When I managed email marketing for Circuit City, back in 2003, email acquisition was always one of my primary areas of focus. Each week I reviewed the number of subscribers that came from the site checkout process, in-store capture, and from the web-site itself. One of our secret weapons was a pop-up that advertised a weekly sweepstakes. Customers could provide their email address for marketing purposes, and in exchange, they were entered to win a free digital camera or somesuch — back in ’03, a 3.0 megapixel camera was the height of technology.
Since we sourced each form separately, I was able to determine that these subscribers were less valuable to us than past purchasers — but not by much. The cost of one prize to acquire thousands of subscribers made the cost of acquisition trivial, but this tactic lost its effectiveness years ago when most modern web browsers adopted pop-up blockers as a core feature.
So it is surprising that a number of major ecommerce retailers continue to feature pop-ups as a way to capture new email subscribers. Two key surprising examples are J. Crew and Saks Fifth Avenue. I have to wonder about the effectiveness of the pop-up — it was a cumbersome process for me to actually enable to pop-up in order to confirm that they are still working. But the bigger surprise is that the pop-ups seem like an anachronism from an early era of the web, and it seems out of sync with the luxury or premium brand image that these retailers normally convey.
But I have noticed that this tactic does seem to be resurgent, though in a slightly altered form. These screencaps from Anthropologie provide a good illustration of the new killer email acquisition tactic – the home page interstitial.
In order to quantify just how frequently these interstitials are being deployed, I conducted an audit of the Internet Retailer Top 500 and found that only a handful of retailers are using this tactic. They are primarily in the apparel category (Urban Outfitters, Express, Shoes.com), but it includes assorted merchants such as Blue Nile.
In my work with clients, I have seen dramatic improvements in the email capture rate. And more importantly, I have seen those subscribers effectively converted into purchasing customers. This is a tactic that should be implemented more frequently, and with A/B testing technology such as Monetate, the impact to conversion can be measured and determined to be marginal.
Let me know if you have had success with this tactic.