The Adventures of a Choose-Your-Own Welcome Series

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

Author Bio

Greg Zakowicz is a senior commerce marketing analyst at Oracle + Bronto. With more than 10 years of experience in email, mobile and social media marketing, Zakowicz knows the retail industry and its challenges, staying on top of the latest trends by leveraging deep insight into the marketing spectrum. His subject matter expertise stems from his experience in providing commerce marketers — including numerous Internet Retailer Top 1000 clients — with in-depth analysis of their marketing programs, recommendations for improvement, best practice support and implementation guidance and execution.

Zakowicz is a frequent webinar speaker and presenter at ecommerce events, such as Fashion Digital New York, SIA Snow Show and ROI Revolution Summit. He has been published by top retail and marketing publications, including Power Retail and Inside Retail, and is a regular contributor to Bronto’s Commerce Marketing blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @WhatsGregDoing.

I remember as a child reading “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, where the story and ending ultimately depended on the choices I made throughout the story. Why not be adventurous and take this same approach with your welcome series? After all, a welcome series is designed to introduce, engage and build consumer confidence with your brand. What better way to do that than by delivering content based on the actions and preferences of your newly acquired customers?

Consider the possibilities for a shoe retailer who could send welcome series messages with a loafer theme to contacts who showed an interest in loafers at a very early stage. Or a clothing company that can send maternity-specific messaging to those who click links for maternity products. The ability to make these messages as relevant as possible ultimately helps set your series up for even greater success.

To execute a “choose your own”-style welcome series, follow these four steps:

Step 1: Collect Subscriber Data

A successful welcome series requires reliable data. Think about how you can optimize your acquisition points to collect more relevant information. There are four primary places where you can collect new subscriber data:

Ask for it During Sign-Up

Are you asking for preference data you can segment upon at sign-up? Your subscribers are more likely to provide you with information during those initial interactions, when they are most engaged with your brand. If your sign-up process allows, you should attempt to collect gender, category of interest or any other targeted information that pertains to your products.

Identify the Sign-up Location

Add a hidden field or list assignment based on the page the user is viewing when they choose to sign up. For example, if you’re a shoe retailer, your hidden field value could capture whether the contact used the form from the men’s page or the women’s page. You can take this a step further by having a more detailed field, such as men’s loafer, tennis shoes, etc. Read more on using this tactic here.

Capture Click Activity

The welcome message should be the most-read message in your email program. Use a contact’s click behavior within this message to determine which message they will receive next. Not only are they interested in your products (they just signed up), but their actions immediately tell you what they are focused on. The navigation bar makes the obvious choice here, as these are commonly your overarching links of importance.

Request Additional Preference Data via Dedicated Messaging

A manage preferences message is a common part of a welcome series. If you send it early in the series, you can use the data provided to dictate future messages.

Step 2: Create Your Segments

What information do you need in order to segment your list? Gender, product category, price point, something else, or all of the above? Your criteria for segmentation will be based on how you’ve been collecting your data up to this point, but that doesn’t mean you can’t update your plans and incorporate some of strategies from step one going forward. For example, if you only collect email addresses at sign-up and have no other means of gathering info, identify contacts who clicked on particular links in the welcome message, and build new segments from there.

Note: Be mindful that a person may enter multiple segments, so creating a priority list will be important for you. For example, if someone clicks on both the women’s and maternity links in your welcome message, you need to determine which of these two segments takes precedence over the other. You may decide maternity has a more immediate need and send the maternity-focused series to this contact.

Step 3: Create a New Stream of Messages

Now that you know what specific audience you want to target, you can begin creating your new welcome series messages. You can customize the imagery, highlight specific value-adds, include secondary CTAs, and even feature specific product recommendations based on the segment. You may also have a better idea of crossover categories that would be most likely to convert. If you’re tight on resources, using product recommendations and related crossover categories within your existing emails may be easier to execute until new messages can be created.

Take this Everlast email, for example. I could easily use the three CTAs in the email to determine what the focus of the subsequent messages should be. I could even combine that with gender to really differentiate product types within the category.

Everlast exampleStep 4: Analyze and Adapt

As with other automated messages, never set it and forget it. Be sure to analyze the performance of these messages to determine not only if they convert better in general, but also which segments and which messages in the series convert better.

With this information, you can begin to apply a profitable segmentation strategy to your standard promotional messages as well. It could also be the first step in customizing a similar strategy for other series, such as those for post-purchase or lapsed purchase.

There you have it. Have fun experimenting with a more unique subscriber onboarding adventure, while really focusing on your overall segmentation strategy. So how will your story end? To try this strategy, return to Step 1. To try a more basic optimization strategy, click here. The choice is yours.