Content Design, Content Strategy, Copywriting

Email onboarding for a new product

Content Designer
Email onboarding for a new product

The Situation

In mid-2022, Shopify launched the Starter plan: a stripped down, more affordable plan targeting new entrepreneurs interested in selling to their audiences on social media.

Since the Starter plan doesn’t have all of the features that come with standard Shopify stores, the existing onboarding flow would be confusing and largely irrelevant. The decision was made to create a unique onboarding experience for Starter merchants that highlights the plan’s features and gets them selling fast.

The Complication

There were two primary complications that emerged in the early stages of this project:

Starter plan has a unique voice within Shopify.
  • Polaris does not apply. Shopify’s comprehensive design system does not cover this new, more social-leaning voice. Consequently, we started working through a new set of best practices to ensure consistency within the emails as well as on other surfaces.
The product features were actively evolving.
  • During the design process, the capabilities of the final product continued to evolve requiring multiple adjustments to each email’s objective. The overall impact of these changes was mitigated by using modular elements that could be swapped or re-worked easily.

The Process

The current onboarding flow was audited to identify what was, and was not, relevant for Starter merchants. I combined the relevant elements with key features that we wanted to highlight for the Starter plan, and created a hierarchy based on what was needed to get merchants selling ASAP.

Using this hierarchy, I created wireframes for three emails:

  • Email 1 gives motivated merchants exactly what they need to get going immediately. How to create their product pages, share links, and understand what kind of traffic they're getting to their products.
  • Email 2 focuses on getting the most out of the Starter plan. We guide merchants to our in-house social bio tool, Linkpop, as well as other tips including a link to a photography tutorial.
  • Email 3 encourages merchants to think bigger, and we send them off with inspiring stories of successful entrepreneurs and information about more comprehensive plans at Shopify that they can upgrade to.

Over a period of 3 months, working on-and-off with support from a senior content designer, I was able to craft and refine the copy that ultimately was published. As the product launch date approached, I was also able to work with a product designer and a marketing automation specialist to ensure the content of the email both looked and worked as intended.

Images of four emails used in Shopify's new merchant onboarding process shown side by side. Each image has sections highlighted in green, yellow, or red boxes indicating their relevancy to the Starter plan.
Example of the content audit of some current onboarding emails, marking if content is relevant for starter users (green), completely irrelevant (red), or possibly relevant (yellow).
Image showing a virtual sticky note hierarchy, ranking the importance of items to be included from most to least important. The most important items are how to create product links, how to share, and how to use analytics.
Hierarchy of elements taken from the product's features, as well as from the original onboarding email flow used in brainstorming.

The Outcome

The final outcome of this project consisted of three original emails new merchants enrolling in a Starter plan trial would receive, starting at the moment of sign up.

Mock up of three iphones side by side, each showing one of the new emails that were crafted during this process.
Mock up of final emails after visual design work was completed.

To take a closer look at the emails, you can download a pdf here. The final result was quite satisfying, and we were able to launch these emails when the product went live in July 2022.