This is a guest post from Christine Aebischer at Fundera.
Email marketing is of crucial importance for ecommerce businesses—especially new ones that are still building a customer base and generating brand awareness.
There are many ways to get the word out about your products and services, but none with quite as much potential as email.
There are 3.9 billion email users worldwide today, with that number projected to exceed 4.3 billion by 2023. Sixty-one percent of online shoppers prefer that brands contact them by email and, with so many users, it makes sense that email marketing contributes to 20% of traffic driving ecommerce sales. Similarly, it’s a highly cost-effective medium, netting about $42 for every $1 spent.
A solid email marketing strategy is essential for any growing business. But, first, you have to build a list of email subscribers.
Email subscribers are simply people who’ve given you their email address and permission to email them with offers and information. Given that it costs 5 times more to attract a new customer than keep an existing one, it’s in any new ecommerce business’s best interest to build an email subscriber list as soon as possible.
You can’t work on customer retention if you haven’t acquired customers in the first place. Here, we’ll detail how to grow your email subscriber list, so you can garner brand loyalty and achieve long-term success.
1. Send a newsletter.
Many ecommerce businesses use a weekly or monthly newsletter to connect with their customers and keep them up to date on what’s going on with the business.
This is somewhat of a chicken-and-egg problem. Who do you send your newsletter to if you don’t have subscribers? How do you get subscribers to a newsletter that doesn’t exist?
First, create your newsletter and make your signup form as prominent as possible on your website. Put it in a notification bar at the top of your site, a footer, or a sidebar, ensuring it isn’t hidden behind other content. Be creative with the copy, using words like “Download,” “Featured,” “Exclusive,” and “Access,” rather than “Sign up” or “Subscribe.” (Who wants to sign up or subscribe to yet another junk email?)
Demonstrate your newsletter’s value by explaining that it provides access to exclusive product launches, deals, and other benefits.
Zola newsletter, via MailCharts
You may not have a large email list, but you likely still have some kind of network. Use other channels like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to promote your newsletter as well. Giving people the option to opt in by simply sharing their email address with your business in a comment or direct message can also help you grow your subscribers more quickly.
Finally, include a link to your newsletter in your email signature. It may go directly to an opt-in form, the newsletter itself, or a link to a blog post or landing page with subscription information. You communicate with many people every day via email, and you never know who might be interested in hearing more from your business.
2. Utilize pop-ups.
Offering discounts for first-time customers in exchange for their email addresses is one of the most popular ways that ecommerce stores grow their email lists.
Website pop-ups are a great way to alert potential customers of this discount and get their email. Keep in mind, though, there’s a fine line between a compelling, attractive pop-up and an irritating one.
If you’re not sure which to choose for your business, consider doing both.
You can customize the type of pop-ups you surface to readers and when you deploy them. When visitors hit your homepage, you can offer first-time buyers a discount if they provide their email address. In the same pop-up, offer a piece of interesting content that helps visitors learn more about your brand.
Create additional pop-ups for visitors throughout their purchase journey, including when someone navigates away from your page or puts something in their cart and hasn’t yet purchased.
3. Create more landing pages.
Having a greater number of landing pages allows you to appeal to a wider demographic, through a wider variety of channels. Everybody who visits your ecommerce site is looking for something different.
More landing pages give you a better opportunity to show them more products, answer individual questions about your products, address specific concerns, and generate more email signups.
Via Campaign Monitor
Every individual product should have its own landing page, of course, but consider also building landing pages that don’t explicitly sell things. Pages that explain certain product series, detail a problem your products solve, or explore the technology behind your product help people connect with your brand and, in turn, make them more likely to provide their email in exchange for even more information.
4. Establish a rewards program.
Everybody from large-scale enterprises to one-person ecommerce operations can use rewards programs to foster brand loyalty and keep customers coming back. (Remember how much more expensive it was to get new customers?)
But rewards programs go well beyond customer retention efforts. Tools like Smile.io allow you to create rewards programs that incentivize shoppers to do many different actions, including signing up for your email list.
Using Smile.io, you can easily integrate a rewards program into your site that’ll offer special discounts, free shipping, or other perks if customers subscribe. You can even take it a step further and reward customers for referring other people to your site—which means more subscribers.
5. Leverage lead magnet content.
Lead magnet content is content created specifically to attract leads—or, in this case, email subscribers. You can use this content at any stage of the ecommerce marketing funnel, but, if you’re using it specifically for list-building, it should be at the top of the funnel.
That means this content shouldn’t be directly focused on selling products. Instead, it should speak to your audience about topics they care about.
For instance, if you sell shoes made through sustainable methods, you may create blog posts about the impetus for founding your company, discuss the shoe industry at large, explain the waste it creates, and its impact on the planet. Intersperse this content with opt-in forms for your newsletter to read more content like it.
Your lead magnet should appeal to your customers’ values. When you show them you share the same values, then you can explain why your product supports those values.
6. Consider gated content.
Media outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post use gated content to increase their subscribers. Ecommerce businesses can do the exact same thing.
If you have a blog or are developing some longer-form resources like guides or whitepapers, consider requiring people to provide their email before they can read or download the content. This is an easy way to gain subscribers while leveraging the resources you already have.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to put barriers in front of all of your content. If you feel your content is valuable enough to convert on its own, keep certain pages open. Plus, allowing users to read some content without providing their email can help you see greater conversions from your gated content, since you’ve already established its quality and value.
7. Try interactive content.
People love interacting with web pages. Interactive content like games and quizzes is irresistible to many site visitors and is an especially effective way to enlist new email subscribers.
Just think about BuzzFeed, one of the largest newer media companies in the world. A majority of their site is quizzes and games, with news interspersed. It’s extremely easy to get lost on their site for hours.
While you don’t want to distract customers from what you’re trying to sell, you can make their buyer journey a little more entertaining while they’re still in the decision-making process. (And, if they don’t buy, they’ll at least have to subscribe to play.)
Gamified content like “spin-to-win” pop-ups ask visitors for their email address in order to spin the wheel to receive a special prize. That prize may be a discount, free shipping, or maybe even a free product.
Similarly, if your products are more customized, ask site visitors to take a quiz in order to discover what’s best for them. For instance, Beardbrand uses a quiz to recommend products to potential customers. When customers are done, they provide an email address for the results.
Interactive content goes beyond games and quizzes to include calculators, recommendation engines, or anything else you can think of to explain and enhance customers’ experiences with your products.
8. Offer giveaways.
Just like games, people also love contests and sweepstakes. Giveaways are an excellent way to gain email subscribers and potentially attract new customers.
Giving away a popular product or a gift card allows you to build a new landing page, drive traffic to it, and demands that interested parties provide an email address to enter. It’s a great way to generate buzz for your business while giving your subscriber list a boost on a budget. You just have to be willing to offer something of interest—whether a free product, discount, branded swag, or something else.
Before you launch a giveaway, however, be sure to review your local laws and consult with a lawyer to compose your terms and conditions.
Email is one of the most important channels for ecommerce businesses. When you’re just starting out, building an email list is crucial for both your immediate and long-term success.
Hopefully, this guide gave you some ideas for how to generate new subscribers and customers, drive greater brand awareness, and help increase your bottom line down the road.
Author bio: Christine Aebischer is an editor at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions. Previously, she was an editor at the financial planning startup LearnVest and its parent company, Northwestern Mutual. Christine writes extensively on small business trends and personal finance, and has a degree in journalism and English from The College of New Jersey.