13 Ways to build an email database for your e-commerce business

developing an e-commerce email

Whether you run an established e-commerce business or are just starting out, building an email database should be one of your top priorities.

There are many ways of promoting products and communicating with your B2B or B2C online customers. As the most cost effective, email marketing outperforms them all in terms of return on investment. Working well for both new and existing customers, it should be a key component of your marketing strategy. In order to make full use of its potential though, you need up-to-date, relevant email addresses of interested customers.

Good vs bad email databases

Emailing people who don’t want to hear from you is counterproductive. At best, they’ll ignore you and at worst, you’ll annoy them. They certainly won’t buy from you and they may even bad-mouth you to others. In contrast, a good email list consists of people who have indicated they want to hear more about your product or brand.

Pay attention to these characteristics of good vs bad email lists:

Good email list Bad email list
It started organically and is still growing naturally Whether you paid for it or not, you got your list from someone else
Your subscribers opted in You have a high rate of unsubscribes
It has a high % of new email addresses Many emails bounce as addresses are outdated
Your opening and click-through rate is high Participation with your email is very low

Most importantly, everyone on your list should:

  1. Have officially signed up for it, thereby giving you permission to send them mails; and
  2. Be interested in what you are offering.

While the right customers will help you build your business, sending emails and offering giveaways or downloads to those who aren’t interested is a waste of money.

Before you start building your e-commerce email database

Thinking through your list-building strategy up front will make it that much more effective. Prepare well by deciding:

  1. What you will offer visitors in exchange for their email address – this could be:
    • Useful content, such as checklists, resources or videos related to your most popular products or most-viewed information
    • A discount or giveaway – this is an ideal opportunity to get rid of old stock (that still has value), samples or reward points
  2. What communication and subscription options you will offer, for example:
    • A monthly newsletter
    • A weekly blog
    • Regular product promotions

Whatever you choose to offer, bear in mind that your strategy should be specifically designed to attract the right customers for your business. You can then implement one or more of the strategies below to gather emails.

13 Tactics to build an e-commerce email database from day one

Your email opt-in rate tells you the percentage of visitors to your site (within a given period) who sign up for your email database. According to Sumo:

Image with the text 'an average opt -in rate is 1.95%. An exellent opt-in rate is 4.77%.'

Following these tactics will improve your sign-up rate, helping you exponentially increase the effectiveness of your email marketing:

1. Display a ‘coming soon’ page

While you have a new website under construction, display a ‘coming soon’ page on your URL. This will give visitors a sense of who you are and the products they will soon be able to buy from you. Also offer them the opportunity to sign up in advance for promotions or newsletters. That way you’ll start building your email list even before you launch.

2. Provide an obvious sign-up option

Although this is not the most effective method, don’t miss a chance to capture an email address. In case visitors do go looking for it, make sure there is an obvious sign up option both in your site footer and on your contact page. The message should be very simple – a ‘sign me up’ button that takes them to a landing page (see more on this below) works well.

Alternatively, and possibly more effectively, Sumo allows you to install a fixed sign-up bar on your site, as in this example:

showing an obvious sign-up option

3. Pop-up a prompt at entry or exit, after a certain time or on a specific click

Visitors very rarely go looking for a sign-up to your email list. They need to be reminded, prompted and sometimes even enticed. One of the best ways to do this is to pop-up a prompt to sign up at the appropriate time. In exchange, offer them something that is very relevant to your business and that they can’t resist.

We have several newsletter pop-up plug-ins available that you can build into your site. Alternatively you can investigate the Sumo.com option shown below.

Pop-up a prompt at entry or exit, after a certain time or on a specific click

4. Enhance your site with an “in content” sign-up option

In places where your visitor might be interested in more information, Sumo allows you to display a button that pops up a request for an email to release the relevant content. For example, you could write about a topic in a blog, and offer an extra checklist on the topic if they enter an email address.

Enhance your site with an “in content” sign-up option

5. Create a ‘sign up’ landing page

However you plan to entice them to your site, this is where you send your visitors to enter their personal information. It also gives them access to the ‘incentive’ you are offering in exchange, which could be a free download or a discount on their first purchase, for example. Always send a thank you or welcome email after a person has filled in this page. If you use a marketing automation package, doing this automatically is very easy.

A good example of what a landing page should look like

6. Send traffic to your landing page

You can send traffic to your sign up landing page via emails, your website, social media posts or social media ads. Ads cost money, so make sure they are targeting people who will probably be interested in your brand or products i.e. quality traffic. Taking into account your audience and your budget, consider whether Facebook or other social media ads will most effectively drive quality traffic to your email sign-up page.

7. Use Facebook Lead Ads to build your email list

Facebook Lead Ads are specifically designed to target your audience and then help potential customers sign up. When they click on your lead ad, they see a form that is already filled in with their Facebook information. As they may well be browsing social media on their phones, this method makes it very easy for people to sign up. Bear in mind though that your offering needs to be extremely attractive to lure them away from the celebrity story or news they are likely to be reading.

8. Collect email addresses from customers

B2B businesses will already have customer email addresses, which should be on your database. For B2C businesses, your customers should have a choice of registering (and providing an email address) or checking out as a guest. For guest check outs, at least give them an option to provide an email address, along with an opt-in to receive emails from you, early in their buying process. Then if they do end up abandoning their cart, you at least have their email address. Make sure that email addresses from both guests and registrations are automatically added to your database.

9. Update your email signature

Include a compelling Call to Action in your company’s email signature, inviting recipients to sign up for your email list. That will then go out to every person any staff member emails.

It’s easy to update the ‘Signature’ section on your email platform. This may be under Tools/Options in a platform like Outlook, or in Gmail you will find it under Settings/Signature.

For example:

The link Download our e-commerce insights e-book goes to the landing page you have set up. Make sure what you are offering in the signature is the same as what is displayed on the landing page. In this example, it should also be clear that they will need to provide an email to access the e-book and they will then also receive the newsletter in future.

10. Run a contest or sweepstake

This is a time-tested and extremely effective way to gather many email addresses. People love freebies and are usually happy to give their address as part of their entry.

For example, you could hold a monthly giveaway of your products on Facebook. Liking your Facebook page and entering an email gives visitors one entry, and sharing the giveaway with friends earns them further entries.

Read about more tools and contest ideas here

11. Use your order confirmation emails to the maximum

Add email opt-in options and product recommendations on your receipt emails with a tool like Converio. Simply saying, “Hey, join our newsletter or forward this to a friend and get 10% off!” may work very well for you.

Read more about Conversio and its receipt feature here.

12. Encourage sharing

If you use email marketing software such as MailChimp, there should be an option to add a “Forward to a Friend” link in your emails. Then when you share interesting and helpful content, your subscribers can easily forward that. In the process, their friend will be offered an option to sign up for your email list too.

13. Host a webinar

Webinars are extremely popular these days and can be very effective in some industries. They are cost-effective, easy to create and can be run from anywhere. Participants are required to provide an email address to signup, which can then be added to your list.

These tools may be useful: How to host a webinar, this info from Wordstream and this list of webinar tools.

The bottom line

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to drive sales and conversions for your eCommerce business. It’s very easy to build your list with just a few simple tools which take advantage of every visitor to your site, whether they buy or not. Boost your current and potential customer engagement exponentially by getting started on your email database today.

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