How eCommerce Brands Can Grow Their Email Lists

Without Relying On Discounts

All eCommerce marketers understand the importance of a robust email list, but sometimes building that list is easier said than done.

It’s not enough just to capture emails during checkout or account creation, and opt-in campaigns buried in website footers typically have incredibly low submit rates. So, many retailers turn to arguably the most effective way of capturing emails: firing an email capture overlay with a discount on entrance or exit.

And, while this tactic is usually quite successful, some brands can’t or won’t use discounts this way. Maybe they don’t want to project an overly promotional image, or maybe they run frequent sales and need to avoid conflicting offers.

Whatever the reason, brands that can’t use incentivized email capture campaigns often struggle with list growth. Common overlay copy is, “Sign Up to Join Our List and Get Future Offers” or, “Stay in the Know.” While these strategies may work sometimes, they usually don’t achieve the desired impact.

The key to creating successful, non-incentivized email capture campaigns is putting yourself in the visitor’s shoes and understanding that a value exchange is necessary—even if it’s not a discount.

Your visitors likely get dozens of marketing emails a day and don’t want to fill their inboxes even more unless you offer something valuable in return. Most of the time, an immediate reward seems more valuable than a nebulous promise of future email offers. There are lots of immediate rewards you can use, and the one you select should make sense in the context of your industry, website structure and customer shopping habits.

Here are five tips for value props that actually work, but don’t involve adding an additional promotion:

1. Employ an existing value proposition

Free shipping, overnight shipping, free returns and free clothing alterations are compelling value propositions that many brands already have. Oftentimes, though, these perks are hidden on FAQ pages or only surface during checkout. But these offers could play a big role in customers’ decisions to convert on your site versus elsewhere.

Coupling one of these benefits with an email opt-in request is a highly successful strategy. The goal is to make visitors aware of the value prop while also capturing their email, so language should be softer than gated discount language and can include mentions of your email marketing list as well.

For example, the headline copy could read, “We Offer Free Shipping on All Orders,” and a smaller subheader below could read, “Enter your email to continue and join our list.”

2. Offer a free gift or sample with purchase

This strategy works well for beauty brands, and sometimes it even outperforms opt-in experiences with discounts. Like free shipping and free returns, many beauty companies already give out free samples at checkout, and using this perk, they can capture email sign-ups without offering anything additional. Beauty companies that don’t already use free samples may decide it’s worth offering them to grow their list.

3. Ask an engaging question to help your visitors find their way

Some websites are difficult to navigate, and you can use an entrance email capture campaign to direct your visitors to the best category for them. This “way-finding” strategy is ideal for brands that have several distinct shopper profiles, a complicated product, an existing product-finding quiz built into their site or customers that regularly shop for other people.

For example, a brand that sells flowers could ask a simple question like, “What Occasion Are You Shopping for Today?” and give their most common options, such as, “A Birthday,” “A Graduation” or “A Baby Shower.” After selecting an option, the visitor would be prompted to submit their email in exchange for a recommendation.

Visitors get value out of these experiences, and brands get the added benefit of shaping customers to their highest-converting categories or products.

4. Help your visitors find a nearby location for in-store pickup

For companies with a brick-and-mortar presence, driving visitors from website to store is often a big goal. In-store pickup is an engaging proposition for customers, too, and brands can couple it with an email capture to get more sign-ups. This strategy supports the idea that people are more likely to give their email address when they’re already giving other information, and the copy could be along the lines of, “Enter your email and zip code to find the nearest in-store pickup location.”

5. If all else fails, clearly communicate the values of your list

If none of the above strategies fit in well with your business, then a final option is to tout the values of your email list. Instead of telling customers to “Stay in the Know,” you should be very clear about what they’ll get when they sign up. Bi-monthly sale notifications? First access to new limited-edition collections? Hot style tips? Write out the values explicitly, and put them in the headline copy. While these values might not lead to instant gratification, visitors will still find them appealing.


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Jon Humphrey

Jon Humphrey is a Performance Strategy Manager at Wunderkind. His role, combined with his previous experiences in marketing and market analysis at companies like MealPal and FactSet, give him unique insights into email and personalization best practices.