How To Use Lead Magnets to Build an Email List of Pre-Purchase Customers

Mike Arsenault
July 16, 2021
minute read

So you’re getting a lot of traffic to your eCommerce website. That’s awesome. That’s exactly what you want, right?

Of course it is. But let me ask you a question – actually let me ask you a couple questions: Do you know who your website visitors are? Can you send them marketing materials?

If your answer is no, then what difference does it make if you get 500 visitors a day or 50? Either way, if your visitors don’t buy from you, then what good does all that traffic do for your company? Let me answer this one: No darn good at all.

Here’s the thing: Most of the people aren’t going to buy your products the first time they come to your website. It’s your job to convert those visitors into paying customers. First, though, you have to build relationships with them. You want them to know you and trust you so they’ll spend their hard earned cash buying what you’re selling.

The number one way to build those relationships is by sending them your newsletter chock full of company news; sales and discount offers; “how to” tips and tricks; links to articles your customers will find interesting, etc.

The problem is you can’t just outright ask for their contact information, i.e., names and emails) so you can send them your newsletter. People get bombarded by newsletters every day and they’re skeptical about signing up for them. So you have to give them a good reason to provide you with their information.

That’s why you need a lead magnet – aka an opt-in bribe. Basically, a lead magnet is an incentive you use to convince potential buyers to give you their email addresses so you can market to them and ultimately convert them into customers. A lead magnet is the key to building your email list.

Increasingly, eCommerce websites are using pop-up windows as lead magnets to offer visitors freebies in exchange for their names and emails. Some consumers find pop-ups irritating but there are steps you can take to ensure you don’t annoy your potential customers.

Most pop-up software will allow you to customize when and how often a pop-up will appear. For example, you can set a pop-up window to appear just once – or after a certain number of days – to a visitor who has cookies enabled. You could also set a window to pop up after a consumer has been on your site for two minutes, rather than smacking him in the face with one a second after he lands on your website – now that’s annoying.

Here are some other ways to make pop-ups less aggravating:

  • Provide an easy way for visitors to close the window
  • Only show the pop-up occasionally
  • Set parameters so the pop-up window only appears after a user has scrolled half-way down the landing page
  • Don’t show the pop-up on every page

Although they may make some users unhappy, pop-ups are successful because they require a response – a visitor either provides his name and email and continues browsing or he gets rid of the pop-up window and continues what he was doing. There’s a chance the visitor might be so irritated that he leaves your site but that’s a risk you have to take.

There are a variety of pop-ups you can use to capture the email addresses of your potential customers. Let’s take a look at five of them:

The Standard Opt-In Pop-Up

This is probably the most common type of pop-up. It appears for new users on the front page after a certain period of time has passed (remember wait a couple minutes before allowing the window to pop up).

Rather than hiding a subscriber box at the bottom of your landing page, you set this pop-up to appear right in front of your visitors. Pretty simple. If they want to subscribe to your newsletter and engage with your company, they’ll sign up. If they don’t, they won’t.

In terms of marketing, it’s a proven way to increase your subscriber list anywhere from “5% all the way up to 600% depending on what type of offer . . . you’re showing to the user.”

This example is from a crafting website called Nikki, In Stitches that sells handmade items. The owner of the site sends emails notifying subscribers when fresh projects are posted, and new products are released. She even delivers freebies right to subscribers’ inboxes.

Pop up standard

Incentivized Pop-Up

Pop-ups alone probably won’t help you add a whole lot of subscribers to your email list. It’s what you offer potential customers that makes a difference. The fact is people love free stuff.

But there’s a catch.

Don’t offer a free “something” that will appeal to everyone who visits your eCommerce store. Sure, people might sign up to get the goodies but they might not convert into paying customers. Offering a new product? Why not offer consumers an incentive like 20% off? Or offer 10% off a customer’s first order of any product. That way, you’ll know the people who sign up are really interested in what you’re selling.

OK, now that you’ve decided to present consumers with a offer they can’t refuse, it doesn’t make much sense to hide the pop-up box at the bottom of the landing page. Nope. Plunk it right down in the middle of the page. Front and center. Make it visible. Experiment with colors and borders. You get the idea.

See what Autoplicity did. It offered 20% off shipping to customers who signed up for the newsletter and placed the pop-up window smack dab in the middle of the page. Good thinking, all around.

Pop up-Incentivized

Slide-Up, Opt-In Box

While not technically a pop-up, the slide-up, opt-in box has the same effect as a pop-up window. But instead of popping up and blocking a visitor’s view of your eCommerce website, it slides up from the bottom of the page.

This email capture box is triggered when a user scrolls down to a certain point on the page, which means he’s consuming your content. Initially, it will show up at the bottom of the page and “slide up” as the user continues to scroll down the page.

This is a simple way for a visitor to provide his email because no matter where he is on the page, the slide-up, opt-in box is there as well. Most software will allow you to customize the slide-up, opt-in box.

For instance, you can set the opt-in box to slide up from the right side of the page after a visitor has scrolled 30 percent of the way down the page. You can also set a cookie so the slide-up, opt-in box only appears to a visitor once every 20 days.

Here’s an example of the slide-up, opt-in box.

Pop Up Slide Up Opt In

Exit-Intent Pop-Up

You can use this type of pop-up when your visitors try to leave your page, or close the window. When the exit-intent software recognizes that a user’s mouse has moved off-screen, it instantly opens a pop-up window with your message.

Unlike other pop-ups, exit-intent pop-ups only appear after your visitors have already decided to leave your page. So rather then interrupt users while they’re browsing your eCommerce site, exit-intent pop-ups interrupt them when they try to leave. At that point, you can offer them discounts and coupons or freebies to capture their email addresses and maybe even make a sale.

When a visitor is about to leave this website, the company offers a full 40% off his first order in exchange for his email address.

Pop Up Exit Intent

Shopping Cart Abandonment Pop-Up

This pop-up appears when a site visitor who has products in his shopping cart decides to leave your online store without making a purchase.

The pop-up window can display the items a consumer has in his shopping cart and ask the visitor to supply an email address so you can send him an automatic abandon cart email moments later.

The value of this pop-up is that it lets you save at least some of the sales you might have lost before check out, if visitors decide to abandon their shopping carts. As with the exit-intent pop-up, you can also offer incentives to consumers to entice them to continue with their purchases like 20% off their orders, or free shipping.

Many times when a visitor decides to abandon his shopping cart it’s not because he doesn’t want the product. It’s most likely because he’s concerned about the price. Maybe he thinks it just doesn’t fit within his budget. And sometimes all he needs is a gentle push in the form of a discount to click the buy button.

This is an example of a shopping cart abandonment pop-up that will generate an email reminding the shopper of the items in his cart and inviting him to continue his purchase a little later.

Pop Up Shopping Cart Abandonment

However, pop-ups aren’t the only way for you to increase your email subscriber list. Here are several other strategies to supplement your use of lead magnet pop-ups:

Embedded Opt-In Forms – These opt-in forms are statically embedded on a page. You can put them in your sidebar, your header, or after every piece of content. Your form will be there whenever a visitor decides to subscribe to your newsletter.
Specific Page Opt-In Forms – These opt-in forms are embedded into specific pages on your website like at the end of your “about” page or even at the end of a blog post.
Squeeze Pages – These are landing pages specifically created to capture email addresses from consumers through an opt-in form. You can use them anywhere you would offer a visitor a link to become a subscriber such as after your author bio on a guest post or on your Facebook page.
Lead Generation Cards in Twitter – A Lead Generation Card allows you to attach a form to your Tweets that lets your followers directly send you their contact information with the click of a single button in Twitter.

Bottom line: A quality lead magnet like a pop-up window can help you build a top-notch email subscriber list, which is the key to email marketing and the online success of your eCommerce business.

Frequently Asked Questions


Mike Arsenault

Founder & CEO

For the last 10 years, Mike has worked with brands like Moosejaw, Hydroflask, Peak Design, Triumph, Hearst & Guthy Renker to provide the strategy & technology with which they use email to drive revenue growth. He's also the Founder of Rejoiner, a SaaS marketing platform built for ecommerce businesses.

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