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43. List Building for eCommerce Businesses

43. List Building for eCommerce Businesses

Ready to grow your email list? This is something you should be doing all the time, but there should be seasons in your business where it’s the main focus. Today we’re talking through multiple different strategies and tactics you can use to grow your email list with engaged subscribers who are ready to buy. 

Having a following on social media is great, but if that was to disappear tomorrow, you want to make sure you can still reach your customers. 

Did you know that 60% of Q4 sales come from customers who engaged with you during the first 6 months of the year? 

That statistic comes from marketing platform Klaviyo, which uses data taken from the 50k+ businesses that use their platform.

This means that how you show up in your business between your peak periods is as important, if not more important, than how you show up during your big sale periods.

One of the best ways to nurture your customers is with email marketing so focusing on your list building now is a great way to kick-off the new year.

If you’re a regular listener of the podcast, you’ve already heard me talk about setting and accomplishing goals for the new year.

One example I spoke about was building your email list. Now, if you’ve already sat down and mapped out your quarterly focuses, it’s possible you slated list building for Q2, and that’s totally fine. If you skipped that episode or you’re new to the podcast, you can check that out here. 

There are a lot of different tactics and strategies you can use to build your email list and they’re not all created equal. There’s no ONE way to do this. It’s going to depend a lot on your business, your product andyour path to purchase.

Some strategies may be more relevant during different times of the year, or work better depending where in the customer journey someone is with you. Mix these up and try a few of them in the most relevant way possible.

It’s always best to test everything you do in your business. Try out a couple of these and see which has the best conversion rate leading to email sign ups and how valuable those new subscribers are.

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Exchange discount codes for email addresses 

The first and most obvious email list building tactic is a discount in exchange for an email address.

You’re going to hear a lot of differing opinions on whether this is right for your business. Ultimately, that decision is up to you but here are my thoughts.

It will not train your customer to wait for a sale. Running sales every weekend, or constantly running promotions when sales are down are more likely to do that. Think of it as lowering the risk of purchasing from you when a customer is new to you.

This likely will not work if your products require a lot of thought or research before a purchase. Especially because I always recommend you put an expiration 7-14 day window on these welcome discounts.

You don’t always have to give a % off their entire purchase. Instead, you can:

  • Require a minimum purchase threshold, 
  • Take a  off of ONE item in their cart, 
  • Offer free shipping instead of a discount on their purchase. 
  • If you’re a subscription product, offer the discount on their first delivery, not for the lifetime of their subscription.

Another idea would be a monthly gift card giveaway. Instead of giving someone a discount off their purchase by being on your email list, they’re automatically entered in the gift card giveaway. This one can get a little cumbersome to manage because you have to choose a winner and issue the gift card, but it’s a fun way to engage your people.

Build buzz by pre-launching

One of my favorite ways to grow an email list is through consistent pre-launching.

If you’re regularly dropping new collections, creating new products, or even leading up to big sales, building the hype and buzz around your upcoming event is the perfect messaging to build your email list.

This is especially important when you’re trying to build your list from your social channels. Asking someone to leave a platform they’re already on to fill out a form is kind of a pain in the ass.

Set a solid 2-3 week pre-launch strategy around what’s coming and giving those subscribers first dibs, early access, a special gift with purchase, or something else that no one else is going to get could definitely make it worth their while.

Build FOMO for already existing customers

Building FOMO is a great way to engage your existing list as well. Encourage your existing subscribers to sign up to a special pre-launch list to get the exclusive perks you’re offering.

By doing this, you’re piquing their interest and having them take a micro-action by signing up for that particular list. They’re raising their hand and saying, YES! I want to know about this promotion.

If you want to learn more about pre-launching, listen to episode 20 of the eCommerce Badasssery Podcast.

Tap into your existing customer network 

Another way to build your email list is by tapping into your existing customers, those who have purchased from you, but haven’t opted into marketing.

The easiest way to do this is to add a call-out in your transactional emails, like your order confirmation, asking them to join your list. In the US 20% of your transactional emails can include marketing content, but check the laws in your own country before implementing this.

Give value with digital downloads 

Another way to grow your email list is to offer a digital download, like a PDF guide or checklist. This can be what you offer to someone on your pop-up instead of a discount code.

Go back to your ideal customer workbook and see what your research told you. What does your customer care about that’s related to your product?

If you don’t already know what your customer wants, listen to episode 42 of the podcast and get your hands on the eCommerce Badassery ideal customer workbook.

Some ideas could be a recipe book, a styling guide, a makeup tutorial, or something around self-care. If you know your customer is a mom, give her some tips and tricks around mom life. If she’s an entrepreneur, give her productivity tips. If she is a beach bum, give her the ultimate beach day checklist or a roundup of your favorite beach reads.

You can also create something like this as a content upgrade to a blog post you write on your site.

Listen to episode 13 of the podcast to go deeper into the content upgrade strategy.

Different tactics require different welcome series

For example, if you use a discount on your pop-up and a content upgrade on your blog post the journey is going to be different.

Someone who signs up for a content upgrade isn’t necessarily as far down the funnel or as warm of an audience just yet. You’ll want to make sure you’re nurturing them through the welcome series. Don’t be surprised if they don’t buy from you right away. That’s to be expected. Lead with value and the money will come.

Use a quiz to engage your audience

This is one of my fave ways to build your email list. This is a great way to engage your audience, gamify the process and learn more about each subscriber based on the answers they give.

Beardbrand, Warby Parker, Airbnb, Z Gallerie, they all have some type of quiz on their site to grow their list. I’ll put some links in the shownotes for you to check them out.

The type of quiz you create needs to be tightly tied to your business. Just to give you a few quick ideas…

  • Clothing botiques can create a style personality quiz and then send to a collection of products that best matches that. For example, if you’re a beachy boho boutique and you create a quiz like, what type of beach bum are you? Someone who likes to sit under an umbrella and read a book might want different clothing than someone who likes to build sand castles with their kids
  • Beauty brands can do a “what is your skin type” quiz
  • CBD brands can find out what they’re struggling with to direct them to the best formula for them. 

You can even make it a bit more like a Buzzfeed quiz if it makes sense for your brand. 

Quizzes are hard to implement because you need a platform to do this. Quizfy and AskWhai are two on Shopify that you can use. You can also use something like TypeForm but the sync with Klaviyo, or whatever email platform you use, might not be in real-time, so there may be a delay in any email that you send your customer, which isn’t a great experience.

Grow your email list quickly through giveaways 

This is one of the fastest ways to grow your email list but it’s also going to come with the least valuable subscribers. You will end up with people who have no interest in ever buying your product because they just want free shit. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do it at all, just take precaution.

Only giveaway your own products or partner with complimentary brands. If you’re giving away an iPad or an Amazon gift card, you increase your chances of reaching the wrong people.

Make sure you create a separate welcome series for them to make sure they know how they got on your list in the first place. Have a special offer for them and lead by providing these people lots of value. It’s a great place to use some of your evergreen content and nurture that relationship with them.

Don’t get emotionally attached to your email list

It’s easy to get attached to the numbers on your list, but it’s important to clean it often. If they’re not engaging with those welcome emails, or they don’t buy from you in 6 months, you should remove them from your list. Seriously, it’s not worth it. It will ultimately cost you money since you pay for every subscriber on your list and hurt your deliverability if they’re not engaging with you.

There’s no one way to do this. Test out different tactics and use different strategies for different people. For instance, those who come to your site through Pinterest or a digital download, using a content upgrade or quiz might be best for them. Those who come directly to your website or through an ad are probably closer to making a purchase so a discount makes sense.

Because discount is likely to be the highest revenue driver overall, you may want to be strategic about when you use it. Early on in your business, or whenever you’re focusing on acquisition and aggressively growing your list is when you implement a discount. The rest of the time you can go for the gift card giveaway instead. This way you’re not always giving a discount, but you’re using it when it makes the most sense in your business!

So… which one do you think you’re going to implement next in your business? I’d love for you to hit me up on Instagram @ecommercebadassery and let me know!

Listen to the Episode

Episodes Mentioned

Episode 13: Get Customers Closer to Making A Purchase 

Episode 20: The Power of a Pre-Launch

Episode 41: Setting and Accomplishing Goals Like an eCommerce Badass 

Episode 42: Understanding & Speaking to Your Ideal Customer

Quiz Examples Mentioned

Beardbrand Quiz

Warby Parker Quiz

Airbnb Quiz

Z Gallerie Quiz

Tools Mentioned


Ask Whai

Hey, I'm Jessica

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. 

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