Strategies to Grow Your Email List Pre-Purchase

Personalizing all your marketing communications is extremely effective in ecommerce.

The open rate for non-personalized emails is 16%. The open rate for personalized emails is 26%. When customers receive non-personalized emails, the click-to-convert rate is 4%. When they receive personalized emails, the click-to-convert rate is 7%.

If you directly communicate with your shoppers via email and personalize it ( more than just saying “Hi, YOUR NAME”) through emails, ads, or social media posts in a way that is relevant to them then you can increase opens, click-throughs, and conversions.

But how do you send personalized messages when a customer has never shopped with you before and hasn’t given you any of their information? That’s why you need to have strategies in place to grow your email list before a customer has made their first purchase with you.

Here we outline strategies that can help you get anonymous browsers’ email addresses so you can identify them and start to build a profile, as well as advice on how to make sure your customers convert when they get onto their site.

Smart popups and webforms

Popups and webforms are one of the most useful ways to collect new customers’ email addresses, but only if executed in a thoughtful way. Popups need to add value, not be intrusive, and be appropriate for your particular marketing goal at that time. Excellent webforms offer incentives to capture an anonymous browser’s email address. This could be:

    • Access to special events or early access to sales
    • The opportunity to win a prize
  • An invitation to join a rewards program

A word of warning about popups: try to avoid offering discount codes or coupons as the first incentive to people who have never shopped with you before. You risk devaluing your product and selling to a customer who only wants to shop with you based on price, rather than as a fan of your product. If you’ve tried several ways to entice consumers and nothing has worked, then you can move onto offering them a coupon.

This example from Easyology Pets is a great one. The company offers the chance to win a discount if you give them your email address with a fun “spin the wheel” game, rather than offering everyone a discount automatically.

Back in stock emails

Whether a customer has come to your site in search of one specific product, or they are just browsing and find a product they like, what happens if it’s out of stock? It might seem like a lost sale, but it is actually a great opportunity to capture their email address. All you have to do is send them an email when the product is back in stock, and hopefully, they’ll convert.

Take this example from homeware retailer Wayfair. On their website, they give you the option to enter your email address when the product is back in stock, as well as providing you with an estimated date it will be available. They then send you an email confirming, but they also take the smart technique of cross-selling and up-selling other items, and shopping their daily sales.

Require an email address for site access

Requiring a customer to enter their email address in order to browse your site is another way to rapidly grow your email list pre-purchase. But it’s a controversial strategy, and one you have to be really careful about using. You should only use this tactic if you have already built a strong brand that people know and love, or if you are selling a type of product that would only appeal to a very niche market. If that’s not the case, then all you’ll do is annoy your buyers enough that they’ll immediately leave your site and go and shop elswhere.

Online shopping and lifestyle website Gilt requires you to create an account before you can browse their products, but they create a sense of exclusivity by promising sales on designer brands for “insiders”.

How to convert customers

Once you’ve decided which of the above strategies you’re going to use to grow your email list pre-purchase, you’re not quite done! Now, you need to make sure your popups, webforms, and more are actually going to convert and clearly encourage buyers to share their email.

To do that, make sure you A/B test all copy and design elements across your website, and track which converts best for your brand. There are loads of best practice guides out there about how to design and write the best marketing and website copy, but what works for one brand might not work for yours. That’s why you need to A/B test everything so you know what to change, and you won’t be wasting ad dollars when someone comes to your site and bounces soon afterward.

You could also track visitor behavior by creating a heatmap of your website using a solution such as Crazy Egg. This allows you to see where customers spend the most time, which parts lead to a bounce, and which CTAs are converting.

Once you have collected your customers’ emails, you can start to track their browsing behavior to help you build up a clearer picture of who they are, as well as their shopping habits. With that data, you can send them more relevant, personalized communications on the channel of their choosing, which will lead to more click-throughs and an increase in conversions. So get ready to sell!

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