Email is a consistently effective method of driving sales, so having a large database of customer addresses is a powerful tool for ecommerce businesses.
In fact our Email Census 2013 found that more than half of responding companies achieve 10% of their sales directly from email marketing.
All ecommerce businesses have a sign up form somewhere on their homepage, though the precise method of subscribing varies between each site.
To find out the most effective way of collecting customer information, I signed up to email newsletters from 16 major online fashion retailers.
In a subsequent post I’ll pull out some best practices and things to avoid, but here is a quick look at how some of the top retailers collect email addresses...
Reiss has a tiny email sign up CTA at the bottom of its homepage where you must first enter your email address once, before being directed to a longer sign up form. It then asks you to confirm your address, gender and your preferred store.
The copy says that signing up will ensure “you’re the first to know about our latest fashion news, product arrivals and trend stories and exclusive online promotions!”
Reiss also reassures customers that it will not share your information with third parties and that it’s simple to unsubscribe.
You’re then asked to add Reiss to your safe list so that you don’t miss out on the “latest news, special events and promotions.”
Did Reiss send a welcome email? Yes, the welcome email arrived immediately.
House of Fraser
After entering your email on the homepage House of Fraser directs you to another page that requires you to confirm your address.
At this stage it sells the benefits of subscribing by offering VIP offers, product launches and the hottest seasonal trends.
House of Fraser then gives customers the option to start shopping, or they can choose to give further information on the type of emails they wish to receive.
The retailer also takes the opportunity to ask for your preferred store.
Hugo Boss has a very limited number of fields in its email sign up form, however as with many of the other sites it’s difficult to actually find the initial CTA on the homepage.
It informs the customer that they will receive the latest news from Hugo Boss, but doesn’t take the opportunity to try to further refine the email content.
Did Huge Boss send a welcome email? Yes, the welcome email arrived immediately.
T-shirt retailer Threadless hits you with an email sign up pop-up the moment you land on the site. It’s likely that some users will find this annoying, but it’s certainly a proactive way of boosting email sign ups.
The following screen then asked for quite a lot of personal data, including my date of birth, postcode, twitter username and favourite type of t-shirt.
Weirdly though, I couldn’t actually click on any of the fields to enter the information.
Did Threadless send a welcome email? Yes, it arrived immediately.
Schuh has a good, simple sign up process. You simply enter your email then choose whether you want male, female or kids products.
It’s all done in just three clicks and Schuh doesn’t even navigate you away from the homepage at any point.
Did Schuh send a welcome email? Seven hours after I signed up I still hadn't received a welcome email.
High end fashion site Mr Porter lures you in with a simple CTA but then requires you to fill in a form.
However it doesn’t actually ask for much information and it also spells out exactly what you can expect to receive in return.
Mr Porter sends three emails per week; What’s New, The Bulletin and The Trend. Each offers slightly different fashion news and overall it fits perfectly with Mr Porter’s focus on being a publisher as well as an ecommerce business.
At the end of the process Mr Porter asks you to add the company to your address book so it doesn’t end up in spam.
Did Mr Porter send a welcome email? Yes, the email was delivered immediately.
Miss Selfridge tempts customers to part with their email address with the offer of 10% off, however it then requires you to fill in a long form that requires your name, full address, date of birth and the year you graduated.
It’s a badly designed form, as the graduation year options only range from 2010 to 2014.
Did Miss Selfridge send a welcome email? I have no idea. Unfortunately the site crashed when I tried to submit the form and I still can’t access it...
If you try to submit your email address on the Next homepage then it navigates you to another sign up page, but then it just requires you to re-enter your email address.
The second page does inform you of the benefits of signing up to email alerts, but there seems little point if you’ve already submitted your address at the homepage.
Did Next send a welcome email? Yup, it arrived immediately.
As with Next, Boohoo.com also has a simple email confirmation page however it doesn’t take the opportunity to spell out the frequency or benefits of signing up to email alerts.
It wouldn’t take much effort to greatly improve this process.
Did Boohoo send a welcome email? Several hours after signing up no confirmation email had arrived.
H&M only requires an email address if you want to sign up to its newsletter, and in return it gives each subscriber 25% off their next purchase as well as access to offers, style tips and fashion news.
On a subsequent page you can stipulate whether you are male or female, if you have kids and also give the retailer your postcode.
Did H&M send a welcome email? Yes, it arrived without delay.
New Look is making a big play for new email sign ups by offering customers a year’s supply of free clothes.
You’re then directed to a sign up form that requires a limited amount of personal information and details on your fashion interests.
Personally I find it slightly bizarre that some of the topics are in BOLD CAPS while others aren’t, but presumably New Look has some reason for doing it.
Once you’ve submitted your information New Look cunningly asks you to sign your friends up as well. It would be very interesting to see how many additional emails it gets via this method and how many of the people nominated by friends just send the emails straight to the spam folder...
Did New Look send a welcome email? Yes, New Look’s email arrived immediately.
Topshop is another retailer that requires customers to fill in a short form after they’ve submitted their email address on the homepage.
It requires your date of birth and the city you live in, however it doesn’t really spell out what you can expect to receive in return.
Did Topshop send a welcome email? Several hours have passed since I signed up and as yet I haven't heard a peep.
Office follows the trend of directing customers to a second sign up page once they’ve initially entered their email address on the homepage.
It keeps the number of fields to a minimum though, and I like the friendly “Please tell us more” sign.
As with most companies it asks for the customer’s date of birth and a postcode, but uniquely Office also asks whether the visitor prefers to buy shoes online or in-store.
However Office doesn’t spell out the frequency or type of emails subscribers will receive, other than saying that you get the latest trends, styles and exclusive offers.
Did Office send a welcome email? No.
River Island’s sign up CTA is another that offers you “the latest fashion news”, but weirdly it also automatically selects the options for women's, men's and kids' updates.
As a web user I don’t like anything that makes me opt-out rather than actively selecting the options I want, but this could be a ploy by River Island to make people actually take notice of these options. After all, no childless consumer wants to sign up to receive emails flogging them kids clothes.
Once you’ve submitted the form the next page simply informs you of which updates you’ve subscribed to next to a few images of River Island models.
It’s an extremely basic sign up process and could be greatly improved with additional information about what subscribers will receive.
Did River Island send a welcome email? Yes, the email arrived straight away.
Selfridges asks you to define the product categories that you’re interested in immediately after you’ve entered your email address. The form is actually quite long, which may put some people off.
On the plus side, it also enters each subscriber into a prize draw to win £250, says that ‘there are great things to come’ and asks you to add its email address to your address book so marketing emails don’t get caught in the spam folder.
Did Selfridges send a welcome email? Yes, immediately.
ASOS has a very minimalist email sign up process. There is a box for you to enter your email address then you either select ‘male’ or ‘female’.
The page then reloads and the only indication you have that you’ve successfully signed up is a small notification that you can only read by scrolling back to the bottom of the screen.
Did ASOS send a welcome email? As yet, no.
I previously thought that subscribing to email newsletters was a one-step process, however a majority of these retailers lure customers in with a small email sign up box before subsequently asking for more information.
ASOS and Schuh are the only examples that only require you to enter an email address once and don’t navigate the customer away from the homepage.
Thankfully the sign up pages are all quite short and present the questions as a way of making sure they don’t send customers irrelevant information.
Boohoo and River Island probably have the worst sign up forms as they don’t give any information on the type of marketing messages subscribers are likely to receive.
In contrast, Mr Porter describes in quite some detail the different kinds of emails that customers are signing up for.
Overall then, it’s interesting to note that there are big differences in the way that fashion retailers collect customer information when they subscribe to email messages directly from the homepage.
And it’s quite easy to see which retailers should be making changes to improve the sign up process.