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How To Quickly Build An Email List That Generates Ecommerce Sales

With dozens of social media channels to choose from, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger and SMS, why should you focus on email marketing?

Here’s why.

Contrary to popular belief, email has significantly more users than social media, and it also has a better ROI.

Looking at the numbers, Twitter has 330 million active users as of the first quarter of 2019. Meanwhile, Facebook has over 2.6 billion monthly active users as of the start of 2020.

However, email outnumbers Facebook and Twitter combined.

In 2019, email users worldwide amounted to 3.9 billion users and could possibly reach 4.3 billion by 2023. Almost half of the world has an active email address!

Email still dominates the online space, and almost every online activity requires an email address—from making an online purchase to signing up for a social media account.

Don’t believe the myth that social media is replacing email. Nobody’s abandoning email. In fact, email marketing is one of the best ways to reach your customers today.

In this post, we discuss why email outperforms other channels, why it’s critical for business, steps to take to build a list, and what to do with your list once it is made.

Why Is an Email List Critical For Your Ecommerce Business?

When it comes to running an ecommerce business, email marketing will likely be your most profitable channel. According to the National Client Email Report, the average email marketing program generates a 38x ROI. As a result, more than 59% of marketers cite email as their biggest source of ROI. 

Here’s why email is so effective.

1. Email is personal, purposeful and targeted.

With the proper email segmentation strategy, you can send emails that truly resonate with your customer and provide a sense of connection. For example, I run an ecommerce store that sells handkerchiefs and linens for special occasions.

Whenever a customer purchases from us for the first time, we send out an email with a personal thank you note.

Even though this email is 100% automated, our first time customers love the personal touch and often reply to this message telling us how impressed they are with our customer service.

2. You own your email list.

When you market your business via social media, you have no control over your audience. And for the past several years, Facebook and Instagram have significantly reduced organic reach, forcing you to pay for advertising.

Additionally, when you rely on Facebook and Instagram, you may also get suspended if you accidentally violate their terms of service.

However with email marketing, you own your customer list and no one can ever take that away from you.

As a result, email marketing provides your business with a sense of stability and a foundation for repeat sales.

3. People use email several times a day.

Due to the rise of smartphones, people often check their emails multiple times throughout the day. Almost 50% of individuals check their inbox 1-3 times a day.

11 Steps For Building Your Email List

Because email is so powerful, the best way to scale your sales is to grow your list. After all, the more subscribers you have, the more revenue you can generate.

Especially if you sell on Amazon, building your email list is one of the best ways to launch new products, future proof your business and establish your own brand. 

But if you’re starting from scratch, building a sizable email list can seem like a daunting task.

By following the 12 strategies below, you can exponentially grow your email list in a short period of time and increase your earnings.

1. Encourage subscribers to share and forward emails.

One of the best ways to boost your subscriber list is through word of mouth. As a result, you should always include an “Email this to a Friend” button at the end of your marketing emails.

If your content is useful and shareable, your existing fans will forward your emails to their friends and colleagues. In my experience, the best place to put your share link is in the P.S. section of your email.

Noah Kagan of uses this strategy extensively in his email broadcasts.

Your email signature is also an effective place to put a call to action to an email sign-up form or list.

Here’s what mine looks like:

My primary call to action in my email signature is to a special landing page that entices people to sign up for my free 6-day ecommerce mini course.

3. Promote a contest on social media.

Launching a giveaway is probably the fastest way to grow your email list. And for most contests, the bigger the prize, the more likely you’ll attract new subscribers.

In general, you should choose a prize worth at least $150 but the greater the value, the better. Also, stay away from generic prizes like Amazon gift cards and iPads, otherwise you’ll attract a bunch of untargeted freebie seekers.

Once you have your prize in place, you can amplify your giveaway with software that encourages social sharing.

Using a tool like Viral Sweep, you can easily make your contest go viral by giving away additional contest tries when contestants share your giveaway with friends.

In the photo above from my last contest, I gave away bonus contest entries to people who shared and liked the contest on Facebook, referred friends via email, shared on Twitter and made purchases from my shop.

4. Add a call to action on your Facebook business page.

If you’re on social media, people are probably checking out your Facebook business page.

Do not let these people leave without giving you their email address. By adding a call to action button on your page, you can direct people to a custom landing page with an email offer and sign up form. 

Here’s what mine looks like:

And, here is the associated landing page:

5. Ask website visitors for feedback.

On every page of your website, you can place a live-chat widget on your site that encourages visitors to ask questions about your business.

Then, when a customer engages with your live chat widget, ask for their email address so that you can “follow up” if needed.

In addition, you can incentivize visitors to give their email by offering them discounts or promotions with products from your ecommerce shop.

Many of your visitors actually want to hear from you, so don’t make it difficult for them to sign up for your list.

All of your email sign up forms should be placed front and center on multiple pages of your website. For example, on our ecommerce store blog, we include multiple forms on every single page.

In the sidebar:

In the byline:

You should also include signup forms on your About Us page as well as your Contact page.

7. Host an online webinar or Facebook Live.

Webinars can be an effective way to generate sales and collect email addresses. As long as what you are presenting is valuable to your targeted audience, you can attract email subscribers in return for the information you are providing for free.

Popular makeup brands often use this strategy to teach their customers how to apply their cosmetics, and they require an email to sign up.

You can also use Facebook Live to quickly make sales and grow your email list. Tiffany Ivanovsky of Emma Lou’s Boutique makes millions per year by hosting daily Facebook live webinars to sell their products much like an infomercial.

When users comment on their Facebook posts, a Facebook Messenger bot is employed to gather email subscribers at the click of a button.

8. Run a group promotion with a partner website or email newsletter.

Group promotions involve working with brands with similar audiences to generate buzz in your niche.

And the fastest way to build your email list with a group promotion is by running a joint giveaway.

Here’s how it works:

  • You partner with a similar brand in your niche and contribute a gift card from your online store. Ideally, your partner should not be a direct competitor but share a common audience. For example, it makes sense for my wedding linens shop to partner up with a wedding florist. Our client base is the same but we don’t compete directly.

  • Your partner also contributes a similar sized gift card and the offers are combined into one massive sweepstakes giveaway.

  • Both of you then send out an email to your list promoting the giveaway..

  • Interested recipients enter their email and receive special offers from your company.

  • At the end, a grand prize winner is selected.

At the end of the giveaway, both you and your partner keep the entire email list.

Group giveaways are extremely effective because the prize pool is so large and you and your partner walk away with an expanded list of targeted prospects.

9. Use an interactive pop-up form.

Pop-up forms are one of the most effective ways to get more subscribers and grow your email list.

And whether or not you find pop ups annoying, they do in fact work. According to who looked at 1,754,957,675 popups in their study, the average conversion rate for all popups is 3.09%. This is extremely high.

The most straightforward pop-up form you can implement for your ecommerce store is to offer a coupon in exchange for an email.

But the highest converting pop-up form offers usually involve gamification or a laser-focused lead magnet.

For example, here’s a pop-up form I set up for users who visit my linen towel and napkin-related pages on that converts 25% better than a standard coupon popup.

But the highest converting email popup on my ecommerce store is my gamified popup.

Gamified pop-up forms work because everyone craves the potential to win something big. I use a spin-to-win popup to give customers a chance to win significant discounts from my store.

By using a spin-to-win form over a generic coupon popup, my email sign-up rate increased by 131%.

10. Collect emails at checkout.

The post-purchase email flow for your ecommerce store will generate the bulk of your email marketing revenue after your welcome series. As a result, you should add all of your paying customers to your email list during the checkout process.

For my store, I create custom autoresponder sequences for my customers, depending on what they purchased.

In the diagram above, depending on whether a customer buys hankies, napkins, towels or aprons, I send them down a different path of cross sells and upsells related to their purchase.

By collecting emails during checkout, you can also send abandoned cart email sequences and potentially recover 19% of your lost customers.

11. Create a referral program.

Most customers who shop online ask a friend or family member for a recommendation before making a purchase.

In fact, according to Nielsen, 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.

The best way to implement a referral program to build your email list is to create a special link that directs a referral to a dedicated email landing page where they can claim their referral bonus.

Here’s how it works:

  • Choose a reward for referring customers and referred friends. This can be a discount or a gift card from your shop.

  • Have your existing customer refer their friends (with a special tracking link) to a dedicated discount landing page.

  • Referred customers must provide their email to claim the discount, and if they make a purchase, both the referrer and the referred get a reward.

I Have an Email List, Now What?

Once you’ve built up a decent-sized email list, it’s time to start generating traffic and sales. Especially if you sell on Amazon, you can use your email list to launch new products and quickly gather Amazon reviews.

But it’s important to not blast your entire list with the same generic message.

Email is personal and should be utilized as such.

1. Segment your audiences.

Email list segmentation is the process of categorizing subscribers into logical groups so that you can send personalized and relevant emails.

A good segmentation strategy will increase your open rates, click-through rates and improve your email deliverability as well.

While there are many different ways to segment your audience, depending on what products you carry in your shop, here are some high-level segmentation strategies that apply to most online stores.

First, you should never send the same email to your entire list. At a bare minimum, you should segment your list based on the following parameters:

  • The last time they opened your email, and how engaged they are with your content. Customers who open more often can be emailed more often. On the flip side, customers who are less engaged should be emailed less or pruned away because inactive subscribers can hurt your deliverability.

  • How many times they’ve purchased. Repeat purchasers should be placed in their own category and treated like royalty. Meanwhile, first-time purchasers should be encouraged to buy again. In general, you should apply different promotions and incentives to different customer groups.

  • What they purchased. If someone is interested in women’s clothing, don’t send them emails about mens boots. Generic product emails rarely convert well.

2. Measure engagement. 

The beauty of email marketing is that everything is measurable. Keep track of your open rates, click-through rates and conversions.

Depending on your industry, you can compare your performance against other companies selling similar products.

If you are curious how well your email marketing campaigns are performing, you can refer to this handy comparison chart put out by Constant Contact.

3. Create an email marketing strategy.

When it comes to formulating an email marketing strategy for your online store, the most important factor is consistency.

Pick a frequency to email your customer list, stick with it, and email your customers at least once per week.

Most new email marketers don’t email their list often enough, so what you’ll find is that your subscriber list is more resilient than you think.

Also, you should leverage email autoresponders as much as possible to automate your email correspondence.

Autoresponders are the most powerful tools for making sales because they are set it and forget it. Once you’ve created a solid email sequence, it will run forever, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business.

Wrapping Up 

Contrary to what the media has been saying for years, email marketing is not dead — it’s not even close.

Not only does email marketing allow you to reach a large group of people, but the personalization aspects of email are unmatched by any other marketing medium.

Implemented correctly, email marketing will be one of the most important channels for your store for both nurturing new sales and attracting repeat business.

Steve Chou avatar

Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses. He currently works for a startup company in the Silicon Valley.