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First Impressions: The ‘Friend A’ Welcome Experience Strategy

by | Oct 19, 2020

Customers begin their relationship with a brand well before signing up for email. Still, an expansive, well-designed, and well-timed welcome series is critical to deepening that relationship and building brand affinity.

The welcome series is often where shoppers become customers and where customers become advocates. But the perfect email isn’t born in a vacuum (i.e., just in the marketing department), but through testing, learning, iterating, measuring, and observing. 

To do this, you need a customer data platform to give marketing the power to build robust segments using complete customer profiles, to run cross-channel tests, and to intuitively build and deploy emails seamlessly from the same UI where they design the segments and tests. The only way to empower marketing in this way is with a smart hub customer data platform. 

Why are welcome series so important?

  1. Welcome experiences set the tone for customer engagement and are often the first step to a long-term relationship.
  2. Customers often expect brand emails to offer discounts, but many brands commoditize themselves by falling back on promotional offers too soon rather than providing a non-financial utility. 

An excellent welcome experience delivers a range of customer relationship benefits, including — but certainly not limited to — driving sales.


A quick note on discounting

Heavy, continuous discounting is not a strategy; it is an over-relied-upon tactic and, ultimately, a form of bribery that batters your margins. 

We’re not against discounting on principle. During the height of COVID-19 in April 2020, discounting was not just a way to drive much-needed revenue; it was also a way to express empathy and shared hardship that cemented many customers’ loyalty to brands that did it right. But under normal circumstances, chronic discounting will do more harm than good. 

To make an analogy, let’s say you have two friends. 

  1. Friend A always splits the bill, always tells fantastic stories, and is a great and curious listener and asker-of-insightful-questions. 
  2. Friend B always buys dinner, but conversations resemble pulling teeth, and you find yourself making trips to the bathroom just to doomscroll Instagram and shorten the evening.  

Though you may find payday impossibly far away, if Friends A and B ring you up on the same night, you’d still prefer (and will always prefer) hanging out with A. Right?

 

The Friend A welcome experience strategy 

Each of the following facets of the welcome series strategy and mindset lives in an interdependent continuum.

 

Take the long view

An estimated 47% of customers are not ready to buy now but will sometime in the future. A thoughtful welcome experience creates a platform to nurture those customers until they are ready. Rabid discounting or feverishly paced emails are not what “the long view” looks like. The long view favors a thoughtful approach with the banner motto, “Deliver value, then drive value.”

 

Offer value, not discounts. 

54% of today’s consumers say they only pay attention to personalized emails that include a discount. A well-tailored experience can offer non-financial benefits such as ease and simplicity of the experience, confidence-building, education, and coaching, making them 2x as likely to follow through on a purchase and recommend peers.

 

Establish your brand

Giving customers a purposeful look, feel, and voice from their first visit to your site helps establish the brand and set expectations for what life as a customer would be. In times like the current pandemic and resulting recession, brands realize the utility of content. 

  • Startups like Sigil Scent maintain the Sigil Journal, where they interview artists, influencers, and tastemakers who appeal to their target customers. Haoma Skincare goes a similar route, with both interviews and online radio.
  • Investment disruptor Robinhood runs Robinhood Snacks, a brevity-focused financial news site and podcast.
  • Uber-hip DTC suitcase company Away publishes Here Magazine, an elegant travel-focused publication with city guides, travel inspiration, and essays.
  • Music software company Native Instruments focuses entirely on how well-known and up-and-coming musicians use NI software to build sounds and songs in the studio.

In other words, brands now have much more brand-building abilities at their disposal than choosing the right photos or quick-witted copy. By owning shared media opportunities on-site, you can drive awareness, create an appealing halo around your brand, and increase the number of touchpoints customers have with your brand. With Simon’s customer data platform, marketers have access to an easy content block system so they can easily customize emails for any segment.     

Great content also eliminates — or dramatically reduces — the need to offer a signup discount just to get an email address. It’s the promise of value via email that will get visitors signing up.

 

Data collection 

By creating a meaningful welcome experience on-site, you can collect valuable data to enhance the customer’s post-purchase experience. 

While there’s a risk of overdoing it, providing more touchpoints and opportunities to engage with your brand and content will sow the seeds for meaningful data collection. If you’re diligent and responsible with this data, the insights provided will give you substantial directional insight into what works and what doesn’t while opening new avenues for testing and learning. With a strong data layer through your customer data platform, there will be far less internal manual labor incorporating this data into your understanding of each customer. 

Through this process, you can expand and diversify the types of emails you send. Perhaps you’ve found that CTAs in the sidebar of a blog post convert better with one segment, while product-centric emails convert better for another. With the right combination of technology and creativity, you can customize email cadences for each segment. Hence, they get the value they expect, and you drive the KPIs you need to reach high-level business goals.

 

Drive future open rates

On average, customers who read at least one welcome email will read 40% more content from you over the next 180 days. This means that the first emails they receive must be relevant, engaging, and useful beyond a simple purchase. 

Think of your welcome series as competing with an entire inbox. Everything from the subject line to the layout to the actual content must be so excellent that readers will continue to curiously open every week. 

While driving revenue is, of course, the high-level objective, you’re much more likely to achieve it by incentivizing customers to open emails and visit your site without heavy discounting, which, over time, depreciates your brand and sucks up your revenue.

Join us next week as boots hit the ground for a step-by-step look at Building a Best Practice Welcome Experience.

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