How to Get More Email Subscribers as Online Sales Grow

As retail stores remain closed across North America due to COVID-19, websites have replaced the physical storefront as the primary place for customers to shop. Indeed, 50% of customers have reported buying the majority of their items online during the pandemic.

Among the many challenges that the pandemic has brought to retail is the problem of collecting email addresses, now that sales associates can’t collect emails at the register. On the flipside, it’s often much easier to collect emails online, so now is a prime opportunity to grow an engaged list.

In this article, we’re sharing the best practices for quickly capturing email addresses through your website. With a successful subscription method, you’ll be able to communicate with customers on a personal level, including sending crucial COVID-19-related business updates and driving consistent sales.

Best practices for capturing email addresses through your website

Even if your brand already has an email list, it’s vital to continue capturing more emails from the new customers who visit your website.

Email is a crucial digital marketing channel with a huge ROI. You can take your pick of all the email ROI statistics out there—for example, that email marketing leads to an average order value three times higher than an order started through social media.

Bottom line: Email marketing has always been important for brands. But, now that all your marketing directs traffic to your website rather than to a storefront, you must optimize your website to capture email.

Here’s how.

1. Add an email signup form to your website.

To quickly start capturing email through your website, you must have a way for customers to sign up on your website. And it has to be easy to find.

Put a hosted signup link in your header and footer.

If you don’t want to bother with adding any code to your website, then add a hosted signup form to your header and footer. This is a link that customers can click and be taken to sign up on a short landing page hosted by your email marketing software.

Embed a signup form directly on your website.

An embedded signup form is the more common and seamless way for customers to sign up for your email list on your website. This form can be embedded into your footer, as Campaign Monitor customer Digiday has done.

 Screenshot of Digiday newsletter signup in website footer.

Source: Digiday

Or you can choose to draw more attention to your signup form by embedding it into the body of your webpage. For example, Girlboss included their signup form midway down the page.

Screenshot of email signup form midway down the page on the Girlboss website.

Source: Girlboss 

2. Install a lightbox to attract attention and track intent.

A lightbox is a pop-up that can be triggered by a customer’s behavior. For example, you can program the lightbox to appear when a customer has scrolled halfway down the page, spent 30 seconds on the page, or is about to exit the page.

Lightboxes are a best practice for capturing emails because they can’t be missed by website visitors. Visitors must click the exit button to opt out.

They can be heavily branded to match your website design and create a seamless experience for customers. For example, Campaign Monitor customer The Finders Keepers uses a fun and brightly colored lightbox to capture email subscribers:

 Screenshot of lightbox pop for email capture on The Finders Keepers website.

Source: The Finders Keepers.

3. Use a lead capture to entice website visitors to provide their email.

To make it more likely that website visitors will join your email list, give them a compelling reason to do so. A lead capture is something valuable you give away for free in exchange for an email address.

Lead captures can take many forms, and the one you choose will depend on what’ll be most valuable for your customers. Here are some common examples.

A guide or report download

A guide, report, or eBook that dives into a complex subject is a great way to share your brand’s expertise and authority with customers, while providing them with lots of value.

ConversionLab, a conversion rate optimization company, offers a “free tips” download in exchange for an email address.

Screenshot of ConversionLab free tips download as email capture.


A quiz

A quiz is a fun way to help customers choose which of your products is right for them, learn important data about them, and capture their email address.

Skincare brand Annmarie Gianni uses a “skin score” quiz as lead generation on their homepage.

Screenshot of skin score quiz on Annmarie Gianni home page.

Source: Annmarie Gianni

Free email course

A short course that’s delivered via email is an excellent way to capture email subscribers and keep them engaged.

Here at Campaign Monitor, we use an email course to nurture our audience and educate our customers about how to enhance their small business email practices.

Screenshot of free email course landing page by Campaign Monitor.

Source: Small Business, Big Results

4. Offer a discount for first-time email subscribers.

The promise of savings is a compelling reason for customers to give their email address to a brand, even if they’ve declined to do so in the past.

Offering a coupon code to first-time subscribers is a very common and effective method of capturing email addresses, especially for product businesses. Customers also expect to receive coupons via email, with as much as 80% of consumers signing up for email lists simply because they want to receive discounts to their inbox.

You’ve likely seen countless example of pop-ups that offer coupon codes, like this pop-up by skincare brand La Mer:

Screenshot of discount code offer email capture pop-up on the La Mer website.


5. Add an email opt-in at checkout.

To approximate the experience in retail stores, you can ask for customer emails on the checkout page. As customers enter their email to receive updates about their purchase, simply include a checkbox that grants your company permission to send marketing and news emails to the customer as well.

Just like a good sales associate would do at the register, provide at least one reason for joining your email list, whether it’s potential discounts or exciting product releases or more.

For example, clothing brand Nau clearly states the benefits of joining their email list in the opt-in at checkout:

 Screenshot of email opt-in checkbox on checkout page for Nau.


6. Offer a free trial of a subscription plan.

If your product or service can be bought via subscription, consider offering a free trial of the subscription in exchange for creating an account and providing an email address. This way, not only will you win over more recurring subscription customers, but you’ll also build your email list.

This strategy works best for software or apps. For instance, meditation app Headspace offers all new customers a free two-week trial of the app. When customers click to choose the trial, they’re prompted to create an account and provide their email:

Screenshot of “start free trial” landing page for Headspace.

Source: Headspace

7. Create a free tool on your website for email subscribers.

Allow people limitless access to a free tool related to your main paid tool, in exchange for creating an account and joining your email list.

This method builds good will with potential customers while you grow your list. And, once a customer is an email subscriber, you have countless opportunities to share the benefits of your paid offer and convert them into paying customers.

Lawn care products company Sunday offers a free tool to analyze your lawn and soil characteristics to provide you with a unique care plan. Once you enter your street address and your property is analyzed, they collect your email to send a specific plan to you.

Screenshot of Sunday’s free lawn care prescription.

Source: Sunday

Adjust your current tactics and messages for COVID-19.

If you already have an email signup process and a welcome email sequence for new subscribers, now’s the time to carefully review every piece to make sure it’s still relevant and accurate amid the pandemic. And, if you’re just getting started with email marketing, build your list with the current situation top of mind.

Inconsiderate email marketing during COVID-19 has led to consumer frustration and a lowering of trust in the brands that have bungled their crisis communications. Make sure your company is using email marketing wisely.

Here are some things to be on the lookout for.

Remove mentions of:

  • Coming in store to redeem offers
  • Learning about in-person offerings
  • Items that you can no longer ship because of supply chain interruptions

Add mentions of any changes your company has experienced or implemented, like:

  • Delayed shipping times
  • Lower availability/smaller selection of certain products
  • Sanitizing protocols
  • Changes in return policies

Email marketing is a fast-paced medium and goes directly to consumers. It’s the perfect channel to make sure customers are up to date with new changes in your company due to the pandemic. Just take extra care to remain sensitive.

Wrap up

Email marketing is even more important to drive sales, now that customers are taking fewer in-person shopping trips. Additionally, clear communication is crucial, as situations, fears, and regulations change frequently and customers have questions.

Many retailers have relied on sales associates to capture email addresses at the register—a process which is no longer feasible. With your website suddenly becoming your primary storefront, it’s time to change tactics and start capturing emails from website visitors.

As a recap, best practices for capturing email addresses on your website include:

  • Make it easy for visitors to sign up with hosted signup forms in headers and footers and an embedded signup form in a prominent location on your website.
  • Offer something valuable in exchange for a customer’s email, like a guide, personalized quiz results, free email course, or discount code.
  • Use a lightbox to make sure customers are aware of your email program.
  • Include a simple checkbox email opt-in on your checkout page.

Finally, all digital marketers should take this time to make sure their email marketing will still resonate (and not offend) customers during this period of uncertainty.

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