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Aug 10, 2011 | 3 minute read

Email Marketing: Don’t Waste Your Welcome

written by Linda Bustos

One of the biggest missed opportunities I see with retail email marketing is optimizing the welcome email. Considering well-done welcome emails can generate 4x higher open rates, 5x higher click through and a whopping 8x higher revenue per email (source: Experian), every business should care about its welcome email performance.

Today, we'll look at the 3 keys for winning welcome emails.

1. Act fast

Your email sign up form is on your website, correct? This is one of the few times you know a customer has been hanging out on your site before sending a promotional message. So strike while the iron's hot, while the customer is thinking about you. Don't wait 24 hours or even 3 hours. As quickly as technically possible gives you the best chance of an open.

2. Improve your inbox appeal

We all scan inboxes and consciously or even unconsciously filter out messages we deem irrelevant or spam. Your sender name should be your business name, this is a trigger keyword that is very important for recognition and trust. You should also keep it consistent with the sender name you use for other campaigns, as it's important that subscribers add you to their address book, and you don't want them to have to do it twice ;)

Also important is your subject line. Welcome emails are usually devoid of interesting content and thus may be completely ignored. You need to suggest there's somethin' worth looking at behind the click.

Let's look at some good and not-so-good examples from the wild:


eFollet appears as 'YourBookstore' and is not intuitive and could be perceived as spam. ('Mailing list' leaves a similarly awful taste in your mouth.)

Somewhat better

J.Crew mentions its name in the subject line, but better to repeat it in the sender name. 'ContactUs' -- how unfriendly and uninteresting!


'Staples / Welcome to Staples' is an accurate description but has no spice to entice you to click through.

Much better

Office Max includes deal messaging in the pre-header text (awesome), but not all clients display such text, so the subject line is still a better place to tease.

'Office Depot Smart Email Deal Alerts,' despite the 'noreply' sender name atrocity delivers exactly what the customer anticipated when he signed on. 'Deal alert' gives a reason to open. also suggests there are goodies behind the click.

Nieman Marcus uses some good psychotactics, capitalizing FREE SHIPPING makes it stand out, and "next order" refers to spending money. And isn't that the ultimate goal of any online marketing message?

3. Have a call to action

J.Crew's welcome email just restates the obvious:

It's follow-up email +24 hours later, on the other hand, is stellar. The free shipping offer is clear, time limited and carries a threshold of $100. (It's also optimized the pre-header). Why not send this email as the welcome message?

Contrast this with Talbots, which buries its incentive in a horizontal, colored bar that is easy to miss:

Of course, a transactional call to action with an incentive to buy such as a free shipping offer will likely produce more sales, but you also risk cannibalizing your profit margin, as many of these customers who were just poking around on your site minutes ago may be willing to buy at regular price (try a split-test offer vs. non-offer to measure the profit difference).

You don't have to sell in your welcome email, so long as you highlight some action that you want your subscribers to take. Examples are 'Find us on Facebook,' 'add to your address book,' 'update your preferences' (for segmentation) or 'sign up for Loyalty Rewards.' Office Max is an example:

Crate and Barrel prominently features its social networks. I only wished they were in color to stand out more:

Of course, A/B testing can play a role in your welcome message optimization. Also consider segmenting subscribers based on their interaction (or lack thereof) with the welcome message and the timing of the response.

Looking for help with ecommerce? Contact the Elastic Path consulting team at to learn how our ecommerce strategy and conversion optimization services can improve your business results.