There are a million different ways to define success.

Success is an individual perception and thus it can be difficult to know when your e-commerce store is successful.

Some e-commercers think they are successful when you have a consistent flow of customers, and you generate enough revenue to keep your business going. Other businesses want more and are always looking for ways to grow and expand their business.

I’m part of the latter and I believe that there’s always room for improvement and growth.

One way of ensuring continuous growth is through email marketing. You probably already know how effective email marketing can be, and if not – you’ll find out in this post.

To keep your business growing, you need an email list of high relevance and quality. In this post, I’ll give you my best tips and tricks to how you build such an email list by converting your website visitors into valuable leads.

There is such great growth potential in email marketing, so keep reading and get the formula for effective (and successful) list building.

Need some inspiration?

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How to grow an email list from scratch

To collect leads directly from your website, you need traffic to that website.

There are many different ways to generate traffic to your website. Some are very expensive such as paid advertising, and some are relatively cheap or even free.

Let’s have a look at some of the methods you can use to increase website traffic.


SEO (search engine optimization) can be a rather complex thing. But to put it briefly, SEO is about optimizing your website in different ways to rank higher in Google search.

Here are the major factors to focus on for search engine ranking success according to Search Engine Land.


All of these success factors won’t work individually, but you can’t optimize for every single one. Thus, it is important that you look at the chart and determine which factors you want to focus on optimizing.

Some factors are more important than others because they have a bigger impact than other factors both negative and positive. In the chart, the most important factors are marked with +3, and those with the highest potential to damage your SEO is marked with -3.

The first category is content. The content you post on your website is super important not only for SEO but also for keeping your visitors coming back and potentially sharing your content.

Your content should always be of high quality and it has to be unique. Furthermore, it has to resonate with your audience. Don’t write about marketing one day and recipes the next. There has to be an overall theme to the content of your website.

Also, you need to focus on the keywords you add to your content. You’ve probably already done your keywords research, and if not, you need to get started. Add those keywords to your content, but be careful. Don’t just add keywords, they have to be a natural part of your content.

The next important aspect of SEO is your HTML title tags. What headlines do you give your content?

Think about what people would search for. If you’ve written a guide to email marketing, you’d want that to pop up on Google when people search for email marketing right?

The most popular searches are “how to” searches. People who search for “how to” are looking for an answer to their problem and your content could be that answer. Thus, it’s important to consider your HTML title tag.

Moreover, you should establish yourself as a leader in your field.


By establishing yourself as a leader, you’ll get more recognition from fellow marketers who would then be more likely to link to your site. If you get other market leaders with high ranking websites to link to your site, your ranking will increase as well.

It can be difficult to determine whether a link is of high quality or not, but you’ll know that a link is of higher quality when it comes from a respectable site within the same field as yours.

Lastly, Google ranks based on what country people are in and what content is relevant to that country.

For instance, I am located in Denmark, and when I search for something on Google, even if I search in English, I get results from Denmark and results that are relevant to the location I’m currently in.

Thus, you need to consider the location of your target audience and ensure that your content is relevant to that location, so Google won’t block it.

These are just some of the ranking factors you need to consider when it comes to SEO. And SEO is also just one of the ways in which you can get traffic to your website.

Let’s have a look at another.

Social media

Social media is a great marketing channel and it can drive a lot of traffic to your website if you use it effectively.

We’ve already talked about how you need to create quality content. Now, let’s have a look at how you should distribute that content to drive traffic to your website.

Obviously, you should share your content on your social media profiles. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. enable you to tap into a vast pool of potential customers.

By sharing your content on these social media sites, you can generate lots of traffic with very little effort. Of course, you have to have a consistent flow of quality content that you can share.

Every time you post new content on your site, you should post the link on social media along with a short description that will convince viewers to read the content.

Remember that your content always has to be relevant to your business. Here’s an example from Dollar Shave Club’s Facebook page:


They’ve written an article about the purpose of all your body hair. It’s fun, and it’s relevant to their product which is razors. They’ve posted it on their Facebook page and when you click the image or the text, you’re redirected to the article on Dollar Shave Club’s website.

Many marketers already post on social media, but forget the fact that they can post the same link multiple times.

In my experience, posting the same content three times over 6 weeks is a great way of doubling your traffic compared to what you get with a single post.

But be careful not to post the same link too many times. People will notice that you don’t post original content and stop engaging with it. When you post the same link multiple times, you need to share new and original content as well.

Also, there are sites where you should be very careful with what you post and how much.

Reddit and Quora are two very popular social media sites where you have the potential to generate a lot of traffic.

Reddit is basically a site where you post links, and then other people upvote or downvote these links. Reddit gets more than 71 billion page views each year and is thus a huge marketing opportunity.

Reddit has subreddits based on different topics. Thus, when you post your links in a relevant subreddit your chances of upvotes are higher because the content is relevant to that audience.

This is an example from the subreddit “World News”.


The number to the left of the headline is the number of upvotes the link has gotten. The more upvotes your link gets, the more people will see it and hopefully click on it and be redirected to your website.

However, Reddit is not an easy marketing opportunity. You can’t just post link after link and expect people to like it or even click on it.

You can’t be a marketer on Reddit, you have to be a Redditor. You need to engage with other people’s content and share links that are relevant to your site but don’t link to your site. Redditors will smell a marketer from miles away and banish you.

If you are actively engaged on Reddit, you can once in awhile post a link to your own site (it has to be top quality) and you’ll potentially see a huge spike in website traffic. This is where you might feel tempted to keep posting links to your site – Don’t do it!

Getting traffic from Reddit is a balancing act, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll see any results, but it holds a lot of potential so I think it’s worth exploring.

Quora also holds a lot of potential to generate traffic to your site. Quora is a platform where people can post a question and other people can answer it.


The opportunity for e-commerce here lies in the answering part. You can search for different questions related to your business and then answer these questions and “promote” your business. I put “promote” in quotation marks because you have to be careful not to sound too advertising in your answer.

If your answers are too promotional you’ll get banned and all your history (links, upvotes, etc.) will be deleted. I tried it and it was no fun starting from scratch.

The key here is to provide value in your answer while discretely mentioning your business or product.

You can also upvote answers on Quora, and the answer with the most upvotes will be shown at the top of the post right below the question and will be seen by more people.

If your answer is detailed and provides a solution to the question, the chances of people clicking onwards to your site are much larger than if you just write a short answer to include a lot of links to your site.

With both Reddit and Quora, it’s the quality of links you have to focus on and not the quantity.

Returning to the other social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

On these platforms, it has proven very effective to use different incentives to get people to visit your site.

Many e-commerce businesses offer discount codes to lure people to their sites.


This is a tweet from Royal Colors’ Twitter page where they offer visitors a discount code to use on their website. The link redirects people to the Royal Colors’ website where you can use the discount code.

Special offers are similar to discounts and are also a great way of convincing people to visit your site and check out your products.

Check out this example from Cheap Monday:


Cheap Monday uses a special offer to attract visitors to their site through their Facebook page. One thing worth noticing on this post is the time limit “Hurry! Offer expires Sunday after midnight”.

Adding a time limit to your offers will exhibit urgency and make potential customers take advantage of this offer immediately instead of waiting and potentially forget everything about it.

Another great incentive is competitions. Competitions don’t require people to buy something which makes them more inclined to visit your site and convert.


This example from JADU Tea shows how you can create a competition on social media (in this case Twitter). However, most competitions on social media are created to get more followers and likes instead of redirecting people to their website.

If you want to create a competition to generate traffic to your website, you can do as shown above, but instead of asking people to retweet and follow, you should tell them to visit your site and add a link to the page where they sign up for your competition.

You can also use Twitter lead generation cards or Facebook leads ads to convert visitors directly through social media.

You can also use social media to promote new products like B&O Play does.


B&O Play frequently posts new and old products to their Facebook page to generate traffic to their website. They don’t offer any discounts or other incentives but focus on the exclusivity and features of the products.

When you click the image or text in the post, you’ll be directed to the product page where you can buy the specific product (in this case, the Beolit 15 Speakers).

What’s great about this example from B&O Play is that once viewers have clicked the link and entered the product page for this speaker, B&O tries to convert them into an email lead with an onsite engagement form.


The form is a competition to win a B&O Play product every day in December. Once visitors have signed up for the competition, their email address is transferred directly to B&O Play’s email marketing list.

This brings me to the next point on my agenda – turning your visitors into subscribers.

Getting high-quality email leads doesn’t need to be an uphill battle… Discover how one ecommerce generated more than +150,000 leads with one simple change. Learn more

Converting website visitors into subscribers

Once your visitors have clicked your link on social media or found your website through a Google search, your job is now to convert these visitors into email leads for your email marketing list.

You can do like B&O Play and offer visitors a chance to win something by using an opt-in form. Opt-in forms are awesome because they catch your visitor’s’ attention and they make it super easy to sign up for your newsletter in just a few seconds.

You can use either popups or slide-ins on your website to ensure that all your visitors are presented with an option to subscribe.

To encourage your visitors to sign up, you should, once again, offer them an incentive.

When you use competitions as an incentive as B&O Play does, you should make it possible to enter without directing them to a different landing page.

Have your visitors sign up directly in the form, and they won’t have to leave the page they were browsing.


Eva Solo has got this down with their slide-in offering visitors a chance to win a saucepan from their newest collection. The only ask for name and email, and the offer is super relevant to their business.

The only remark I have about this slide-in is the CTA button “Sign up now”. Instead, they should focus on the value in the competition and write something like “Win saucepan” or “I want to win”.

Another commonly used and very effective incentive is the discount.


Cocomi offers their visitors a £5 discount on their first purchase in return for the visitor’s email address. They even have a CTA right to my taste: “GET DISCOUNT NOW”. It’s harder to resist than the classic “Sign up now”, because who doesn’t want a discount?

If you don’t want to offer visitors a discount or create a competition, you can easily offer them your newsletter as the incentive. It’s just very important that you “sell” your newsletter very convincingly.

Refuga has done this perfectly.


They’ve added an inspiring background image and they’ve added the word ‘adventure’ to their headline. Refuga is all about adventures, and their visitors are clearly interested in traveling and exploring the world, so including this word automatically draws attention to the slide-in.

Their copy is also very convincing. “Your next coffee break can get a lot more interesting. Sign up and be the first to know about new trips, offers, and initiatives.”

They focus on the value of the newsletter which is the trips, offers, and initiatives. But once again, I have to point out that I think it’s such a shame when you have such an awesome slide-in that you put “Sign me up now” as CTA.

They could have easily focused on the adventure part and written: “Send adventures my way”. It essentially means the same, but the focus has shifted from the newsletter itself to the value of the newsletter.

As you can see, you can use opt-in forms in many different ways on your site. A place where many e-commercers go wrong is when they just let abandoned cart visitors leave their site without trying to convert them.

Abandoned cart popup

68% of your visitors will leave items in their cart and leave your website without returning to complete their purchase.

An abandoned cart popup will pop up just when your visitors are about to leave their cart. This is where you have your chance to convert them into leads for your email list.


Many abandoned cart popups (like this one from Emmamai) offer a discount code to be used immediately to get visitors to complete their purchase. This works well for those who were about to leave their cart because they thought the product was too expensive.

But what about the visitors who leave because they didn’t have the time to complete the purchase?

I would recommend trying to convert them by asking them if you should store their items for them, and send them a discount code by email for later use. This way you get their email address and you increase the chances of that visitor becoming a paying customer.

Many people forget that they’ve added items to their cart and never return again. When you get these people’s email address you can remind them that they have items left in their cart, and potentially get people to complete their purchase.

This is just one of the ways in which you can convert your website visitors. You should also focus on those who are much further along in the buying process.

Checkout signup form

Once a visitor is about to complete a purchase and they’re filling in their personal information and shipping details, you should always provide them with an option to subscribe to your newsletter.

There are different ways to do so. Take for instance this example from The Body Shop.

the-body-shopThey have a button that says “Have you signed up for our exclusive offers?” in their checkout. When you click the button, this popup appears where you have to fill in your information.


This is a rather complex and time-consuming way of getting people to sign up during checkout. You have to click a button first and then fill in your information, which you’ve already filled in once during checkout.

Furthermore, the button that triggers the popup is placed below the fold, which means that visitors have to scroll down to see it.

This is not optimal, as this particular checkout process doesn’t require visitors to scroll. You can easily complete your purchase without scrolling which probably results in a lot of visitors missing the signup option.

Another checkout signup option is this one from H&M.


When you shop on H&M’s website, you need to be signed in to purchase an item. There is no guest checkout option. You can either log into your H&M account or create a new account.

This can be effective when you have an established and credible brand that people know and trust. You ensure that every single customer becomes a member of the H&M club where they will receive news and offers via email marketing.

However, not all e-commerce stores are as globally recognized as H&M and this option could just as well put visitors off because they don’t want to subscribe just to buy a single item. If you choose to go with this option, I would always include a guest checkout option.

This way you ensure that every visitor no matter if they are returning customers, new customers, or one-time customers, can buy something without worrying about getting a bunch of emails afterward.

Lastly, I want to show you my favorite checkout signup option. This one can be found on Nike’s website.


At Nike’s checkout, you don’t have to be signed in to buy something but you are offered the possibility. There’s no extra information to fill in, but just a simple checkbox. And if you’re already a member you can sign in here as well.

It’s super simple and the checkbox is placed perfectly on the page. Just below the input fields and above the “Next step” button.

Placing the checkbox above the “Next step” button ensures that every customer sees the checkbox as the “next step” button is where you click to continue the checkout process.

Moreover, Nike gives customers an incentive to sign up. “Join Nike+ for free delivery and no-hassle returns”. Free delivery is usually a great incentive, however, as you can see under delivery methods, there is already a free delivery option which takes some of the value from the incentive.

Instead, Nike could offer to send a discount code, or offer customers a chance to win something in return for their email address.

When it comes to checkout signup forms, there are no correct answers. I have my favorites (as with everything else in life), but the most important is to test what works best on your site. Your audience might convert at higher rates with a popup, while others prefer the “no choice” option.

Incentives – it’s that little extra that counts

I’ve briefly touched upon it above, but the incentive is the value you offer your visitors to get them to sign up.

During the checkout process, you can offer visitors a number of different things to get them to subscribe. It doesn’t have to be something big, but it has to show potential customers that you want to do that little extra to make them feel special.

Here’s an example from Hardgraft.


They offer potential customers a free t-shirt with their purchase. Once visitors have selected an item, added it to their cart and proceed to checkout, the t-shirt is automatically added to the order with the name “Complimentary T-Shirt.”


What Hardgraft misses here is the opportunity to use this gift as an incentive to get people to sign up for their newsletter.

They use it to convince people to buy something, but they could easily add it to the checkout page instead, along with a checkbox and the words “Want a free t-shirt with your order? Join our newsletter where you’ll receive amazing offers and discounts.”

By getting permission to use their customer’s email address for email marketing, they have the opportunity to retain this customer and keep them coming back through their email marketing efforts.

A company who tries to get more signups through their checkout is


They offer a discount in return for a signup for their StewardShip program which is a member club.

However, this membership costs $49 and is an annual rate. Thus, you technically don’t save money on your order, you pay $49 and then you save a certain percentage on your entire order. This option is for people who buy a lot of wine and can see the advantage of paying for this membership.

Regular customers who only buy wine occasionally might have a harder time seeing the benefits of this membership, and won’t get a chance to convert these customers into repeat customers because they can’t send them emails.

Another great opportunity can be found in this example from Sephora.


They offer 3 free samples with every order, and you can even choose which samples you’d like to receive.

This is a great list building opportunity. Even though Sephora hasn’t done it, they could easily do this and then only make it available if you sign up.

You could simply add a checkbox and then the caption: “Want to get 3 free samples with your order? Sign up for exclusive tips, tricks, and offers, and choose which samples we should send you.”

Easy breezy. Even though samples don’t contain much, they still have a lot of value because it gives visitors a chance to try out different products without having to purchase the item. And then if they like the sample, they can buy the full-size product on your website.

These small hacks are so easy to implement, and they show visitors that you’ll go that extra mile to give them a great shopping experience.

Discovery why Campaign Monitor and 900+ businesses are using Sleeknote to turn more visitors into customers (the reason might surprise you). Learn more

Don’t let your subscribers wither away

So what happens after your visitors have signed up and are on your email list?

Do you let them be and wait for them to come back? Of course not! You need to engage with your new leads immediately after they’ve signed up.

If they’ve purchased something you send them a welcome email along with their order confirmation. They’ve just bought something so offering them a discount code in the welcome email is not a good idea.

They will feel cheated because they just bought something and didn’t get a discount on that. A good idea is to survey them. Ask them to rate their buying experience and leave a comment.

This information could prove very valuable and help you optimize your website and user experience. Visitors who’ve just bought something from you are more likely to answer a survey or rate their experience than regular website visitors who haven’t engaged with your site.

Offering a discount code in your first email to new subscribers is not a good idea either unless you promised them one in return for their email. People don’t like promotional emails that focus too much on selling.

Instead, focus on providing value to subscribers. It’s important that you ease into the selling part so you don’t scare them off.

Whether or not your new signups have just purchased something or just browsed your site, they need to enter an email flow where you’ll send them a series of emails that should convert them into customers.

Check out this email marketing funnel from Aweber that explains the essential steps in successful email marketing.

What to send

This is always a tricky one. How do you sell without selling?

The key is once again value. Start out by sending your subscribers some kind of value. In the spirit of the holidays, let’s say you run an e-commerce with women’s clothing, and you want people to buy their Christmas outfits at your store.

Send your subscribers an email with 5 different Christmas looks that can easily be put together with what people already have in their closet, or maybe some DIY accessories.

The email could include images like these from MbyM.


What I would do differently, would be to remove the “shop now” buttons, and instead give inspiration to what kind of accessories you could wear with the different kinds of outfits. Offer small tips and tricks to take the outfit to the next level.

Then at the end of the email, you could add social share buttons with the caption “For more DIY tips and tricks, follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram” or whatever social media platforms you’re on.

MbyM already has the social share buttons in their emails, but they could have a stronger call-to-action.


If your ecommerce sells a service, let’s say you offer an email automation tool such as Campaign Monitor or MailChimp, then you can offer tips and tricks on how to write effective emails.

When you write these emails, you need to consider the purpose of the email. I know the overall purpose is to sell something, but we can’t let your subscribers know that.


Okay… They probably know that selling is your intention, we all know that. But the truth is that if they feel that you give them value without expecting something from them in return right away, they will be more inclined to accept your sales pitch when it comes.

Alright, back to the purpose of your email. Every single email should encourage your subscribers to take an action. In the MbyM example, the action could be to get subscribers to follow them on social media.

If you have a SaaS business like Campaign Monitor and MailChimp, and you write blog posts on email marketing, the action could be to get your subscribers to read your content.

This is what we’ve done in some of our email campaigns.


This is an excerpt from one of the emails we send to our subscribers. The email is meant to inspire subscribers, while we still indirectly remind them of the problems our product can solve for them.

We usually send around three emails with value until we try to sell our product. We are still in the beginning stages of testing, so we still need to figure out if this is the optimal number of value emails for our audience.

Once you get to the selling, you need to focus on problem-solving and not how awesome your product is.

In the MbyM case, you could focus on the struggle of finding the perfect Christmas outfit, and offer a discount on some of the clothes you’ve shown in your previous emails.

You might not want to offer a discount on all your products which is understandable as we all have to make money. However, I know from personal experience that when I’m considering a new outfit and I tell myself “not this time”, a discount code is what makes me change my mind and buy the product anyways.

Your visitors have already been inspired by your value emails and have begun to plan their Christmas outfit based on your suggestions, but they might just need that one extra thing to complete the outfit.

The same goes for SaaS businesses. You’ve offered tips, tricks, and valuable content to your subscribers while discretely informing them of their need for your product.

This is where you reel them in with a discount on their subscription. Don’t tell them to buy your product, but focus on the problem you can solve for them. For instance, “Don’t let your subscribers wither away! Add them to an automated email flow today and convert them into customers.”

It’s still a sales pitch, but it focuses on the value of the product and the problem it can solve, instead of listing all the fancy features. People will learn about those once they get to use your product.

How often do you send an email?

This question is really hard to answer because there is no correct answer to it. It all depends on your audience, your product, and your marketing strategies.

69% of U.S. email users unsubscribe from lists because they get too many promotional emails.

The keyword here is testing.

Some businesses have found that sending out an email once a week is perfect, whereas others have found that once every two weeks work better.

It’s up to you to find the optimal frequency for your automated emails. Test two identical flows with different frequencies and see which performs best.

These type of email flows are time-based, meaning they’ll be sent out based on the frequency you decide.

When you send time-based emails, you need to establish a consistent frequency. Humans are very habitual creatures, and we don’t like change. Inconsistency in the timing of your emails will increase your number of unsubscribers.

When you have an email flow with a higher frequency you must be extra careful that all your emails are relevant and of high quality. Don’t blast out emails every day because you think the more you send the higher chances are someone will take the bait – it won’t work!

Also, your emails have to stand out and provide value. Think about how many emails the average person receives a day – it’s a lot. Don’t let your email wither away amongst the masses.


If you have a product where people can sign up for a free trial, your emails should be event-based, meaning that every email is triggered when a certain action is taken.

For instance, with Sleeknote, we are currently testing an automated event-based email flow for our free trial users. Users who’ve already created a sleeknote will get a different email than those who haven’t created one yet.

This ensures that no users get any irrelevant emails, and it makes the emails more personalized.

Personalization is super important when you do email marketing. The years of the “no-reply” email are long gone, or at least they should be. Every email you send out should come from an actual person, and it should be possible to answer every single email.

This type of personalization creates a stronger bond between you and your customers. It exudes trust and credibility, and subscribers respond much better to personalized offers sent from a person rather than a “no-reply” or “info” email.

Need some inspiration?

Uncovering inspiration for popups is a time-consuming activity (I should know—this post took 14+ hours to research).

To save you time, I’ve included a swipe file with 45 of my favorite popups so you can begin capturing and converting more leads (#5 is my favorite).


Free Downloadable Bonus
Get access to our personal swipe file of high-converting popups (45 total) and start capturing more high-quality leads today.

Wrap up

Getting more leads for your email marketing list is a process and not something you do in one day by implementing a simple tactic.

It takes time and effort but that doesn’t mean it has to be a complicated or costly affair. Your email marketing list has the potential to increase your revenue significantly, so it’s worth spending the extra time to ensure that you get a relevant and high-quality email list.

Consider the whole process of growing your list instead of looking at one individual step. You need traffic to your site if you want visitors to convert. Moreover, you must follow up, once a visitor has signed up. Customer retention is just as important as customer acquisition.

Rikke Thomsen
Rikke is Head of Email Marketing here at Sleeknote. Her expertise lies within copywriting, content marketing, and email marketing. When she’s not busy wearing down the keys on her keyboard, she loves getting creative in the kitchen, binging on Netflix series, and skiing in the Alps.

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  1. Hello Rikke, It is very wonderful article covering up most of the key facts for eMarketing.

  2. Rikke Thomsen

    Thanks for reading. I’m glad you found it useful 🙂


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