Give Your Welcome Series A Makeover: Top Five Ways to Optimize Conversions

by Laurel Morse

As Manager of Copywriting and Content Strategy for our Professional Services department, I've created, received, and reviewed many (many) welcome emails throughout my career, for brands in and out of the eComm realm. I’ve formed some pretty strong opinions by melding my personal take-aways with the research that other email industry leaders have conducted, and I’ll share my recommendations with you throughout this series. Without further ado...  

Top Five Ways to Optimize Welcome Series Conversions  
OK, it’s actually six, but “top five” just has a better ring to it, right?

Because an eComm welcome series typically enjoys a spectacular conversion rate, you should remember that the key content objectives are to greet new subscribers and nurture them down the sales funnel into the wonderful world of customerdom.  

I want to pause here for a moment and make sure you notice the word "nurture"; a welcome message should be a form of your regular marketing emails -- similar in basic design and structure to ensure brand consistency -- that's designed specifically to educate new subscribers and nurture a relationship with those who don't yet know a lot about your brand. It's through this budding relationship that loyal customers are formed.  

To get the best bang for your welcome-series-buck, keep the following tips in mind:  
1.      "Why" works: Begin by doing some research into who the humans receiving your emails actually are (as opposed to who you think they are), what they want from you (as opposed to what you assume they want from you), and how you can deliver on their expectations. I'm talking about how you do things differently than your competitors and why your subscribers should care about that. Why should anyone shop with you over all the other choices?

2.      Lose the hard-sell: While incentives ($ or % off typically perform best) and compelling, specific calls-to-action are important, cramming a too-pushy sales pitch down your subscribers' throats is not always the best way to build trust -- especially with someone who's new to your brand. Instead, try something subtle, clever, and targeted towards the folks receiving your email (remembering again where they are in the funnel and how this affects the verbiage you select). 

3.     Perfect your CTAs: Because the subscriber is higher in the sales funnel at this point, you'll want to test out low-commitment calls-to-action versus the higher-commitment calls-to-action that are more traditional. CTAs like "shop now" and "click here" are trite at this point; get a little creative with your copy choices and try out lower-commitment CTAs to hook the subscriber into clicking-through to learn more. Throw your copy on some bulletproof buttons and you're good to go.  

4.      Play to their emotions: Forget about why you think your products or services are cool. Forget about the bells-and-whistles. Forget about the fact that your great-grandfather started the company with nothing but two nickels and a prayer. Those facts may be important to you, but you need to stop and think like a customer. Refocus on what your products or services do for someone -- how it will affect their lives for the better. Why should they care -- I mean really, truly care to the extent that they're ready to drop their dollars with you? Try the emotional sell, but again -- be subtle about it.

5.      Include personalized content: Even if you have little personal data about a new subscriber, including personalized content has been proven time after time to heavily boost conversions. This can take the form of product recommendations (based on the subscriber's browsing behavior as well as current best-sellers), blog posts that new subscribers would find useful, new customer start-up kits, relevant social posts (utilizing a service like Olapic), or whatever works best for your brand. 

6.      Don’t wimp out on your subject line: Someone just signed up for your emails, so they’re going to be inclined to interact. Still, your subject line and pre-header text should work together to make sure you get the open. As with all subject lines, keep it short and sweet – 40 characters or so should be your max, and front-load the valuable content to make sure it doesn’t get cut off. And this should go without saying, but make sure your subject line, pre-header and message content are all about the same thing; there’s nothing worse than a bait and switch.

Some examples of what I mean:

Example 1: lululemon

lululemon welcome email

What I like: I love this email. I really, truly do. It's so simple, no one over-thought it, yet it speaks perfectly to the lululemon customer. It makes you want to visit the site and interact with the brand without any kind of overt sales pitch. The navigation is brilliantly simple, it lets me know their blog is up my alley, and the social area is well-defined with clear value propositions and CTAs. Bravo, lululemon. Well done.
What I'd do differently: If I had to nitpick, I'd remove the unsubscribe and browser links from the header. They don't need real estate up there and can live in the footer. The "behind the seams" pun is cute, too, but needs to be hyphenated (sorry, I'm a grammar nerd, I had to say it). I also don't like that the pre-header uses sentence case when nothing else in the email does (including the subject line).

Example 2: One Kings Lane

What I like: The hero greets you and introduces you to what the brand is all about through succinct copy and nice imagery. The email manages to deliver a whole lot of (really good) information without it seeming heavy -- a feat they accomplished through typography, a defined content hierarchy and good visual definition in the layout. The creatively worded CTAs with each content piece make it clear what they want you to do.
What I'd do differently: Saying the word "welcome" in a welcome series is too obvious, but I'll stop there for now. More on that later. I'm not sure that the "hiring" link is needed in a welcome email, but perhaps that's more important to the company than I know. The social elements lack any sort of value proposition, so I have no idea what I get when I click them. Do I go to your Facebook page? Do I instantly "like" your Facebook page or share this email? What happens? Also, the "Shop All Sales" link in the header looks like a design afterthought.

Example 3: Sidecar

What I like: This email is super-simple and easy to skim and digest. It very clearly tells you what to expect from the brand and speaks to the subscriber in a casual voice that makes total sense given their demo.
What I'd do differently: Not only are there no calls-to-action, there are very (very) few links in this email. Finding a way to click-through to the website is actually really hard. Make sure to include CTAs (some bulletproof buttons in this email would be a great addition) and link your images to appropriate landing pages. The email also lacks basic usability and privacy recommendations: a browser link, an explanation of why you're getting the email, and contact information for the sender. I'd also add some kind of value proposition to the social area to indicate what happens when you click.

Example 4: Flatspot

What I like: The layout is well-organized, white-spacey, and gives you a quick snapshot of what you need to know as a new subscriber. It thanks you for joining, delivers your incentive (in a debatably too-subtle way), offers three helpful links (that are permanent so they won't have to change often), and includes relevant social content.
What I'd do differently: It lacks even a single call-to-action. Make sure you include simple, easy-to-follow CTAs that tell your subscribers what you want them to do. I would move the "free shipping" banner up above the Instagram block, as this is a huge perk and will likely drive conversions more than Instagram will.

P.S. Thanks to the team at Really Good Emails for their wealth of inspiration.

Listrak Professional Services’ Content Strategy Committee, led by Manager of Copywriting and Content Strategy Laurel Morse, regularly studies and tests Listrak’s best practice content standards to empower the Listrak team to produce top-quality work for our clients. During this content strategy series, Laurel will share key insights to help you optimize your marketing initiatives.

Keep in mind when reading these thoughts that anyone worth their salt in this industry will always tell you to test the living daylights out of your messages -- everything from subject lines and preheader text to CTAs (placement and copy) and body content. So although we stand strongly behind our best practice recommendations, at the end of the day, best practices are meant to be tested to determine the right content strategy for your brand.

Personal Product Recommendations Engage Lapsed Customers

Every retailer’s email list looks something like this:

Retailers need to do everything they can to engage and re-engage subscribers with every email deployment. It’s no longer enough to send the same message to everyone. It’s true that broadcast messages still work to a degree, but the real power of email is how easy it is to make each email relevant and personal to every recipient. It has been proven over and over again that personalizing messages and segmenting your audience works better than batch and blast messages do.

Simple segmentation will give you a 10-20% lift in revenue from your new and active subscribers alone. More impressively, you’ll re-engage your lapsed and inactive subscribers and get a 2-7% revenue boost from these groups.

This blog post is different from others as it doesn’t offer up tips and best practices for keeping your already engaged audience clicking and buying from you. There is plenty of info available on that topic, like here, and here, and here. Instead, this blog post discusses the often ignored and overlooked segment of your list – the subscribers who opted-in six months, one year, five years ago who never unsubscribed but have rarely opened or clicked on a message and have never purchased. All is not lost with these subscribers. They care enough to remain on your list and you are able to recapture their attentions every once in a while but you just can’t break through to these customers.

Until now.

Personalized product recommendations will re-engage your lapsed and inactive subscribers. We tested it time and time again and the results are always the same – lapsed subscribers who receive emails with merchandise that is customized to their needs not only click (re-engage) but also make the vital first purchase.

In the chart below, you can see a list of subscribers who have been on the client’s list for several years in some cases. These subscribers received hundreds of emails, only opening a small fraction of them and clicking on even fewer. Most importantly, these subscribers have never purchased.

Using Listrak’s Personalization Engine, emails were sent on 11/19 that included the last two specific items each subscriber browsed along with the top selling items in the same category.

As you can see, this tactic worked. Subscribers who rarely opened or clicked on an email placed their first purchases after receiving this personalized message. 

We have proven this tactic over and over again. Want to see more? Join a group demo or contact us for more ideas and information.


See How Personal Product Recommendations Generate 67.4x ROI for IMA

International Military Antiques implemented Listrak’s Personalization Engine in October of 2014. Its onsite recommendations account for 36% of IMA’s ecommerce sales while its email recommendations make up nearly 30% of all email revenue. IMA is seeing a 67.4x ROI from product recommendations alone.

Prior to implementing Listrak’s Personalization Engine for onsite product recommendations, IMA was manually selecting four recommendations for each product page on its website. This was very tedious and difficult to merchandise and manage. With Listrak, IMA can now create customized algorithms and use predictive analytics based on 360-degree customer insights to serve up personalized product recommendations relevant to each visitor.

Product Page
IMA started by adding these personal, automated recommendations to its product pages, which is the best place to start if you are new to onsite recommendations. The recommendations are based on the “viewed this, viewed that” algorithm and they have a 38% higher click-through rate than the site’s average.

Checkout Page
Based on this success, IMA added recommendations to the checkout page and the results were even better. The recommendations on this page use the “frequently bought together” algorithm and they have a click-through that is 140% higher than the site’s average. More importantly, with a 21.3% conversion rate, it is evident that customers are using these recommendations to add more merchandise to their transactions.

Together, the onsite recommendations have a 9.9% click-through rate and a 1.8% conversion rate, accounting for 36% of the total ecomm revenue.

Email Recommendations
IMA also added personal product recommendations to some of its email messages as a way to engage shoppers and assist with product discovery. Since Oct. 2014, personal product recommendations in emails have accounted for nearly 30% of the total email revenue.

Triggered Messages
Starting with its triggered messages, IMA added product recommendations to both its shopping cart abandonment messages and its post purchase emails.

Its three-part cart abandonment series averages a 35.2% open rate, a 13.6% click-through rate and a 24.5% conversion rate. This conversion rate increased 15% with the addition of the recommendations, which are based on the algorithm “frequently purchased together”. The recommendations make up 15.8% of the total revenue for the cart abandonment series.

The post purchase message, which use the “purchased this purchased that” algorithm, averages a 52.3% open rate, a 19.7% click-through rate and an 8.7% conversion rate. The recommendations make up 43.3% of the total revenue generated from the post purchase message.

Weekly Messages
IMA also wanted to boost the engagement and relevancy of its weekly email newsletter and found that including personal product recommendations based on inventory considerations really works. These recurring automated messages, which launched April of 2015, have a 7% higher conversion rate than IMA’s manual campaigns that do not include product recommendations. The recommendations generate 84.7% of the total email revenue brought in from these messages.

Personalized product recommendations in email campaigns really work. IMA averages 9.7% click-through rate and 1.3% conversion rate for emails that include the recommendations. These recommendations drive nearly 30% of IMA’s total email revenue.

About IMA
International Military Antiques (IMA) is the world leader of military collectibles and antiques. IMA has supplied the world’s foremost museums such as the National WWII Museum, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and West Point Museum, film productions such as Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, private collectors and historical reenactors. However, the majority of IMA customers are everyday people that share IMA’s passion for history. Learn more about them at

Questions about how Listrak’s Personalization Engine can help you achieve these same results? Let us know in the comments section.