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Top 5 Tips for Collecting Email Subscribers for Retailers

We all know email is the most successful marketing channel. But in order for it to be your most successful, you have to have subscribers to email. As a retailer, you face unique challenges to your list building, especially if you have a brick and mortar location (or are brick and mortar only). Unlike a B2B business, you can’t really offer a gated white paper download and call it a day. So how do you build that list? Keep reading for inspiration.


1. Ask at checkout.

You probably knew this because we’ve all been there. You’re checking out at a store and the kid behind the counter starts the interaction out cold with “Can I have your email?” They look embarrassed to be asking because they already assume you don’t want to hand over your email; you get suspicious because the kid’s acting shifty and there doesn’t seem to be any reason for you to give up your email; you decline. It’s awkward all around. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

First things first, you need to train your staff in proper sales techniques. Chances are, if your sales staff is acting embarrassed about asking for an email, they’re acting that way about other things during the sales process. Additionally, though, you should teach them about why customers would want your emails: they’re chock full of helpful information, entertaining content, and exclusive promotions. (And if you’re questioning the usefulness of your email program, it’s time for a rethink.) Teach your staff to ask for an email like, “Would you like to give me your email so we can send you exclusive promotions?” rather than a flat, fearful “Can I have your email?”

As a former sales associate, though, I’ll tell you that even asking well and with confidence will often end up with someone saying no because they “don’t want spam” or giving you a false or inactive email address to avoid the awkwardness of declining. For best results, you need to go a step further and actively incentivize customers to give you their email addresses. Here are some things you could do:

  • Use customers’ emails as their “card” for their loyalty program. This cuts down on annoying key tags and it ensures they want to make sure you have their email address every time they purchase. You could offer a discount for the day they join (and give you that email address for the first time). 10% off is quite common, though I will say I noticed that 10% was surprisingly less enticing than it should have been for simply handing over an email address.
  • Keep customer information filed under their email addresses. If you’re using a CRM, you probably already do this – but you should train your sales staff to bring it up. I often found that saying, “Can I take your email address? Filing this sale under your email address makes sure we can return this purchase for as much as you spent even if you lose the receipt.” To be highly effective.
  • Speaking of receipts, offering digital receipts is a great way to not just cut down on paper but also to collect email addresses. Of the ways to collect emails at checkout, digital receipts is also the most natural. While other methods require that the sales associate break the natural flow of conversation, potentially upsetting the customer, asking if they want their receipt emailed to them flows very naturally. Have sales associates try something like, “We now offer digital receipts. Would you like your receipt emailed to you?” You could even coach sales staff in some of the benefits of your digital receipts. For instance, if you send educational content in the receipt to help with set up of an item, your sales staff could say, “Would you like your receipt emailed to you? The digital receipt contains a short video that will help you set up that brand new tent!”

There are plenty of ways to incentivize your customers to give over their email addresses. Get creative and figure out what works best for your store.

2. Website forms

If you have an eCommerce site, you can and should be using website forms to collect email addresses. At the very least you want to be running a pop-up form that appears on whatever first page your customers visit. You may also want to run a side bar form, a form that floats in a bar at the top or bottom of the page, or an in-line form.

Pop-up Image

This is a pop-up email form.

Sidebar Image

This is a sidebar email form.

In-line Image

This is an in-line form.

Your website forms should similarly be incentivized. Its common practice for retailers to offer 10-20% off the first purchase a customer makes after leaving their email. The promo code for that discount is, of course, emailed to the customer.

3. Run a raffle

Since you can’t run a website form on a brick and mortar store location, you have to get creative with other ways to collect emails in-store. A good way to get people who don’t want to purchase yet to leave their emails with you is to run some type of raffle. A free gift card of a relatively low amount ($20 should work); a free styling service; or something else related to your store, but certainly worth something.

The old fashioned way to run a raffle like this is to put a glass bowl out and paper forms and have people write their emails down on the paper. Your sales staff would then enter the emails into your system manually. Not only is that time consuming, but that leaves two openings for human error in your system. And humans are notoriously error-prone. These days, most email providers offer a tablet app that allows you to run a short form for in-person email collection. Set one of your mobile POS systems up with some signage and have customers enter their emails directly into your system. You can and should set up this form to go to a special list specifically for the raffle-entrees so that you can send them an autoresponder letting them know for sure that they’ve been entered.

4. Run a referral campaign.

We’ve covered some methods that allow you to get the email addresses of those who visit your store or site. What about the email addresses of people who haven’t been to visit you? One effective method is a referral campaign.

A referral campaign is a great marketing scheme for a number of reasons, but in this case, it allows you to collect the email addresses of your customers’ friends. It causes your customers to become your sales people, and they’ll get your name to somebody who they know for sure would be interested in you. You can then take the new prospect’s email address and begin marketing to them.

Referral campaigns can be tricky to run due to all the dynamic content you’ll be generating, so you may want to use referral campaign software.

5. Use a Facebook ad to start collecting subscribers.

Facebook has an ad type that’s goal is to collect subscribers. Using this ad format and some snappy copy designed to show off why someone should join your list, you can target subscriber forms right at perfect prospects. You can target the ads by such things as demographics, interests, and location. The more qualifications you layer on top of each other, the better your new subscribers will fit your buyer persona.


These five tried and true methods are guaranteed to bring you new subscribers. After your list starts building, it’s up to you to send your customers creative email campaigns. What methods have you used to build your email lists?