Practical Ecommerce

4 Ways to Beef Up an Email Subscriber List

Maintaining a robust email list requires ongoing management of existing subscribers and aggressive programs to sign up new ones. Water Lily Spa and This Old House, for example, use co-registration, whereby each solicits subscribers for the other's list.

Maintaining a robust email list requires ongoing management of existing subscribers and aggressive programs to sign up new ones. Water Lily Spa and This Old House, for example, use co-registration, whereby each solicits subscribers for the other’s list.

One of the largest assets of an ecommerce company is its email subscriber file. In that database is likely a mix of past and current customers, brand advocates, and prospects.

An email-marketing program is only as good as the quality of the list. In this post, I’ll review four tips to re-engage dormant subscribers and to sign up new ones.

Review Hard and Soft Bounces

When a campaign is deployed, some of the emails are not delivered, due to hard and soft bounces. Soft bounces are usually temporary, such as a full inbox or a server not responding. Hard bounces typically result from an incorrect email address. An email service provider or delivery system will likely attempt soft bounces a few times before considering them a hard bounce, to automatically remove the email address from your list.

Regardless, gather your soft and hard bounces every six months or so and try to re-verify them, to see if any are active. In my experience, a small percentage of them can become valuable subscribers. Third-party providers, such as BriteVerify, offer verification services.

Revisit Lapsed Subscribers

Similar to reviewing bounces, keep track of lapsed email subscribers, those that have not purchased in a long time. Although you may not be emailing to this group frequently, it is worth sending them a strong campaign at infrequent intervals, to try to reengage. If they open or click an email or otherwise purchase from you, bring them back for regular deployments.

Solicit New Subscribers

Email lists typically churn at approximately 20 percent per year. That is, roughly 20 percent of subscribers will unsubscribe every year. Without adding email addresses, your list will quickly deteriorate. Making it easy for new site visitors to subscribe to your emails is crucial. Here are easy-to-implement ways, in my experience, to gain new subscribers.

  • Include an email signup box on every page of your site. Make sure it is functioning correctly, especially on mobile devices.
  • Offer something of value to new subscribers. This could be a discount, ebook, or free gift.
  • Use popups. Popups work. Use them sparingly, however, and make sure they are correctly timed, so that they aren’t overly annoying.
  • Add new customers to your list. Tell new customers — those that purchase your products and services — that they will receive emails from your company. Offer subscription options at checkout.

For New Signups, Get Creative

Consider other channels for new email subscribers. If your site receives traffic from social media sites, for example, those visitors are likely not email subscribers. Add a subscription form on the social media site, or link to a form. Offering incentives based on where traffic comes from may help to boost email signups. Here are other, less-common ideas.

  • Solicit commenters and reviewers. If someone is already providing feedback, he will likely make a good email subscriber. Build a subscribe option into the form for comments or reviews.
  • Use contests. Contests are a good way to quickly obtan many new subscribers.
  • Use co-registration with complementary websites. Similar to package-insert programs for direct mail, if your products correlate (but don’t compete) with another site, consider offering registration to both email programs, on both sites.
Carolyn Nye

Carolyn Nye

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  1. Carlos Rivera October 20, 2016 Reply

    Great tips! Thank you for teaching me how to keep my email list fresh.

  2. Bill Kaplan October 20, 2016 Reply

    Helpful tips, Carolyn, but you overlooked the simplest and most cost-effective way to re-engage dormant subscribers, which is to perform an Email Change of Address (ECOA) service on these bouncing and inactive email addresses.

    As you stated, email lists typically churn at approximately 20% per year. Couple this with the fact that most lists contain inactive email addresses on the order of 50% or more and that’s a huge number of former customers/donors companies are losing touch with.

    An ECOA service can provide you with guaranteed deliverable updates for 15-20+% of your file and double that over the course of a year with quarterly processing. The cost is typically less than the price of a stamp and multiples less than the cost of acquiring a new customer.

    To learn more about how leading marketers, nonprofits, retailers and more are reconnecting with their lost customers, see

  3. AnnaOn November 10, 2016 Reply

    Great article! I also use – email verification tool which is cost effective and very much efficient and give lots of value addition services. It’s help me a lot with my business.

  4. Markus January 16, 2017 Reply

    I notice a lot of sites now add windows to collect email leads. Its a smart move. Once a visitor comes and goes there is really no way to reach out to them apart from email.

    Even large companies like do this. They are using a lead window from The window will ask a user to input their email to stay posted. I assume they have a 1000+ unique visitors coming daily. Even if 2% gave their email to kinkade thats is huge.