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Critique of an Offline-Online E-mail Sign-up Process Teaser

  |  March 8, 2010   |  Comments

How one retailer tried to create list growth with its sign-up e-mail and how it could have done better. First in a two-part series.

Whenever I speak to e-mail marketers, the topic always turns to list growth. There are some very simple, inexpensive ways to do it - it just takes a little thought. Here's a case study of my personal experience with one retailer, citing what its doing right and what it could do better.

I order most of my clothing online, so when I needed a new pair of jeans I went to Amazon.com and found the brand and style I currently prefer. I ordered, through Amazon, from a third-party seller, Essential Apparel, that I don't have a relationship with. So it had no way during the online transaction to ask for my e-mail address. First thing the seller did right: it wasn't deterred by this.

When my jeans arrived, an invoice was enclosed. It featured a prominent message about signing up for Essential Apparel's e-mail list. This is the second thing it did right (see below).

click to enlarge

The copy appeared below my bill to and customer information, but before the itemized list of what I ordered. Even better, it was benefit-oriented. If I sign up, I can save money on my next order and get special offers, sale notifications, and more. Essential Apparel told me its Web site URL so I'd know where to go...and went further to let me know that the e-mail sign-up was in the box at the bottom left of the home page.

I'm glad it provided this last bit of information. Otherwise, I probably never would have found the sign-up box. When you visit the home page, you have to scroll - a lot - to see its e-mail sign-up (see below).

click to enlarge

It's one of the last things on the page, below a plethora of product categories. It includes an e-mail address field, which is a best practice, as well as a button that, thankfully, doesn't say "submit" ("go" is much more user-friendly).

There is a benefit ("special offers"), which is good, but it doesn't have the immediate impact that the invoice call-to-action had, about saving money on your next order. Essential Apparel should consider adding this to the call-to-action to boost sign-ups.

Although both an e-mail address field and benefit are here, I wonder how many people take advantage of the offer. Because of its location on the page, I bet that few visitors actually see the sign-up box. This is a place the company could do better.

There are always turf wars (I've been involved in too many to mention) about getting space above the fold on the home page. But your e-mail sign-up is worthy of a piece of this prime real estate. Many visitors simply won't be ready to buy during their first visit. If they don't give you revenue, the next best thing you can get is their e-mail address. This gives you the opportunity to build a relationship with them and entice them to come back and buy at a future date.

Recommendation to Essential Apparel: move that sign-up to the top of the page, somewhere prominent, and most assuredly somewhere above the fold.

On a more positive note, it does include the sign-up box on every page of its Web site. This is important because you never know where people will enter. Even if someone deep links into the site, to a single product page, she will see the e-mail sign-up (assuming she scrolls down far enough). Moving the sign-up to a prominent, above-the-fold location on every page should drive an increase in list growth.

Once you enter your e-mail address and hit "go," you land on a page that thanks you for signing up for its newsletter (see below). And you get your $5 off coupon, which wasn't mentioned in the call-to-action on the Web site, but was prominently featured on the invoice. For a Web site visitor, this is an unexpected windfall - yippee!

Even better, the seller gave me a prominent button to "Continue Shopping" - which I was enticed to do now that I know I can save money if I order something.

So good news - new e-mail registrants are driven back to shop. But wait a minute - are we missing something in our excitement? Take a close look - I'll pick this back up in my next column.

Until next time,


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Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.

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