The retailers that generate the most sales from new email subscribers typically send three welcome messages and offer discounts in the first message.

When a consumer signs up to receive email from a retailer, the merchant would do well to quickly welcome her with discount offers. Those that do generate a lot of sales, says email service provider Listrak.

In fact, for Listrak retail clients that get the best results from welcome emails, one in four new customers (24.9%) makes a purchase after clicking on one of the welcome emails. That’s a conversion rate more than 125% higher than the 11% average for all welcome email among the retailers studied, Listrak says.

When Listrak compared the results of its 50 retailer clients whose welcome email campaigns are most successful with the practices of the Top 1000 online retailers in North America, it found that the top performers send more email and are more likely to offer discounts right off the bat.

64% of the top performers sent a series of three emails, with 18% sending two and 18% one. Among the 581 of the Top 1000 e-retailers that sent a welcome email in Listrak’s study, conducted in 2015, 310 sent one email, 109 sent a 2-message welcome series and only 81, or 8.1%, sent a 3-message series.

Among the high-performing retailers 86% included a discount in their first welcome email, compared to 40.8% of all Top 1000 retailers. But of the top performers that send a second welcome email only 29.3% include a discount, versus 35.4% for Top 1000 retailers; in the third email the top performers offer a discount or remind the shopper of a prior discount 21.9% of the time compared to 57.6% for Top 1000 retailers.

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Timing is important, Listrak concludes. The study shows that among the top-performing retailers 50% send the first welcome email immediately, another 44% within one minute, 2% within two minutes and 4% within five minutes.

“Subscribers are especially engaged with and interested in a retailer’s brand when signing up, and many want instant access to the promotion code promised in the modal or other subscription point,” Listrak says in its “Welcome Series Study 2016.” (A modal is a pop-up window that requests the consumer’s email address.) For Listrak clients 92.5% of first sales from new subscribers come within the first week of a consumer signing up and 45% of them come the first day.

Listrak says its data shows that welcome emails work. For the 343 Listrak clients it studied, the average welcome email generated $1.07 in sales. That compares with an average of 6 cents in revenue for a typical broadcast email, that is, one not sent to a targeted list, Listrak says.

For the top-performing group, here is a breakdown of the offers in their first and second welcome emails, according to Listrak:

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  • First: 10% off purchase, 30%; 15% off purchase, 18%; X dollars off purchase, 16%; 20% off purchase, 8%; 5% off purchase, 6%; free gift, 4%; gift with purchase, 2%; free shipping, 2%; no discount or offer, 14%.
  • Second: 10% off, 12%; 20% off, 7%; 15% off, 5%; X dollars off purchase, 2%; free shipping, 2%; no discount or offer, 71%. (Does not add up to 100% because of rounding.)

The Listrak report notes that a welcome series can serve other purposes besides driving sales. Many of the top-performing retailers use the second email in the welcome series “to promote their social media channels, relay brand information and differentiation, communicate policies, introduce new and/or best-selling products and to promote a preference center,” Listrak says.

The Listrak study found that of the 581 of the Top 1000 e-retailers that send welcome emails 55% are in the Top 500 by online sales and 45% in the Second 500. But the smaller online retailers are more likely to send a series of emails: While 62.7% of the Top 500 retailers sent just one welcome email, only 46.9% of the Second 500 merchants stopped after just one welcome message.

For all retailers studied that sent welcome emails the average open rate was 29.7%. On average 35.4% of consumers who opened one of these emails clicked to the retailer’s site.

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