Say you’re an ecommerce store owner who enjoys regular sales. What percentage of your customers have bought from you more than once?

If you’re like most owners, that number hovers right around “not enough” percent.

Me neither, Oprah!

And if you’re like virtually all ecommerce store owners, you’d like to see that number shoot up to 100%. After all, you probably know the old saying, “80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers.”

There IS a way to bring buyers back for more, and it all starts in their inboxes.

Once their first purchase is complete, send your brand-new customers a welcome email or email series. Or, if you want to get fancy: a “post-purchase follow-up campaign”.

Let’s dig into what those emails should look like.

What’s a welcome email?

Now, when I talk about “welcome emails” and “welcome email series for ecommerce,” I’m NOT talking about transactional emails like receipts and shipping notifications. (Though there are plenty of ways to get repeat customers from receipt emails, too. It’s basically the whole reason Conversio was founded.)

I’m talking about the emails you send after the purchase cycle is complete. These are the emails that build your relationship with a first-time buyer, who’s just trusted you with his cash and his home address.

Creating a designated welcome email or series is a great way to ease first-time buyers into your email list, let them know what to expect, and let them reaffirm that they want to be there.

NOTE: At minimum, you should send at least one welcome email to new buyers before you roll them into your regular newsletter sending schedule. You can add more to the series later.

YET ANOTHER NOTE: Your post-purchase welcome email might well be the same as your “new signup email” (the one you send to subscribers, not necessarily buyers, who sign up to hear from you on your site).

That’s perfectly fine! But in the interest of increasing return buyers, we’re going to focus on the welcome email as a post-purchase follow-up today.

4 ways to build momentum toward the next purchase in your welcome email

  1. Welcome customers to a community
  2. Recommend other products they might like
  3. Offer a discount
  4. Introduce the makers or tell your origin story

1. Welcome customers to a community

The psychology of belonging has been widely researched. Let me sum it up for you: People like to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

And while you probably won’t build a whole new religion based around your products, you CAN build a community of repeat customers with the right welcome email.

There are a few ways to make your welcome emails feel more, well, welcoming.

One excellent thing to do? Tell the customer what they can expect in future emails, and when to expect those emails.

Purple, a mattress company, sends an upbeat email that celebrates new subscribers and previews the content they’ll be sending out:

When your customer reads language like “What can you expect in return?” they subconsciously make a choice. They can decide to unsubscribe now, if they don’t see the value in what you’re promising. Or they can decide to stay on your list.

You can also bring new customers more deeply into the fold by inviting them to like, follow, and interact on social media.

Not only does this open up more avenues to engage with customers and retarget them, it ensures that your products stay in front of them even when you AREN’T shelling out on ads.

Here’s how Girlfriend Collective invites deeper engagement:

Why not go add an invitation to follow your store on social to your welcome email right now?

2. Recommend other products

Want to turn a one-time buyer into a repeat buyer? Dangle something else he’ll like right in front of his face. This is an easy opportunity to temporarily turn your customer’s inbox into a pop-up version of your store, so don’t overlook it!

You might already recommend additional products in your receipt email.

To maximize the effectiveness of your product recommendations, don’t forget to include tantalizing images.

Lush wastes no time welcoming new users and showing them a handful of other tantalizing products:

Fab, minus that itty bitty typo…

You’ll also want to make sure you’re segmenting your list and targeting/personalizing your recommendations by segment.

Recommending products in your email campaigns isn’t just an easy way to bump up your repeat sales — it can also be a valuable source of customer data.

Paying attention to which subscribers open or click inside your welcome email(s) can help you tailor future marketing strategy and campaigns.

For example, if you segment your list by “clicked in Welcome Email #1,” and “Didn’t Click in Welcome Email #1,” you might decide to spend a little more effort on nurturing the clickers toward a sale, since they’ve already shown interest.

Just getting started with product recommendations? Don’t worry too much about personalizing right now. Instead, feature your most popular products.

3. Offer a discount

Subscribe to enough ecommerce mailing lists, and you’ll notice a pattern in their welcome emails. Yep, that’s right: many of them offer a discount right off the bat.

Assuming you can take the hit to your margins, a discount code can be a quick, effective way to bring first-time buyers back to your store for a second round of shopping.

Pajama/underthings maker Sleepy Jones does a lovely job both welcoming users, and offering a 15% discount:

And so does Levi’s:

Psst — if your user doesn’t take advantage of the discount, go ahead and remind them to use it about 24 hours before it expires.

4. Show how your products are made, or introduce the makers

If your products are handcrafted or your store’s got an interesting origin story, share that info with your buyers in the welcome email!

Knowing how your products are made helps customers enjoy and value your products even more. It also helps create more buy-in between them and your store.

I love how watchmaker Shinola tells its store-y (sorry):

Reminds me of that song: “Getting to know you… Getting to like you…”

Sorry in advance for the earworm.

Repeat customers: Achievement unlocked

You might choose to use a combination of these four strategies in your welcome email, or go a totally different way. It’s up to you!

The only hard and fast rule of welcome emails is to keep in mind what your customers will find most valuable, and try to give it to them.

So just be helpful, and you’ll see your first-time buyers turn into loyal return customers.