Why should you use email as a mobile-first company?

Your churn window closes fast after a user first downloads your app.

1 in 5 users will abandon your app after a single use, and the greatest drop offs in user retention occur in the first week of use.

There’s a 60 percent chance that a user will never return to your app when the gap between their first and second session approaches 7 days, according to an App Stickiness Index developed by Localytics.

Users who experience a difficult learning curve in mastering your app’s functionality are likely to become part of this dismal statistic.

This being said, it’s important to step in and onboard your users to get in front of them when it matters most.

Email onboarding sequences can be crucial engagement tools to keep your users activated after they’ve downloaded your app. When the pressure to solidify a relationship with your users is on, email is an excellent option for onboarding your users and getting them to “stick.” With email onboarding, you have the opportunity to turn these new users into loyalists.

What is an onboarding email? What should it achieve?

On a high level, onboarding emails should hook your users on your app and its core offering. In order to keep users coming back, they need to start forming a habit around your app.

An onboarding email or email sequence serves to guide users through your app’s interface and functions and help them complete setup. Onboarding works to reduce friction in adoption by smoothing out gaps in users’ understanding of your app’s functionality while seamlessly educating and exciting them.

Providing email onboarding for your app users also introduces a cross-channel re-engagement tool to the mix. You can use email onboarding to supplement messages you’re sending across other channels you may have already implemented like push, SMS, and web notifications.

Onboarding can be function-oriented, progressive, benefits-oriented, or a hybrid.

Email onboarding can be particularly useful when..

  • certain app features or workflows you’ve implemented are different from standard UI patterns.
  • your app’s functionality is customized for distinct use cases and may benefit from segmented onboarding.
  • your app has complex functionality and you don’t want to interrupt existing in-app flows.
  • when it’s helpful to drive users to documentation or other resources that are easier to access from an email inbox over another channel.
  • when the content you’re sending is long form and/or permanent in nature and worth revisiting.

Now that you understand the purpose and relevance of email onboarding, let’s go over its key benefits.

6 Benefits of a Successful Email Onboarding Campaign

1. Receptive Audience: Your email audience has just opted in, which means they’re demonstrating heightened interest. Because they’ve recently asked to be included in your brand’s email communications, it’s important to follow up with content in a timely fashion. Engaging your subscribers soon after their opt-in is critical, as their attention may wane over time.

2. Higher Retention: Retention is critical. It’s the biggest challenge mobile companies face and the most important piece of app monetization. Onboarding users at an early and critical time in their journey helps you achieve the ever-elusive goal of retention.

3. Reduces Churn: Stepping in to educate users at the right times and making their experience adopting your app as seamless as possible in turn reduces their likelihood of churning.

4. Extends Customer LTV: Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) is an important revenue metric that describes how long a user is likely to pay throughout their customer lifetime, in this case their time using your app.

LTV= (Average Revenue Per User)/(Churn)

In case you need a refresher, LTV is calculated as the average revenue per user/churn.

A positive onboarding experience reduces churn, which in turn increases LTV.

5. High Open Rates: Onboarding emails are known for their high open rates, which gives you a unique opportunity to make an impression. Use this high visibility to engage your users amid all the other brand communications vying for their attention.

6. Reduce Support Costs: An important practical benefit of onboarding users through email is that it minimizes or eliminates strain on support. With self-serve onboarding, you’re saving your support team’s time and energy and conserving company resources.

Elements of a Successful Email Onboarding Campaign

Define Your Objective

Before you design and execute your onboarding series, you should define exactly what the sequence aims to do. What action do you want your users to complete at the end of this process? Your core objective could be a user completing their full profile, participating in a second session, or completing level 1. Think about the incremental actions you need users to take in order to achieve the desired objective and craft your onboarding series accordingly.


Structure your onboarding series based on the core objective you’ve just defined.

As a best practice, your first onboarding email should give the users enough to get started. The sequence as a whole should clearly and incrementally guide users through the steps they need to take to achieve your desired outcome.


Different types of apps will include different information in their onboarding sequences. Most mobile apps can benefit from a functional and feature-oriented onboarding sequence. However, if your app’s functionality is fairly simple, your onboarding might take a different focus. For example, if your product offers a variety of customizations, your onboarding flow could gather user preferences in order to better personalize content for their distinct use cases.

Make sure you’re creating clear CTA’s in each email in your sequence to organically draw users through the process.

Length and Frequency

Make sure to set your users’ expectations for the length of the series to avoid prompting unsubscribes. For example, your first onboarding email could be titled “5 Emails in 5 Days,” which makes it clear how many emails you’ll be sending and how often you’ll send them.

Before designing a long series of onboarding emails, you’ll want to consider the distinct goal and function of each email in the sequence. You don’t want to arbitrarily send a 10 part sequence if a 3 part sequence would be sufficient to explain your app’s functionality.

Pace your onboarding sequence based on how users interact with your product. Every user moves at a different speed and takes a different path through the customer journey. That being said, make sure to set up onboarding based on in-app behaviors or milestones. For example, you shouldn’t send a user onboarding emails around features they’ve already used.

You can segment onboarding campaigns based on user attributes or explicit preferences and link to personalized content like relevant videos, tutorials, walkthroughs, documentation, blogs, and learning guides.

For legal and practical reasons, you should include an unsubscribe link in your emails. In the U.S., the CAN-SPAM Act legally requires that companies give consumers a clear opt-out. Violating this act can incur fines, so make sure you’re adhering to this best practice. If you have users in countries other than the U.S., you’ll want to understand international compliance regulations, which can be regulated by laws like GDPR or CASL.

Optimize Emails for a Mobile Inbox

As of 2021, mobile clients accounted for over 40 percent of email opens. This trend should be enough to convince you that it’s worth your time to optimize your onboarding campaigns to be mobile-friendly.

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