer (54 percent)
  • Their communication preferences (47 percent)

In addition, according to eConsultancy’s UK Email Marketing Statistics report, the majority of consumers (52 percent) sign up for email to receive discounts or other “money off” promotions.

With those findings in mind, a good welcome campaign should include:

  1. A discount or money-off voucher
  2. Reference to product or service preferences
  3. Confirmation of communication preferences

By referencing recent purchase data and the source of the opt-in, you can add another layer of sophistication. For example, you might identify those who have signed up via the check-out process, and recognize this buyer behavior by tailoring the content around the product/service purchased, including any relevant cross-sell content.

Let’s review some examples:

One of the stand-out elements on the welcome email is its “Here’s everything you need to know…” preheader.

Not only does it say “Thank you” and set expectations on content, it highlights this text and makes it unmissable.

The larger font size is extended to the personalisation, and “Hi Lucy!” provides a big friendly welcome.

There’s also a 10 percent discount incentive, promoted visibly within the email, as a reward for signing up. And, quite deliberately, the key unique value propositions for shopping at Freemans are bulleted below the offer, all helping to incentivise the initial purchase.

With its preheader, personalisation and whitelisting request, this email squarely hits the first point in the list above.

Adding product and communication preference confirmations or directing the recipient to a place where these can be determined might make this strong welcome message even more engaging.





The RSPCA also personalises its message and says “thank you” for opting in.

In addition, it firmly sets expectations on frequency (“At the beginning of each month …”) and content (“packed full of our campaigns, fundraising initiatives and news ...”).

At the end of this section, the charity also provides the opportunity to “update your preferences” and tell it what you’d like to receive.

The content also recognises the common motivations for opting in and reflects this in the navigation options shown (e.g. “Get involved”) and the very strong call to action panel “Take Action,” which shows how the recipient can make a difference.

The need to offer a discount isn’t applicable to this communication; however, it does an excellent job in setting expectations, providing opportunities to set preferences and addressing recipient motivations.




Hotel Chocolat

A key element to this campaign is that it refers to the opt-in source — in this case, the store in Watford — and subtly changes the welcome message based on this data, including the email address given during the opt-in process.

This helps recall the opt-in moment, prevents the email from being disregarded as spam and confirms the legitimacy of the email.

The message also sets out expectations on content through an easily scanned bulleted list, as well as frequency (“this is the first of three emails …”) in the next paragraph. As a result, recipients are clear on what they can expect in the next few emails and are primed to look out for these within their inbox.

There’s also a nod toward consumer desire for a discounted promotion with the inclusion of the “Win a Chocolatier’s Table!” competition. To make the message even stronger, this element could be more tightly integrated into the overall layout, becoming the main call to action.



The welcome campaign is a key part of every email programme, instantly thanking customers for their interest. By collecting and referencing a couple of data points, like preferences and opt-in location, it becomes a highly personalised and effective communication.

To ensure the optimal performance of your campaign, be sure to examine how well it:

  • Addresses customer motivations
  • References previous purchase behaviour

Then, consider how you might incorporate:

  • Offering a discount or money off voucher
  • Referencing product or service preferences
  • Confirming communication preferences

A strong welcome email will reduce the number of customers walking out of the door, improve contact retention and, most importantly, increase revenue. Say “Hi” to your potential new customers, find out what they’re interested in, recognise them from before, and begin to give them what they want.

You’ll be surprised by the results.

Once you’ve optimized your welcome email, you can extend the concept even further by creating a dynamic onboarding program (or welcome series) in which the messages that subscribers receive not only change based on their behaviors and preferences, but their interaction with these emails as well.

For example, did they click the link about your “Store Card”? Or, if they haven’t used the discount voucher yet and it’s about to run out, should a reminder be sent?

With Christmas on its way and New Year’s sales soon to follow, now is the perfect time to update your welcome messages.

Related Resources:
1) Blog: "Email Marketing 'Best' Practices: A Modern Framework"
2) Google+ post: "Worst Welcome Email of All Time?"
3) White Paper: "6 Marketing Trends for 2013 -- and Tips for Succeeding in the Year of the Customer"


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