Best Practices for a Successful Onboarding Series
As the saying goes, “you only get one chance to make a good first impression.” This quote can be applied to many scenarios like a job interview or a first date—but nowhere does it ring more true than with email marketing. With the average email subscriber receiving hundreds of marketing messages a month, it’s more important than ever for brands to make a positive first impression, turning new subscribers into loyal customers. One of the best ways to achieve this is through an optimized onboarding program which can help set the foundation for a lasting relationship.
While it’s common for brands to send new subscribers a welcome message after signing up for their email program, it’s far less common to send an onboarding series. According to the Return Path Study, How America’s Top Retailers Set the Tone with Welcome Emails, 75% of Internet Retailer’s top 100 list sent a welcome message but only 4% of those brands went on to send an onboarding series. Not only is an onboarding series an effective way to start building a solid relationship with a new subscriber, but it also helps foster long-term engagement with your email program. Our study found that subscribers who read three messages in a welcome (or onboarding) series went on to read 69% of subsequent messages, compared to just 18% of messages that were read by subscribers who just received one message in a welcome series.
*Source – How America’s Top Retailers Set the Tone with Welcome Emails
Subscribers are generally most receptive to your marketing messages within the first 30 days of opting into your program, so the emails you send during this time play a critical role in turning these new subscribers into active subscribers and customers.
When creating an onboarding series, it’s important to keep the following best practices in mind:
- Start with the welcome. New subscribers should receive a welcome message immediately upon signing up for your program. The message should thank them for signing up and reiterate important email benefits as well as set expectations for future message content and frequency.
- Educate the subscriber. After the welcome message, follow up with a few additional messages aimed at introducing the subscriber to your brand and everything your company and website has to offer—whether that’s free shipping on all orders, 24 hour customer service, or interesting blog content. While these messages can contain special offers or incentives, the main focus should be on educating the subscriber and making their experience with the email program as positive and meaningful as possible.
- Make it fun. One of the best ways to spark subscriber interest is through interactive content. Whether you feature how-to-videos, website tutorials, or polls and quizzes, adding an element of interactivity is a great way to encourage engagement from new subscribers while getting them excited about your brand and letting your voice and personality shine through. You can also use the onboarding series as an opportunity to promote your social media channels and alternate methods of communication.
- Don’t overwhelm them. During the time new subscribers are receiving their onboarding messages—which may occur over the course of a few days to a week or two, depending on how many messages you have in your onboarding series—hold off on sending additional messages, especially promotional ones. Bombarding new subscribers with too many messages right after sign up is a common reason they disengage—or worse, mark your messages as spam.
- Ask for preferences. Use the onboarding series as an opportunity to collect additional subscriber information. From demographic and geographic information to preferred message categories and frequency, this will help personalize future messages, making content more relevant and enticing for subscribers.
- Testing is key. With any new email communication, testing is the most effective way to determine what strategy works the best for your specific audience. From subject lines and content to message timing and cadence, running a/b tests can help you optimize the onboarding series for improved results and long-term success.
Now let’s look at an example of an effective onboarding series that applies many of these best practice elements:
Ikea Onboarding Series
Over the course of a week, Ikea sends three onboarding emails to new subscribers. The messages effectively introduce subscribers to everything the store has to offer and sets expectations for future communications. It also promotes Ikea’s different social media platforms and encourages the subscriber to complete their profile.
Subject Line: Welcome to IKEA!
Timing: Immediately upon sign up
Subject Line: Learn about IKEA Services!
Timing: Sent two days after email #1
Subject Line: Learn about IKEA’S Warranties & Sustainability Efforts!
Timing: Sent four days after email #2
So whether you’re looking to add an onboarding series to your email program or modify your current one, be sure to follow these best practices to achieve optimal results. Not only will a strategic onboarding series help improve subscriber loyalty and engagement, but it can also help decrease subscriber complaints, improving deliverability and ultimately increasing your bottom line.
About Alexandra Braunstein
Alexandra has been helping world class brands grow and optimize their email marketing strategies and initiatives for over a decade. As an Email Strategist for Return Path, Alexandra uses her passion for analytical and creative thinking to help marketers refine their email programs, resulting in more emails getting delivered to the inbox, improved subscriber engagement, and increased ROI.