In an increasingly omni-channel world, email remains a key method of communication. Yet, while over half of all welcome emails get opened, after merely a few of months, the open rate tends to decline to around 20 percent. 

Simply put, the Welcome email is an “opportunity email,” a chance to make an impact on this budding relationship. People signed up, supposedly, because they wanted to hear more from you. After this initial contact, while some might know a decline, here are a few tips on keeping your subscriber enthused.

Get the Basics Right

1. Timing is everything

That first communication should be triggered within 24 hours after hitting submit. The longer you wait, the more likely people will start forgetting they signed up. Why wait to start the relationship? Take advantage of the interaction recency as this is when subscribers are more likely to be engaged.

2. Welcome your new subscriber

Any welcome email worthy of being called a welcome email should welcome your new users. This means being transparent about the purpose of your message in your subject line, which should state “Thank you for signing up with (your company name)” or “Welcome to (your company name).” Since this is the very first point of contact, it is important not to forget the name of your brand in that subject line. Would you open an email from someone you don’t know?

3. Get whitelisted

What is the point in creating enticing groundbreaking email campaigns if they never make it to your recipient’s inbox? If you are going to build a relationship with your subscriber, ask them to add you to their contact list to ensure they receive your messages in the future. This will avoid your communication being filtered into the spam folder and increases your deliverability.

4. Have a call to action

Whether you are an advocate of having an offer from the onset or not, your welcome email should have a call to action, even if that action is merely one that redirects the subscriber to your website. Give your new user something to do, somewhere to go.

5. Omni channel

The message is not about your new app or about your presence on Pinterest, but it should not be overlooked either. Having a constant social media footer provides easy access to your various social media pages and allows your new subscribers to follow you on additional channels from this very first point of contact.

The Next Level Up

To maximize long-term engagement, I would like to suggest taking things a step further to ease the new subscriber into the relationship:

6. Orientation time: welcome series

The purpose of a welcome series would be to educate the subscriber on your brand and give a taste of what is to come in the upcoming months. This can transform a simple welcome mat into a real red carpet experience. Savvy Mom, a Canadian digital publisher increased its unique click through rates by 450% by turning its welcome email into a three email welcome series.

This is also the perfect moment to make an introductory offer. The idea is to lock that subscriber into the relationship and make him/her look forward to that next interaction.

A good example would be the Saks Fifth Avenue  three email welcome series, which incorporates the aforementioned basics:


The first email, received within 10 minutes of signing up, thanks the new subscribers for joining, explains the benefits of subscribing, has a clear call to action back to the website, offers an incentive to shop as a reward for signing up, and of course features the social media channels, as well as requests to be added to the address book. The email also clearly states more emails are to come.

The second email, received less than a day later, is educational focused and highlights the key features of the website while also introducing the retailer’s loyalty program.

Finally, the third email received 24 hours after the second, focuses on promoting the social media outlets.

7. Speak the local language: segment by source

Signups can come from a variety of sources, which can mean different knowledge levels. A subscriber who signed up via your branded website might have a very different level of interaction and knowledge of your brand that someone who signed up via your Facebook page, from someone who signed up via your point of sale, and from someone who might have agreed to receive information from a third party (in this case, you).

Different knowledge level and different interest levels can mean different customer profiles who might react differently when receiving this first communication or communication series from you.

Segmenting by source means taking in account the potential level of interest and style this customer might be accustomed to. Some of these subscribers might require more education about your brand than others; some might require more of a hook. What is important is that the content is relevant to them. After all, irrelevant content is the second reason why subscribers unsubscribe from emails, behind receiving too many emails. Thus ensuring the content is tailored can help minimize un-subscriptions from the get-go.

8. Chicken and egg: track and test

At this point in time, it is important to remember the importance of tracking the success of these different campaigns. Should a particular user group show a high level of unsubscribe after just one email, don’t throw it out of the window just yet. Instead, A/B test. Whether that means changing the subject line for half the database of that user group and checking whether there is an impact or changing one of the emails in the series and measuring the impact, each step should be carefully monitored and benchmarked against a control group.

Welcoming your new subscriber is of course only the first step of building the relationship. But getting that or those first interactions right ensures you get off to a pleasant start.

Editor's Note: Interested in reading more about email marketing? Check out Colleen Pettit's Ensure Your Marketing Messages Get Delivered, Even to Gmail