A Best Practice Guide to Growing Loyal Email Subscribers 


Within this guide we outline the tactics and best practices you can use to grow a loyal email subscriber-base from the moment they sign up.

We explore how to optimise your subscriber forms and why you should be using website overlays. We also look at how email automations can increase subscriber engagement and customer retention while increasing your ROI from your email strategy.


Best practice email subscriber forms
How to supercharge your email subscribers conversions
Let’s look at overlays
Create a lasting impression with email automations
Welcome message examples

Best Practice Email Subscriber Forms

Growing your email list and continuing to engage with your subscribers can be tough, especially post-GDPR where your email list size might have been heavily affected, which could have seen a knock-on effect to the revenue and engagement generated through this channel. We’re going to take a look at how you can optimise and take full advantage of your email sign-up forms to increase subscriber growth.

Ensure Your Forms Are Seen

One of the quickest ways to increase the conversion rates of your email subscribers forms is to make them more visible on your website.

We discovered that a massive 87% of brands put the sign-up form below the fold, this means they are not directly visible when a visitor lands on their website. By adding your email subscribers form at the bottom of your website, you will be losing a high percentage of potential sign-ups as your visitors will most likely never see it.

We recommend placing your form above the fold, ensuring it’s visible as soon as a visitor lands on your site, giving a much higher probability of signups.

Don’t Add Too Many Fields

Make sure you’re keeping your signup process as quick and seamless as possible and don’t be too eager to capture all of your subscribers’ details in one go.

Ensure you progressively profile your subscribers, if you want to truly segment your lists and offer a highly personalised email experience. This can be achieved in your Preference Centre or throughout the customer lifecycle.

Limiting the number of fields on your form to three can ensure around a 25% conversion rate.

Making a phone number field mandatory can increase abandon rates. If you plan to use this field, make it optional. This is always something you can collect later. After all, it’s better to be able to contact them by another medium such as email, then not at all.

Colour Converts

It may not be something you’ve previously considered but your sign up CTA button plays a key role in capturing your potential subscribers’ attention.

A lot of brands use the colour of their logo for their form button to make the subscriber feel connected to the brand however, results can vary widely.

We recommend experimenting and testing variations to see the colour that influences the highest conversions for your brand. Try A/B testing colours that contrast with the rest of your website to make them stand out to see if this makes a difference.

Considering a Captcha?

Captchas are little tests that sit on your signup forms that help tell humans and spambots apart. And there’s a lot of debate around whether these improve sign up form conversions or hinder them.

On one side, it can help reduce the amount of spam signups you receive. Spam signs ups can massively impact your overall email results including your deliverability.

But others argue that Captcha’s damages form conversion rates. As your website visitors can get frustrated and fed up with having to copy text from unclear images in order to complete their intended action.

If this is something that you feel could be impacting your form conversions, experiment and see what happens when you remove the Captcha. You may find that the level of spam is minimal compared to the amount of new sign ups you gain.

Shout About The Benefits Of Signing Up

You need to let your subscribers know what to expect and why they should subscribe to your emails. In our own Pure360 sign up form, we simply invite our visitors to ‘Become an email marketing expert’. This lets them know that our content is focused on helping expand their knowledge and manages their expectations. Consider the impact of the sign up form if we didn’t use this small sentence.

Once they have signed up it’s important to thank them. This is also a great chance to build your relationship by introducing your brand and finding out more about your subscribers. Include a direct link to your preference centre to gain further data about them so you can personalise your messaging further, also let them choose which types of content they would like to receive. This personalised approach will ultimately help you achieve higher engagement rates.

Social Proof Sells

Adding social proof to your forms is a surefire way to increase conversion rates. 77% of consumers say that word of mouth from family, friends or peers is the most persuasive way to get information about new products. This also applies to new email subscribers, much like shouting about the benefits of subscribing, why not try throwing in a positive testimonial from one of your happy subscribers.

Give it a go and track the conversion percentage with and without the social proof. See if there’s a noticeable difference, we’re sure there will be.

How To Supercharge Your Email Subscribers Conversions

You spend all that effort and budget to drive visitors to your website and 96% leave without transacting or subscribing – 70% leave never to be seen again. Those are very typical numbers and a lot of potential revenue left on the table!

It’s no wonder capturing a visitor’s email address is so valuable, giving you the opportunity to nurture them back into your marketing funnel, with the focus of converting them into a customer.

To get effective at capturing email addresses work on the three ‘I’s of list growth:

– Impulse
– Incentive
– Integrated


Firstly ask for the visitors email address at the moment of maximum impulse – that’s when someone is curious and interested in your brand.

Overlays have proven their effectiveness time and time again across a wide variety of industry sectors. We will be going into more detail about overlays later in the guide.

Almost counter-intuitively, a popup just 5 seconds after arriving at your website is a great place to start testing. It’s likely to pull the most subscribers because many visitors don’t stay for more than 20 seconds.

Even catching visitors as they are leaving is effective. Perhaps they are interested in your brand, your product, your offer. But weren’t quite ready to buy. People leave with the intention of coming back but when in research mode have many tabs open. Sadly, your site can all too quickly be forgotten. That makes exit intent a good moment to capture their email and nurture them after they have left.

Within the checkout process or when visitors are creating an account is another opportune time to capture their email address.

If you have great content on your website, try adding an email subscription box at the end of all of your articles, because if someone reads the whole of your article and likes it, then the end of the article is an ideal opportunity to offer to provide more good content in the future if they subscribe. Or include some additional relevant gated content, that they have to give their email address to access.

Consider all the moments when you’ve got strong customer engagement. They are likely good moments to capture their email address.


A good incentive goes a long way to tempting a visitor to subscribe.

Many brands use a money off discount as an incentive, which can work well. But it may not be the best choice.

In the Email Addiction report the joint best incentive was free shipping or a low value gift card (67%). Better than a 10% discount (49%). If you’ve sufficient web traffic to allow split testing, then add to your test plans a split test of incentive and see which has the highest conversion.

Competitions and prize draws are way down the list of good incentives, as a lot of people actively look for these types of promotions and may have no real interest in your actual brand, but only the prize offered. The promise of clear instant and guaranteed value, like a gift card, is more powerful than the chance to win a vacation.

Surprisingly a competition might even have negative value. The possibility of receiving future promotions (39%) is a stronger incentive than a prize draw (31%). Just asking for an email address with no incentive other than getting your email marketing promotions could be better than a prize draw!

The Email Addiction report has many more remarkable findings and 11 charts of consumer insight, it’s free for download.


Integrate your email address capture methods with all your customer touch points. Adding a sign-up form on the bottom of your website will miss a huge number of subscribers as we previously mentioned.

Include several different methods to capture email addresses on your website and add email capture to all your channels, gives you the best change to capture that all important email, so you can re-engage and nurture your subscribers..

Online, instore, telesales, customer service, at events, social media, there is such a variety of ways to capture their email. Take a look at this article with 30 ways to grow your list.[/vc_column_text]

Let’s Look At Overlays

Email subscription overlays are the forms that appear, inviting people to sign up to receive emails when they browse a website.

Not to be wrongly confused with pop-ups (those annoying adverts that ‘pop up’ when you’re trying to read something online), overlays are smarter way to get more people signing up to your email programme, and you as we previously mentioned you can choose when and where these overlays appear.

Make Your Overlays Unobtrusive

You’ve probably seen an overlay before, but the reason they may not stick in your mind is they’re not obvious —and that’s the way it should be.

To remain unobtrusive, overlay messaging should be simple and relevant, appearing as part of the visitor’s web experience. Sometimes overlays can be shown in the middle of the site, or to the side, but they should always be on-brand and avoid the hard sell, giving the visitor a seamless experience to signup and carry on their website journey as normal.

Simple and Quick Does It

When an overlay appears it should be brief, asking the visitor to quickly read a catchy message with a clear and simple call-to-action.

Overlays work best when they’re simply asking the browser for their email address. Once you have their email you can then take them on a journey to progressively profile them to help personalise and segment your marketing to offer them a more tailored experience.

Incentivising Sign-ups

If you want to give browsers a little extra nudge to sign up to your email programme with an overlay, incentivising them can work well.

Tell them about how you’ll make sure they’re the first to know about exclusive offers or offer them something for free: a download, delivery, or discount.

Incentivising sign-ups doesn’t just produce more data. It also ensures they enter their correct email address, as they’ll want to receive their freebie by email later.

The overlay by boutique retailer ME+EM really tempts us to offer up our email address:

meem-popover-exampleOverlays Are Part Of The Page

Unlike those annoying popup adverts, overlays can’t be blocked and don’t open a new browser. This means your visitor will see them but they won’t irritate them.

Overlays are simply laid over existing content, so they don’t take the visitor away from what they’re reading. They’re often displayed in a way that means the reader can still see most of the content they started reading, making them just part of the page.

Keeping Visitors Hooked

When done well there should be a purposeful delay between the reader browsing a web page and the overlay appearing—about five seconds is what the experts suggest.

This delay is designed to allow the reader to become engaged and interested enough in the content that they’d want to subscribe to your emails to receive more, again the timing and position can be tailored by you.

Some marketers even use overlays when the visitor browses away from the website to tempt them back with emails later:

convertplug-popover-exampleEasy To Manage And Stop

If your website visitor decides they don’t want to engage with an overlay message, they can be closed by simply clicking on the cross on the top right corner.

When the visitor interacts by signing up, or closing it, you can also make sure they don’t see it again for a set period of time. And you don’t need to go overboard— if you display an overlay message just once per website visit you will still get results.

Bonobos manage their overlay messages by only showing them to new browsers:

Bonobos popover example

Overlays Continued…

Used well, overlays are a powerful way to grow your marketing list, drive conversions, and reduce website abandonment.

In contrast, badly used overlays can detract from the customer experience. They may disrupt the customer in their journey to purchase and create bad brand sentiment. At their worst, obtrusive overlays may alienate customers from your brand and slow business growth.

So, how do you use overlays without annoying customers? Read on to find out, as we explore the art and science of using overlays.

Driving Conversions Through Overlays

Overlays can help you push prospects towards conversion. One way to do this is by using them to create a sense of urgency. This prompts customers to buy now rather than miss out.

There are a number of tactics you can employ to build urgency using overlays. These include using an overlay to highlight:

– scarcity with low-stock alert
– limited time for next day delivery
– that items in their basket will be held for limited time
– that other shoppers are viewing the same product

Reduce Website Abandonment

You might be concerned that overlays might negatively hit your bounce rate but research suggests otherwise.

Dan Zarrella
revealed that implementing overlays only caused his website abandonment rate to increase by 0.5%. At the same time subscription rates more than doubled. A very small price to pay for big list growth returns.

The Dos Of Overlays

So, how do you use overlays effectively? Here are nine pop-up dos to help you succeed:

1. Sell the benefits

It is important that your overlay clearly presents the benefits of completing the action being asked of the user.

For example, if you are asking them to sign up for your email list, tell them how this will benefit them. Perhaps you’ll give them an exclusive access to new products. Or maybe they’ll receive discounts.

2. Offer incentives

Offering an incentive in the form of a personal discount or free gift can often make good business sense.

While it may impact your margins, it can still be a cost effective way of growing your list and pushing people towards making that first purchase.

3. Reduce cart abandonment

Use overlays to keep customers on track throughout the checkout process. This will help to prevent cart abandonment.

For example, remind them how long they have left to benefit from next day delivery.

4. Make your message concise

To stand the best chance of prompting action, your overlay message needs to be concise. It should be easy to scan and digest at a glance.

Presenting your visitor with too much text will overwhelm them. Avoid making it hard work for them.

5. Segment your audience

To increase engagement, segment your audience according to how they behave or their position in the customer lifecycle.

Showing the most relevant overlay to each segment increases the likelihood your customers will complete the action you’re asking of them.

6. Personalise your message

Personalising the message shown on overlays is an effective way to increase engagement.

For example, if you know a customer often buy shoes, make sure your message is shoe themed.

7. Make them mobile friendly

Optimise your overlays for mobile to increase engagement across devices. overlays that aren’t mobile friendly are unlikely to resonate when they appear on mobile.

8. Measure the impact

Make sure that you measure the impact your overlays are having on other metrics. This helps to ensure that your overlays are having the desired effect.

Metrics to consider include bounce rates, conversion rates, and time on site.

9. Test and test some more

To get the most out of using overlays, taking a test and learn approach is crucial.

Test, analyse, and optimise the performance of your overlays to continually improve results.

10. Comply with GDPR

It goes without saying that now GDPR is in force, you must ensure the data collection tactics you use on overlays comply with the legislation.

The Don’ts Of Overlays

To avoid annoying your customers it’s important to understand the don’ts of overlays. Steer clear of the following:

1. Use language that makes people feel bad

There’s no easier way to create negative brand sentiment than by using language that makes customers feel bad.

Don’t make users click “No, I don’t want more traffic” to close your pop-up! (Passive aggressive much?).

Do let them click “I’ll pass for now”. This leaves them feeling good about engaging in the future.

2. Make overlays hard to close

Don’t deliberately prevent people from being able to close the popover easily. Doing so is a sure-fire way to frustrate your visitors.

Overlays should be easy to close. End of story.

3. Try to collect too much data

Avoid overwhelming your customers by trying to collect too much data. We’ve mentioned this a number of times in the guide, as this is an important tip to not alienate potential subscribers. Everything else can be asked at a later date.

4. Bombard people on every page

Try not to bombard people with overlays on every page they land on. To stay effective, use your overlays sparingly. Ideally once per session.

If someone closes an overlay, take that as a sign that they weren’t interested.

5. Disrupt your user experience

Avoid impacting negatively on your user’s experience. It is important that your overlays don’t get in the way of what your user came to your site to do.

If someone has added something to their basket and is about to checkout, don’t get in their way by trying to capture an email unnecessarily.

6. Offer irrelevant incentives

Offering irrelevant incentives will simply confuse your customers. If you’re a fashion brand, there’s no point in giving away an iPad. Keep your overlay offers relevant and on brand.

Common Types Of Overlays

There are a number of different types of overlays, each with slightly different objectives. These include:

Entry overlays

Entry overlays appear when a visitor lands on your website. They encourage a micro-commitment which may make a user more likely to convert further down the line.

Timed overlays

Timed overlays appear after a visitor has spent a certain amount of time on your site or a particular page.

The rationale is that you will have offered them value in this time. Having gained value, someone is more likely to complete the action your pop-up asks of them.

Additionally, you could use timed overlays to show after a lengthy amount of inactivity. If someone was static on a page for a long time, a pop-up could help grab their attention again.

Scroll overlays

Scroll overlays appear after a visitor has scrolled to a certain depth.

Like timed overlays the rationale is that when a visitor has scrolled to a certain depth, you’ve offered them value. They should be ready to engage.

Exit intent overlays

Exit intent overlays appear when someone is about to leave your website. Their purpose is to give your visitor reasons to stay.

Create A Lasting Impression With Email Automations

So you’ve got your sign up forms optimised and your overlays in place and your subscribers are flooding in. The important next stage is to welcome them. The point here is to ensure you keep an ongoing and relevant dialogue going with them throughout their customer lifecycle.

This is where email automation plays a crucial part. Automated emails allows you to automatically send campaigns and keep that dialogue going with every single one of your subscribers. To do this manually, on such a large scale and so frequently, would be impossible.

The other significant benefits of email automation include:

– Improving customer experience
– Increasing scale and scope of campaigns
– Boosting ROI on staff costs
– Empowering your team to improve results
– Increasing average order value
– Recovering lost revenue
– Increasing customer lifetime value
– Testing your way to increased revenue
– Predicting and shaping behaviour
– Creating space for strategic thinking

For a detailed breakdown of the above benefits, read our blog: 10 Benefits of Marketing Automation.

Welcome messages

Your welcome email can be seen as the most important email automation you can put in place. And that’s because a welcome email generates high open rates – between 50-60%. And welcome emails are 50% – 86% more effective than email newsletters.

Despite these benefits, only 58% of brands send welcome emails to their newly subscribed users.

Date based automations

Date based automations are the ideal way to optimise your customers’ lifecycle journey.

We’ve seen above how email automation can add value, but trying to get started can feel overwhelming.

Here are some examples of where you can get started based on your customer’s actions:

– They first join your mailing list (the golden welcome message)
– Renewal reminders
– Their birthday
– A countdown i.e. to Black Friday, Christmas, new product release
– Follow up after a purchase to ask for a review
– The end of a promotion

Welcome Message Examples

Savvy marketers use welcome emails to introduce their brand to new subscribers and ease them along to their first purchase. But what makes a welcome email effective?

We explore eleven examples of effective welcome emails and discuss why they work so well.

1) Set a positive tone
Start your subscriber relationship off on a positive note by congratulating them on their decision to join you.

A congratulatory message reassures new subscribers that they’ve made a wise choice and makes them feel part of something worthwhile. The positive sentiment this creates makes that first purchase more likely.

We love this example from Topman. The confident tone of the congratulatory welcome email reminds shoppers how confident they’d feel if they shopped with the fashion brand:

Topman welcome email example

2) Promote free delivery

If you offer free delivery, your welcome emails are a great place to promote this.

Having to pay for delivery may be a purchase barrier for your new subscribers. Removing this may entice them to buy.

Urban Outfitters promote their free delivery in simple bold style in this example:

Urban Outfitters welcome email3) Introduce key product lines

Your welcome emails are an opportunity to introduce subscribers to key product lines that might interest them. This helps them explore your website and discover their first purchase.

We love this cute example from Lego that introduces the different collections it has to offer:

Lego welcome email4) Create a sense of community

People feel more warm and loyal towards brands that create a sense of community. Your welcome emails are a place to cultivate this.
Nike’s welcome email makes strong use of images of people. This gives subscribers a sense of the community of customers they’re now a part of:

Nike welcome email5) Make them feel special

Use your welcome email to make your new subscribers feel special. Tell them about the exclusive messages they can expect from you and get them excited to open your next email.

This example from Debenhams shows how you can tempt subscribers by explaining how you’ll keep them in the know:

Debenhams welcome email6) Say Thank You

Another rapport building welcome email tactic is to say thank you. This makes subscribers feel valued and encourages them to see your brand in a positive light.

La Redoute uses thank you messaging well in this example, adding a discount to support the sentiment:

Le Redoute Welcome Email

7) Communicate your values

Customers like to shop with brands that share their values. Show your customers what’s important to you in your welcome email.

This example from Lakeland shows how you can communicate your values openly and honestly. It’s wordier than some of our other examples but gives a strong sense of what matters to the brand:

Lakeland welcome email

8) Reinforce your brand image

For brands that are heavily design-focused, the welcome email is prime real estate to reinforce the visual image of the brand.

Fossil does this well in this striking image-led example:

Fossil welcome email9) Promote your best content

Whether it’s a how-to video or interactive tool, if your brand has invested in high-quality content your welcome email is the ideal place to promote this.

We have fallen head over heels for this welcome email from Mac because it’s simply brimming with classy content:

Mac welcome email

10) Introduce your loyalty scheme

Your loyalty scheme is a great way to turn customers into brand advocates. The sooner you get your customers involved, the better!

Introduce your VIP or loyalty scheme in your welcome email to keep your subscribers close from day one.

Jersey Beauty Company gives its VIP scheme a stylish push in this example:

Jersey welcome email

11) Give your customers a tour

Those new to your brand may not know their way around your website or social channels just yet, so give them a tour.

Signpost them to the various ways they can find you in your welcome email so they can get in touch in whatever way suits.

Innocent has taken a very literal approach to this, which we think works really well:

Innocent welcome email


Making your email subscribers forms visible is the key to increasing your email lists. Make the sign-up process simple and continue to experiment with what works best for your brand.

Your email list is the lifeblood of successful marketing. So don’t just settle. Keep optimising and reviewing to find out what works best for your brand.

Overlays are a highly effective way to help grow your email subscriber lists and support revenue growth from this channel. We explore some other essential strategies including more details about overlays in our Guide to eCommerce Revenue Growth.

Used well, overlays will help grow your marketing list, increase conversion rates, and reduce website abandonment.

Meanwhile, avoiding our overlay don’ts will help you to stay focused on improving (rather than detracting from) your customer experience. This is crucial to creating the start of a loyal subscriber base.

Finally, email automations, such as the all-important welcome message, are often overlooked however, they deliver a great ROI. Not just because they drive subscriber engagement, but the reduction in manual work increases your productivity and opens new (and essential) touchpoints with your customers throughout their journey.

We hope you’ve found this guide useful, and remember – a few small changes can make a big difference.


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