The single most important email marketing KPI in ecommerce? It’s pretty simple – return on investment. When you look at cost and revenue, you can easily determine the ROI. But in order to generate a steady revenue, you need a robust, continuously growing email list.
So, let me show you how to build a money-making email list for your online business. Enjoy!
Editor's note: While this post focuses on how you can grow your email list as an ecommerce business, you might also want to get inspired by how companies in other verticals grow their email databases. If that's the case, here's a thorough article that lists some of the most interesting email list building ideas you might want to explore.
Step 1. Define your target audience and focus on quality traffic
According to our Global Industry Benchmarks research, email marketing provides the highest ROI among online marketing channels. To get the most of your email marketing efforts, you need to start with your target audience – people who are most likely interested in your product or service. Look at your data and identify customers who generate the most revenue. Research who they are, what they are trying to accomplish, analyze their buying behavior and decisions, and find out what drives them.
Such information is not only the backbone of a great email marketing program – it’s crucial for your overall marketing success. Use it to create customer personas. If done right, they will help you match your content to your customers’ needs. I second Buyer Persona Institute who say marketing plans should start with the buyer’s needs – not yours. That’s why thorough customer research should be the foundation of all marketing activities. If you want to know how to create customer personas with real-life data, check out this article from ConversionXL.
So how important is it to build a buyer persona for your ecommerce business? Here’s what ecommerce experts have to say.
Ioana Lupec, Project Manager at Omniconvert
How important is it to define your ideal customer and build buyer personas?
It’s very important for ecommerce websites to analyze how they are spending their budget and energy and to whom they are communicating.
Doing so, companies can understand if their efforts are paying off. Sending the same message with a discount offer to all users or doing a general PPC campaign will most certainly not bring positive ROI.
Imagine that 1% of your customers generate 30% more revenue than your average customer. In this case, it sounds reasonable to target that group with a personalized campaign. Also, when you dig deeper into data, you might start asking yourself: what’s the point of marketing your product to people that are not going to come and buy again from your website?
To understand who your ideal customer is, segment your audience. Find out which customers buy frequently, which ones have a high monetary value, and which ones have recently bought from your ecommerce website. You can easily do so, by using RFM Analysis.
Based on this segmentation, you can find specific buying patterns. For example, you can discover that the segment that has a high monetary value and buys frequently comes from city X and was acquired through the Y campaign.
This segmentation will help you not only get to know your customers, but also optimize the customer acquisition cost because you will be able to market your products efficiently.
It’s important to discover the impact each customer segment has on your business. Doing so, you’ll be able to personalize the whole customer journey with the right message, at the right time at every touch point: email, ads, social media, and your website.
If you know the customer’s buying habits and how valuable they are, you can most certainly send them relevant messages based on their previous activity and interaction with your website. In this way, you can become one of the top players in ecommerce, because the followers are the ones obsessed with traffic acquisition, and the top players acknowledge the importance of retention rate, lifetime value, and cohort analysis.
If you’re interested in retention rate optimization, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in this article from Omniconvert.
Equipped with valuable data, create a marketing strategy aimed at your ideal customer. It’s a good idea to design a framework that will help you plan actions along the customer journey, e.g. a marketing funnel or a loyalty loop.
Step 2. Improve your SEO
Once you’ve built solid buyer personas, it’s time to create a solid conversion plan.
The first stage in any given online marketing methodology is creating awareness and attracting your target audience (ideal customers) to your website (or physical location). This is where you focus on reach and traffic – the number of visitors and visits on your website.
A huge part of your website traffic comes from organic search results – people using search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo to find products. Here’s what experts have to say about driving organic traffic with SEO.
Phil Forbes, Content Writer and Marketer at Shoplo
How do you drive organic traffic with SEO?
SEO is kinda like the weather. Everyone knows what it is, but you can never really predict it perfectly, or control it.
But it’s not too hard to make it work for you. With regards to your ecommerce conversion rate optimization, SEO is powerful but complex.
Take a look at your product. What problems does it solve? Who would buy it? Now don’t go cramming words into your title, just like a dodgy Craigslist listing. Bad SEO is easy. Effective SEO isn’t.
Let’s say, your minimalist jewelry is perfect for a sweet 16 birthday present. Mention that it’s a “great idea for a sweet 16 birthday present’” in an h2 heading of your product description. Then mention similar phrases throughout the description.
- Sweet 16 birthday idea
- Idea for the 16th birthday
- Gift for a 16-year-old girl
Mix and match and put these phrases in different areas of your product page. The heading, image ALT tags, meta descriptions.
One of the best and most underused ways to improve SEO for ecommerce is to manage a blog. Sure, you’ve heard this a thousand times. But how many blogs that accompany ecommerce companies dedicate most of their content to selling the products? I’ll answer it for you: too many.
The point of operating a blog alongside your ecommerce store is not to sell the product. It’s to build:
- a rapport,
- a relationship,
- and an appeal between the brand and the buyer.
In the process, you leverage SEO by making your blogs rank for keywords that your customer searches for.
A quality ecommerce blog creates content that solves problems that their ideal customer has – whether it’s related to the product or not.
The Long Hairs are a couple of guys that make hair ties and other accessories for men with long hair. Their blog is full of tips and tricks for living with long hair, as well as education and entertainment for guys with long hair.
The keyword “wash men’s long hair” sees The Long Hairs’ blog about washing long hair rank in the top position. The brand gets seen by organic traffic. Their products get seen. Because of the trust created by quality content, there are sales.
Bear in mind that SEO is just one solution for increasing your ecommerce conversions. To learn other ways, check out this article on “25 Clever Ways to Optimize Your Ecommerce Conversions”.
If you want to know how SEO can improve your list building process, here’s a crash course to email list building through SEO.
What’s most important when it comes to SEO in ecommerce?
Ecommerce websites need to have a dedicated approach to search engine optimization, because of the particularities these types of website have. First of all, the main issue to be handled while doing SEO for an ecommerce business is reducing duplicate content to an absolute minimum.
Duplicate content is very frequent in this industry because sites usually list multiple product pages with the same or very similar descriptions. Considering that an average store has hundreds or thousands of products, this can easily lead to problems in terms of organic rankings.
Or even worse, some ecommerce websites publish the product description they got from the supplier, thus making sure that they become virtually invisible in Google:
So one of the most important steps is to hire dedicated personnel (either in-house or outsourced) that is tasked with creating unique product descriptions for each product page. If you also manage to create descriptions of at least 3-500 words, then you’re already in front of most of your organic competition.
Speaking of duplicate content, make sure that your ecommerce platform doesn’t generate indexable pages with the same content by adding search strings at the end of category URLs. Example:
This is a very common problem that ecommerce stores should be aware of because most of the platforms or themes used to build stores, are not optimized by-default and will generate these types of duplicate pages out of the gate.
Another approach that yields good results in terms of organic traffic, is to treat your main category pages as classic landing pages. This means improving their usability, adding elements that increase trust, and also creating a solid piece of content (ideally 1000+ words), placed right under the product listings (not above them, because it will hurt user experience of the website).
Since the main category pages are very close to the website root level (e.g. homepage.com/category1) they also have more SEO authority than product pages which are a layer down (homepage.com/category1/product). So, by turning your main categories into real power-pages, you’ll make the most of your homepage authority.
Yet another SEO strategy for ecommerce stores is to create their own product images instead of using those sent by the supplier. This way they’ll be the only ones with these images indexed in Google, instead of having to outrank several other competitors in search results. And for an extra boost, the image name and ALT tags should be relevant to the product as well!
Another aspect ecommerce stores should pay attention to is link building, which is one of the most important parts of SEO. Even if you built one of the greatest stores and optimized it perfectly, without links it will most likely not rank, especially for competitive keywords.
There’s much to be said on the subject of link building, but I can at least mention some opportunities ecommerce stores have:
- Links from suppliers. Contact your suppliers and ask them to link to your website from their presentation sites.
- Product reviews. Check on your customers and see if you can find any that have personal blogs. Or even reach out to blogs yourself and offer a product for free in exchange for a review.
- Third-party websites. Add your ecommerce to trustworthy aggregators such as product comparison sites, but avoid the smaller/shadier ones.
- Send out a press release to publications in your target location when you first launch or for any special event you might have.
- Attending conferences and tradeshows. Ecommerce conferences and tradeshows will sometimes showcase a list of participants that also include links back to their websites. Hint: speakers almost always get mentioned!
- Depending on the type of products you sell, you can make donations to various NGO’s. This will most likely get featured on their websites/blogs but there’s also a chance that other websites will mention it as well.
Step 3. Create high-converting web forms and landing pages
OK, now that you know how to optimize your online business for search results, you’re ready to start building your list.
The first step is to ask people who visit your website and are interested in your product or service to subscribe to your newsletter and receive regular updates from your brand.
To do that, you need a solid web form. Web forms, in general, allow people to sign up. But great web forms grab attention and encourage subscription – and that’s exactly what you need if you want to grow your ecommerce email list like a pro!
Place web forms on your homepage, product pages, blog, and during registration in your online store. The more opportunities for a signup, the better. Use multiple different forms depending on the situation:
- Download box – to engage content lovers
- Exit pop-up – to minimize bounces and maximize ROI
- Scroll form – to keep your blog visitors engaged
- Fixed bar – to stay at the top of the reader’s browser
Test, analyze, and optimize their performance. When you set out to grow your list with high-quality traffic, you’ll be able to see which forms result in the highest conversion and to optimize for further growth.
Whatever web form you choose, it needs to meet certain criteria. A great web form needs to be visible (if not eye-catching), it needs at least one form field (email address) and a clear call to action. If you want to personalize your email marketing communication from the start, you can use more form fields (e.g. name, city, sex).
Make sure you ask subscribers only for relevant information. Ask for their date of birth only if you’re going to use this information later, e.g. by sending a personalized birthday offer.
If you decide to use more form fields, it’s a good idea to write a short note explaining the reason behind it. Writing a few words about your email marketing communication helps visitors set the expectations. I’d recommend a brief description of your email marketing campaigns, especially if you send valuable content that addresses your customers’ pain points.
Now, let’s run through a few examples of great web forms:
Design a great landing page
A landing page is a simple website with a single purpose. It’s most often built using a landing page creator, like the one offered by GetResponse, and it's designed with a specific call to action in mind. Landing pages are great for a dedicated online marketing campaign, a specific product launch, or a sweepstake.
Landing pages have much higher conversion rates than regular websites, as visitors don’t get distracted by too much information and are more likely to follow a clear call to action. For the sake of this article, let's agree that the CTA is email list subscription (e.g. subscribe, sign up, join).
In order to build your ecommerce email list, you need a landing page with an opt-in form, optimized towards conversion. When designing your landing page, think of the following elements:
1. Value proposition
What do you offer in exchange for my email address? What’s in it for the subscriber? Is it worth sharing personal data with your business? Make sure that your landing page answers these questions.
Create an attention-grabbing headline followed by an informative subheadline. There are no strict rules as far as the length of copy is concerned, so feel free to experiment and A/B test different versions.
You could also list the benefits.
2. A clear call to action
You should start designing your landing page by defining a clear CTA. It’s certainly the most important element of a landing page.
Let’s take a look at a few great call-to-action examples:
Think of something your target audience perceives as valuable and is likely to exchange for data (e.g. discount/free shipping). If you are not sure which incentive to use, run A/B tests and see what’s improving conversion best.
4. Social proof
Ask your customers for opinion, turn them into simple, short-form recommendations and use them as social proof that you deliver on your promise. According to Nielsen, 68% of respondents trust consumer reviews posted online, so it’s potentially a huge conversion factor.
5. Mobile friendly design
It turns out that 31.65% of emails are opened on mobile devices. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary to use responsive templates that look great on any device. You can prepare a great looking landing page with a web form and use it during trade shows, events, or near the point of sale in your physical locations. Actually, if you also run a traditional brick-and-mortar business, you should search for opportunities to convert offline traffic to online traffic.
Shanelle Mullin, Content & Growth at Shopify
What’s most important when it comes to email subscription landing pages?
There are two things that make or break a lead gen form:
- The value proposition.
In ecommerce, transactions are paramount, right? If you’re not thinking about lead gen forms as transactions, you’re making a mistake. The visitor might not be giving you money, but they’re giving you something else that’s valuable: their email. What are you giving them in return? The answer to that question is your value proposition. If it’s not strong enough, they won’t part with their email address, the same way they won’t part with their money if the product’s value proposition isn’t strong enough.
You also want to eliminate as much friction as possible. I encourage you to do your own qualitative and quantitative research to uncover the friction that exists on your unique site, but some common sources of friction for lead gen forms are:
- Asking for the opt-in before the visitor is ready in the name of keeping the form above the fold.
- Error messages that don’t show until after the form is submitted.
- Unclear submit button copy that doesn't set expectations.
- Requiring phone numbers, addresses, etc. to be entered in a specific way.
Step 4. Drive traffic to your landing pages using paid ads
When you have your landing page up and running, you can use social media to reach an audience representing your ideal customers.
In search of valuable insights, I turned to Piotr Sobczyk, PPC expert at GetResponse with the following question:
How do you drive traffic to your landing page using social media?
If you want your landing page to gain more clicks and reach, you have two options:
- organic traffic from interesting posts/content,
- and the second one – paid traffic.
Let’s look at the second option. In my opinion, the best way to get cheap, but also valuable traffic, is to use… your existing customers! Before starting a paid campaign, I recommend studying your audience using:
a) Facebook Audience Insights – upload your email list (or set your custom audience from Facebook Pixel) and check who your customers are – their demographics, what they like, and what profiles they follow. This will help you narrow down your campaign targeting.
b) Google Analytics – do the same as with Facebook. Check your visitors’ age, gender, location, interests, and other characteristics.
After some research, we know much more on how to target our customers and who they actually are. We can save money and target our prospects. But don’t forget to use your knowledge about your customers once more. Choose your social media network and:
- exclude your customers from the campaign – there’s no point in offering them something they already have;
- create a similar/lookalike audience – it’s a really cheap way to get customers who are similar to your existing customers according to the algorithm;
- create a campaign (e.g. with interests/topics), but remember to exclude your existing customers and the lookalike audience.
That short process can save you money on paid social ads and drive valuable traffic to your landing page. 🙂
Get to work!
Ready to start building a high-quality email list? Whether it’s your first step in email list building or you want to optimize an existing process, just do it – and good luck!