Successful email marketing relies on a large customer database, so attracting new signups should be a high priority for most businesses.

Research shows that around half (49%) of consumers are signed up to receive emails from between one and 10 brands, while 8% don’t receive any at all, so one of the main challenges for email marketers is getting into the inbox in the first place.

There are several tactics that brands can use to encourage consumers to signup to email newsletters, including explicitly highlighting the value of the emails through testimonials or a clear statement of subscription benefits, and using a clear signup process.

We’ve previously looked at best practices for improving email deliverability, as well as highlighting seven tips for managing email marketing campaigns.

And here are 10 tips and examples of how to improve your email signups...

What’s in it for them?

It’s probably the most basic rule of sales, but you need to offer users something in return for signing up to your email list.

A box that simply says ‘Signup to our newsletter’ is unlikely to have any major impact – you need to sweeten the deal with an incentive or two.

A study by the DMA shows that the main reasons consumers signup for emails are for offers/sales (61%) and discounts (59%). Obviously you don’t want to totally undermine your brand by chucking out discounts to every visitor to your site, so the offer could be something simpler.

If you’re a retailer, it could be ‘Stay up to date with our latest sales and offers’. Or for publishers, the incentive might be ‘Get the latest ecommerce news with our Daily Pulse’.

Orbit Media’s signup form appears at the top and bottom of each blog post, and uses the opportunity to offer happy customers more of the same.

Offer them free content

A common tactic among B2B companies is to use a white paper or report as bait to encourage users to signup.

It’s a clever trick as most people won’t mind giving up an email address if the content is good enough, and it should give you a list of contacts that are highly relevant to your business.

Want this Hubspot ebook? Of course you do, now give them your details!

Of course, it does require you to invest time and effort in producing the report in the first place.

Placement is key

Personally I would have though that it’s unlikely that a visitor would land on your homepage and immediately decide to signup to a newsletter, so it’s important to present it as an option throughout the site.

One option is to put the signup box in a fixed position on the site, perhaps in the header or footer, so users know where to find it.

H&M’s email signup is always present at the top of the page, however the user has to click a text link to navigate to the signup page, which isn’t ideal.

When you get to the signup page it does tempt you with a good discount offer, but the call-to-action could do with being redesigned to make it more noticeable.

French Connection’s email signup is also ever-present in a toolbar at the bottom of the page, which is a good idea. Unfortunately it didn’t put as much thought into the copy.

Make the newsletter into a product

This is a tactic we use at Econsultancy with our Daily Pulse, as it makes the emails seem like a product worth having rather than a spammy newsletter.

ASOS labels its newsletter as ‘style news’, while Topman calls it ‘Stylemail’. "Sign up to Stylemail" is a lot more snappy and convincing than "Sign up to our newsletter."

It’s by no means perfect though, as if you look at the full screen view the dull grey font means it's difficult to spot unless you're specifically looking for it.

Place the data capture field on the page rather than a link

If a customer has decided that they’re interested in your newsletter then don’t place an additional barrier in their way by making them navigate to a different page to signup.

While most sites display a text field as their email signup, Halfords requires you to click a CTA to be redirected to the form. It then requires you to enter your email address twice, as well as asking for your title and full name, which will certainly put some users off.

In fact, by changing from a link to a signup box, Orbit Media managed to increase its conversion rate by 750% leading to a 1,400% increase in subscriptions.

This is a year-on-year comparison of its signups and conversion rates from Google Analytics. It’s a nice chart to be able to show to your boss.

Consider multiple signups

I’m not entirely sure whether this is a good idea as it might confuse your users, but several sites use multiple signups on the same page.

Social Triggers has two separate signups postioned close together – one that offers ‘FREE blog updates’ while the other just says ‘get updates (it’s free)’.

Offering multiple signups obviously gives more opportunity to capture email addresses, but ordinarily they aren't displayed so close to one another. It might be a better idea to position one at the top of the screen and another at the bottom.

Allay privacy fears

Consumers are protective of their data online, so it’s important to have a privacy policy laying out how their information will and won’t be used.

This doesn’t necessarily mean spelling it out right next to the signup box, as not only will that ruin the look of your site but also it’s unlikely to instil any more confidence than a simple hyperlink to your policy.

Most of the major retailers don’t display privacy information next to their email signup, but then they are massive brands that customers will probably already trust.

How often will they get it?

Marketing emails account for 70% of spam complaints, so it’s no surprising that consumers might be concerned that signing up to your newsletter will result in a flood of irrelevant messages.

To allay these fears simply put tell them the email frequency upfront, e.g. “Join and get our free Daily Pulse.” Or “Signup for our weekly Style Tips.”

Get the email address first, ask questions later

Internet users hate form filling. It’s one of the main causes of basket abandonment, and is likely to lose you a few conversions in your pursuit of email addresses as well.

If you’ve managed to convince the user that your product or service is worth hearing more about on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, then don’t spoil it by expecting them to spend 10 minutes filling in a form.

Instead, just ask for their email address initially, and then probe for more information in your welcoming email. 

It’s a good idea to allow customers to tailor the content and frequency of emails, and while you’re doing this you can subtly ask for their name, age, gender, etc.

Test it

In the end there are no tactics that are guaranteed to boost your email signups, so it’s important to test different features and designs to see which works best for your site.

For example, by running a split test of these three signup forms DIYthemes managed to boost its conversion rate by 102.2%.

Control, variation two and variation one

After more than 2,000 visits variation two was the clear winner, despite the fact that the other two tried to persuade users by telling them that almost 15,000 others had already subscribed.

Why? DIYthemes suspects that the social proof message on the other designs hurt conversions by interrupting visitors. Additionally, the social proof may give readers a reason not to subscribe. 

Even though our numbers are respectable (almost 15,000), that may not be compelling enough for people.

But the only way to know for sure is to run more tests...

David Moth

Published 7 March, 2013 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (9)

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Sound tips to follow in this article, David. Very nice.

Could you confirm which image is which in your final point?

i.e. captioned as "control, variation one, variation two" although the analysis describes v2 as the winner and "the other two" as having the counter.

over 5 years ago



Agree with Michael, great article but Variation 2 doesn't appear to be the one you describe as most successful?!

Did u mean the simple one in the middle was most successful?

over 5 years ago



Just about to put a form on my home page so would love to know definitively which form was most successful!

over 5 years ago

Tim Watson

Tim Watson, Email Marketing Consultant at Zettasphere

Michael,Monica and Lee, the middle image is variation 2 and the winner of the three. The control was next best and the right hand the worst.

The full details of the test are here

Other split tests have shown this type of social proof as improving conversions. Page positioning and wording also play a part in how effective your social proof and benefit statements are.

over 5 years ago


Sean Owens

An excellent article. I would also add that on every form on your site there should be an option to opt into newsletters.

over 5 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

Apologies all, I had indeed got the labelling wrong! Thanks for pointing it out - it should now be correct.

over 5 years ago

Malcolm Duckett

Malcolm Duckett, CEO at Magiq

Nice article, and it certainly marries up with experience with our clients. One of the most important point I think is the "ask questions later" idea.
We find an incremental approach to data gathering can work well - just ask for one piece of information at a time, space your requests over several visits and trigger them at key points in the visitor's lifecycle development; so you ask appropriate questions. This can work well, as you can use small pop-over forms, saving on site real-estate, and making the experience less intrusive – even having trigger rules that “give up” and stop nagging if a visitor is obviously not willing to part with a given piece of information.
This also means NOT asking for information you already have – there is little more annoying than being asked to register when you already are, or being asked for your email when you have already provided it. This tends to just “prove” to the visitor that you are not taking your relationship with them seriously.
Also this data gathering can go well beyond "personal data" and email addresses. At one of our customer we have targeted the most frequent purchasers with additional pop-over forms asking them to profile their interest from a set of drop-downs – this is fast for them to do, and the pay-off for them is we can follow them up with more targeted offers and content.
The really good news is that while a few years ago this would have meant a lot of site development work and “back-end” data management, today you can get cloud-based marketing automation and lifecycle marketing tools that will do the triggered data collection, and data management (customer history etc.) at minimal cost without armies of programmers and developers.

over 5 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi David,

Thanks for sharing. I still think the most important part of email sign-up is to give people a reason to share their email address. If the expectation is clear from the start, you're more likely to get ongoing engagement from campaigns and keep a low opt-out rate.

Big incentives can be useful in driving short-term activity but in my experience they tend to swell the numbers of low value opt-ins who then don't respond to campaigns. Which is why activation and cleansing activity is essential to manage lists.

What do you think - focus on numbers with big promotions, then rely on your eCRM to activate, engage and retain, or, focus on the value proposition to only attract people who want to receive your emails instead of those wanting a promotion? Or both?

Obviously you would want to test to see the impact over time on response & revenue...


over 5 years ago


Joost Meurs, Owner at Mewolari

Get the email address first, ask questions later.

I'm wondering why is asking during the signup for the Daily Pulse newsletter all those information that is totally unnecessary for a newsletter.

over 4 years ago

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