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11 Ways to Build Your Ecommerce Store’s Email List (+ Examples)

Email marketing is one of the most profitable channels for ecommerce stores. On average, businesses can attribute 19% of their sales to email. And when you break it down, segmented marketing emails yield nearly $1 for every four subscribers that you email.

It goes to follow that the more subscribers you have, the more ecommerce sales you’ll make. That’s why lead generation is so important for small businesses that sell online.

Whether you’re creating your email list from scratch or growing your list of existing subscribers, there’s no shortage of free and inexpensive ways to quickly generate new leads. Here are the top 11 ways to grow your ecommerce store’s email list.

Website Popups

One of the easiest ways to grow your email list is by using website popups. By offering something valuable in exchange for your site visitors’ email addresses, you can consistently convert traffic to leads.

Everly's content-powered popup targeting their keto audience
CPG brand Everly’s blog popup targets their keto audience with super-relevant content

Not sure what to offer in your popup? Keep on reading, because most of the conversion tactics we talk about in this blog post make for a compelling offer. That being said, we’ve found that popups with targeted content far outperform other types of popups.

Typical popups offering discounts and newsletters typically convert less than 2% of visitors, while content-powered popups convert traffic to the tune of 5 to 20%. So, you might consider offering a coupon to homepage visitors and a piece of interesting content to people reading your blog.

Lead Magnet Content

Speaking of interesting content…

Every online store can benefit from a lead magnet. As the name implies, a lead magnet is an asset created specifically to attract leads.

Jacuzzi uses a hot tub buyer’s guide as a lead magnet for people who are actively considering making a purchase

Lead magnet content can target shoppers at any stage of the ecommerce marketing funnel. If you’re focused on quickly growing your list, you can offer top-of-funnel awareness content that speaks to topics your audience cares about — not content about your products. But if you want to drive more targeted leads that are already thinking about making a purchase, use bottom-of-the-funnel content like Jacuzzi does in the example above.

Locked Blog Content

Locking your blog content is a simple way to convert site visitors without publishing anything new. Use a tool like Matcha to put a form in front of a blog post. When we did this on our blog, we saw over 30% of visitors converting to subscribers!

Ogden Made locks popular blog posts to convert visitors to subscribers

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t lock all your blog content. Instead, only lock posts you’re actively promoting via ad campaigns optimized for leads (vs. clicks).

You can also choose to lock content only for visitors that meet certain parameters. For example, you can set up a form that only appears to readers who visit the page from an ad campaign, or new visitors who have never been on your website before.

Content Upgrades

A content upgrade is a type of lead magnet that’s used to convert people reading an unlocked blog post. The idea is to pair valuable blog posts with related content that’s valuable enough to compel readers to give you their email addresses.

Tortuga has an entire category on their blog dedicated to packing tips. At the bottom of all the packing articles, readers are offered a carry-on packing list as a content upgrade.

Content upgrades don’t have to be lengthy, elaborate, or beautifully designed. They can come in the form of a PDF, an infographic, or even a Google Doc. The most important thing is that they’re valuable to your readers and they relate to the content they’re paired with.

Interactive Content

Interactive content like games and quizzes are an incredibly effective way to generate new email subscribers.

It doesn’t take a psychology degree to understand why people love taking quizzes. If you’ve ever filled out a personality quiz in a teen magazine or gone down a Buzzfeed rabbit hole, you get it. (Quick question: What kind of potato are you?)

As Vox writer Constance Grady puts it, quizzes “satisfy our brains’ tribalist impulses, and they also give us the illusion of control: You are part of this particular group, you will fit in perfectly, and nothing about you will ever need to change.”

And on a slightly less bleak note…quizzes are fun!

Beardbrand created an interactive quiz that tells potential customers which Beardbrand products fit their needs and lifestyles

Beardbrand uses a quiz to recommend products to potential customers. In fact, the quiz is the first thing you see when you visit their website.

But it’s not just quizzes. From calculators to product recommendation engines, there are infinite ways to grow your email list with interactive content. If you sell reusable straws, for example, you can create a calculator that tells people how much waste they’d eliminate by ditching their disposable straw habits.

Newsletter Sign-Ups

If you send a weekly or monthly newsletter, you probably have a sign-up form somewhere on your website. But how many people are actually filling it out?

English Tea Store screenshot
English Tea Store uses a slide-in newsletter subscription form on every page of their website. It’s easy to find, so there’s no barrier to subscribing. And it’s equally easy to hide, so it’s never annoying.

Too many online stores bury their subscription forms on a single webpage or a crowded footer. For maximum signups, make your form easy to find by placing it in a notification bar at the top of your site or a slide-in on the side. You can also include it in your sidebar or footer, as long as it’s not buried under a bunch of other content.

(If you’re not sending your subscribers an email newsletter yet, here’s a guide to getting started.)

Referral Programs

Recent data shows that 78% of people trust recommendations from friends and family, compared to just 33% who trust advertising. It’s no wonder referral programs are such a popular way to grow brand awareness and sales.

Rothy’s referral program gives customers a $20 discount for referring a friend

Warning: With modern privacy laws like GDPR, you can’t just start emailing referrals willy-nilly. To stay compliant, make sure you only send one referral email. That’s your opportunity to get explicit consent to email those potential customers — and if they don’t give you consent, don’t email them again.

To learn more (and avoid potentially hefty fines), check out CloudSponge’s guide to GDPR for referral programs.


Contests and sweepstakes are an excellent way to gain email subscribers who you know are interested in what you’re selling. By giving away a popular product or a gift card to your store, you can grow your list and continue marketing to those new leads via email for free.

Giveaways can get expensive, but they certainly don’t need to be. One $50 gift card may be all it takes to convert potential customers and add them to your list.

Burlington collects email addresses and other contact data by hosting sweepstakes

Before you launch a giveaway of your own, make sure you take the time to review your local laws. In the U.S., for example, you can’t require sweepstakes entrants to make a purchase because then it’s considered a lottery. And that opens a whole ‘nother can of worms. Learn more here.

Coupons and Discounts

Offering discounts for first-time customers is the most popular way for ecommerce stores to grow their email lists. It’s a tried-and-true tactic, but that doesn’t mean it comes without any pitfalls.

Discounts cut into your profit margins, which can be unsustainable for a small business. They also have the potential to devalue your brand in the eyes of the consumer.

Regardless, discounts and coupons are an effective way to grow your list and attract new customers. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve handed over my email address in exchange for a coupon when I wasn’t even intending on making a purchase. (What can I say — I’m a sucker for deals.) Now, those brands have a second (and third, and fourth) chance to convert me to a customer using email marketing.

The Last Line ecommerce store - discount offer
Jewelry company The Last Line offers new customers a 10% discount, packaged in a beautifully branded popup

Not sure whether you should offer discounts as an incentive to join your email list? AfterShip breaks down the pros and cons in this article.

Rewards Program

Rewards programs have traditionally been considered a way to foster brand loyalty and keep customers coming back. But that’s not all they do. Rewards programs are also a great way to convert your website visitors into subscribers — and ultimately, into customers.

The Sensible Mama’s rewards program offers members discounts in exchange for signing up, engaging with the company on social media, and making purchases

You can use a tool like to create a rewards program that incentivizes shoppers to sign up for your list, like your business on social media, and buy from your store with the promise of earning discounts on your products.

Spin to Win

There’s a reason Las Vegas casinos net $18 million a day. The prospect of winning — and, interestingly enough, the uncertainty that comes with it — provides a hit of dopamine that makes gambling so appealing.

You can harness this psychological phenomenon in a much less nefarious way by putting a spin to win wheel on your website.

Blenders Eyewear combines an irresistible prize wheel with true-to-brand copywriting. (Seriously — how often do you see the word ‘stoked’ in an email consent disclaimer?)

There you have it: 11 effective ways to build your ecommerce store’s email list by turning website visitors into subscribers.

From there, you can use email as a free marketing channel to stay in touch with your subscribers. And that doesn’t just mean sending out product emails every once in a while. Find out the six most important emails every online store should automate in this article.

Feature image provided by Joanna Kosinska

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