The 7 Best Email Lifecycles and How to Execute Them: Part 1

Email marketing has come a long way since companies blasted their offers to customers without any personalization techniques. The looming scourge of spam email and a cluttered inbox full of irrelevant messages have still not decreased the popularity of email as a marketing medium. But marketers are still very far from utilizing the full potential of email marketing.

In a study by JupiterResearch, it was found that using lifecycle email marketing campaigns can produce nine times the revenue and eight times the profit generated by broadcast messages. Despite these obvious advantages, very few marketers are using targeted and personalized lifecycle email programs.

For those who are new to lifecycle emails, the basic idea is to drive your customer to become your “loyal customer.” The customer can be at any one of the following stages in his/her relationship with your business.

customer email lifecycles

Your ultimate aim is to have the maximum number of customers with the highest “lifetime value.” Lifecycle email help you in doing exactly that. You identify the different stages your customer is in and based on the stage, a personalized email is sent to the user with an aim to drive them forward to the loyalty phase.

In this multi-part series, I am going to explain you about the best email lifecycles in terms of ROI provided and show you the best practices to execute them. For each of these emails, we will study an example of a business which utilized them to their best advantage and how you can do the same.

Welcome Email

A welcome email is the first point of contact with your customer, which makes it all the more important as it creates the “first impression” for your business. You want to acknowledge and thank the user for opting in, while ensuring that he/she is updated with your services and promotions. It’s integral to take advantage of this small time window as it will shape your future email relationship with your customers (or potential customers) for the foreseeable future.  At the same time, you do not want to bombard the user with emails and end up in their Spam folder.

If you are still doubting the importance of welcome emails, consider this: in a study conducted by Return Path, they analyzed the results from welcome series emails by 100 retailers. It was found that customers showing an interest in the welcome emails were more likely to open and read future promotional emails. For the people who didn’t read any welcome emails, only 5% of them read future promotional emails.

Drafting a welcome mail requires you to assess how the user came across your business. Here are some of the possibilities:

Sign up: The user signed up for business/product and set up his/her account.
birchbox welcome email

When you sign up to Birchbox (a company that sends you monthly samples of beauty products), the email thanks you and gets straight to business. It tells you what you will benefit from their subscription with three main value propositions. Notice there aren’t any coupon codes or promotion offers to distract the customer; the company knows an interested customer has willingly signed up so they will probably save those offers for use at a later point in the lifecycle.

Newsletter subscription: The users may sign up to receive your content/insights/studies in their mailboxes.

flood magazine welcomeIn Flood’s welcome email, they start with their company logo and give a detailed introduction about their magazine. They particularly stress on what makes them unique and they reiterate why you should remain on their list. The email ends with a note to the customer as to how he/she will benefit from the newsletter.

Tripwire sales welcome mail: The user signed up in exchange for a tempting offer such as an eBook or a coupon code.

In this mail by Stumptown coffee Roasters, the mail provides clear details to the user about their free sample and gives an option to log into their account. The beauty of these emails is that they typically have very high email sign up rates as well as corresponding high rates of open, click through % and conversions. The downside is that this is an essentially incentivized offer, so subsequent lifecycle emails need to specifically built for retention.

stumptown welcome email

Invitation: You got the email address of the user via a referral. Be sure to include the person who has referred as done in this example.

These type of welcome emails are inherently strong because they have built in social proof, which allows you to capitalize on higher open rates and deliverability metrics.

slack welcome email

Welcome Emails Design Guidelines

  • Your welcome email must take into account how you reached the customer. If they fell for your tripwire offer, you need to put more effort to prove to them why they should choose you. If the users willingly signed up on their own, you know they are already in your customer cycle and you can include personalized offers in their emails based on their browsing history and interests.

michaels welcome email

  • Similarly, when you send an email to a customer referred by anyone, you should mention clearly who referred them.

invision welcome email

  • Your welcome email must reflect the nature of your business. This doesn’t necessarily imply that you include long texts of your business and your services. But, the design/structure/graphics layout of the email should give the user a ‘feel’ of what you do.

The welcome email is the best medium to let your customers know what’s unique about your services.

When you sign up for Michael’s, the welcome email from them contains informal and friendly diction and brand voice. It begins by “We’re so glad you said yes.” Notice the background consisting of the crayons and wool and the funky font style. Even the coupon they give is designed within a gift box. It gives a very warm, fuzzy kind of feeling similar to one if you receive a greeting card from a friend.
Compare this to the one sent by InVision. Being a workcentric service, InVision realizes that its customers mean business. Notice how the email layout is simple, formal and clear. A plain background, regular fonts and just one picture- the company’s logo.

The Call to Action

The CTA should be a clear note to the customers as to what to do next. You don’t want to leave your customers confusing after opening your email and wondering what to do next. Include a clear direction as to what to do now and what to expect in the coming series.

In the Michaels’ welcome email, the CTA is included at 3 different places because the email is pretty long. The first and the last one asks the customers to redeem their coupon code whereas the middle one asks the user to set their preferences.The welcome email by InVision simply has an embedded video and a CTA to watch their “Get Started” video.

  • It is always advisable to include in the email some concise information about your business. This is especially true for companies providing unique services as SaaS and/or in cases where the user has signed up via a tripwire sales offer. You don’t want to make the customer wonder whether this mail is relevant to them or not. If they do not understand what you do or how you can benefit from them, chances are high that you will end up in their spam or they will unsubscribe.

In the mail sent by Slack to an invited user shown above, the company includes a brief information of what you can achieve using Slack. It also includes a link for further information.

  • Also, telling the customers beforehand what to expect in the next series of email seems less like an intrusion to them. Such as in the Michaels welcome email, it is clearly stated: “We are going to send fun stuff, DIY tricks, deals, and coupons”. So customers will anticipate such emails coming beforehand.
  • Customers like being addressed personally. So, a welcome email which addresses them by their name and includes information of the sender, such as from XYZ, head of Marketing at ABC, is likely to be much appreciated than an unnamed one, which is perceived as an automated nuisance.

Marketers these days have a variety of tools to collect consumer data and activity insights. Consumers are also now more than willing to share this data in light of the personalized offers. Take every chance you can to personalize your emails to ensure you’re speaking to consumers on a 1:1 basis. 

In a study carried out by Experian Marketing, they found that personalized promotions have 26% higher open rates and 41% higher CTR. So make sure your emails have a heavy dose of user personalization.

  • Show in the email that you are open to conversing with them and would like to address issues, if the customers have any. Include some email address, phone numbers or access to live chat in case they need help.

Further, include social links for your business in the email. Customers love to engage through brands on social media. Facebook is still used by most marketers, almost 98% of them, whereas Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram are also becoming increasingly popular2.

To understand the implications of these factors, let us take a look at a real life example.

The marketing team at Wishpond needed to increase signups for one of their products- Wishpond VIP Demo. They carried out multiple A/B tests in their welcome emails, which included:

  1. Testing the subject line
  2. Testing the body copy

In a number of multivariate testing carried out, they considered the open rates and click-through rates as success metrics. Here’s what the results looked like:

Testing the subject line:

The Wishpond team started off by A/B testing the subject line and rightly so, because the subject is the first thing that the user notices, even without opening the email. This included testing the subject line for 3 variables:

  1. Personalization v/s No personalization i.e. the subject includes the recipient’s name and proceeds to the main subject.
  2. ‘You’ v/s No ‘you’ in the subject line
  3. Long subject lines v/s short ones

The team sent out 100 emails for each of the cases above. Here is what they noticed:

email testing the subject lineTesting the email copy:

This test consisted of the following variables:

  1. Only text v/s visual & text
  2. Hard Sell v/s Soft sell

testing email copy

Based on these A/B test results, Wishpond struck on a golden combination for its category of customers. Its customers were most likely to open the emails if it directly addressed to them, but does not include their names in a short subject line. The highest CTR rates were obtained by emails with both visuals and text, and which moderately convinced them to buy the product.

Overall, Welcome emails convince your customers to stay subscribed to your list and they average some of the highest open rates out of any email lifecycle. Not surprisingly, according to Experian Marketing Services primary research, the welcome emails have a 0.95% response rate and earn $1.29 in revenue per email as against the promotional emails, which have a 0.06% response rate and earn $0.06 in revenue per email.

Cart Abandonment Emails:

Did you know that almost 67.45% of all the carts are abandoned before completing a purchase1?  Theoretically speaking, this means your sales number can be three times what they are now. While this is very hard to achieve, as many users never even have the motive to buy while adding products to their carts, a significant portion of it is certainly possible to attain.

Check out these figures from a study carried out by Statista. 56% of the consumers do not complete a purchase because of unexpected costs in the final checkout process, which may include tax or shipping costs. 25% abandoned their carts because they found the navigation too complex while 24% left because the website crashed.

Combine these ‘potential sales’ and your sales can considerably receive a major boost if you follow-up on the customer with an intelligently crafted Cart abandonment email.

Things to keep in mind while designing a Cart Abandonment email:

There aren’t any hard and fast rules while creating one, but some of the below points do help:

  • Remember to include the link for the cart (not the website) in the email. You may include separate links for the products, but do not skip the link for the cart. Remember, up to 25% of users abandon their purchases due to friction during the purchasing cycle. You don’t want to persuade them to go through the same harrowing experience. Rather, make things easier for them.

GILT abandon cart

  • Nothing beats great copy. While a simple text email has an elegance of its own, it’s a known fact that visual emails get a better response.Also, let your business nature define the tone of the email. Notice in the example email, the approach followed by Chubbies. “Let me transport you back”, “Turn up this party to 1” and even the CTA “Teleport to your cart” and the image seem quite apt as it is for a company selling shorts.
  • 56% consumers leave their cart because of the high price. You can offer them a discount to lure them back. Provide them a promotional code, through which they can avail a discount on their total price. Be sure to include this in your subject line so that the consumer knows he/she is in for a deal.

chubbies abandon cart

  • A sense of urgency often works well. Most of your customers added the products in their carts because they originally wanted to buy them. If you convince them of an urgent situation, such as a product running out of stock, or limited discount period, chances are high that customers will purchase the products.

bonobos cart abandonment

Case Study:

Boot Barn wanted to drive sales from the users who had abandoned their carts.  So their marketing team launched a retargeting campaign, which included a series of three emails sent to the user over a period of a week.

  • The first email, triggered 30 minutes after a user abandoned their cart was mainly focused on customer service. The email started with an apology to the customer if they experienced any problem in completing their order. It encouraged them to contact the customer care executives through a provided email address and a phone number. In the email body, was also included a link to the cart.
  • The second email was sent 23 hours after the cart abandonment. It included reasons as to why should the customer buy from them – return policy, free shipping options, and the likes. Next to these was a graphic and a link to the cart.
  • The third and the final email in the series was triggered one week after the user abandoned the purchase. It warned the user of the final chance to retrieve the products and reiterated the reasons to buy from them in the second email.

The results were as shown in the graph. Overall, the campaign resulted in a 12% revenue increase.

BootBarn case study


Following the above tips will dramatically increase the performance and delivery rates of your email campaigns. Stay tuned for a much more in-depth case study with all of the above techniques combined!


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