The proven email list-building techniques

Never buy an email list

This one is such an important point to make, and one that many new ecommerce marketers are falling for.

There are many shady people on the internet who will sell you email lists with hundreds of thousands of “quality” (read: not quality) contacts that are perfect for your business.

But you know they’re not. You’re just hoping that at least some of them are (maybe 2% wouldn’t be bad, right?).

But that’s bad thinking.

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  • If you’re buying an email list, there’s a huge chance that other people are buying the same email list.
  • That email list may be a pure spam trap, or have spam traps, meaning if you send emails to those contacts, your sender’s email address and IP address will be blacklisted as spam.
  • Those people may not be spam traps, but they’re unfortunately not quality leads for your business and they mark you as spam. Think about it: 100,000 contacts marking you as spam. Your sender’s reputation is as good as dead.
  • With enough spam complaints, your email service provider will terminate your account.
  • You are violating the GDPR, as those contacts (who reside in the EU) did not opt in to your list. You can face heavy penalties (read more about GDPR for ecommerce marketers).

If you want to kill your email marketing career before you’ve even started, go ahead and buy an email list.

Get an email marketing provider

Honestly, before we even start, it’s very important that you get an email marketing provider that you’re comfortable with and which works well with your particular business model.

Of course, at this point we’d recommend our own service, Omnisend to fulfill that need, but for the purposes of list building there are many options to choose from.

What is important is that your email marketing provider has the following capabilities:

  • a variety of signup forms
  • the ability to send those signups to different lists
  • the ability to segment your subscribers based on various behaviors
  • the ability to send automated messages based on these lists and segments

With that, you’ll have everything in place to start building your email list from scratch.

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Use the standard opt-in form

One of the first, and default ways, for you to build an email list is by having a standard opt-in form on your site.

Pretty much every Shopify site will have this opt-in form enabled, normally at the bottom or in the middle of the screen.

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As a store owner, you can disable this, but you really should only do that if you have another signup form available.

For other ecommerce platforms (like Woocommerce), it’s important to include this in your website design. Instead of having a specific opt-in form, you can place a sticky sign up form on the bottom or side of the screen.

 Use popups

While the opt-in form is important, it is nonetheless still quite passive. You are hoping that your visitors will sign up to your newsletters by their own will.

Furthermore, you can’t really gauge whether they’re already interested in your brand. Instead, you should be using a popup form.

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Popup forms are dynamic in nature. You can set them to pop up at certain times or for certain events.

For example, in our signup forms, there are options to show the popup after a certain amount of seconds, after the user visits a certain amount of pages, after a certain percentage scrolled, or when the user is getting ready to leave (exit-intent).

 Incentivize your visitors to sign up

With the signup forms activated on your page, you need to determine exactly what incentive your users will have to sign up in the first place.

For that reason, it’s a great idea to have some sort of incentive for your visitors. One common incentive is to offer a discount, sale or free shipping for a limited time.

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You can also simply offer visitors access to your newsletter

They are straightforward in their attempts to build an email list, and their visitors know exactly what to expect in their inboxes.

Entertain visitors with an interactive signup form

In order “to build an email list”, you need to attract and engage your visitors. Sometimes, however, discounts and sales are not enough.

In those cases, it’s a great idea to think outside of the box. There are now many interactive signup forms that are fun for visitors and effective for ecommerce store owners.

One of these is the Wheel of Fortune, a fun wheel that the visitor “spins” in order to get a prize. In order to spin the wheel, however, the visitor first has to sign up.

You can determine the prize as you wish, either as a specific amount or percentage discount.

Either way, it’s a win-win. The visitor gets savings on their purchase, and you get to build your email list.




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