13 Ways to Build Your Email List From the Ground up

Placeholder 13 Ways to Build Your Email List From the Ground up

Without a quality email list, your eСommerce business is dead in the water.

Email is hands down the best way to communicate with your audience, build trust and increase sales. Once someone gives you their email address, you have a direct way to communicate with them. Compare this with Facebook. You can build an email list of 100K FB fans, but only a small percentage of them will actually see your posts.

The difference is simple, with email marketing you can make the rules and control the customer experience. With social, media you can’t.

If you’re not actively building your list, you’re missing out on potential customers.

Let’s face it. Almost all of your visitors will come to your online store and leave without buying anything. If you can capture their email, you can start ramping up your digital marketing and turn them into paying customers.

Still not convinced?

Placeholder Email delivers the highest ROI for marketers
Placeholder Email beats social by 40x for customer acquisition

If you want to increase customer acquisition and marketing ROI, you need to grow your email list from scratch. But how?

We’ve reached out to some of the most prolific online entrepreneurs and email marketing experts to get the best tips for growing your eCommerce email list.

#1: Know Your Audience

Who do you want on your list? Seems like a simple question, but you can really mess this up. With a high‑end luxury product (high involvement purchase), you might turn off your ideal buyer with discounts. You’d be better off trying to lure them in with a buyer’s guide.

On the other hand, if you are selling a consumable product (low involvement purchase), discounts might be the best way to grow your list.

Once you have your persona’s defined, you can better tailor your messages. Better messaging will result in an email list that turns into dollars.

This is why knowing your list is the most critical first step. Here’s what the experts say:

Do It: Know Your Audience

  1. Create A Persona
  2. Determine If Your Products Are High Or Low Involvement
  3. Map Out Their Buying Decision Process [+ Infographic from CommuniGator]
  4. Make A List Of Ideas/Offers For Each Stage

#2: Add Content Upgrades To Blog Posts & Category Pages

Once you have a good idea of what your audience will like, it’s time to create some content. A content upgrade is an additional information that is not on the page. For example, on a Diamond Ring category page you could offer an in‑depth buyers guide in exchange for their email address.

Informational blog posts are another great place to use this strategy. I wouldn’t recommend putting “Content Upgrades” on product pages, though. You don’t want to distract people from adding items to their cart.

Do It: Content Upgrade

  1. See Which Page Generates The Most Traffic
  2. Think Of How You Can Easily Upgrade The Content
  3. Create That Content as A PDF
  4. Write A Call To Action To Get The Additional Content
  5. Add A Link That Triggers An Email Lightbox Pop‑Up

#3: Add Pop-Ups

Love them or hate them — pop‑ups work. Really well. If the offer is relevant, people will not think twice about entering their email address.

Victoria’s Secret is a lightbox pop‑up that hits you right in the face.

#4: Offer a Discount In Exchange For Email

Larrimor’s allows users to select what products they are interested in. This is a great way to segment your list and learn what your visitors are interested in.

Discounts are a tried and true method for building your email list. Just make sure you don’t give too big of a discount that you lose money or value.

Do It: Give Discounts

  1. Set Up A Coupon Code
  2. Create A Popup
  3. Deliver The Promo Code Over Email

#5: Run A Contest On Facebook

This is actually one of the FIRST things you should do when starting an online store. You can build your email list and Facebook fans all in one.

There are a few ways to run contests on your Facebook page. Contest For Pages is an app that I’ve used. But you can use other tools as well:

Placeholder Facebook Contests

Do It: Give Discounts

  • Decide On A Prize (Worth At Least $50)
  • Set Up Your Contest Using One OF The Apps Above
  • Make Sure Email and Like Is Required
  • Announce The WInner On Facebook and Email
  • Follow Up With A Discount Code For Everyone Else

#6: Create An Email Opt‑In Landing Page

You can’t just rely on pop-ups to build your list. Having a dedicated landing page that you drive traffic to (via navigation links) is essential.

Do It: Create A Landing Page

Step 1. Create an awesome landing page or blog post — something that stands out from the rest on this topic or industry.

Step 2. Then, you need to create a lead magnet that’s a “no-brainer”, and it’s so good that you must get it.

Here are few examples:

  • We created an article with 128 growth hacks and an eBook with 140 growth hacks. It’s a no‑brainer, right?
  • Russell Brunson, the king of marketing funnels, uses books as lead magnets. He creates these killer landing pages and offers FREE e-books (you just have to pay for shipping :D).

Step 3. Then it’s a must to make sure this landing page or blog posts brings traffic month-over-month. With stable traffic flow, growing subscribers won’t be an issue.

Here’s my 3‑step‑guide:

  1. Do keyword research and find high search volume (10 to 1 000 searches per month) and low keyword difficulty score (0 to 20) query.
  2. Then do on-page optimization. Add this keyword to meta tags, URL, H1 and H2 title, first paragraph, and text’s body.
  3. Last but not least. Get a few backlinks to make sure the content ranks on the Google’s first page.

Step 4. Monitor the traffic and optimize for higher conversions. Google Search Console (Search Traffic -> Search Analytics) shows the best optimization opportunities and helps to see how people find your content so you can re-optimize your page.

#7: Include an Email List Signup Form Everywhere & Test Them

Like we said before, there are lots of places to put your email call to action. Sidebars, footers, pop-ups, and navigation menus are all fair game. Start building your email list with the easiest one — pop-ups. You can find many amazing email pop-up examples to get your portion of inspiration. You can also test the timing of them.

The key is to test, test, test.

#8: Social Media Promotion + Landing Page

Once you have a landing page, you can leverage social ads or sponsored posts to drive traffic to them. You can also directly ask for emails on Facebook. This way of collecting email addresses hasn’t become shelved yet, that’s it.

Do It: Social Promotion

  1. Set Up Your Landing Page
  2. Set Up Instagram and Facebook Ads
  3. Create Ad Copy and Promote Your Landing Page Offer
  4. Pin the post to the top of all your social media profiles.

By the way, if you are too shy to pitch your email newsletter on social media, you can include a link to your blog or landing page in your email signature.

#9: Cart Abandonment

Cart abandonment is when people visit your store, add something to their cart, but don’t complete their purchase.

We have an entire chapter on this. For this to work, you have to ask for their email address early in the purchase process. You also need a Shopping Cart Platform that can handle this.

#11: Create a Long-Term Content Strategy

More and more companies choose to rely on content creation strategy both to generate leads, grow audience, and improve brand awareness. The reason is pretty obvious. You create viral content and provide information that brings value, people share it. The more people share it, the more website traffic you generate, the more eyeballs you get on your ’email signup forms’.

You can either hire content marketers in-house, or use guest blogging forces. Read on to

The content strategy might seem too hard to carry out and it takes time. Yes, it’s true. But once the cycle of growing subscribers kicks in and you’ll start getting valuable leads, you won’t regret.

#10: Guest Posting

For guest posting to work, you need to have a full-time copywriter or a subject matter expert that likes to write. Guest posting is a tried and true audience building tactic, but it has gotten spammed over the years by link builders.

The idea is to find sites in your niche that have an active blog. Reach out to them and see if there’s a way to guest post on their site. This way you can gain exposure with their audience. For your post bio, link to your landing page.

Do It: Guest Posting

  1. Find Sites Your Audience Visits
  2. Write Your Guest Post Pitch
  3. Create Content For Their Site
  4. Add A Link To Your Landing Page

#11: Partnerships

You shouldn’t isolate your eCommerce store from other websites. You can host events on social media. You can also run a massive giveaway with other online stores with the goal of building a huge list.

#12: Add Opt-In Instructions To Thank You Page

A bunch of subscribers is meaningless if all the emails end up in their spam folder. Once they opt-in, send them to a ‘thank you’ page that gives them whitelist instructions.

Placeholder Opt-in instructions in the Selfstartr blog

It seems like a small thing, but it shows people right away that you care about the email relationship.

#13: Keep People On Your List With Email Autoresponders

Segmenting your list and sending relevant messages is a must. You have to keep a clear separation between (potential) customers and tire kickers.

When you are setting up your lists, try starting with two:

  • Transactional. These are people that have purchased from you, registered for your store, or abandoned their cart.
  • Informational. These are people that want content or deals from you. But have not made the step to purchase.

You can consider slicing it up more depending on your goals.

Do It: Email Automation

  1. Create an informational autoresponder email sequence that includes a sale offer in the 4th or 5th email
  2. Create Your Transactional Emails

Over To You

A huge thanks to all the expert contributors of this post! If you’re struggling to get traction, check out every chapter of our eCommerce email marketing guide.

Btw, the next chapter is going to be about all sorts of transactional emails. You’ll learn:

  • why your customers love these emails so much,
  • where transactional emails can go wrong,
  • and what you can do about it.

All with examples and takeaways.

Go to Chapter 1
Go to Chapter 3


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Darren DeMatas
Darren DeMatas
Founder @ Ecommerce CEO

Darren has an MBA in Internet Marketing and 10+ years of experience marketing retail, manufacturing, and Internet marketing corporations, 7-figure brands and startups online.

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