Consumers are becoming increasingly wary of clogging their inboxes with yet more retailer messages.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t break through the noise. You just need to take the correct first step: earning your customers’ email addresses.

The key to earning an email address is value and timing, and the perfect mix of these two variables is likely to change from customer to customer, so a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to be the best option.

That’s why retailers need to analyse their customers’ online browsing behaviour – what they’re looking at, dwell time and where their cursor is hovering, for instance.

Retailers who have adopted trigger-based behavioural marketing are now able to send the right messages to the right people at the right time, and this has dramatically increased open rates, conversion stats and sales figures.

Econsultancy’s Email Best Practice Guide

In this brave new world, email is the retailer’s lifeline, and the subtle art of acquiring your prospects’ email address is the key.

Here are five top tips on how to earn your customers’ email addresses.

1. Timing is everything

Email capture is a key goal when interacting with a new prospect, but that doesn’t mean you should bombard them the minute they get to your site. Our research at BounceX suggests that overlays and other subscription material shouldn’t appear within the first minute a prospect is on your site. If you cut to the chase too early, there’s a significant drop in conversion rates. This is because poorly timed overlays can interrupt the customer experience, distracting the customer and taking their mind off the great content you’re offering them.

Remember that the majority of people browsing a site for the first time are firmly in exploratory mode, and they need time to get to know your brand before they will commit to email capture.

Consider the channel and source customers are coming to your website from and how much they already know about your brand. New visitors, for example, may need at least three or four page views before you ask for their email address.

2. Don’t spam customers with email requests

Today, shoppers make purchases on a number of devices. This means they may give you their email on their phone but come back to the site on their laptop. This complicated, multi-step journey calls for a level of creativity and sophistication so that retailers don’t end up spamming already engaged consumers. Chiefly, it requires high identity resolution capabilities.

Retailers need to be able to recognise the shoppers that are already in their CRM; that way, they know that they already have the shopper’s email and that they shouldn’t deploy an email capture overlay, which could ruin the shopper’s experience and cause them to feel like the brand doesn’t know or respect them as an individual.

3. Read your customers’ behaviour

Is a new, unidentified customer displaying signs of high intent? If they are, but they suddenly act as if they’re about to leave the page, you’ve reached the time to turn up the heat and nudge them towards email capture and conversion. Tell-tale signs of high intent include time on site, browsing product descriptions, looking at reviews, available clothing sizes, product images and placing items in the basket.

If a prospect has exhibited any of this behaviour on their mobile phone, for example, and then they start to scroll up quickly, looking for the URL window, there’s a good chance they’re about to exit your site. Now is the time to turn up the heat and offer them an incentive to submit their email address.

4. What’s in it for me?

Customers will only surrender their email if they are being offered a fair value exchange. This is because consumers are increasingly wary of filling up their inboxes with marketing material. That doesn’t mean, however, that retailers need to shower every new customer with money-off discount codes to win them over.

We know the majority of early exploratory browsing is typically conducted on a mobile during those snatched moments of free time in consumers’ busy lives. A good opening gambit, therefore, is to offer to save a customer’s basket or browsed items in return for their email address.

If a new customer has spent time viewing product content, another tactic is to offer to email them future content updates. In other instances, free samples of products such as makeup are often sent to customers when they convert to purchase. If a new customer is showing signs of high intent, but they’re threatening to leave your site, you may decide to introduce this incentive earlier in their customer journey in return for their email address. Free shipping is another sweetener capable of convincing a customer to share their details as is a money-off code if all else fails.

Econsultancy’s Guide to Digital Marketing Tools

5. Email is just the start of the journey

Earning your customers’ email addresses is just the start. Armed with this unique customer identifier, market-leading solutions enable retailers to market to individual people rather than cookies or devices.

Once you have an email and can market in a one-to-one manner, you are able to connect consumer behaviour across multiple devices and channels, see their behaviour, measure intent and fast-track customer journeys. Set in this context its clear how valuable email addresses are and why it’s so important that retailers devote the time, effort and resources to earn them.

How to get the dreaded pop-up right (& capture precious customer data)