How Headspace Struck Gold with Onboarding Emails: Best Practices for Retaining New Users

Originally published on the CleverTap blog

When it comes to new users, you’ve got one shot to make a great first impression — which makes your onboarding email campaign one of the most important tools in your user engagement arsenal.

With effective onboarding, you get higher retention rates, greater revenues, and up to a 500% increase in customer lifetime value.

Guided meditation app Headspace has mastered the art of the onboarding email. Keep reading to learn their onboarding email best practices and the anatomy of an effective welcome email sequence.

Onboarding Email Best Practices

  1. Set a goal for each email in your onboarding flow. Use cohorts to discover what key actions lead to long-term retention. With these insights, you can create clear, compelling CTAs for each email that effectively hook users on your app.
  2. Reaffirm your app’s core value. Remind users why they started using your app in the first place — and assure them that you’re able to deliver on your promises.
  3. Focus on benefits, not features. Just as you want to reinforce your app’s value, highlighting what users will ultimately gain from using your app is a powerful way to get them on board. After all, users are more interested in how your app will help them save time or money, feel or look better, or have more fun than they are about the mechanics of your app.
  4. Make it fun. Elicit positive emotions for higher engagement and positive brand recall. Messaging like “You’re in!”, “Let the fun begin,” or “Get the latest fashion — and help local charities” are all simple ways to make readers feel good about supporting your brand.
  5. Personalize. Not all user journeys are the same. Some will come to your app via a social media promotion, and others will discover you right on the app store. Some users will download your app, sign up, and immediately start poking around. Others will download and forget to ever open your app. 
    By segmenting your new users and tailoring your welcome messages to their experience, you’ll see up to 100.95% higher click-through rates2 and 18x more revenue.3
  6. Provide incentives to act. Give readers a compelling reason to do what you want them to do. Offering a bonus can be the carrot that leads them to engage with your app and get to that “aha moment.” 
    There are simple ways to nudge users to create a playlist, connect with a friend, upload a photo, search for a restaurant — whatever key action you want them to take in your app. Consider adding days to a free trial, offering a promo code, temporarily upgrading a subscription, or providing limited-time access to exclusive features or content.
  7. Keep it simple. Onboarding emails don’t have to be super short, but they should be easy to digest. Keep copy concise and include eye-catching visuals or GIFs to guide readers through the email and to your CTA.
  8. Optimize for mobile. 67% of all emails are opened on mobile. Knowing the ideal subject line length, button size, and CTA position is essential for creating emails that render well on mobile. For more, check out our infographic: 8 Tips for Making Email Campaigns Mobile-Friendly.
  9. Test and optimize. User expectations are always evolving. By continually A/B testing welcome messages, you’ll be able to see what’s working for each segment and what can be improved.

Creating Your Onboarding Email Sequence

Effective onboarding takes more than a single message. You should have one set of emails to nurture active users, and a separate track to attract and engage inactive users.

How Headspace Engages New Users with Onboarding Emails

Email 1: Welcome message

Headspace sends personalized welcome messages to new users within minutes of signing up on the app. Fun, quirky illustrations immediately engage the eye and let users know: this isn’t some stuffy meditation app. Crisp copy focuses on the app’s key benefit: less stress and a happier life with just a few minutes of mindfulness.

Sequence A: Nurture Active Users

After the initial welcome message, Headspace tailors onboarding emails for both active and inactive users. This first flow focuses on leading active users farther down the customer path to build daily habits, purchase a subscription, and eventually become brand evangelists.

Email 2: Nudge Users to Act

Depending on your app, this action could be trying out a central feature, conducting a search, consuming content, adding a friend, or creating a profile. In the case of Headspace, that key action is getting an active user to complete another meditation session and start building a daily habit.

Email 3: Highlight Key Features

Help new users get to know the special features that set your app apart. The faster they get to experience how cool your app is, the more likely they are to get hooked on its benefits.

Email 4: Purchase a Subscription or Upgrade Your Account

From ads and in-app purchases to subscriptions, deciding which monetization strategy is right for your app is an important business decision. But no matter which model you choose, knowing how and when to monetize new users can be tricky.

Email 5: Upsell Satisfied Customers

Upselling without being pushy can be tough to pull off. But by focusing your upsell strategies on the customers who will actually benefit from additional products or services, you can increase revenue and user satisfaction.

Email 6: Share or Refer a Friend

92% of people trust referrals from their friends.* Encouraging your champion users to spread the word can be a powerful way to grow your user base and provide compelling social proof to prospective users.

Sequence B: Engage Inactive Users

Not every new user is going to jump right in and engage with your app. In fact, most won’t. 24% of apps are only opened once.

Onboarding emails are an important tool to remind new users why they’re interested in your app, how it can improve their lives, and get them on track to become habitual users.

Email 2: Reaffirm Your Value Prop and Nudge to Act

Headspace has a very clear understanding of its audience, and what gets in the way of their success: feeling intimidated by meditation, and not finding the time.

Email 3: Incentivize Log In or Purchase

Headspace incentivizes subscription purchases, which makes sense for their business model of converting freemium users into paying subscribers. But sometimes the goal is simply to get inactive new users to open the app.

Email 4: Offer Help

Whether it’s booking a trip, browsing for a new TV show to watch, or uploading a new photo, sometimes users just get stuck. They haven’t played around with your app enough to know how to find what they’re looking for, or they’re simply unaware of a feature or service you offer.

Email 5: Re-engage Inactive Users with Useful Content

Done right, content marketing can be a powerful tool for user engagement. Sending inactive users a roundup of your most popular or latest blog posts, videos, and podcasts can show the value you provide to users and reignite their interest in your product.

Email 6: Win Dormant Users Back

Deals and bonus offers are the #1 reason users say they return to an app after uninstalling.* Think of this email as your last-ditch attempt to get a new user to engage with your app. Most companies pull out all the stops and offer a really tempting discount or promotion to pique a dormant user’s interest.

Visit the CleverTap blog for more practical mobile marketing tips and advice.