Nowadays, you Google something once and next thing you know, you see it everywhere. 

Newsflash: The exact same thing happens to your email subscribers. So, can you really afford to keep welcoming them with generic emails? 🤔

Consumers are changing. So must your email marketing program. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on building a high-performing personalized welcome email flow.

Some of the things you’ll learn:
 
  • How does the iOS15 launch impact data collection, and what does this mean for your email strategy? Plus, I will explain why zero and first-party data are a must-have and how you can collect them on time for your welcome flow.
  • You’ll learn the exact questions to ask during your sign-up form. Plus, how to use the answers during your onboarding welcome flow emails. Without feeling creepy.
  • How to organize and maintain your data on a clean tracker sheet. Do this to avoid confusion and frustration later.  
  • Then you’ll get a step-by-step guide on building a 6-email high-converting welcome flow by leveraging user data.
  • Exact checklists to follow when you build each one of your 6 personalized emails. These are not quite ready to “copy and paste” email templates… But they’re as close as it gets without knowing your brand.
  • On top of that, you’ll get visual email examples for each of the 6 emails.  So there’s 0 confusion left, and you can start implementing straight away. 

We got fed up with crappy email marketing.

So we’ve started sharing what we know in easy-to-read (and slightly cheeky) guides. If you’re unsure if targeted email marketing is worth your while, tap below and find out. 

What changes did iOS15 bring on the table and what you need to do to optimise your email series

Keep reading. Having this background context is important. See, the latest Apple update on iOS15 brought another big change to data privacy rules.

TLDR, all apple devices now include the option to:

  • Protect open email behavior by pre-loading email images.
  • Hide city-level location data.
  • Camouflage click-through activity with a proxy email address.

So, in the name of privacy, open email behavior and location tracking will no longer be reliable metrics, as we won’t be having these data from iOS users.

“Oh sh**t! This means that we can’t deliver personalized or targeted content anymore?!”

Well, actually, that’s not true. It’s not the first time that privacy changes occur. (Remember the time when we first heard about GDPR?)

Like GDPR, iOS15 is a wake-up call. We must follow better email marketing practices. And ultimately, become better marketers.

How? By putting customers at the front and center of our marketing strategy. 

So, I’ll walk you through the steps of how to build automation that feeds you with useful data that users will intentionally share with you.

Plus, I’ll show you how to use this data to deliver a totally personalized high-converting welcome email flow.

First And Zero-Party Data: The key to a high-performance personalised welcome email flow.

Newsflash: We can directly ask the customers what we need to know about them (= zero-party data collection) right before they subscribe to our email list.

This way we will gather the data we need to deliver a welcome email flow with content that is specifically relevant to each user.

And the best part is that users will share with us their data consensually!

It’s a win-win.

✸ Users’ data will be protected and they will receive content that is useful to them.

✸ Marketers will have clear customer profiling and be able to create truly personalised content.

Everyone will be happy.

“Ok, makes sense. But how will we capture this data?”

Let’s take a look at the big picture. We experience the sunset of third-party data and the dawn of first and zero-party ones.

Zero-party data is any kind of information shoppers share intentionally with your brand. And what’s most important: your brand owns this data and no privacy policy can take them away from you.

First-party data has to do with on-page user behaviour (clicks, scrolling etc.) and transactional data (purchases, downloads etc.). Your brand owns this data, too.

“I got it. So, how can we use them in our welcome series?”

We can leverage both zero and first-party data in different communication stages, to build more personalised email content.

And the good news is that this personalisation can begin from the welcome email flow. 

The trick is to start collecting data right on the signup form.

“But, wait. All we get from the subscription form is their email..”

Well, starting today, I’m inviting you to stop settling for that. Throwing a generic sign-up form on your online store and calling it a day is a thing of the past.

How to leverage multi-step subscription forms to upgrade the personalisation level of your welcome series Email Flow

Imagine you are a painter and you are about to draw a portrait, but the only thing you know is the name of the person you are about to draw. It’s definitely not enough, right?

The same thing happens with subscription forms.

We need more than just a [email protected] to build our zero-party data collection and segment users.

What we need is called a multi-step form.

A multi-step form has multiple screens, or steps (duh). Each step is designed to collect data. The data is stored and collected, whenever a user completes a screen. So even if users don’t complete all steps, we still save their data. 

We can make a multi-step form’s first screen be identical to a single-step form. For example, offer discount codes in exchange for the email. And then ask additional questions, in the form’s next screens. Data we will use to personalize our welcome flow and follow-up email communications. 

This way, there’s NO disadvantage to a multi-step form at all.

SCREEN A

Enter your email to get a x% discount

  SCREEN B

Question(s) by which you will segment users

 SCREEN C

Deliver the x% code / Congratulate for the subscription

The Myth of “Sign-up Friction.” 

The more complexity you add to a form, the more conversion rate decreases. You may have heard this argument before. It’s true, but only because of technical limitations. See, the technology of multi-step forms is new. In the past, whenever we wanted to collect more data points, we had to make forms to collect that data in one screen. 

This did lower conversions. But it’s no longer relevant. We can now present questions one by one, in clean UX. Storing data dynamically, whenever a user completes a screen. So the “worse case” scenario of a multi-step form (the user only completes one screen) is identical to a single form screen.

“This sounds interesting! So, what questions should I ask the users?” 

When it comes to building your multi-step pop-up form and picking up the right questions, your business context is important. For example, a client of ours sold COVID-related products. So we asked users whether they were vaccinated in the last 6 months. This allowed us to personalize our welcome email messaging effectively. But it may not be relevant to your store. 

The rule of thumb is this: Only ask questions if you know how to use the data you’ll collect (in future emails or other marketing channels). 

Here are some basic ideas on what you could ask new subscribers about:

Find Their Shopping Preferences

The real question: “What product categories should we recommend to you?” This data point, like most other data points we’ll cover, is relevant in all email messages. Including email automations, and email campaigns. 

Different ways to ask this question:

QUESTION

  • What’s your shopping preference?
  • What [Products] do you usually purchase?
  • What is your style preference?
  • What collection are you interested in?

POTENTIAL ANSWERS

  • Men’s / Women’s / Both.
  • Sports Bras / Push-up Bras / Lace Bras
  • Skin-fit / Straight-leg / Bootcut
  • Collection A / Collection B / Just Browsing For Now

Find The Value Proposition

The real question: “How should we position our products to you?” This is a powerful question. With enough answers, it can influence your entire email marketing strategy.

Different ways to ask it:

QUESTION

  • What’s your biggest skincare concern?
  • What do you care about the most when shopping for apparel?
  • What do you care about the most when starting a new diet?

POTENTIAL ANSWERS

  • Acne / Aging Skin / Redness
  • Fit / Comfort / Style
  • Quick Results / Easy to Follow / Health

Approximate Customer Value

The real question: “How much can we rely on you repurchasing and being a valuable customer?” At this point, we can’t predict customer retention and lifetime value. But this question allows us to make a reasonable guess. 

Different ways to ask it:

QUESTION

  • How many pairs of socks do you own?
  • How often do you shop bras online?
  • How much weight would you prefer to lose?

POTENTIAL ANSWERS

  • Less than 5 / 5 to 10 / More than 10
  • Rarely / Often / Always
  • Less than 10 lb / 10 – 30 lb / More than 30 lb

Approximate Purchase Timeline

The real question: “When should we reach out with a new offer, if you don’t purchase now?” This is very useful in terms of timing your sales pitch or offering an  additional coupon code.

How to state it:

QUESTION

  • When are you looking to make a purchase?

POTENTIAL ANSWERS

  • Today / In A Few Weeks / In A Few Months

Pretty cool, right? Learn more about zero-party data collection in Formtoro’s excellent guide

But keep in mind these questions are by no means special. There’s nothing magical about them. 

Depending on the product you sell and the industry you are into, these questions can and should vary. Remember the rule of thumb: Only collect data you know how to use.

Only collect data that helps you draw a more precise portrait of:

Who this person is. 

✓ What are their needs.

✓ What are they more likely to spend their money on.

Based on these data, you’ll segment new users and deliver super relevant content right from the welcome email series.

Which practically means: 

✓ Less spamming.

✓ More engagement.

✓ Higher sales.

This means you’ll strengthen the customer relationship and convert more potential customers. Sounds good?

Ok, let’s do a quick recap.

  • iOS15 is bringing end titles on third-party data for marketers. It doesn’t matter what email marketing platform you use. You got hit anyway.
  • To continue delivering personalized content you need to start gathering zero-party data that come directly from shoppers.
  • To gather this data, ask the customer what you need to know about them on your online store’s subscription form.
  • Use these data to segment shoppers and deliver them a personalized welcome email flow experience. This will build a strong relationship with your brand right from the start. 
  • You can feed the same zero-party data to your email marketing campaigns and other email automations. But that’s a topic for another guide. 

What’s coming next: How to build high-converting welcome email sequences based on customer data from subscription forms. Plus practical tips to upgrade your email content, complete with email design examples.

To double opt-in or not to double opt-in? 

Asking users to confirm their email addresses, before adding them to your lists, has its pros and cons. 

Good thing: Double opt-in creates a super clean email list that includes customers who are more likely to purchase. Engagement rates tend to be higher.

Bad thing: In absolute numbers, overall performance is usually worse than a single opt-in. So even though your engagement rates will be higher, your total number of clicks and conversions won’t be. 

Most online stores are better off using single opt-in. Just ensure you are cleaning your list often enough. 

Building the Ultimate Personalized Welcome Flow

Let’s travel back in time. In the 00’s, when we only went shopping in physical stores.  Imagine you walk past a shop window and you see a t-shirt you were looking to buy.  You enter the shop to take a closer look. As you open the door, an assistant smiles and welcomes you into the store.

[Assistant] Politely asks you what you are looking for, so that they can help you find it. 

[You] Express your interest in buying a t-shirt. 

[Assistant] Presents you a collection of t-shirts and explains to you what is so special about them. 

[Assistant] Suggests the right size for you and encourages you to try it on. 

[You] Come out of the dressing room ready to buy the t-shirt.

[Assistant] Suggests that this t-shirt would look really nice with this new pair of pants that just arrived. 

[Assistant] Tells you that if you are interested in buying both, they might be able to get a discount just for you.

Sounds like a regular physical store experience, right?  

That need for personalized user experiences doesn’t change online. People want to feel that the brands care about their needs and are able to offer the exact product that will solve their problems.

That helpful assistant in your e-shop is actually the “voice” behind your welcome emails. 

And the user data you collected from the multi-step sign-up form will help you replicate the experience someone has when they visit a physical store.

A step-by-step guide to build a high-performing personalised welcome flow

According to dictionaries, when you welcome someone you actually: 

  • Greet them in a friendly way.
  • Invite and encourage them to do something.

But “welcome” also means that: People want to meet you and are happy that it has occurred. 

Welcome Email Description

The way to do that is to use the zero-party data you gathered from your multi-step sign-up form. Then deliver user-relevant emails that will take a special place in the user’s heart. 

[Step 1] Organize the data you collect in a tracker sheet.

You want an overview of what data category you collect (known as Profile Property, in Klaviyo) and what possible values that category can have (known as Property Value, in Klaviyo).

Keep in mind other email service providers may call these differently. It matters not. What matters is the logic. You have a data category and within that category, you can assign values.

For example, your Profile Property might be color. And its Property Values may be red, blue, black, or white. 

[Step 2] Decide where and how you’ll use your data – then store that info in your tracker sheet, for easy reference.

For example, we will use the Profile Property “Skincare_Concern” in the first and third emails of our welcome flow, showing users different content and recommending different products, depending on what their “Skincare_Concern” value is (e.g., acne vs aging skin). 

[Step 3] Implement your personalization strategy. 

There are two main options. Creating branching logic paths inside your automation, leading people to different journeys, depending on what data you’ve stored in their profile. We recommend this for high-traffic online stores who need granular analytics reporting. 

Or using simple “If-then-else” logic inside the content of a single automation path. This is a feasible option for smaller online stores.

IF 

User’s profile contains “Data A” / “Data B” / “Data C.” 

THEN

Show user “Content A” / “Content B” / “Content C.” 

 ELSE

Show user “Content = Default.” 

Important note: Whether you use branching flow logic paths or “if-then-else” logic, it’s mandatory to include default content options. Remember, we collect data through multi-step forms. Therefore, some users won’t necessarily answer all questions. 

We want to serve these users with viable, default, welcome content. 

Personalised Welcome Flow Email 1

The one where you introduce your brand and deliver the sign-up incentive. 

Build a powerful, lasting impression from the very first email with the checklist below:

Content checklist: 

✓ Deliver the promo code (or other incentive) the user signed up to get. 

✓ Welcome the user and briefly introduce your brand through copy and visuals.

✓ Highlight different value proposition, depending on the  user’s answer on your multi-step form. 

✓ Set clear expectations. What type of emails they will receive and how often. On top of that, it’s helpful to allow them to personalize their email preferences. 

✓ Recommend different products depending on the user’s shopping preferences. 

Technical setup checklist: 

✓ Send immediately, when user signs up to your email list.  

Visual example to get your creative juices flowing:  

Personalized Welcome Flow Email - 1st Email

Personalised Welcome Flow Email 2

The one where you prompt users to buy, if they haven’t used your welcome incentive yet.

Content checklist: 

✓ Remind the user to use their sign-up incentive before it expires. 

✓ Recommend best-sellers that match the info they gave you during sign-up. 

✓ Introduce an element of urgency, if applicable, and the incentive expires.

Technical setup checklist: 

✓ Send to people who’ve placed an order 0 times, since starting this flow.

✓ Send to people who said they’re looking to shop now or in a few days, as per your multi-step form. Exclude people who will purchase in the future. 

✓ Send 12 hours after sign-up. 

100% Mobile-optimized visual example:  

Personalized Welcome Email Flow Email 2

Personalised Welcome Flow Email 3

The one where you deep dive into the values and differentiators of your brand.

Content checklist: 

✓ Spotlight what makes your brand unique and why people love you. 

✓ Outline the benefits of shopping with your company. 

✓ Demonstrate unique quality standards in your products. 

✓ Personalize recommended products and language as per your multi-step form data. 

✓ Include social proof and user-generated content. Personalize, as per your multi-step form data. 

✓ If applicable, provide access to exclusive content for subscribers. Or general helpful content they may find useful. 

Technical setup checklist: 

✓ Send to all users, 24 hours after they sign up to your email list.  

Interesting visual example:  

Personalized Welcome Flow Email - 3

Personalised Welcome Flow Email 4

The one where you push your hero, best seller products.

Content checklist: 

✓ Spotlight what makes your best-seller(s) your best-seller(s).  

✓ Feature the best-seller(s) that best match the user’s preferences, as per your multi-step form.  

✓ Compare your product vs similar products or market alternatives.

✓ Justify price, if upmarket. Highlight great value, if your price is on the low side.

✓ Include social proof, celebrity endorsements,  and user-generated content. 

Technical setup checklist: 

✓ Send to people who’ve placed an order 0 times, since starting this flow.

✓ Send to people who said they’re looking to shop now or in a few days, as per your multi-step form. Exclude people who will purchase in the future. 

✓ Send 48-72 hours after sign-up. 

Interesting visual example:  

Personalized Welcome Flow Email - 4

Personalised Welcome Flow Email 5

The one where we re-offer the sign-up offer.

There are two main approaches here. One, deliver a simpler reminder that the initial incentive the user signed up for is almost expired. Another is a simple, plain-text email saying that since the initial incentive expired, you decided to approve a second incentive for them. Because you thought it would be a shame if they missed out on your products. And how you thought they may enjoy having that coupon as an option if they decide to change their mind in the future. 

Content checklist: 

✓ Make this look personal. Plain text is ideal.  

✓ Offer one clear call to action to use the incentive. 

Technical setup checklist: 

✓ Send to people who’ve placed an order 0 times, since starting this flow.

✓ Send when the initial incentive is about to expire OR at a timeline that matches the info they provided during the multi-step form. For example, 2 weeks after signing up.

HTML-based, visual example:  

Personalized Welcome Flow Email - 5

Personalised Welcome Flow Email 6

The one where we continue to profile users 😉. 

The data we’ve collected thus far is just the start. Why not use our onboarding email to keep profiling and learning more about our users?

Content checklist: 

✓ Binary, clickable answers to our questions (see example below) OR integrate survey tool within the email.

✓ Branded content. Position this as a way to serve them better instead of interrogating them.

Technical setup checklist: 

✓ Send to everyone who signs up on your email list.

✓ Timing varies, usually, one to two weeks after signing up. 

Customer profiling during onboarding, visual example:  

Personalized Welcome Email Flow Email 6

You just learned the building blocks of a high-performing personalised welcome flow.

These first 6 emails can be used as the basic structure of a welcome email marketing flow. They’re designed to drive that first sale, effectively establish what makes the brand unique, AND continuously enrich your subscriber profiles with more qualitative data.

Therefore, allowing your marketing team to keep refining and improving your email marketing program. 

Is that all there is to onboarding?

No, certainly not. I once designed a hyper-personalized onboarding sequence with over 100 emails for a client. But frankly, I’m not sure content so complex would be interesting. If you’ve found this guide interesting so far, please share this on LinkedIn.This will show there’s an interest in more advanced content, and we’ll add more posts like this in our pipeline. 

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How do you keep personalizing your content? The answer is to keep collecting more data from your subscribers. By asking them directly, or by monitoring how they navigate your website or shop your products.

We call this progressive customer profiling and it rocks. A word of caution though. 

Avoid the trap of overextending yourself. Even the process we outlined in this article takes resources. And it can also be highly technical. Most email marketers don’t have sufficient technical chops to program hyper-complicated user journeys.

And they lack the creative support to build the content they need to bring these journeys to life. 

Take things one step at a time. Only collect data that you plan to use. Maintain a clean tracker sheet to know exactly what data you collect, why you collect it, and how you’re using it. 

If you can afford it, consider working with a dedicated email marketing agency like us to support your internal team.

We would be happy to audit your current email marketing program. And provide a personalized welcome flow strategy that matches your brand.

Consider sharing this post if you found it helpful.  

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