Welcome Email Practices Improving, But Many Opportunities Remain

Today Smith-Harmon is releasing its Retail Welcome Email Benchmark Study, which we did in partnership with Responsys. In it we examined the welcome email practices of 112 of the largest online retailers. The top-line number is that only 76% of them sent out welcome emails. While that's up from 72% in 2007 and 66% in 2006, it's disheartening that more companies aren't seizing this key marketing moment.

The welcome email is probably the single greatest opportunity that email marketers have to engage subscribers and drive action. They generate superior open rates, arriving ideally at a time of maximum receptivity. And done well, they create a halo effect that boosts subscribers' engagement with subsequent promotional and trigger emails. Given the golden opportunity that welcome emails present marketers, it's unfortunate that so many still let the moment pass -- or bungle the interaction with uninspired messaging.

Especially for subscribers who opt-in -- or fail to opt-out, as is often the case --during the checkout process, the welcome email is the best opportunity for retailers to explain the value that their emails present and to set expectations about what will come next. At a time when permission practices are loosening because of the need to drive list growth and revenue from email, the welcome email is becoming more important every day.



We found plenty of room for improvement. Some retailers didn't make the best first impressions. For instance, 23% retailers took more than 24 hours to deliver their welcome emails, greatly diminishing their effectiveness.

Others didn't take advantage of their welcome emails to set expectations and drive engagement and sales. For example, only 76% explained the benefits of being a subscriber and only 87% included a link to their homepage.

Many retailers also failed to use their welcome email for progressive profiling -- that is, asking subscribers for more information about themselves and their interests to boost the relevancy of future emails. Only 24% of retailers did this, down from 28% in 2006.

Creating welcome series rather than a having a single welcome email is also a growing trend. At least 9% of retailers are currently using a welcome series of two or more emails.

Other key findings from the study include:


  • Text-only welcome emails are becoming increasingly antiquated. More than 89% of retailers sent HTML welcome emails, up from 78% in 2007 and 69% in 2006.


  • The role that welcome emails can play in ensuring future deliverability of emails is growing. More than 68% of retailers used their welcome emails to ask new subscribers to add their address to their address book, up from about 62% in 2007 and 49% in 2006.  


  • The number of top online retailers making their emails CAN-SPAM compliant rose significantly. Nearly 71% included both an unsubscribe link and their mailing address, up from 58% in 2007 and 52% in 2006.


  • While 15% of welcome emails include a forward-to-a-friend link, none included a share-with-your-network (SWYN) link. We expect many marketers to adopt SWYN this year, including adding it to their welcome emails.


    To check out the study, click on the link on our home page.
  • 1 comment about "Welcome Email Practices Improving, But Many Opportunities Remain ".
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    1. Kurt Johansen from Johansen International, March 10, 2009 at 5:37 p.m.

      This is an interesting post about the habits of retailers with welcome emails.
      Marry this together with the recent study that Email marketing brings in $45.06 Return On Investment compared to $7.28 for catalogue ROI then it makes sense to obtain an online presence with your customers.
      You can

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