4 advanced email list building techniques for eCommerce stores

If you’ve been running your eCommerce business for a while, it’s likely you’re already taking some steps toward building your email list. It’s also likely you’re using some or all of the primary list building techniques, like on-site signup forms, email popups, subscriber-only discounts, and downloadable lead magnets.

But once you have those fundamentals squared away, it’s time to start looking at more advanced techniques. After all, what store doesn’t want to improve its list growth rate? And while the standard techniques are proven and effective, these advanced techniques can help you grow your list even faster and with better targeted prospects. 

Here are four high-level strategies for building and growing your eCommerce store’s email marketing list. 

1. Gamify your list building

While an email list signup form is effective, it’s not exactly fun—but gamification is. There are three main elements of the gamified experience: engaging your visitors, creating a competition, and giving out a prize.  Quizzes and contests, which we’ll look at later, are examples of gamification, but a simple way to get started is by making your signup forms interactive. 

One type of email signup form that’s becoming more popular is “spin to win.” Here, people hand over their email address in the hope of winning a prize, usually a discount—the size of the discount depends on the spin of the wheel. 

Here’s an example from DMC Watches, which offers visitors a single chance to spin the wheel and grab a discount. The company ups the ante with urgency: there are a limited number of coupons available each day, and if you win, you have to claim your discount within 30 minutes. 

Spin the wheel to get a discount.

If you go this route, we recommend making your wheel (or other gamified form entry process) into an actual game—in other words, don’t rig the wheel so every single person winds up with more or less the same coupon. Sometimes, a person spinning the wheel shouldn’t win! That gives the game more credibility—and will give that visitor who lost a new perspective the value of getting a discount from your store. (So they’ll appreciate it more when you eventually email them a discount down the road.)

2. Use interactive quizzes to engage and segment

The best way to get your audience to engage with you is to send them relevant, targeted content. That means using email list segmentation so you send the right messages to the right people at the right time. 

One innovative way to segment your audience is with a quiz, which is another type of gamification.

Create an interactive quiz—it doesn’t have to be long, but it should be visually compelling and engaging—to help guide the customer to the right products for them on your site. You could also offer a Buzzfeed-style personality quiz—people love those—that’s not about driving people to products on your site but rather about getting to know their preferences to begin nurturing them as a customer. Have them enter their email address at the beginning or end of the quiz, and use the information they provide to add tags to their customer profile for segmentation purposes.

For example, let’s say you sell clothing for men, women, and children. You could create a customer quiz where you learn which type of clothing your customer is interested in, and when the customer is added to Jilt, they could automatically be tagged with “mens-clothing,” “womens-clothing,” or “kids-clothing.” Then you could send out segmented broadcast emails and automations with targeted promotions to each of those groups. (Check out Jilt’s integrations with OptinMonster, MailMunch, and MailOptin for more on this process, or use Jilt’s Zapier integration to import data from many other lead gen and form services.)

Here’s an example from The Right Pillow where customers can take an interactive quiz to find, like the brand name says, the right pillow. The first step of the quiz is entering an email address, so now the brand can send personalized recommendations based on the results.

An interactive quiz for the Right Pillow.

3. Use Facebook’s lookalike audiences with contests

This may be somewhat circular logic, but your email list is filled with the type of people who would join your email list. So when you’re hunting for new subscribers (who you can nurture into new customers), it’s beneficial to target people who are similar to those currently on your list.  After all, the people on your list are engaging with you and buying from you, and people like them are more likely to turn into customers. 

The good news is you can target people with similar overall personas to your customers—and pretty easily, too. All you have to do is harness the power of Facebook’s lookalike audiences. Basically, you just upload your email list to Facebook, it analyzes your data to look for commonalities among your subscribers, then it allows you to serve ads to people in similar cohorts.

Once you’re advertising to your lookalike audience, you should drive them to a landing page where you make the case for joining to your list—and present a solid incentive for them to subscribe. That incentive could be a discount, a lead magnet like an eBook, or a contest.

Contests are a good way to boost your subscriber numbers—but there’s often a serious flaw. In many cases, you could wind up with people entering the contest who are only interested in winning and aren’t otherwise interested in your brand (or ever buying from you).

But when you target a contest at a lookalike audience, you know the entrants match your customer personas and really should be interested in your brand and products. So by targeting a lookalike audience with a contest, the goal is to reduce the “I’m just here for the prize” factor.

Instapage says combining lookalike audiences with contests can yield a landing page conversion rate between 20 percent and 50 percent, and a lead to customer conversion rate between five percent and 10 percent.

4. Give away a free physical product 

How much is one email subscriber worth to you? When you’re just starting out in eCommerce, it’s tough to say. But as your store grows and you start to collect enough data to accurately calculate subscriber lifetime value, you can definitively answer that question.

That’s when a physical product giveaway comes in. A physical giveaway is more expensive than a digital giveaway, but as long as the value of a subscriber is high enough to make it worthwhile, you can justify giving away a small, tangible item in exchange for an email address. 

The benefit is clear: a physical product has a different “feel” than a digital lead magnet. Your new subscriber will feel the excitement of seeing your gift arrive in the mail, they’ll get to open it, and they’ll get to use it—that makes a very different first impression than even the strongest digital lead magnet. Plus, you’ll get a ton of information from them when they sign up. They’ll have to put in their address, since you need to know where to mail their free product. 

Offering a free sample pack in exchange for an email.

This is a case where you can ask a few other questions about your new subscriber for segmentation purposes; a person getting a free physical product shouldn’t mind filling out a longer form. Plus, you want the form to be a little bit of work to weed out people who might just be trying to get a quick freebie but aren’t all that interested in your store.

That’s also where the nature of your giveaway comes in. You could give away something like stickers, but there are entire websites out there devoted to finding free sticker giveaways—so you could wind up giving out lots of stickers to people with no interest in becoming customers.

Instead, figure out something to give away that would only appeal to your target audience—and might even give them a taste of your products so they’ll be compelled to pay for more. For instance, a cosmetics company or coffee brand might want to give away free samples. A company selling pet products could give out a basic dog toy with their logo on it. Come up with a small, enticing product that’s a good fit for your store and that will appeal to your target customers.

Key takeaways

You’re probably already using the standard list-building techniques for your eCommerce store, like on-site signup forms, popups, subscriber-only discounts, and downloadable lead magnets. 

But as you grow, it’s worth considering some even more advanced techniques to build your list faster and with more targeted subscribers.

  • Gamify your list building. Make your signup forms more interactive by turning them into a game. By engaging your website traffic with a game, you can convert visitors into subscribers at a much higher rate.
  • Use quizzes to segment. Create an entertaining quiz on your site. You can use it to direct people to the right products and/or get them to sign up for your list. And the information you learn about them through the quiz can be used for email segmentation.
  • Use Facebook lookalike audiences with contests. Facebook can take your current email list and find other people who fit similar profiles to your current subscribers. Consider running a contest for that lookalike audience, because they’re more targeted (and likely to turn into customers) than the general public.
  • Give away a free physical product. Once you know the lifetime value of a subscriber, you know how much it’s worth spending to get one. A physical product giveaway is more expensive than giving away a digital lead magnet, but it allows you to collect a significant amount of information and make a more lasting first impression on a new subscriber.

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