15 Simple Ways To Grow Your Email List

  • 16 min read

In this post, you’re about to learn 25 easy ways to automatically grow your email list so you can turn more of your shop visitors into buyers.

In fact:

These are the top strategies we’ve used to grow email audiences of 120,000 contacts and millions of dollars in cart sales. 

So if you’re looking for:

  • More repeat purchases
  • Increased sales from new visitors
  • Lower customer acquisition costs

…then you’ll love this easy to follow step by step guide. 

Let’s get started.

Email: Your Secret Weapon

As an e-commerce business owner, one of your main goals is to make sure you’re continually adding new contacts to your email campaigns so you can keep your shop growing at a healthy rate.

Why? 

Because email marketing helps you:

  1. Lower your customer acquisition costs. If you pay $1000 for 1000 visitors and only 10 purchase on the first visit, email marketing helps you convert another 100 purchases because you’re able to follow up after the first visit. Not all visitors will subscribe, but up to %50 of your visitors might, which is a lot better than 1% conversion. 
  2. Build your brand. Emails get forwarded, shared on social, and send traffic back to your site. Email marketing is the engine that keeps your brand moving.
  3. Email has the highest ROI of any marketing channel according to Litmus, a leading email statistic company. For every dollar invested in email, marketing brands get up to $40 back on average. 

If you’re spending time or money on traffic from Google, Facebook, Instagram or other sources and not following up with brand-focused offers via email, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

30% of your store revenue should come from your email campaigns. Just starting out? Click here and we’ll customize a high converting welcome sequence for your new email subscribers for free. 

1. Make Your Customer The Hero

According to branding expert Donald Miller who wrote Building A StoryBrand, your customer is always the hero. A hero on a journey with a brighter future using your products. Your brand is a guide on that journey dedicated to helping them avoid a negative future and experience a better life using your products. When you make your customer the hero you can expect them to trust your brand quicker because you’re positioned as a helpful guide vs just another product.

So how do you actually make the customer the hero? In short: tell great stories in your emails and website copy. Review your emails for language like ‘we’ and ‘our’ and ‘us’ to pinpoint areas where you could be telling a story about them vs you. Craft your headlines, calls to action, and email copy in such a way that benefits them on their journey. Write or film case studies telling the story of how your previous customers have reached a better future because they purchased your products. 

2. Use Your Blog As A Launchpad

Your content needs a place to call home. Post content to your blog first, then send it out via email. Once you have some traffic to that content you can post to social or promote it with paid ads with better results. Social media companies all like to see some previous activity on a post before they put it out in front of a bigger audience. 

When you post to your blog first you’ll also give your customers and prospects a place to come back to even if they’re not ready to buy. If your customers can only find you on social media you’ll have a hard time bringing traffic back to your site because only 2% of your followers on social will ever see your blog posts/videos/updates unless you are paying for ads to promote them. 

What should you write about? Follow the Rule of 4 E’s. Make your blog posts, stories, videos, and tutorials Entertaining, Educational, Encouraging, and/or Engaging. If you can manage to write or create videos with all 4 E’s your content will stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Blog posts with helpful or entertaining content also help you shop rank higher on search engines like Google, and allow your visitors to subscribe so you can follow up with them over time. 

3. Create A Free Interactive Tool

Free online tools make your users’ lives easier, and all they have to do is sign up with their email address. For example, if you sell clothing – use a photo-based survey to pre-qualify your visitors into ‘style-groups’ and when they’re done taking the survey show them a collection of products most likely to fit their style.

As a bonus, you’ll also capture more information about them you can use to customize their future emails and paid retargeting ads.

4. Create A Vault

Think of this like Netflix, The New York Times subscription, or Disney+ except the only thing needed to access it is your email address.

If you have free downloads, guides, pdfs, content upgrades, video tutorials or generally any content a visitor would be willing to enter their email for, create a vault or ‘archive’ for all of these items and link to it from any pages or opt-in forms that offer them. This gives you one link to share in blog posts, one place to update all of your free downloads and content upgrades, and one place visitors can come back to for your premium content.

The content you offer in this vault needs to be beyond just a blog post or video you’d typically share. It should offer real value. For example, if your store sells kitchen cookware and utensils, your “vault” might contain your shop’s best recipes with video cooking tutorials featuring your best selling kitchen pans, utensils, and knives.

Focus on the content you’re creating, not the items. Anyone can go to a recipe website and download a recipe, but if your kitchen brand has taken the time to filter out the best recipes and make some videos on how to best cook them why not offer that as an upgrade in your vault in exchange for an email?

Once a subscriber joins via email follow up with a welcome sequence. You can get a customized welcome sequence for your shop here for free.

5. Add Content Upgrades

A content upgrade is a digital item you can deliver via email that helps your visitors and customers achieve one goal – usually a very specific goal closely related to the topic they’re currently reading about. These could be as simple as a style guide in PDF format, a condensed version of the post with additional “bonus” information, or a checklist.

Content upgrades should be no longer than a couple pages or a 10-minute detailed video and should focus on helping the visitor reach one specific goal. 

If your store sells clothing and one of your most popular blog posts is about lightweight shirts you can wear on the weekend in the summer on vacation, you might give a packing checklist and offer it with the post. Tailor this to your audience and brand. The more specific the better. 

You don’t need to create content upgrades for every piece of content on your site.

Start by creating content upgrades for the top five pieces of content. Here’s exactly how to find out your top 5 pages on your site:

  1. Open your Google Analytics dashboard.
  2. Under Behavior, click on Site Content then All Pages. Set the date range at the top to display the past 6 months.
  3. Identify your most popular content pages or your top-viewed product pages.

One quick note: you can use a discount as a content upgrade but this will not convert as well. Try using something specific to the content visitors are reading and you’ll get more opt-ins.

Once you have your top 5 content upgrades installed, move on to the next five. Canva.com, Beacon.by, Instapage.com, and several other tools make designing and offering content upgrades easy. Use tip #4 above if you plan on creating multiple content upgrades. 

6. Create Sitewide Popup Offer

Ecommerce brands are notorious for hitting visitors with an immediate popup offer for a 10% off coupon code via email. While this is annoying, the reason shops do this is because it works. But that doesn’t mean you need to be average, or annoying about it. You can put some creativity into your sitewide offer and get better results.

Here’s how to create a sitewide popup offer.

Try giving away one of your most popular products in a contest, use a 30-day challenge to engage with visitors, or offer a free service that helps them make a buying decision faster. This last one is called ‘The Butler Opt-in” or “Concierge Capture” and works like crazy if you’re able to reply back within a few minutes. 

We studied over 1000 pop-up forms and found that:

  • Asking for an email in a popup without offering something in return doesn’t work 
  • Instead, you should give something of value to your reader in exchange for their email (a download, ebook, checklist, free tool, etc.) is the best way to get sign-ups.
  • Your offer in the popup should be easily consumed or help the visitor reach some type of goal quickly. 

Think about how you can create a content upgrade that will broadly appeal to all of your readers. 

You could try: 

  • A “Best Of” Content Summary: Summarize your most popular content as a list of resources or step by step guide.
  • Bonus Video Content: Provide exclusive video content, video tutorials, behind the scenes clips, etc. to subscribers. 
  • A VIP club: Give your visitors access to legitimately exclusive discounts, pre-orders and other perks for joining your VIP club via email.

You can test two or three different popup offers and see which one gets the best opt-in rates.

7. Host An Online Contest or Giveaway

Giveaways are one of the most effective ways to grow your list. Using a tool like ViralSweep you can easily host a free giveaway, contest or sweepstakes in exchange for an email address. Giveaway tools make it easy to validate entries (so you don’t get junk emails) and enable viral sharing on social media with just a few clicks. 

To run a successful giveaway you need three things:

Exciting Audience Specific Prizes

The first thing you need for a successful giveaway is a prize (or multiple prizes). To attract the best entrants vs just a bunch of freebie seekers, your prizes should be tailored to your exact customer profile and to what would inspire them to join. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Products from your niche.
  • VIP experiences, events, tickets, conferences, etc.
  • Books, magazines, or subscriptions
  • Accessories

Pro tip: don’t giveaway tech items or products that appeal to a wider audience than who you’re trying to reach. Giving away an ipad or new TV might sound like an okay idea, but in reality will attract a much wider audience who may not want to purchase your products down the road.

Giveaway Partners

There are three ways to generate leads for your giveaway:

  1. You can invite your current email list to enter.
  2. You can partner with other influencers, bloggers, and niche experts and ask their audiences to enter.
  3. You can pay for ads to your giveaway.

For best results use all three together – in that order.

Pro tip: you can show ads to only visitors who’ve visited your shop in the past 60 days – these are called retargeting ads because they’re targeting only people who’ve already been to your site. These people are more likely to enter because they’re already aware of your brand. 

Why use partners? Well, working with partners has a few benefits: 

  1. You can reach a niche audience more likely to relate to your brand without having to use ads and pay per lead
  2. A partner can promote your giveaway to their email list and sharing on social media without it being an offer to buy which means higher engagement.
  3. Partners can help prime the pump for your giveaway before you turn on paid ads. The more likes and shares a page has prior to being promoted using paid ads the lower your ad costs and higher your reach. This is true on Facebook, Instagram and Google.

A Viral Loop

Each entrant to your giveaway needs a unique sharing URL. Why? So participants are encouraged to share on social media and via email to get bonus entry points.

This means your entrants will help to spread the word about your giveaway, creating an awesome viral loop and helping you grow your list. Tools like ViralSweep make it easy to embed or host a page with a unique link for each entrant and a status update for how many points they’ve received during the giveaway.  

This viral loop effect happens when each entrant shares with 10 other people and those entrants share with 10 more and so on until your contest or giveaway has a viral effect.

Pro tip: if you’re worried about getting bogus emails, require entrants to sign in to your giveaway using one of their social media accounts and agree to receive updates via email. This will automatically pull the email address they use to sign into their social media and add it to your shop’s email management software (Klaviyo, MailChimp, Etc.).

Bonus Giveaway Tip: Make Sales By Adding Value For All Entrants 

With any giveaway, there will only ever be a small number of winners. It’s smart to offer more than one winner (offer tiers instead), but at the end of the day, everyone wants to feel like a winner. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t make all entrants feel like winners. You should include a bonus discount coupon code or product offer after your giveaway is over. Put this offer into the email announcing the winner for the best results. 

8. Put Opt-ins On Your Basic Pages

Don’t make people dig around your site to find subscription options. Keep your offers upfront, and include opt-in forms on the most visited pages of your shop. This includes your homepage obviously, but don’t forget about:

  • About Us page: after telling visitors who you are and why your products and the team behind them are awesome, invite them to follow along.
  • Contact Us page: below your contact form give visitors a chance to just subscribe to email updates or better yet, tie the opt-in into your contact form with a simple checkbox.
  • 404 error page: you’d be surprised at how many people subscribe on this page after seeing a great opt-in offer.
  • Collection or Product Specific Pages (only 3 left, back in stock, discount notifications, etc.

It only takes a few minutes to put opt-in forms up and they work 24/7 to bring in new contacts on autopilot.

9. Use Buyer Reviews In Opt-in Forms

Customer reviews are “social proof” to prospects who don’t know your brand yet. It’s helpful when making a decision to opt-in to have a short testimonial or review from a happy customer. This adds a trust factor to your opt-in forms and landing pages when people are on the fence about submitting their contact information. 

10. Encourage Sharing Via Email

Include an “Email a Friend” link in your promo emails. That way, you’ll make it easy for your subscribers to share with their friends, colleagues, and networks and expand your contact list. At the bottom of your emails, include a “Subscribe” CTA as a simple text-based link so that the people receiving the forwarded emails can easily opt-in, too. Be sure to add a free bonus for subscribing vs just ‘subscribe here’ text.

11. Host A Free 30-day Challenge

You can use this fitness industry tactic to challenge visitors to a 30-day goal. If your products don’t have an obvious aspirational goal like losing weight, get creative. Selling art supplies? Try a 10-day sketch & paint challenge. Selling clothing or accessories? Try a 15 day “mix-n-match” or “shop your wardrobe” challenge to get shoppers in the closet updating mindset. No matter what your niche you can find a challenge that will inspire your fans to get engaged with your brand.

Your challenges can be any duration, but for maximum impact make them at least 7 days so you’re audience has time to share on social media. You don’t need any fancy tools to run a challenge. Simply create your opt-in form and follow up during the challenge with automated or broadcast email updates.

12. Use Cross-Promotion

Partner with another brand/company/influencer to get even more reach by offering to promote a product to your audience and in return, they promote your opt-in to theirs. You don’t have to do direct product promotion either. You can use giveaways (Tip #7), a free challenge (Tip #11) or even just one of your most popular resources as an opt-in. Welcome new subscribers to your brand and then give them an offer to purchase after they’ve had a chance to get to know what you stand for.

13. Add Opt-in Links On Social 

Link to your free resource, checklist, or another lead magnet from social media profiles and Facebook pages. Be sure to point out the benefit of what you’re offering them vs just ‘click here to subscribe to my list’. Take this one step farther and mention your free opt-in in your bio’s and in posts where it makes sense. 

14. Use Employee Signatures &  Sharing

How many business-related emails go out from your company every day? Harry’s razors famously launched their company and gathered 100k contacts in part by asking employees to share a giveaway via email. 

If your employees are already in contact with potential customers this gives them a way to follow along with your brand well beyond the current email thread. And best of all, it’ll only take a few minutes to implement. 

All you need is a compelling call to action in your employee’s email signatures.

Pro tip: Use a tool like bit.ly to measure the traffic your signature links get. You can A/B test different opt-in offers to discover which ones gather the most contacts.

15. Cut Form Fields

It’s tempting to collect as much information on a user as possible right away, but adding too many required fields to your landing pages and opt-in forms can actually scare people off. Reduce the length of your forms to just two to three fields — you can collect more information from them once you start a conversation.

Put these 15 ideas in place and you’ll be well on your way to gathering a ton of new subscribers for your e-commerce store. Don’t forget to follow up after they subscribe!