How To Build An Email List To Drive Your eCommerce Business

How To Build An Email List To Drive Your eCommerce Business

Our friends at 3dcart know a thing or two about ways to drive business to your eCommerce store, given their slick content management system and ecommerce software is used by 22,000+ businesses worldwide. In this post, COO and co-founder Jimmy Rodriguez shares ways to grow your email marketing database in order to build your eCommerce business. We hope you find it helpful.


If you’re running an ecommerce store, you can’t wait for potential customers to come to you. You need to promote your products and services. That is where email marketing can help you.

But the success of your email marketing depends on how well you build your email list. That’s not an easy thing to do. People need a good reason to part with their email address, read your communications, and take your desired action.

In this article, we’ll give you creative and effective ways to build your list so you can scale your email marketing efforts. But first, let’s answer this question: why is email marketing so important when it comes to promoting your ecommerce store?

Why Use Email Marketing For Your Ecommerce Store?

Don’t believe naysayers when they say email marketing is dead. Just look at the figures. According to Statista, the number of email users worldwide stands at 4.03 billion. That number is forecast to increase to an astounding 4.48 billion in 2024.

Email Users Worldwide Graphic
Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/255080/number-of-e-mail-users-worldwide/

That’s not all. A study by McKinsey and Company found that email is a more effective way to acquire customers than social media – nearly 40 times as effective as Facebook and Twitter combined! It’s also highly cost-effective.

Here are the top five benefits of email marketing specifically to ecommerce, according to Ecommerce Training Academy:

  • It helps you reactivate inactive customers by reminding them that you still exist.
  • It helps increase conversions. With email marketing, you can segment your list to create personalised emails for each group. That leads to increased conversions.
  • It helps you reward your customers. You can run automated reward programs via your emails.
  • It helps you manage your brand reputation. You can tap an army of brand advocates who will leave good reviews on your ecommerce site and even recommend you to their friends.
  • It supports ecommerce sales. With your emails, you can leave tracking numbers and thank you notes to keep your customers satisfied with their purchases.

In short, if you’re not marketing via email yet, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities to grow your business.

5 Ways to Build Your Email List

Now that you know how important email marketing is let’s look at ways to build your email list. In this section, we’ll focus on some of the more innovative ways you can get people to part with their email address and engage with your marketing communications.

1. Collect Email Addresses in Person

It’s common for businesses to offer something on their website in exchange for their visitors’ email addresses. That can be a coupon code, an ebook, whitepapers, anything of value to them. This is called a lead magnet.

Sunnies Studios Signup Form Example
Source: https://sunniesstudios.com/

You can even find an email address on your own if you know a few details about your lead.

But what if, instead of collecting those email addresses online, you get them in person? We’re talking about using the good, old-fashioned sign-up sheet and getting people to fill that out.

If you have a brick-and-mortar location alongside your ecommerce store, you can invite sign-ups in store. If you have no physical office, you can still use that sign-up sheet at any industry events you attend. You can invite people to fill it out at your booth when they come to see what you have to offer, or ask them to sign up to learn more after you run a product demo.

2. Run Contests

If there’s one thing consumers love, it’s the chance to win something. Contests are a great way to build your email list because they are fun and engaging. You can run quizzes and polls, and offer a competition entry to everyone who provides an answer. You can test other contest formats, too. When you promise people an opportunity to win a desirable prize, they will be far more inclined to give you their email address.

Take a look at this example from Buffer, which ran a simple sweepstakes competition to build its email list:

Buffer Lead Gen Competition Example
Source: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/assets/uploads/2014/12/buffer.jpg

Just by entering their email addresses, visitors would have the opportunity to win a Buffer lifetime plan worth $6,000. That’s a pretty impressive prize! And it was more than enough to get people scrambling to give away their email addresses.

3. Link Email Signatures to Your Opt-In Page

Those email signatures you include at the end of your emails serve a purpose – or should! Use them to build your email list by linking them to your opt-in page. If you do that, when you send someone a one-off email, you increase the chances that they will sign up as an email subscriber.

Of course, it wouldn’t make sense to ask people who are already your subscribers to fill out the opt-in form. Make sure you include those linked email signatures in emails only to people who aren’t on your subscriber list yet. Those may be your family and friends, former classmates, colleagues, and even acquaintances. The idea is to maximize every opportunity to build your email list.

4. Encourage Your Subscribers to Forward Your Marketing Emails

You can tap your existing subscribers to build your email list, too. All they need to do is forward your marketing emails to others in their network.

Based on the results of a Litmus study of more than 400,000 email campaigns, here are five tips to get your subscribers to forward your marketing emails:

  • Segment your email list. The key to higher forward rates is segmentation and triggered messaging. You can segment your email list based on your site’s behavior or on relevant demographics. A good ecommerce platform will offer the facilities to do exactly that.
  • Personalize emails. Personalization doesn’t just refer to the use of a subscriber’s name (though that’s important, too!). It pertains to highly personalized content in the email body. For example, you can send them relevant content based on their interests and behaviors. If the content is useful and valuable, they are likely to forward it.
  • Include a “share with your network” call-to-action in your email. Make sure this is highly visible, preferably in the primary content block and not just in the header or footer. The study found that, even if the call invites subscribers to share the email on social media, many took this as their cue to forward the email.
  • Make each email about a single topic. Forwarders don’t like to have to explain why they’re forwarding an email to someone, so the more targeted an email is, the more likely it will get forwarded.
  • Keep your email simple. Don’t overthink things. The simpler your message is, the better. Check out this simple marketing email from Brooklinen, which sells luxury bed linens:
Brooklinen Email Example

The company gets the message – and the benefit to the customer – across in as few words as possible. It also uses a fun and engaging image.

Don’t forget to include a “Subscribe” CTA in these emails so that the people your subscribers forward your emails to can easily opt-in.

5. Leverage Your Customer Support

You can leverage your online customer service to get people to subscribe to your email list, too. Train your customer support team to encourage visitors to subscribe to the list at the end of every inquiry.

The secret is to make those visitors see the value of being a subscriber. For example, your customer support team can share the fact that you send valuable email resources about how to get the most out of your services, occasional coupon codes, useful industry news, and notifications about the launch of new products. In other words, make the benefits clear. The customer wants to know one thing: what’s in it for them?

Here’s a bonus pro tip: if you’re using a chatbot on your website or your social media accounts, program it so that it will invite people to subscribe.

Wrapping Up

Email marketing is crucial to the success of any online business. With email marketing, you can reach prospects, increase your chances of turning them into paying customers, and keep your loyal customers around for longer by providing them with added value.

But for email marketing to be effective, you need to build an email list. That can prove difficult, especially since it requires people parting with a very personal detail: their email address.

Thankfully, there are many ways you can persuade people to give you just that. In this article, we gave you five proven and creative strategies that you may not have thought of. You don’t need to use all of them, of course. Just choose the ones you think are an excellent fit for you and your ecommerce store. You know your customers best!

Always remember that the key to building a good email list is creativity and getting to know your audience. You can only offer those people something of value if you understand what matters to them and what they want.

So what are you waiting for? Get started, think outside the box, and your email list will grow before you know it!


About the Author

Jimmy Rodriguez is the COO and co-founder of 3dcart, an ecommerce software to build SEO-friendly online stores. He’s dedicated to helping internet retailers succeed online by developing digital marketing strategies and optimised shopping experiences that drive conversions and improve business performance.

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