Before we talked about how email marketing is effective. Now, we’ll talk about how to do it effectively… namely eCommerce email list growth.

No matter how diverse or experimental they may be, each and every email marketing strategy needs one thing: an email address. Another instalment in our series on content marketing for eCommerce, this piece explains how to use content to build your brand’s email list.

ecommerce email list growth

Source: Nordstrom’s email via Really Good Emails

Think of building your email list as a stage in the sales funnel, the Interest phase, after Attention. Even the simple act of receiving an email — a sign of trust from a new shopper — is crucial to the sales process. We’ll start by explaining why.

The simple act of receiving an email — a sign of trust from a new shopper — is crucial to the sales process. Click To Tweet

Why eCommerce Sites Need Email Lists

It’s hard to go directly from a new visitor to a sale, and eliciting a person’s email address is often the stepping stone for turning them into a customer. It’s that intermediary step that says, “I’m interested in your brand, but I’m not ready to buy yet.”

WPBeginner lists out the benefits of email correspondence in a broad and clear-cut way:

  • Personal Connection to Shopper — Emails speak directly to your shopper, unlike most other forms of content like blogs or videos. This intimacy builds a closer relationship between them and the brand.
  • Improved Targeting — You can customize the email directly to the recipient, letting them know about deals or products relevant to them based on their browsing or purchasing history.
  • Higher Rate of Interaction — Because emails are so personal and go directly in the shopper’s inbox, the chances of the shopper actually interacting with it are greater.
  • Regularity — A shopper may go to your blog once and never return, but periodic emails can keep your brand in their mind.

ecommerce email list growth

Source: On via Really Good Emails


Emails speak directly to your shopper, unlike most other forms of content like blogs or videos. Click To Tweet

There’s also a little known psychological benefit as well. In his seminal book on social psychology The Social Animal, Elliot Aronson describes the phenomenon where small investments such as giving an email address create stronger and more positive bonds.

The theory is the person needs to validate their behavior to themselves, so small “favors” encourage thinking along the lines of “this online store must really be worth it if I gave them my email.”

Of course, once you have their email, you can begin your email marketing campaign. We’ve already discussed the best practices of email marketing in a previous article, so here we’ll continue strictly with list growth.

And one of the most important components of convincing someone to share their email address is giving them a good reason to.


There’s an old saying, “nobody does something for nothing,” which has the same meaning as the more casual “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” If you want an email address, your best strategy is to offer something up in return.

If you want an email address, your best strategy is to offer something up in return. Click To Tweet

Everett Sizemore, the Marketing Director of Inflow, lists some of the most compelling incentives for eliciting user emails.

Free Products. Giving away free gifts may be one of the oldest tricks in the book, but the reason it’s used so frequently is because it works. Offering prospective customers a free sample of your product, or even free shipping, is worth a lot more than an email address — and customers appreciate this, boosting their brand loyalty from the start.

ecommerce email list growth

Source: Wolf & Badger

While these free samples usually aren’t free for the online store, they can sometimes be free products passed along from the manufacturer, or bonuses for a price break when ordering in bulk. In any case, the shopper is still expected to pay the shipping fee.

Free Resources. If you don’t want to give away an actual product, you can always give away free resources, namely ebooks, white papers, reports, toolkits, or video tutorials. This avoids the hassle of shipping fees, and gives the user instant gratification with an immediate download.

In-depth buyer’s guides are always appropriate for eCommerce sites, but specific instructional material can be more effective. Try a guidebook on the common pain points of your related industry. For example, if you’re selling yarn and craftware, offer an ebook on knitting techniques.


Source: Craftsy

Craftsy, above, regularly offers free resources on their site. Not wanting to take away from their online classes, these resources mostly include pattern books (as well as giveaways for free products). They even have a weekly Freebie Friday, a clever strategy for keeping shoppers coming back periodically.

Discounts. If the return on investment for free gifts is too risky, discounts are the next best thing. A discount is a standard reward for email signups, especially for new visitors — the site detects the absence of cookies and offers a discount on their first order.

If the return on investment for free gifts is too risky, discounts are the next best thing Click To Tweet

Loyalty Programs also fall under discounts. If you have such a program, mention it early on both for the benefit of the customer and to incentivize them to sign up as soon as possible.

ecommerce email list growth

Source: Greats

News and Notifications. For brands that have already proven their value, the reward of staying updated is enough to collect an email address. Typically this is by way of a periodic newsletter, which keeps shoppers informed on new specials, deals, or campaigns.

Related posts:  Top Growth Marketing Tips on Instagram for eCommerce

Another similar strategy is notifications about when an out-of-stock product is restocked. If a user is already on the product page, chances are they’re at least a little interested and will want to know when the product is available again. Include a call-to-action right there on the page.

ecommerce email list growth

Source: Frank Body

Contests. You can even offer contests or giveaways specifically to build your email list. This is another common tactic, where the cost of entry is the email itself. This strategy can also be co-opted for social media, where the entry cost is following.

ecommerce email list growth

Source: SurvivalLife

For more information on the specifics, Gleam wrote a thorough guide on contest promotion.

Access to Site Features. Last, some eCommerce sites require email registration for full access to all the features on a site. This works best for features like wishlisting or personalization recommendation, in which the value for signing up is self-evident. Reviews, too, often require email verification.

ecommerce email list growth

Source: Polyvore

You can also be creative with this. For example, Polyvore has a feature where you can create a collage or outfit of your favorite clothes, but you can only publish and share it with friends if you sign up or log in.


No matter which incentive you choose, you’ll need to pay extra attention to how you present your call-to-action. Just as with sales, there’s a whole series of CTA tactics proven successful in building email lists.

On the Digital Marketer blog, the founder and CEO Ryan Deiss lists his favorite essentials for displaying a CTA for incentives (which he calls “lead magnets”). We’ve adapted them for eCommerce and referenced them below:

  • Be Specific — Customers prefer to know exactly what they’re getting into. Let them know in no uncertain terms what they’ll get if they hand over their email, including specific percentages, discounts, and/or length of time. Avoid vague descriptions like “a free gift.”
  • Focus on One Incentive at a Time — An extension of “being specific,” hone in on one incentive per CTA. It’s better to promote one big reward than several unrelated small rewards.

ecommerce email list growth

Source: Missguided

  • Quick Turnaround — Remember that email addresses aren’t the end goal. Whatever you’re offering, make sure your shoppers come back for more sooner rather than later. In other words, keep your ebooks shorts, announce your contest winners soon, and have regular if not frequent sales events to keep your correspondence regular.
@ryandeiss lists his favorite essentials for displaying a CTA for incentives (which he calls lead magnets. Click To Tweet

Which Content Works Best for eCommerce Email List Growth?

Now that we’ve examined the best tactic for list growth, let’s talk about how to fit it into your existing content marketing strategy.

Which content works best for #eCommerce list growth? Find out in @LemonStand practical #growth post. Click To Tweet

Blogs. In our previous post in this series, we showed how blogs are one of the best content types for attracting new business and traffic. As an early-stage vessel for ushering new shoppers further down the sales funnel, blogs make a great opportunity to attract a signup.

Emily Dowdle suggests these two tips for boosting the email conversion rate of your blog:

  • Make signup options mobile-friendly. Don’t neglect all your potential customers that are reading your blog articles on mobile devices.
  • Include multiple CTAs. Give readers more than one opportunity to sign up. Common CTA venues include at the end of the blog post, a sidebar widget, and opt-ins upon entering and leaving the site.

ecommerce email list growth

Source: SSense

Social Media. Another way to reach new audiences, social media is an ideal channel for letting those who are unfamiliar with your brand know about the incentives for signing up. The goal for email list growth is to get new shoppers to give their emails.

Stuart McKeown, a co-founder of Gleam, advises posting lead generation cards on social media, especially Twitter, that promote certain deals on signup. If the incentive is good enough, your followers will share it with non-followers — not only introducing your brand, but suggesting an email registration right away.

ecommerce email list growth

Source: Gleam

Surveys and Quizzes. A more off-beat but still useful method for attracting emails is through surveys and quizzes. Digital Marketer’s Deiss points out how a quiz that’s relevant to the shopper can entice and engage them so much that they’ll gladly provide their email address for the results.

In eCommerce, this strategy works well when combined with a buyer’s guide. For example, an online shoe retailer could offer a quiz about which shoe would work best for you (or even a more playful personality test, “Which Shoe Are You?”). The results would then be emailed directly to the shopper, with direct links to the corresponding product pages.

What does it take for you to part with your email address? Have you ever seen any truly respectable eCommerce email list growth tactics, or maybe some laughable attempts? Share your stories in the comments now.

What does it take for you to part with your email address? Click To Tweet