Welcome Letters

We are putting the final touches on our 2006 Retail Email Marketing study, and we should have it available for download from starting next Monday.

I presented the top line results at last week's OMMA event, and we spent a good portion of the session examining the best Welcome Letters we received. While we go into detail in the white paper, here are some takeaways:

Only 45 percent of those retailers who had an email program in place sent a welcome letter. More interesting, only 30 percent sent a welcome letter and followed up with transactional email. Seventy percent either sent no email at all or sent only a welcome letter.

This is significant because it has been established in many studies that Welcome letters have a significantly higher open rate than standard transactional emails. It is in the Welcome letter that you can establish your brand and introduce yourself and your services to potential customers. That more than two-thirds of retailers are missing this opportunity is astounding.



But clearly, some are not. Below is a list of some of the best practices we monitored within Welcome letter email:

Personalization: Personalizing the email with the person's name was incorporated into a number of email welcome letters, although not all. Only a few, however, personalized the content based on your interests or location. Ikea, for instance, provides information about the Ikea store nearest your ZIP code.

Statement of Purpose: A clear statement of the purpose of the email, what kinds of offers to expect, and the frequency of arrival are all great things to include in an email welcome letter. Albertsons, for instance, lets you know that "you'll be receiving weekly emails full of shopping specials, recipes, coupons and weekly ads designed to make your grocery dollar go farther." They also include a free gift, in the form of a printable cookbook, and include a "Send to a Friend" feature.

Free Shipping or Savings: Many of the retailers offer free shipping with the first order over a certain amount or 10 percent off the first purchase. Providing the customer with special codes can help track the sale from the email sent, which helps the brand measure conversion from their Welcome letter efforts. It gives customers an incentive to begin associating the email offer with purchasing a product.

Links Back to the Site: Other than a specific link back to the home page, many retailers provide a string of links (particularly across the top of the page) driving the customer back to specific areas of the site. With proper tracking, this is a great mechanism to determine what the customer is interested in, and provides segmentation information for later use. HomeGoods goes even further, asking you to check off your areas of interest in the body of the email. This is a good example of weighting the personal information you want to receive from the client to post sign-up communications, rather than risk the customer will hesitate or reject signing up if too much personal information is requested during the sign-up process.

Printable In-Store Coupons: Another feature prominent in some Welcome letters is the printable coupon, good for discounts for in-store, as opposed to online sales. This is a key feature of the Kirkland's Home Welcome letter, where a 25 percent-off coupon on any one purchase is offered.

Rewards Programs: Up-sells to Customer Appreciation Programs and Rewards Programs are a key feature of welcome letters from Talbot's and OfficeMax. Why not use the Welcome letter as your best chance to up-sell your customer? They've already signed up for one program, why not another?

An interesting observation is that nearly one-quarter of the Welcome letters we reviewed were not Can-Spam-compliant: no opt-out link, no Can-Spam address. And these were from some big-name brands that should know better. Only a handful supplied any kind of Double Opt-in. Lowe's was one. had the best. It offered discount coupons as a reward for Double Opting-in.

If you are going to do it, do it right.

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