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

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?
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).
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 bulletproof buttons and you're good to go.
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.
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.
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.
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 studies and tests Listrak’s best practice content standards to empower the Listrak team to produce top-quality work for our clients. 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.

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