Email consistently out performs other marketing activities. Actually, email converts at nearly twice the normal in our experience – partly because they are regular and satisfied customers. Its certainly a lot cheaper than many of the activities retailers pursue. So here’s 20 ways in which you can increase the size of your email database.
1. Email newsletter sign-up [not].
Yes, make sure that shoppers can give their email address to you. But, more importantly, give them a good reason! Too many retailers have a simple “sign up” button with no associated benefits. We all need a little incentive to hand over our email address, but we don’t need too much if we feel an affinity with the brand. Try these…
– Offer a discount off their first purchase
– Explain what they’ll get: special offers, private sales, hints and tips, magazine articles…
– Show them what they’ll get (see our recent articles, news, reader offers etc)
Then make it straightforward. Resist the temptation to collect lots of demographic & lifestyle information at this stage, it will get in the way of collecting those email addresses. So just get the email address at this stage.
2. Make the email sign-up visible
Make sure the box is in a prominent position on all practicable pages across your website (i.e. in the main navigation). Bear in mind some folk don’t read below the fold (and you can see in Google Analytics that this is a huge % of your visitors).
3. Use the correct language
“subscribe” is up there with “register” as an Internet no-no. Remove the words “subscription” and “subscribe”. The term implies a commitment and worse, money.
You don’t need to call it a “newsletter” by the way, that makes you sound like an IFA.
4. Friend get friend
Your best friends are already loyal, happy customers. Ask them to recommend you to their friends and open up their rolodex to you. I am quite prepared to recommend a brand (& give out a friend’s email) if I think it will be of interest to a friend or I value the service/rate the product.
If there’s some kind of incentive as well, this works even better (money off, reward points etc). In fact, the happy customer will be content to pass the reward/benefit on to their friend, expecting no payoff themselves other than the pleasure of giving & sharing a good tip.
The incentive could sensibly be anything up to your average per customer acquisition cost.
5. Ask for email referrals
In fact, there are plenty of opportunities to ask happy customers for referals: in the order confirmation email, a few weeks after purchase, when they sign up for your newsletter, one year after they became a customer (“congratulations!”). Ask as frequently as you can/desire.
Be specific in your request – people are often too busy to do all thinking.
6. Collect emails at the point of sale in shops
You have shops? You have footfall. Motivate them to handover email addresses and/or explain they can buy online too. If they are not quote ready to make a purchase today, but they like you, they can be persuaded. After all, as they are local, they might love to know when the new range comes in or the sale starts. Put an exciting/compelling placard at your point of sale/ till.
If you sell gifts, it may be more convenient since you can deliver the goods for them.
One of the stumbling blocks here may be staff inertia. Offer 10p for every email address gained.
7. Collect cards & add emails from them
Every time you get a business card, add it to your mailing list. I’d argue its a “contact me” opt in and if folk get upset, they can unsubscribe or ask to be removed. Generally, you’ve had some kind of productive meeting/conversation with them.
There are many different kinds of contact point for this: business meetings, trade shows, seminars etc. Instruct telephone sales and customer service staff to ask for addresses where appropriate.
Slick operators always add me to their email list – that’s how I spot them.
8. Tell people about your great online presence
Publish the link and a summary of your proposition in all communications material (online and off): on bags, flyers, store signs, customer-feedback forms and satisfaction surveys, in ads and catalogues.
Add the email sign-up link to everyone’s email footer as a PS.
9. Forward the email to a friend
Strictly a variant on  above, but under the guise of “forward this crafty/sexy/compelling email offer” to your mates. A frequently employed method would be the “family and friends” or “mates rates” promotion.
If the sender likes what’s on offer, they will forward.
10. Competitions (email required)
Competitions can generate untold numbers of email submissions. However, many of the entrants will be for the free iPad or the holiday in Antigua rather than your new environmentally friendly skin care product. Having said that, you need to publish & promote the competition which can be as costly as email acquisition itself.
Use this carefully and measure the effectiveness of the follow-on business.
11. Swap email lists with your peers
You know where your customers are likely to shop and, because you are an e-commerce professional, you maintain great contacts in the industry, you can easily negotiate and structure co-operative list swaps (for opted-ins) with synergistic propositions.
12. Invite people via social media (be active, get them to your site)
Because you have understood how your target customers use social media (if indeed they do), you will be able to establish a presence on the properties that make sense for you & slowly lure them in.
13. Offline advertising (catalogues, reader offers, print, posters)
If you are marketing via other traditional channels, make sure to promote the email channel or more broadly, that you have a great way of treating yourself via the Internet.
14. Run promotions on or via other sites
Get in the Amazon or the Play.com box. These are online customers and the costs are £30-35 per 1,000 inserts in the box. Many of Screen Pages’ clients could do worse than speak to brands like Ocado and Boden who offer such schemes (as well as banners on their website itself).
15. List brokers and media planners
Oh, and if none of these work, you could always contact a list broker. Some brokers and media planner are up for cost per acquisition fees nowadays(CPA), which means you pay for results. You will need to understand the economics of  below.
16. Plan and measure
As any diehard direct marketeer will tell you, understanding your customer acquisition costs in the context of a customer’s lifetime value will determine the cost-effectiveness of any customer database building exercise. Make sure it’s profitable.
Sometimes it’s depressing to see how few people understand their customer acquisition costs. If’s £30 and you can get new customers onboard via your email marketing for a lot less than this, you are doing well.
Measurement is of course only possible if you tag your emails so they stand out in Analytics packages.
Here’s how the tagging system works in Google (simple really, so criminal not to use it)
If you are still struggling, here’s a convenient URL builder for email campaign tagging.
This is hugely important now because of the introduction of reports showing “assisted conversions”, in Google Analytics. You will see how email was also involved at the start, or during the course of, a sequence of visits leading up to a purchase. The actual purchase visit may have come via search. But email was involved in getting the order. e.g for every pound credited to email, it might have contributed to another 3 or 4 pounds.
17. Email welcome messages
So now you have got someone to hand over their treasured email address. Start loving them immediately with a good looking, warm & compelling welcome email straight away, ideally with some kind of nice promotion, but probably not a blanket introductory discount (as there’s a risk of flooding your email list with duplicate extra accounts). If it contains ‘good stuff’ you increase the chance of someone forwarding it while they’re at their most receptive.
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