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What is an Onboarding Email Sequence?

An onboarding email sequence is a chain of emails that assist users after they’ve initially engaged with your brand or product. The sequence is a string of emails automatically triggered to send at specific points in the user's onboarding experience.

Onboarding email sequences are used to engage the new customer or subscriber more meaningfully than a single onboarding email. This method takes advantage of user data to determine which email is sent next in the sequence according to user interactions. These emails are personalized to each user, and targeted to reach them at the initial stages of their relationship with your product, service, or company.

Onboarding sequences can be as static or as personalized as you want. Time-based onboarding email sequences, for example, are sent regardless of user interaction. The next email in the sequence is triggered after a set amount of time. These sequences are not as personalized as event-based emails but can be helpful for users with little data history. Event-based onboarding email sequences use customer data to trigger messages. One common trigger is an email subscription sign up. Directly upon signing up, the sequence will send the chosen template to be sent to the new subscriber.

An onboarding email sequence allows you to reach your users even when they’re not actively using your product or interacting with your company. Many companies use four to six emails in their onboarding sequences to remain active with their new subscribers. These emails gently, but strategically, guide the user through the process of building trust and familiarity with your brand after signing up for your list, ensuring that they’re ready to make a purchase.

Common Goals of an Email Onboarding Sequence

Your onboarding sequence is typically the best opportunity for your customers to get to know your brand. It gives you the opportunity to reach a number of key goals: engaging your audience, building a relationship, building a community, and gathering feedback.


Welcoming a new subscriber or first-time buyer sounds obvious, but a welcome email is only a start. Sending a sequence of onboarding emails goes beyond a welcome to engage the user in ways that make the most sense for them. If they browsed a certain product, for example, they could be sent an onboarding email sequence that features that category (i.e., fishing gear if they’re browsing an outdoor recreation website). If there are different ways to take advantage of a profile or loyalty membership with your brand, the onboarding sequence is a great way to keep the user engaged while collecting more information about them, helping personalize your future campaigns.

Build A Relationship

When customers feel they are welcomed and supported, they are more likely to continue engaging with a company. Those customers are forming a connection with your brand that will last beyond that one purchase. Key messages within your onboarding sequence may also be triggered by a user’s activity within your app. For example, if you see that they’re failing to make progress and follow up with an onboarding sequence to help them accomplish their goal, it builds trust and shows your brand is paying attention.

Increase Community

Some companies have very active user communities where customers interact with one another around a product or brand. These communities might share usage tips, photos, and new discoveries. If your company has an active user community, onboarding emails are a great place to invite new users to join them and follow your social channels.

Gather Feedback

Especially in the case of a first-time purchase, companies can gather valuable feedback about the customer’s experience. Gathering feedback also signals to new customers their input is valued and they are important to the company.

The email onboarding sequence serves as an ideal way to get your customers acclimated to your brand and point them in the right direction to take further action, since they’re likely to be the most engaged with your brand immediately after signing up.

Make sure that you optimize your onboarding email sequence to build as much value as possible into the customer relationship at this point. Next, let’s explore some industry best practices for doing that.

5 Best Practices for Email Onboarding Sequences

Personalize The Sequence

Segment your audience based on their user actions or history and then target those segments with a different sequence of onboarding emails. The more data you have about your subscriber, the better you can customize the sequence and information to engage them, incorporating details such as their location or which products they’ve previously viewed on your website.

Optimize For Mobile

Your email marketing software should offer an email template that is responsive to device and screen size. Within that template, make sure your visuals and copy are simple enough for mobile use. Limit subject lines to a smaller number of characters to fit on the screen and make sure images load quickly and won’t time out or take too much data. Today, 66% of all emails are opened on mobile or tablet devices, so it’s important to make sure that they get the best possible user experience.

Use a Call To Action

Define what you want your new subscriber to do at each point of your onboarding sequence and create an action that aligns with that goal. A call-to-action (CTA) catches their attention and tells them to take action. Use simple copy and visuals to create an effective CTA.

Provide a Consistent Brand Experience

Elements such as logos, font, tone of voice, and layout design signal to a customer that they are experiencing one unique brand. These elements should be consistent across the onboarding email sequence.

Use Cross-Channel Marketing

Use sequenced marketing automation that incorporates channels such as email, SMS, push notifications, in-app messaging, direct mail, and social. Companies can reach each customer in a more global and interactive way by diversifying their method of outreach. With cross-channel marketing, the user's response at each marketing touchpoint point sets off the next event in the chain. With a cross-channel marketing platform like Iterable, you can set up custom workflows for each user to engage them on the channels they prefer.

Keep these best practices in mind as you set up your onboarding email sequence and in all your email marketing. These practices enhance the customer experience, boost engagement, increase revenue, and establish brand loyalty.


Email onboarding sequences can be an effective way of engaging customers with your brand from their very first interaction. But to drive engagement rates even higher, consider using a cross-channel marketing solution like Iterable to develop onboarding sequences that reach customers across whatever channels they prefer to engage with. By developing onboarding sequences that reach your customers based on their personalized preferences, you’ll be able to deliver a best-in-class customer experience from day one.

Iterable is a cross-channel marketing platform that powers unified customer experiences and empowers marketers to create, optimize and measure relevant interactions and experiences customers love. Leading brands, like Cinemark, DoorDash, Calm, Madison Reed, and Box, choose Iterable to power world-class customer experiences throughout the entire lifecycle. Discover our growth marketing solutions for personalization, increasing customer engagement, and more. Discover our platform and schedule a demo today.