15 Dos and Don’ts to Build an Engaged Email List for Your Ecommerce Shop

CM Commerce Team

Social media algorithms are unpredictable. Can you ever really trust Facebook to both show your content to the right people and maintain their attention long enough for them to click? 

The half-life of a marketing email is about seven hours. A tweet? Just 20 minutes.

Plus, your email campaigns stay inside a shopper’s inbox until they choose to delete them. When customers are ready to shop, they can search through their promotional emails for inspiration, hot items, and coupons. 

The average brand reports a 38:1 ROI from email, while the most successful ones say it’s closer to 42:1. Consumers overwhelmingly prefer to communicate with brands through email at every stage of the buying cycle:

How and why to build an email list for ecommerce
Source: DMA

What’s the first step towards harnessing the unmatched potential of email marketing for your store? Learning how to build an email list for ecommerce. Here are some of the top dos and don’ts you should consider as you launch your email strategy.

How to build an engaged email list for your ecommerce shop: 15 Dos and Don’ts

While every business is unique, the tips below are excellent starting points for creating an email list that’s:

  • Healthy 
  • Ethical
  • And engaged 

1. Do use double opt-in features to build an email list for ecommerce.

A healthy email list starts with double opt-ins. Double opt-ins ensure that a subscriber intended to sign up for your list and genuinely wants to hear from you.

Plus, they’re useful for regulations like the GDPR and CAN-SPAM Act. You can learn more about these regulations here.

2. Don’t buy email lists.

Even at their best, purchased email lists will earn you unsubscribes. At worst, however, you could end up on an email blacklist

You should only contact people who truly want to hear from you. Plus, your list will deliver better results when you’re only sending content to interested shoppers.

3. Do launch a VIP or loyalty reward program to build an email list for ecommerce.

Loyalty programs are useful for building your list. They make shoppers feel like they’re part of something exclusive and they can get special stuff. 

Make sure your VIP programs offer something unique that casual shoppers don’t have access to. Such as:

  • Bigger discounts
  • Opportunity to earn points towards rewards
  • Freebies on birthdays or holidays
  • Free shipping
  • Access to special apps or content
  • Early access to new products
Build an email list for ecommerce with rewards and VIP programs
Source: Elf

4. Don’t contact dormant subscribers.

If someone hasn’t opened your emails in a while, it might be time to say goodbye. Continually contacting dormant email addresses can hurt your future email delivery rates. 

Send a re-engagement email to reconnect with your shoppers and offer them a nice discount. If they don’t open it, trim them from your list. 

Build a healthy email list for ecommerce
Source: Ticketfly

5. Do create niche lead magnets to build an email list for ecommerce.

Lead magnets are free downloadable materials, webinars, or courses that entice website visitors to sign up for your email list. They should include highly niche and interesting, entertaining, or informative content in formats like:

  • Step-by-step guides
  • DIY projects
  • Industry knowledge eBooks
  • Podcasts
  • Instructional videos

When someone hands over their email to download a lead magnet, you can also use that niche information to learn about them and place them into different segments based on interest.

Use lead magnets to build an email list for ecommerce
Source: Italian Bark

6. Don’t give free access to all your content.

Beyond lead magnets (which are in-depth, downloadable pieces of content), you can also keep some of your blog content behind a form.

Visitors must provide their email address if they want to shop your collection or access different parts of your website like a blog. Some websites, like Thrive Market, put their complete collection behind a gate. However, you can choose different pieces, such as your resource center or videos.

 Gate some content to build an email list for ecommerce
Source: Thrive Market

7. Do use a shadow box or in-store promotion to build an email list for ecommerce.

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, start to build an email list for ecommerce at home.

Use a shadow box, plaque, or sign to grab attention and ask shoppers to sign up for your email list. A custom QR code comes in handy here, so they don’t have to type the address to the landing page. 

Let shoppers know up front that they’ll earn a nice discount code or freebie with their next purchase if they sign up.

8. Don’t forget to ask during the checkout process.

It’s super easy to build an engaged email list for ecommerce when you’re already earning sales. Just make sure shoppers check the opt-in box for your marketing material when they complete their purchase.

9. Do offer a discount or freebie for signing up.

There’s nothing wrong with some good old-fashioned bribery. However, in this case, it’s more of an incentive. 

World Market gives new subscribers both a discount AND free shipping coupon:

Offer discounts to build an email list for ecommerce
Source: World Market

10. Don’t neglect your unique audience segments.

In tools like CM Commerce, you can use custom fields to break your subscriber list up into distinct groups based on different demographics or pieces of information such as:

  • Age 
  • Location 
  • Gender
  • Whether they have children
  • Job or industry
  • Browsing behavior
  • Products they’ve bought 
  • Interests 

These segments are key to sending highly personalized content. Once you have these, you can target each segment with unique promotions, product guides, seasonal deals, blog content, and more.

11. Do let subscribers in on presales to build an email list for ecommerce.

Who doesn’t like to feel like they’re part of an exclusive club? Beyond a VIP or rewards program, you can also build your email list for ecommerce by offering access to presales. 

Let visitors know up front that you’ll share new products with them before they’re released to the general public. As a bonus, feel free also to offer a discount, free shipping, or access to limited-quantity items that general shoppers won’t have access to. 

12. Don’t ignore the importance of a comprehensive email service provider.

You need a comprehensive email service provider like CM Commerce to make the most of your email marketing. CM Commerce is explicitly designed for ecommerce. You get access to tools that can help you

  • Automate every email
  • Encourage upsells and cross-sells via transactional emails and receipts 
  • Boost feedback, reviews, and user-generated content
  • Build a library of user-generated content, so you can embed it into product emails
  • Win back sales with abandoned cart emails

Not every email provider has all the tools your ecommerce store needs to succeed. 

13. Do invest in high-quality content marketing to build an email list for ecommerce.

High-quality content marketing is vital for email marketing for at least two reasons.

  • It gives you original content to share in your emails, so you can educate, inform, and excite your shoppers.
  • It shows new subscribers what they can expect from you before they sign up for your list. 

Consider the unique needs of your audience segments before creating interesting guides, lists, infographics, and more.

14. Don’t forget to ask for their preferences as you build an email list for ecommerce.

When someone signs up for your list, immediately forward them to a landing page where they can answer questions about their demographics, shopping habits, and interests they’d like to hear about.

You can use this opportunity to ask them about email frequency preferences, so you don’t end up annoying them with your emails.

You could also send quick interactive surveys like Suiteness did here:

Send surveys to build an email list for ecommerce
Source: Really Good Emails

15. Do take note of which piece of content enticed a subscriber to sign up.

Your on-site analytics can tell you a lot about each subscriber. If you have an extensive blog or resource center on your site, consider which piece of content “did the trick” in winning an email address.

You can use that information to place new subscribers in segments for personalized content.

Wrap up

Building an email list of engaged subscribers doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to learn about your audience, develop personalized content, and earn their trust. Use these tips to build an email list for your ecommerce store:

  • Don’t buy email lists or use unethical practices.
  • Demonstrate your value to their inbox space with interesting, relevant, and informative content.
  • Provide incentives like coupons, presales, and VIP clubs.
  • Keep your email list clean and contact your subscribers consistently.
  • Make good use or innovative email tools like CM Commerce to personalize and automate.

Ready to grow your ecommerce brand with automated email marketing? Check out the extensive features you get when you sign up for CM Commerce.