Welcome Series: Using Email Preferences to Drive Opens and Clicks

I recently joined the mailing list of a large Amazon-style “sell everything” online shop. From the get go they did everything right. Within minutes of me signing up I had a “Thank You” emailing waiting for me in my inbox.

That email was later followed by a multi-part welcome series flow that gave me all kinds of useful information about the company’s loyalty program, shipping options and times, and how to effectively navigate their site and more.

I found myself really enjoying getting new emails from them. The emails were genuinely useful and, in a weird way, made me trust them more.

There was just this one slight problem.

While I learned a lot about the company and how it operates, apart from my email open rate and CTR, the company learned very little about me. This was a huge miss on their part.

They could have collected all kinds of data on me during the welcome flow. Starting with simple things, like where I live or whether I’m a male or a female all the way up to what product categories I’m most interested in or what shipping method (and speed) I preferred.

This could have been especially effective for a large online merchant who sells products from many different categories. All this potential for future personalized messages, product recommendations, offers and more. And yet, it was all wasted.

Thankfully, collecting this kind of personalizable information can be easily achieved by ::drum roll please:: asking for your subscriber’s preferences!

Start by adding a “manage preferences” link

By default, Klaviyo (and many other email marketing software), includes a link to the footer section of every campaign enables the reader to immediately unsubscribe from receiving any more emails from you. It’s great for readers as it makes it easy to unsubscribe from unwanted emails.

From the merchant’s perspective, this is not so great as it, again, allows readers to instantly unsubscribe. The problem with this link is that in many jurisdictions having it in every email is required by law so you can’t just go and outright delete it.

However, research has shown that by also including a link to an email preference page, your new subscribers are 18% less likely to unsubscribe. Essentially you’re giving your readers the opportunity to tweak their email settings. And like the data shows, it helps. That’s not bad for something that takes literally minutes to change.

In fact, go do it now. Login to Klaviyo and add a {% manage_preferences %} syntax next to the unsubscribe one. When adding both, the editable footer field code will look like this (includes unsubscribe and manage preferences syntaxes):

Want to change your email settings? {% manage_preferences %} or {% unsubscribe %}.
{{ organization.name }} | {{ organization.full_address }}

After making this small change, your campaign footers will look like something like this:

.. and continue by tweaking your welcome series

One of the most important elements of any welcome series flow is the data you collect along the way that helps to develop a profile of demographics and preferences that can be used to segment your audience into different buckets. This can later be effectively used to target things like offers, discounts, and news that will be the most valuable to that subgroup.

When it comes to asking for that data, there are two different approaches that you can take. You can either include a strong call to action (CTA) in your welcome series emails to encourage the reader to visit your preference page or use progressive profiles or both.

Using CTAs that link directly to preference pages are easy enough, but they might not work for everyone. Your subscribers might be hesitant and even unlikely to interact with your preference page unless you can successfully tie that action to some kind of reward down the line. A reward like “Get 10% off with your next order when you visit your profile page” or something similar.

Using progressive polling

Another option is to use progressive polling (progressive profile). With them, you’ll be asking for much the same information as you would through a preferences page, you’ll just be getting that information progressively through a series of emails and answers.

With each new email, you include a different question and over time, you’ll have complete preferences of your subscribers. The main advantage of this approach is that it makes answering tedious questions like “how old are you?” or “what clothes do you prefer?” make it seem like part of the flow of content on a “normal” welcome series email.

Yes, this approach definitely takes more time and work, but when you’re dealing with hesitant subscribers it can work remarkably well.

This approach definitely takes more time, but in situations where straight up asking your audience to fill out their preferences is not working can have better results.

A quick word on welcome series emails

There are many ways a welcome series can look and feel like, but with it being so important when you’re trying to get subscriber preferences, it pays to look at what other companies are putting into their welcome series and what kind of results (opens and CTR) they are getting.

Experian monitored the performance of a welcome series from 27 companies over a five-month period and found that informational and “Thanks For Joining Us” emails drove more than twice the open and CTR rates than pure promotional emails.

That’s something to keep in mind when designing your own welcome series. Especially when you’re looking at getting their email preferences, this data strongly suggest that you should make the ask in a thank you and/or informational email and not bundle it together with a promotional one. You’ll risk getting less opens and thus, fewer data from your audience.

Image via Experian

Final thoughts

The welcome series is often the best time and place to ask for your subscriber’s preferences. They just signed-up to receive information from you and thus they are more likely to read what you have to say. This gives you a unique opportunity to get the information you need and start personalizing things as soon as possible.

This way your subscribers are more likely to stick around for the information and promotion and new merchandise announcements they are getting as well as the things that they actually care about. Is this a silver bullet for getting your email campaigns clicked on? No. But this gives you the best opportunity to at least getting it noticed.


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