barnes noble email welcome series strategy

Barnes & Noble Email Welcome Series Strategy Breakdown

Although it’s a sad reality, bricks and mortar bookstores are struggling. As our consumption of books as a society changes, bookstores are now becoming more and more obsolete. The arrival of e-books, the issue of piracy, and the rising popularity of other forms of entertainment has seen the demand of physical books decline over the years. Total book store sales in the United States amounted to $11.01 billion in 2016, down from $15.24 billion in 2010.

As a result, small-to-medium bookstore owners are unable to compete with the low prices and convenience of e-commerce stores like Amazon. Even chain bookstores face the same issue. After 40 years of operation, Borders was declared bankrupt in 2011. This left Barnes & Noble as the sole remaining national bookstore chain in America.

Although Barnes & Noble faces an uphill battle, they have a wide range of products on offer outside of their catalogue of books, have managed to integrate well into the e-commerce space, and have great email marketing practices. In particular, their welcome series is really effective and helpful for new subscribers. This is sure to keep them a relevant and successful company for years to come.

Welcome series

Welcome emails are extremely important in email marketing for ecommerce. Right as your new subscriber has subscribed to your store’s email list is when they are the most engaged with your brand. This is reflected in the statistics when compared to regular bulk email newsletters: welcome emails have an 86% greater unique open rate, 336% higher transaction rate, and make 320% more revenue.

However, it’s not enough to simply send out a single email to quickly welcome your new subscriber. Having a good welcome email series is about giving them some TLC, in the form of welcome offers, product recommendations and brand education, to turn them into a loyal customer. After signing up to Barnes & Noble’s email list, they do a great job of nurturing me as a new subscriber.

single welcome email example from barnes and noble

Immediately after registering my email address on their website, Barnes & Noble sent me this welcome email. Because the brand is more closely associated with their bricks and mortar bookstores, this email does a great job at bridging the gap between those and their e-commerce store by including a link to the ‘Find a store’ search engine on their website. However, the email mainly focuses on their online offerings, so that they don’t compromise the effectiveness of this welcome email.

The email includes a number of calls to action that direct readers to their different media, such as their website and their app. They also cleverly include a short pitch, explaining why new subscribers should follow up on these different services, e.g. ‘Free Shipping with $25 purchase’ on their online store.

I also really like how Barnes & Noble lets their new subscribers know what content they’ll be receiving now that they’ve signed up for their email list. This helps keep them informed and know what to expect to receive in their inboxes, generating excitement and anticipation for subsequent email newsletters.

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Barnes & Noble follow up the initial welcome email about an hour with a second one. This time, they offer a 15% offer code to entice a conversion. The email is led with a welcome to the customer, and thanks them for signing up to the email list. Again, the email includes a few lines of text letting the new subscriber know what will be sent to them in future newsletters.

What makes this email great though, is that they generate a sense of urgency by clearly stating when the offer code expires. Barnes & Noble gave me a tight timeframe (one month) to make use of it, making me feel like I need to start browsing their store as soon as I see the expiration date.

I also like how Barnes & Noble gives those who receive this welcome email the option to either use the offer code in store at one of the bricks and mortar outlets, or online. Additionally, the simplicity of the email helps to draw attention to the 15% off discount, as well as to the button with the email’s call to action.

Although many e-commerce stores opt to send out an offer code in the first email in their welcome series, I think it could be just as effective sending out this email as a follow up. This gives the customer time to browse through your online store and find products they would consider purchasing. Seeing the offer code may help to convince them to go through with a transaction.

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The next email in the Barnes & Noble welcome series takes more of an educative angle, providing some brand awareness for their new subscribers. I received this email a few days after the first two welcome emails. The main point of this email is to let the new subscribers know that they have much more on offer than just books.

The use of ‘See all’ as the call to action helps to give this email an educational feel, making it stand apart from a regular newsletter. Even if this email doesn’t end up leading to any conversions, subscribers now know more about the range of products that Barnes & Noble stock, and might go to their online store if they are looking for these items.

To read more on how to construct an effective welcome email series, read here: 3 Emails Every Ecommerce Stores Needs in Their Welcome Series.

To learn how you can easily create your own welcome email series with SmartrMail, read here: How to Automate Your Welcome Series Emails with SmartrMail.

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Product education

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After these three initial emails, Barnes & Noble proceeds to educate subscribers about their other offerings. Emails about their membership benefits, Kids’ Club and free apps all similarly sought to help new subscribers become more aware of what Barnes & Noble has to offer, and how they will benefit from these services. These emails were sent two days apart.

barnes & noble product information education email apps reading nook

Email newsletters

Throughout this two-week period, Barnes & Noble also intermittently sent out some product newsletters. This helped to create a seamless transition in and out of their welcome series. These newsletters mainly featured popular products, which help to showcase Barnes & Noble’s catalogue of book titles on offer. Although they don’t advertise any sales or offer codes during this welcome series, this works to encourage subscribers to make use of the discount code they received.

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As the expiration date of the original 15% off welcome offer code draws nearer, Barnes & Noble started to market new offers and discounts. Particularly, they sent out a total of 4 newsletters advertising their Labor Day 20% off offer code. Sending multiple follow up emails ensured that every subscriber was made aware of the offer, and also helped to generate urgency with each email.

email newsletter offer code 20% off coupon in store online labor day urgency

However, one small criticism I have for Barnes & Noble’s email marketing strategy is that they have begun to send out these email newsletters too regularly – daily in fact. This could be detrimental and may result in a decline in subscribers’ engagement with their emails.

barnes & noble gmail daily emails sending newsletters

To read more about why you should not be sending marketing emails to your subscribers daily, read here: Should My Store Sending Daily Emails?


The decline in the consumption of books has affected the demand of these products in the retail world. However, Barnes & Noble still has a big presence in this space. Their great email marketing practices undoubtedly help them to continue to thrive selling books and other products through their ecommerce store. In particular, their welcome email series strikes the perfect balance between selling their products and brand and educating their subscribers. Every e-commerce marketer should look at Barnes & Noble for inspiration.

Additional welcome email strategy tips

In addition to all the takeaways from looking at Barnes & Noble’s email welcome series strategy, we also have some other guides you might be interested in:

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