Maybe someone should REFINE their welcome email a little bit…

Here’s one welcome email that came very close to being a great email, but then had a huge flaw.

Refinery29’s emails promise “A daily dose of style, beauty, fashion, and more from Refinery29’s expert editors”. Now, this welcome email would have been perfectly fine, except for one small (::cough:: HUGE) detail at the beginning of the email that shows that their email team may not be the most current on what’s going on with the email marketing industry.


The ENTIRE viewport is a message about moving their emails into the Primary tab. (For scale, this email browser is maximized on a 13 inch Mac screen.) Oh, Refinery29. That is SO summer 2013. We’re not doing that anymore (“We” meaning “pretty much every brand”). We decided that it was silly to send that kind of messaging, and it’s not so bad to be in the promotions tab if your emails are good. Didn’t you get the memo on that? And the first sentence concerns me a lot – Are you reading this on Gmail? Does that mean that there are Yahoo, Hotmail, etc subscribers who are getting that messaging that takes up half the screen? Nooooooo. Why would you alienate so many subscribers in your WELCOME email?

If they remove that block – the rest of that email is actually quite nice. It describes the frequency (daily), the emails they send, (without using the awful “first to know” phrasing so many brands use), and gives content from their social media channels (along with links encouraging subscribers to follow them). SO close to being a really solid welcome email. It’s clean, designed well, and easy on the eyes.


The one other thing I would have liked to see in this email is a callout for the preference center for subscribers to select their location, since that wasn’t in the initial signup. Their emails are based on location (but they have an “Everyone” version that is the default. 

I’ve been getting their emails for about a week now, and there’s definitely more I’m going to write about their subject lines. Another time. 

First impressions are important, people.


Unwelcome emails

One of the joys of signing up for so many emails all at once is that I got to see a lot of different welcome emails and compare them. For most brands that I subscribe to in my “real” email account, I’ve been a subscriber for a very long time, since before I really cared about welcome emails. This gave me a chance to see these brands from a new perspective. There were also quite a few I subscribed to that I normally wouldn’t, so I was hoping for welcome emails that would tell me more about the brand.

In general, there are a few elements that I would expect a good welcome email to have: double opt-in, encouraging the subscriber to update preferences, a short overview/description of the brand and types of emails the subscriber will receive, and perhaps a discount if it was promised at sign-up. Pretty standard, right? RIGHT?

I went through all 64 welcome emails in my inbox with a checklist to see what elements they had.

Ladies and gentlemen – from this experiment, I fear for our industry. Based on my sample, it seems that 25% of brands have email subscriber lists so small that I was their very first subscriber.

That’s right. I hate to brag, but I just thought you should all know that I’m going to be THE FIRST TO KNOW about the latest discounts, products, and other cool happenings at all these brands. Not you, not their other millions of subscribers. ME.  I’m going to be the FIRST! They said so.

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You get the idea.

I know that there are only so many ways to get people excited about receiving your crappy marketing emails, but let’s not lie to our subscribers, okay? I know for the brand I send emails for, we usually send later in the day since they perform better for us, so email’s definitely not the place where people will be the “first to know” about anything. (Just first to convert. #emailrules)

Of course, some of the lists are very exclusive. Luckily, I’m an insider and I’m on the list (at least for the 12 brands that used that kind of language in their welcome emails). Brands – I hate to break it to you, but your email list isn’t exclusive. And if it’s so hard to sign up for your emails that you’re congratulating subscribers on being on your list, there are some bigger problems here and you should re-evaluate your sign-up process.

Like I said earlier, as part of this project, I subscribed to emails that I normally wouldn’t. When I filled out preference centers, I selected every option available. For Piperlime, that meant Men and Women. Here’s what their welcome emails looked like:

piperlime men         piperlime women


Now, on their own, neither is THAT bad. (Minus the condescending “You made the list!” in the women’s version). I thought the headline in the men’s version was hilarious (as was the subject line, “Get the hook up.”). But, the women’s version gave a nice checklist of the types of emails subscribers could expect to receive. Piperlime, you could combine the best elements of these and have an amazing email. They’re pretty.

At least they were pretty on-brand, and it was clear who they were from. Unlike this guy:

From name: Shop Your Way

From Email:  (Wait, so are there rewards?!?!)

Subject line: Welcome! Now unlock all your perks


There was no indication of who it was from until I opened the email and saw the Sears logo. I don’t know who “Shop your way” is. And I’ve gotten other emails from Sears since this one that had the same branding. I’m pretty sure Mr. Can Spam is rolling in his grave right now.

There are more emails to write about, but I’ll save them for another post. It’s really overwhelming to be the first to hear so much news, and I’m frankly exhausted from it.