Top 500 internet retailers in review: 11 tips to boost email sign-ups.

At 250ok, we recently reviewed the top 500 internet retailers to analyze their email collection practices and sending habits (hint: we have a ton of cool infographics to follow, so stay tuned). Without a shred of doubt, at least half of these retailers are missing huge opportunities to grow their email-based revenue.


  1. 50% of the top 500 internet retailers had their email sign-up below the fold
  2. Of the retailers who didn’t utilize pop-ups, only 9% asked for an email above the fold
  3. 15% of these retailers had no visible email opt-in form, even after a Google search
  4. Only 25% of retailers incentivized their customers to opt-in
  5. Over 5% of retailers required some form of account registration to opt-in

Without further ado, here are 11 tips you can use to boost your email sign-ups:

1. Make your newsletter sign-up easy to find

Of the 1,000+ e-commerce properties we analyzed, you’d be surprised how many required a Google search to find their newsletter sign-up. A little over 15% of the websites did not have a findable email opt-in form.

  • Over 50% of the websites had their email sign-up forms in the footer or below the fold
  • Only 6.5% had calls to action in the header
  • 5% of websites required some form of registration to opt in.

Many retailers used calls to action like “sign up for exclusive offers” or “get product updates”. What’s the problem with this offer? Everyone is likely already receiving hundreds (or thousands) of “exclusive” offers per day. Offer something tangible like “Get 25% off” or “Save $10 on your first purchase”. If margins are slim or you’re selling digital goods, try offering free shipping, a free month of membership, or a free e-book if applicable.

Of the websites we analyzed, only 25% of them incentivized customers to sign up. The popular tactic was offering a percentage off of a purchase, which made up for 63% of all incentives offered.


3. Don’t fear the pop-up

Over 35% of the e-commerce properties used a pop-up to collect email address on site entry. While some of the designs were hit or miss, the opt-in forms were impossible to miss. Of the 35% who used pop-ups, 72% offered incentives.

4. Use functional design and clear calls to action

We found a number of instances where brands went for aesthetic over function. While this may seem obvious, it’s important to use contrasting colors and clear, functional design to boost your conversion. Use buttons (not links) with text like “Go” or “Sign Up” (not arrows or symbols).

The colors also matter. There are countless articles out there about split-testing buttons, so let’s keep this simple: use contrasting colors and avoid transparent buttons that don’t stand out.


5. Ask more than once

One of the things we found really surprising was the lack of persistence. With only 35% of websites using pop-up boxes, it’s safe to assume that the other 65% using the header (7.3%) or footer (54.2%) for opt-in form placement are only asking you once. And with over half of the opt-in forms below the fold, it hardly feels like email collection is a top priority.

6. Giveaways: use context to create the perfect offer

A number of e-Commerce companies also offered free giveaways to collect emails. While giveaways are great when you’ve developed a relationship with a customer, they can be questionable for someone visiting you for the first time. If you’re going to create a contest or giveaway offer, go for something your audience can directly relate to. As Shopify outlined, make sure the prize is right.


7. Take advantage of autocomplete: name your email input “email”

In browsers like Safari and Chrome, you can use “email” as your form input name to take advantage of autocomplete. Since we know fewer steps are better, speeding things up for your potential customers can only improve conversion. It also reduces the chance of your visitors inputting an incorrect email address.


8. Use Mailcheck to autocorrect and verify email addresses

Mailcheck offers suggested corrections to top-level domains. This will reduce the number of incorrect email addresses you collect and ultimately lower your bounce rate. The author of Mailcheck used the plugin at his company Kicksend to lower sign-up confirmation bounce rates by 50%.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 4.02.08 PM

9. Keep your barrier to entry low and use as few steps as possible

Over 5% of the top 500 retailers required some form of registration to receive newsletters. There were also a substantial number of websites that had a multi-step opt-in process.

While some things like a postal code or gender can be useful, many forms simply required a first and last name after I thought my registration was complete. Asking for names is great for personalization and something we’re used to by now. However, for collecting demographic information like location, gender, or shopping preferences, try to make it part of the follow-up process by incentivizing a customer to provide more information later on.

Tip: If you’re simply trying to collect someone’s location, use a service like ip2location to automatically collect location data based on their IP address.

10. “Go”, don’t “Submit”

HubSpot wrote a great article about not “submitting” to landing pages. They found that “Click Here” and “Go” outperformed “Submit” by a long shot. UX Movement also pointed out that task-specific buttons performed significantly better:

“A form button that says ‘Submit’ gives users the impression that the form isn’t focused on a specific task. It also gives off the impression that your website isn’t user-friendly because you’re speaking in a technical way that most users aren’t familiar with.”

Here are some action-specific buttons you can test:

  • Sign up
  • Sign up now
  • Sign me up
  • Complete my registration
  • Send me deals
  • Send me a coupon

11. Establish trust

This is another obvious tip, but let your customers know that you respect their privacy. Less than 5% of the top 500 internet retailers used text like “we respect your privacy” or “we won’t sell your information” to establish trust early on. Linking to your privacy policy simply isn’t enough, so here are a few examples you can use:

  • We respect your privacy
  • We won’t sell your information
  • We promise not to spam you

Post-opt-in: Make a great first impression (Bonus)

Once someone has opted in, it’s critical that you send a welcome email (with your incentive) immediately. If you want to take it a step further, use some pre-content header text to reiterate your incentive or plug your rewards program (or any incentive program, really).

For example, take a look at Sports Authority and Spanx in the image below. Both of them utilize the pre-header text very well, while others didn’t utilize it at all. For instance, messages don’t need to start with “This message is from” or “View this message in your browser”. This is valuable real estate that can be used to draw in more engagement.

Inbox header text sample

Tip: To grow your mailing list, use this pre-content area to incentivize your customers to refer their friends. Depending on your ESP, you could easily segment a small portion of your mailing list to see how it performs.

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