Countdown to Conversions: A Welcome Series that Works

Julie Waite

Gardener's logoI recently started gardening for the first time, so I have been shopping online and researching garden products, plants, and tools quite often lately. One site I discovered was Gardener’s Supply Company, and I signed up for their emails in an attempt to get more tips on gardening, get their sale messages, and win a really sweet rain barrel. When I received their welcome message, I thought it was nice, with a modest free shipping offer, and filed it away in my welcome message archives, thinking that if I decided to buy anything for the garden soon, I’d come back to it.

Then every three days, I received email after email from them, and around the third or fourth one, I realized they were continuously thanking me for signing up, and calling out that free shipping offer. What I hadn’t noticed on the first message (it was buried in fine print) was that the free shipping incentive ended in 14 days. Every message included a countdown: 11 days… 8 days… 5 days… free shipping ends tomorrow! On that last one, I caved and ordered the composter bin I had had my eye on.

How does an email marketing strategist who knows the game fall for an incentive? A sense of urgency, and the idea that a reward earned may be forfeited – that’s what it takes for me. Their plan worked like a charm. Let’s look at the creative in depth…

#1 – Subject: Free Shipping On Your Next Order (click to view)

Nice layout once images are enabled, good use of preheader, and a clear call-to-action. Since this is the first time getting an email from them and images are blocked by default, this could have been better designed for images off – that navigation bar could easily be made bulletproof, and they could have included a big bulletproof call-to-action button to get me interested in shopping immediately, before I’ve even seen any images.

#2 – Subject: Free Shipping On Exclusive, Garden-Tested Products

Same layout, same thank you and same links to their Facebook page, blog, and catalog. This time they went for a different main image. Since they are a retailer it would be nice if they captioned the images they use with what the product is (cool potato-growing bags, in this example) to further develop interest and drive clickthroughs. Newbie green thumbs like myself would appreciate them spelling these things out.

#3 – Subject: Free Shipping + Great Gardening Tips and Info

This one is about the advice and tips they have on their blog, how-to’s and other articles, which is a nice touch. They actually have even more content on the site that they’re not playing up here: a pest & disease identifying tool, a kitchen garden planner, “ask an expert” feature, and more. They may have missed the boat by linking only to a shopping page instead of linking to these tools they mention.

#4 – Subject: Feel Good Shopping + Get Free Shipping

This one is my favorite. After trying to appeal to my brain in the previous message, this one goes after my heart. Calling attention to the good that my order will do for the environment is brilliant, and I love the personal touch of the staff photo and caption.

#5 – Subject: Hurry, Your Free Shipping Offer Ends Tomorrow

I feel hypocritical saying this, since this is the message that got me to convert, but now that I look at it more closely, I’m not loving that they basically just sent me the first design all over again. With all the neat products they have, surely they could come up with something new to show me.

Key Advice for a Welcome Series:

  1. Introduce yourself, and be sure to highlight (and link to) all you have to offer. If they don’t know now, they may not ever know.
  2. Give your series a personal touch – address subscribers by name, include staff photos or develop a unique voice that is human and relatable.
  3. Build a sense of urgency that grow stronger in each subsequent message.
  4. Make sure your subject lines reflect the countdown, as well as the theme of each message.
  5. Design your welcome series to look amazing with images disabled.
  6. Analyze your results to determine which messages in the series draw the most clicks and conversions, and either adjust or drop the underperformers.
  7. Every 6 months to a year, test out a different offer or incentive against your control.

Criticisms aside, I really like this approach to a welcome series, and – as my clients can attest – I can’t shut up about it these days.  For more ideas on building a welcome series, check out this great post, and peruse these general welcome message musts. If you’re a Bronto customer and you’d like to learn how to automate a campaign like this, read the how-to article.

Have you seen any other great welcome series in your inbox? Please share in the comments below!

Julie Waite
Email Marketing Strategist at Bronto

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