Welcome email series are one of the first and most important email automations merchants can set up for their store.
After all, the best way to start a relationship with a new customer is to welcome them with open arms. And when we’re dealing with people online, the best way to give them a warm welcome is with a dedicated welcome email series.
But whether you’re new to commerce email marketing or have just never got around to setting up your welcome emails, you likely have plenty of questions running through your head:
What exactly is a welcome email series? What is the difference between a welcome email and a welcome series? What are the best practices when setting them up? When should you automate them to send?
This article will provide you with the answers to all these questions and then some.
From what welcome emails are, to why they’re important and how you set them up in SmartrMail, this article will cover everything you need to know about one of the most powerful email automations.
Table of contents
- What are welcome emails
- Why welcome emails are essential
- Welcome email campaign structure
- Content every welcome series should contain
- Segmenting your welcome series by purchase activity
- Sample welcome email workflows
- How to set up a welcome email series in SmartrMail
- General steps
What are welcome emails
First things first: what exactly are welcome emails?
In short, a welcome email is simply an email that is automatically sent as soon as someone signs up to your email list.
You will almost certainly have received plenty of welcome emails in the past.
In their most basic form, they simply welcome you to the email list you’ve just signed up for.
It doesn’t have to be a single email
Many stores and brands will just automate a single welcome email to send, however the most successful welcome emails include multiple emails spaced out over a particular period of time.
This is known as a welcome series. Where in addition to an email being sent immediately after someone signs up to an email list, subsequent emails are also automated to send later on.
There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to how many emails should appear in a welcome series, or the timeframe they should be sent across.
Depending on the needs of a particular brand, a welcome series might be spread out across several weeks and in some cases, potentially months.
While you don’t have to develop a welcome email series this long, having at least three or four emails in your series is important to make the most of your welcome email automation.
Why welcome emails are essential
Welcome emails are an incredibly important automation, especially for online merchants.
And it goes well beyond just making a good first impression.
Your subscribers are rarely more engaged and receptive to your email marketing than they are when they first sign up for your email list. This makes welcome emails the perfect way to capitalize on this opportunity and introduce people to your brand.
The hard stats bear this out too.
Even if your new subscriber has already made a purchase, a good welcome series will help convert a one-time shopper into the important category of repeat purchasers.
Your customers expect to receive a welcome email
You also don’t have to worry about feeling like you’re spamming people by sending a welcome email.
Three-quarters of people expect to receive an email immediately upon signing up for your email list. So if you haven’t automated a welcome series, then most of your email subscribers will be left disappointed when they go to look for your email in their inbox.
The opportunity to establish and build a relationship
You don’t want the opportunity to go to waste when so many of your subscribers are actively searching for, opening, and clicking on your welcome emails.
By setting up a great welcome series, you’re laying the groundwork for establishing and nurturing the relationship with your customers.
This will keep your brand top-of-mind and get people to identify with your brand’s identity meaning that when they decide to make a purchase, it’ll be more likely they choose to do business with you.
Welcome email campaign structure
As we’ve already touched on, your welcome email campaign should consist of more than a single email. Instead, it should be a series of at least three different emails.
In this section, we’ll cover how to best structure your welcome series and what content to include in your emails.
Email content every welcome series should contain
There are a few fundamentals that every good commerce welcome series should contain, which are:
- A sincere thank you for signing up to your email list
- An introduction to your brand
- What separates your brand from your competitors?
- What are your brand’s values and mission?
- Who are you and why did you start your business?
- An overview of your product or service offerings
- What products or services do you offer?
- Why should people buy your products over other alternatives?
- What are the benefits of purchasing your products or using your services?
- Educational content
- Tips on how to use your products
- Guides on how to solve problems your products or services address
- Content related to your industry
As you can see, there is plenty of content your welcome series should contain.
This is another reason why your welcome series should be split up into at least a few different emails so that you’re able to cover all this content without cramming it all into a single email.
To help make better sense of all these points, we’ll go through each point one-by-one in more detail. At the end, there’s also a summary diagram that you can save for future reference.
1) A sincere thank you for signing up
Regardless of your brand and what you sell, showing your appreciation to someone who has handed over their email address goes a long way.
This should be included in the very first email in your welcome series (the one that’s automated to send immediately after someone joins your list).
In addition to showing your appreciation, you should also communicate what your subscribers should expect in future emails from you.
Ideally, you will have already been upfront about this before they sign up for your email list so they know what they’re getting into. Repeating this in your first welcome email is however a good way to ensure everyone remains on the same page.
Starbucks’ welcome email demonstrates both these points well.
2) Introducing your brand
After you’ve thanked your new subscriber for signing up and reiterated what they should expect from being on your list, the next thing most brands do in their welcome series is introduce themselves a bit more.
By going into things like your brand’s values or mission statement and what separates your brand from your competitors, you’ll hopefully convince your subscribers that they should do business with you.
A great way to do this while building a strong personal connection between your subscribers and your brand is to include a founder story. This is where you talk about the reasons and motivations behind why you or your brand’s founders started the business.
Doing so humanizes your brand, especially if your audience is able to relate to the story, increasing people’s affinity with your brand.
Yuppiechef’s email is a good example of this in action.
Depending on how much detail you want to go into, you can either include this in your initial welcome email beneath your thank you message, or include it a second welcome email all on its own.
If you opt for the latter option, a good time to send this email is a day or two after someone signs up. During this timeframe, your brand will still be fresh in the minds of your new subscribers but importantly, enough time will have passed since your first welcome email to avoid spamming them.
This email is also a good opportunity to mention other ways your subscribers can stay connected such as by following your brand on social media.
3) Overview of your product offerings
As your customer becomes more familiar with your brand, you should also familiarize them with your products.
If you don’t have access to any data on what individual products your subscribers might be interested in yet, you can give them an overview of the various categories of products you offer or include some of your most popular items.
Such as in the example from Glossier.
Or if your store is based around selling a small collection of similar products, you can outline all the various features of this product.
Away, the popular luggage brand, provides a good example of this kind of welcome email.
As shown in their “The perfect suitcase” email.
If you do have any data on what your new subscriber is interested in, then you should use it to tailor the products to their interests.
Especially when personalized email content delivers 6x higher transaction rates than non-personalized emails.
This email should ideally be sent three or four days after your second welcome email on your brand.
If you introduced your branding in your initial welcome email instead of in a separate second email, then you can reduce the delay in this welcome email to two or three days.
4) Educational content
After you’ve sent your first two or three welcome emails, you can follow them up with some educational content.
Educational emails make for the perfect natural pitches for your products where you can talk about how your items solve particular problems your subscribers might be facing.
While the substance of your educational content is dependent on what your business is, some examples of potential email ideas if you sell laundry detergent include:
- How to remove difficult stains
- Toxins found in common laundry detergents to avoid
- How to keep your whites white
- How to reduce the environmental impact of your washing loads
If someone has signed up to an email list from a laundry detergent company, then chances are all of these email ideas will be something they’ll be interested in receiving.
If you’re selling an environmentally friendly detergent that doesn’t have toxins commonly found in other detergents, then they all also give you the opportunity to promote your product.
Harry’s takes this a step further by asking a simple question in their educational welcome email and then provides links to relevant educational content for both possible responses.
Any previous blog posts you have could potentially make for great educational content for these emails. Otherwise, it’s worthwhile creating some content for use in your welcome series.
The only real limit to how many educational emails you include in your welcome series is the amount of content you have. So by all means, feel free to include more than one educational email.
As you get further into your welcome series, you should gradually decrease the frequency of your emails.
For instance, roughly a week after your product offering welcome email is a good amount of time to wait until you send your first educational email.
While you can then send more educational content a week later, afterward you’ll want to decrease the frequency to every second week.
Segmenting your welcome series by purchase activity
While the above content is something just about every welcome series should contain, the most successful welcome email automations will tailor this content for two separate audiences with the help of two unique series.
These two separate audiences are those who have signed up for your email list and haven’t yet made a purchase and those who have already made a purchase.
By setting up two separate automated email series and segmenting them by past purchase activity, you’re able to tailor the messaging to the two quite different audiences better. This increases the effectiveness of both welcome series compared to how a single series sending to both audiences would perform.
To see how these two series differ from each other, we’ll go through them both in depth.
Welcome series for subscribers yet to make a purchase
In addition to introducing your brand, your welcome series for your new subscribers who are yet to make a purchase should also have the goal of enticing people to make their first purchase.
The most common way merchants try to incentive someone’s first purchase is simply through including a coupon. Just like in the example from Riley.
You don’t necessarily need to go for the hard sell straight away, instead you may want to hold off on offering a discount until the second or third email in this welcome series.
However, as you get deeper into your welcome series for subscribers who haven’t made a purchase, you’ll want to gradually increase the incentive.
This might mean offering a slightly larger discount every couple of emails, or offering to send a free sample or some other service that’ll help convert your subscribers into paying customers.
If you set up this welcome series the way we’ll take you through in the next section, then as soon as your customer makes a purchase, they won’t receive any further emails in the series.
So any larger discounts you include later in your series will only be sent to those whom the earlier, smaller discounts didn’t persuade. That way you don’t have to worry about giving away too much margin to customers when it’s not required.
Welcome series for customers who have already made a purchase
One of the most common ways that merchants grow their email lists is by letting new customers opt-in to their email marketing during checkout.
This is a great way to grow your email list
It will also mean that your welcome series to these new customers will be different compared to the series for new subscribers who haven’t made a purchase yet.
While welcome emails to these new customers have the goal of converting them into repeat buyers, getting a customer to make a second purchase is far easier than getting someone to make their first purchase.
This means that you don’t have to go as heavy with offering coupons or other incentives in this welcome series. Instead, simply keeping your new customers engaged and informed of what you offer will help with enticing further purchases.
The best way to keep your new customers engaged is by getting them to be active members of your community.
This can take the form of encouraging them to not only follow you on your socials, but also share images of your products with particular hashtags, leave a review, or participate in other forms of social proof like joining competitions.
Of course, you might still want to opt to include a discount further along in this welcome series if someone hasn’t made an additional purchase.
Welcome series for subscribers signing up through a lead generator
In addition to signing new customers up to your email list as they check out, the other common way merchants collect new subscribers is by offering them something in exchange for signing up.
Common examples of this include offering free ebooks, guides, and other goods you can deliver through email.
If you are growing your email list this way, then it’s important to create a separate welcome series where you deliver what you promised your subscribers in the first email that you send immediately.
While the initial welcome email will look somewhat different to the other two above series, the remainder of the welcome series should be similar to what subscribers who are yet to make a purchase receive.
The email below from Jen Sincero that was triggered after signing up to download a PDF guide is a good example of this type of welcome email.
Sample welcome email workflows
As promised, here is a summary of what emails your various welcome series should contain and roughly when they should be sent.
Beyond sending the first welcome email immediately after someone joins your list, keep in mind that these are just recommendations. Feel free to tweak the timing to suit your unique audience.
If you decide to adjust the frequency of your welcome emails, remember that if you send them too frequently, you risk spamming and annoying your new subscribers. On the other hand, if you send them too infrequently, you risk your new subscribers being disengaged from your brand.
It’s a balancing act that can take some time to get right.
How to set up a welcome email series in SmartrMail
Now that you know what a welcome email series is, why they’re important and what the best practices are, it’s time to turn our attention to how you can set them up.
Fortunately, SmartrMail makes it super easy to set up your welcome series. All you have to do is follow the steps below.
If you don’t have a SmartrMail account yet, you can sign up for a 15-day free trial here if you run your online store on Shopify, BigCommerce, Woocommerce, or Neto ecommerce platforms.
1) Setting up your two segments
As you’ll want to create two separate welcome series, one for new subscribers who haven’t made a purchase yet and one for those who have, you’ll first need to set up the two different segments.
To create a segment of subscribers who haven’t made a purchase before, you’ll first need to log into your SmartrMail account and go to your Subscribers page and then select the Smart Segments tab.
From here you can then click on the “Create new segment” button, as shown below.
After clicking on the link, you’ll be able to set up the rules for your new segment.
For this, you’ll want to give the segment a name like “Subscribers yet to purchase” and then select the rule “orders (# total)” and have the condition be ‘less than 1 order”. As in the example below.
You will then be taken back to the previous page that provides an overview of all your segments where you will find your newly created segment of subscribers who haven’t made a purchase yet at the top.
Note: Depending on how many subscribers your store has, it might take several minutes to calculate the number of subscribers in this segment. This is okay and doesn’t affect setting up welcome emails.
Now that you’ve successfully created your first segment for one of your welcome series, you’ll be glad to know that you don’t need to manually set up a segment for subscribers who have already made a purchase.
SmartrMail comes with a segment called “Customers Over Time” pre-made that is just what we need for the second welcome series for existing customers.
You’ll find this segment toward the bottom of the Subscribers page when you select the Smart Segments tab.
2) Creating your welcome emails
Now that we have both segments ready, it’s time to create the actual emails.
To do this, you first need to navigate to the Welcome Emails tab on the Automations page and then click on the “New Welcome Email” button, as shown below.
You’ll notice on this page that there are two pre-made welcome email templates. One set up to send immediately and the other to send four days later.
You’re welcome to edit these templates to your liking, but for the purposes of explanation, we’ll go through the process of creating a welcome email from scratch here.
Once you click on the New Welcome Email button, you’ll be presented with options to give your welcome email a campaign name for your internal use (your email subscribers won’t see this), as well as select who’ll receive the email, its subject line, and the preview text.
Setting up the appropriate segment
By default, the ‘To’ field will be “All Subscribers”, however, to ensure those who have made a purchase already don’t receive this email, you’ll need to click on the blue “exclude” link to the right of this field and select the “Customers Over Time” segment.
Once this is done, your settings should look something like this:
After you’ve given your email a subject line and preview text, you can then select a layout below and start composing your welcome email.
If you’re unsure of how to compose an email with SmartrMail’s email composer, you can view a quick tutorial video here.
3) Automate the email
Once you’ve created your welcome email the way you like, it’s time to automate it so that it’ll send automatically to the right people.
To do this, click on the blue “Automate” button in the upper right-hand corner of the composer screen. This is also where you’ll find buttons to preview how your email will look, send a test email to your inbox, and save your draft if you want to work on it more at a later time.
Before automating or sending any email, it’s a good habit to send yourself a test to ensure you’re happy with how your email appears in your inbox.
Once you’re happy and you click on the Automate button, you’ll be presented with a couple more options as shown below.
In most cases, you can leave the first option as “Subscriber added by integration or form”.
The alternative choice is to also include list upload. Selecting this option will mean that new subscribers you add by uploading a list (for instance, from a previous ESP) will also receive the welcome email.
Seeing as these people will have signed up for your email marketing some time ago, it’s recommended that you do not send them a welcome email.
Choosing when to send the email
The second option is one you’ll want to adjust depending on which email in your welcome series you’re setting up.
If you’re setting up the initial welcome email, then you’ll want to leave this option as ‘Immediately’. This means that the email will send immediately after someone signs up to your list.
However, if you’re setting up any subsequent emails in your series, then you’ll want to adjust this.
For instance, if you’re setting up the second email in your welcome series, then you’ll want to change this option to be either one or two days depending on the exact timing you prefer.
4) Repeat for other emails in your series
Once you’ve set up the first email in your welcome series, repeat steps 2 and 3 for subsequent emails in the series, adjust the “When” option when automating the email.
Once you’ve finished setting up all the emails in the first welcome series, then you also simply need to repeat these steps again for your second welcome series and any other series you want to set up.
One important difference between different series
The only thing you in addition to changing when emails send when you’re dealing with a new welcome series is the ‘To’ field.
In step 2 we covered how to set this up for new subscribers who haven’t made a purchase yet.
When setting up your welcome series for customers who have made a purchase, you will need to change the ‘Exclude’ field to select the “Customers Over Time” segment that you set up in step 1.
That means you’ll end up with something looking like this:
Setting up a welcome series for people signing up through a particular source
If you want to create a welcome series for people who have signed up for your email list through a particular source (such as a popup or landing page with a special promotion), then step 1 will be slightly different.
Instead of setting up a Smart Segment, you will need to create a new email list.
You can do this by going to the Subscribers page, select the “Email Lists” tab, and then giving your new list a name under the “Create new list” heading and clicking on the blue “Create new list” button. As shown below.
After creating this new email list, you can use it when setting up a popup within SmartrMail (instructions on doing that can be found here) or use it for creating landing pages or with third-party popups.
Selecting the correct list in the ‘To’ field
After creating the email list, you just have to make sure that you select your new list instead of “All Subscribers” when creating a new welcome email.
Points to keep in mind
When setting up your welcome series, there are a few points that are good to keep in mind.
We’ve already touched on these, but it’s good to briefly bring them up again.
People who convert from your welcome series for non-purchasers will no longer receive further follow-ups
Setting up your welcome series for new subscribers who haven’t made a purchase with the method above will mean that as soon as they do make a purchase, they will no longer receive any subsequent emails in the welcome series.
This means you don’t have to worry about increasing your discount offer further along in the sequence. The only people who will see your more generous offer in, say your fifth welcome email in the series, will be those for whom the smaller offer in the second email didn’t convert.
Welcome emails only send to new subscribers
Any existing subscribers you have when you’re creating your welcome emails will not receive any of the emails when you go to automate them.
It is only new subscribers who sign up after you’ve automated your welcome emails who will receive them.
Unless you change the option from “subscriber added by integration or form” to “subscriber added by integration, form or list upload” when automating your welcome emails, then if you manually add new subscribers to your SmartrMail account (such as by uploading a csv) after creating your welcome emails, then they too won’t receive the welcome emails.
Welcome emails are one of the most effective commerce email automations that you can set up for your store.
Not only do your subscribers and customers expect to receive them upon signing up to your email list, but they capitalize on the brief window of time where your audience is most engaged and receptive to receiving emails from you.
When you set up multiple series for different types of subscribers that go beyond a single welcome email, you’ll bring in additional sales as you convince people to make their first purchase and convert one-time shoppers into repeat customers.
And when they are so easy and straightforward to set up with virtually no ongoing effort required, there’s no reason not to set them up right now.
If you’re looking for more examples of welcome emails or more tips on strategy, we have several additional posts you might be interested in:
- A collection of welcome email subject lines that subscribers can’t help but click on.
- Barnes & Noble welcome series breakdown. Where we explore the welcome series strategy of the iconic bookseller.
- A collection of 7 fashion emails you can’t ignore if you’re looking for some inspiration for your fashion store.
- Welcome email tactics that turn prospects into leads in case you’re looking for more strategy ideas.
Still have questions about your welcome emails?
If you’re still unclear about anything related to welcome email best practices or how to set them up, the SmartrMail customer success team is always ready to help.
If you’re already a SmartrMail customer on a paid plan, you’re more than welcome to ask any questions to have through the in-app support chat.
If you’re not a SmartrMail customer yet, we encourage you to sign up for our 15-day free trial.
The trial is completely commitment-free and during it you’re able to jump on a free one-on-one call with a member of our customer success team where you can ask any questions you have and be shown how to automate your welcome series the way you want.
Just looking for the main points? Here they are:
- Welcome emails are one of the most important email automations for merchants
- Welcome emails have an 86% higher unique open rate, 336% greater transaction rate, and make a whopping 320% more revenue on average.
- Three-quarters of people expect to receive an email immediately after signing up for your email list.
- Successful welcome email strategies involve the use of more than just one, but multiple emails that form a welcome email series.
- The most successful strategies will also use multiple welcome email series, segmented by whether your new subscriber has already made a purchase or not, or whether they joined from a campaign that promised something in return like a free ebook.
- Regardless of which welcome series someone receives, the first welcome email should be sent immediately and thank the subscriber for signing up
- Additional welcome emails should be spaced out at increasing intervals and should introduce your brand and what you sell in more detail before moving to educational content where you can pitch your products.
- Discounts are good to include in your welcome emails as a way to entice new subscribers to make either their first purchase or for new customers, their second purchase.
- Once your welcome series are set up, they require little ongoing work or effort, letting you build brand loyalty with your subscribers and generate sales effectively on autopilot.