October 9, 2013

Getting More Email Subscribers To Your Ecommerce Store

As online store owners, we are obsessed with getting traffic. I know I am. Every day, I open up my analytics and smile as I look at my vanity metrics.

Traffic sources.

Organic traffic.

Direct traffic.

Referral traffic.

Time on page.

Bounce rate.

Then, as a by-the-way, I have a look at conversions. Yikes! It’s nowhere near what I want it to be.

When I look at the overall percentage of new visitors, it’s startlingly high. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because so many new people are finding my site, but it’s bad, because none of my previous visitors are coming back!

This means that the time and money you and I spend on getting customers to our websites is only worth the one visit, on which less than 1 in 100 visitors converts, let alone returns to your website.

And honestly, this is just how it is. Think about your own online shopping habits. How many times have you visited an online store you had never heard of before and bought something in the first go? This is where email marketing comes in.

Why Building an Email List Should Be a Priority

When someone visits your website for the first time, you have maybe 2 seconds or so to grab their attention. If you successfully get their attention, you have maybe another minute or two for them to browse through your site. That’s not much! The idea behind building an email list is that you will (hopefully) establish a permanent rapport with your visitor, and you will be able to communicate with them over and over again.

By simply communicating with your email leads can get you an off-the-bat increase in both your visitors and your sales. If you don’t believe me, have a look at how much success Andrew Youderian has had by kickstarting an email campaign.

When most people start an online store, they don’t really prioritize the email list. Most of the time and energy goes into design, SEO, advertising, or other forms of marketing. But honestly, [Tweet “email marketing is the glue that binds all other marketing channels together.”]

In the early stages of your store, you may be driving paid traffic to your website. The bad thing about paid clicks is that your money is only worth that one click and nothing else. Email marketing lets you milk the money you paid for that click to a far greater extent. Think about it this way: in your early stages, you probably won’t convert very much. Instead of saying goodbye to whatever you invest in paid advertising, why not try to get some emails in the process that have the potential to get you continuing revenue months, even years into the future?

How Most Retailers Get Email Addresses

If you started your online store using a hosted solution like Shopify or Bigcommerce, or even a self-hosted solution like Magento, their templates usually have default email opt-in boxes that are really simple and look something like this:

bad email opt in

I pulled this image off of a site that”s using a default BigCommerce template. Blech! Would you ever want to share your email address just like that? If people are bouncing from your site like rabbits, and you aren’t seeing conversions, why on earth would they share their email address with you?

Some stores(especially bigger, more established brands) use the following method:

coupon email

I’ve also seen some stores use a pop-up to get opt-ins:

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 4.18.20 PM


This popup is from ManPacks, and it get’s triggered by a bit of code that guess when you are about to leave the website.

This is all good, if your margins are big enough that you can afford to lose 15% of your sale. If you are drop-shipping your stuff, 15% discounts doesn’t really seem like a viable option, especially since drop-shipping margins are usually 15-20%. If you offer a smaller coupon, like 5% or lower, you risk coming across as cheap. So unless your product is perishable and it’s likely your customer will buy from you again and again, offering a coupon isn’t the best idea for a bootstrapper that drop-ships.

The Blogger Approach to Getting Emails

Bloggers, unlike online retailers, are much, much more adept at getting email opt-ins. They usually do this by giving a valuable (but non-financial) incentive to get your to sign up. For example, Bootstrapping eCommerce’s opt-in box to the right asks for your email address in exchange for a free course on how to find profitable niches.

Corbett Barr over at ThinkTraffic has an awesome opt-in box, too. See for yourself:

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 4.20.04 PM


He offers a free traffic toolkit that has “videos, workbooks, and more.” The advantage to providing something valuable in exchange for an email address is that it extends your rapport with your visitor.

Not only did they like your website enough to give you their email address, but once they did, you provided them with even more awesome, valuable content. Now, your visitor is hooked – they like you and trust you.

A website visit that lasted two minutes was turned into a life-time of communication between you and your visitor, and growing trust and mutual respect.

Applying the Blogger Approach to an Ecommerce Business

The way to win email addresses with your online store is to take your niche’s entire typical sales funnel(a sales funnel represents the different stages of intent that a potential customer goes through before finally converting) and turn it into your email marketing strategy. This will be your “value added content” that you provide. A series of emails, an ebook, a series of videos, or a mix of everything that will educate your buyer and walk them through the entire sales funnel.

Remember the example of you and I not buying something from a website in the first shot? At that point in time, we were still in the researching or thinking about it phase of the funnel.

While there are many opinions as to what an online sales funnel is made up of, this infographic I found at Qvidian.com seems most applicable to our ecommerce businesses.

The sales funnel is in four stages: interest, consideration, preference, and purchase.

When you get a visitor to your website, they’ve already shown a little bit of interest. With your opt-in box, you have to tip that interest level further in your direction. Offering that value added content usually does the trick.

The next three stages are what you use to develop your value added content. Again, it can be in the form of videos, emails, or ebooks.

Developing Your Value Added Content

The easiest way to brainstorm what kind of content you can provide is to put yourself in your buyer’s shoes by creating a persona of your ideal customer and looking at your product from their perspective. Some questions you can think about answering are:

  • (consideration) Why do I need this product?
  • (consideration) What benefit will I get from this product?
  • (consideration) What different types of products are available, and what sets each one apart?
  • (consideration) How can I use this product?
  • (preference) What features should I prioritize in deciding on a product?
  • (preference) Which is the best one for me?
  • (purchase) Where can I get this product?

By taking your customer through these steps, you have effectively eliminated the need to go anywhere else for research and learning about your product. You’ve fostered trust and communication between you and your customer. At this stage, they are much more likely to buy from you than the first day they visited your website.


If you sold laptops from your online store(not a good idea), here are some things you could frame your value added content along:

  • Why should I use a laptop instead of a desktop?
  • Which is the best brand?
  • How much do processor speeds and RAM affect performance?
  • What operating system should I go for?
  • Should I prioritize screen size, battery life, or speed?
  • What should be the deciding factor when it comes to finally buying?

These are just some ideas off of the top of my head. In the last email, you would tactfully drop a link to your website saying “check out the amazing selection of laptops that we have at LaptopPeople.com. If you need any help, please feel free to reply to this email and we will be more than happy to assist you!”

Okay, so laptops was pretty easy. What if you were in another niche that wasn’t so complicated or research-intensive? Like say, halloween costumes? Here, you could provide some content of value that is relevant and useful to your potential customer. For example, someone buying halloween costumes might want to plan a halloween party. An opt-in incentive could be something like this: “Get our 5-step guide to planning the perfect halloween party that your kids(or guests) will never forget!”

Your emails/videos/ebooks could be something like this:

  • What makes a Halloween party rock?
  • Halloween party foods
  • Safe trick or treating
  • Halloween costume ideas(this is the email you tactfully drop your link in”

The possibilities are endless. It just takes a little bit of creativity on your part and you will be surprised with the results you see.

Where to Have Your Opt-In Box

Now that you are offering something awesome in exchange for an email, it’s not fair to have your opt-in box tucked away in a tiny corner of your website. It’s time to go to the big leagues! On my store, I’ve got the opt-in box right in the center of the page, once the content has finished. I’ve got it on each resource page and also each product page right after the description.

I’ve also made it nice and visible, using contrasting colors, a large button, and a thick border. So far, I’ve seen good results. You can always experiment and optimize.

You will need to set up two more pages on your site in order to make the opt-in work. The first page is the “confirmation required” page, where people are taken right after clicking “subscribe.” This page tells them that they need to click on the link in their email inbox to confirm their subscription.

The other page is the page they will be taken to once they have confirmed their subscription, or the “Thank you” page. If you’ve got videos and ebooks, this is the page to put them on. If your content is just emails, this page can inform them of what to expect in their inboxes in the coming days. It’s really easy to set up an email drip sequence using Mailchimp or Aweber – just set up an autoresponder. Mailchimp has a prepaid $9 plan that lets you send 300 emails – it’s a good place to start. If you end up doing more than that in one month, you can upgrade – it’ll be worth it.

The Proof Is in the Pudding

I got inspired to write this post after seeing how much my opt-ins shot up after implementing this system on my own website. Before the new opt-in method, my opt-in conversions were less than 1/100ths of a percent of overall traffic. After implementing it, I’ve seen opt-ins shoot up to 2-3% of all traffic. Had I done this 6 months ago when I started my latest store, I would have had so, so many opt-ins and my sales would have been much higher from the start, too. Don’t wait – get this going in your store as fast as you can!

Have you had success with email marketing? How do you get email opt-ins? Please let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Thanks to Bogdan Soditu for the photo!

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