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Last updated Wed Oct 25 2023

How to Build an Email List: 9 Strategies [+Case Study]

Building an engaged email list is most effective way to grow.

There’s just no getting around it.

So, you need to build an email list and keep adding new emails all the time. And here’s good news: email list building is something you can start easily (even if you’re a beginner).

Read on to learn:

Building an email list: where to start?

Email list building can be challenging.

But you can build an email list quite fast even with no experience.

You just need to take care of a few things before capturing emails.

  • Choose a bonus for signing up. What’s in it for people—discounts, interesting content, special offers, etc.? See these 18 discount code ideas for inspiration

  • Create the first email campaign. No need to wait until you’ve collected a huge email list—start communicating with subscribers right away with a welcome email.

  • Set up helpful automations. Example: have your popup software send emails straight to your email app tosave hours of manual work (here's how to integrate Wisepops and Klaviyo).

Once you’re done—

You can create a campaign to start building your email list.

Let me give you an idea of how fast that can be. In this video below, you’ll see how to make a popup for email list building in seven minutes with Wisepops:

Feel free to practice making this campaign here:

"A brilliant dashboard that helps you create any popup you want within an hour or even less, it took me 15 min once I knew the offer that I wanted to show."

Wisepops review from Capterra ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

But now—

Let’s go over the best ways to build an email list.

Email list building case study (popups, onsite notifications + bars)

This business generated 3,492 emails with a welcome popup:

Yespark case study

How to build email list

  1. Website popups

  2. Embedded signup forms

  3. Gated content & lead magnets

  4. Onsite notifications

  5. Spin-to-win contests

  6. Website bars

  7. Referral programs

  8. Wish lists

  9. Webinars

1. Website popups 

Let’s be honest: people don’t go to websites to see popups.

But here’s a thing—many folks don’t mind popups. In fact, many expect them to get discounts. That’s why popups convert up to 15% of visitors and build huge lists of emails for marketing.

And that’s how you can capture emails, too. Let’s look at the best popups you can use.

Welcome popups

A welcome popup is a campaign that appears shortly after visitors arrive at the website. It’s a chance to offer them some encouragement to shop with some kind of an incentive.

For instance, online stores use a welcome discount for new customers to convert traffic into sales.

Example: Empire Skate offers 10% off the first order.

popup for building an email list

Step-by-step guide:

Newsletter signup popups

Needless to say, many folks visiting your website will be glad to subscribe to your newsletter (in fact, 83% of businesses send newsletters). After all, they’re there to see if they can buy something.

The catch here, as always, is that you need to ask them to sign up.

Most businesses use popups for newsletter signup campaigns—mainly by displaying them on homepages. But you can have it on any page to collect more emails from visitors.

Here’s an example of this email list building strategy—Le Creuset invites us to sign up with a good-looking popup.

newsletter signup for email capture

Le Creuset used Wisepops to create this popup ☝️

See more: 10 Examples of businesses build email lists with Wisepops

Or check out popup templates you can use in minutes.

Exit-intent popups

Those are popups that appear only when visitors try to leave the website.

Online stores often use exit popups to encourage subscribing. They’re often their last chance to convert visitors, if you will.

PRESS Foods, for example, gives 10% off as a friendly nudge. Also, note that the discount is valid for one day—so there’s some urgency involved as well.

exit intent popup for email capture

One more thing about popups in general—

If you’re serious about building your email list with them, you need to try different campaigns. That means different discount sizes, campaign designs, or pages where you show popups (it's easy to do with exit popup software). 

Experimenting can really make a difference: too many times, folks make only one popup with a “template-like” design, just to get a few emails (or no emails at all).

On the other hand…

Those who experiment (even a bit) get better results—

Ben from Asphalte managed to convert 6.6% of his visitors (that equaled 4,000 emails) by testing different designs. 

Want to try a popup to capture emails?

Here’s a campaign idea:

  • Offer a 10% discount. That’s a safe amount (but feel free to choose another size)

  • Show it 5-10 seconds after visitors arrive. This way, you’ll lessen the intrusion (here’s how to adjust timing)

  • Use the colors of your website. They’ll make the popup look very natural

Instructions: how to make a discount popup.

2. Embedded signup forms

An embedded signup form is a form that’s also a static part of a website. It’s an essential web design part—and a must-have, non-intrusive way to build an email list. 

Most signup forms are placed at the bottom of websites. Like in this example, CANN invites visitors to subscribe to emails after they viewed the homepage in full.

embedded form signup

A common way to build an email list is to combine embedded signup forms with popups. Not all visitors will scroll down to the very bottom + popups focus attention more effectively.

To generate emails with embeds, embedded signup forms need to:

  • Have a clear message (“sign up”)

  • Fit naturally into the website design

  • Give real value (discounts, content, updates, etc.)

If you’re wondering if adding embeds to websites is difficult, have a look at this video below. Spoiler: design takes more time (from the technical standpoint, all you have to do is add a line of code to the website’s HTML).

💡 Pro tip 

Try placing your embedded signup in different locations on your website.
Example: add a form somewhere halfway on a page in addition to the website’s footer. This way, that form will get more visibility.

3. Gated content & lead magnets

Simply put, gated content that you have to unlock to view.

By unlocking, I mean giving your email, of course.

Gated content is an effective way to build an email list for businesses that have some expertise to share. Lead magnets fall into this category, too (a lead magnet is a valuable resource leads also have to “unlock.”)

There are many ways to build an email list with gated content.

Like that, for example—

It’s a locked article on the Backlinko blog containing tips on getting to the first page of Google.

gated content

To get access, we just need to click Unlock Now.

Once we do that—

A popup appears with a signup form, inviting us to engage.

signup form popup


Lead magnets.

Leads magnets are especially worth doing because they also help build and promote a brand’s authority. For example, if your business helps target customers to get something done thanks to lead magnets, they will be more likely to engage with you.

For example, you can offer a guide with tips…

lead magnet example


You can share a cheat sheet like this one…

pdf lead magnet


Why not try books if you can…

book lead magnet


You can also generate emails with free tools.

free tool to build email list

Your chosen lead magnet should make sense for your business and potential clients. If it helps them to achieve something they need, then it should add many new emails to your list.

There are more lead magnets out there—

Check out these 20 examples of lead magnets to find a good one. There’s also a tutorial on how to create and promote them in that guide.

Related content:

💡 Best email capture software

4. Onsite otifications

What do I mean by “onsite notifications”?

I’m talking about social media-like notifications for websites. 

Sounds cool, right? Indeed, the onsite notifications are a unique new way to engage visitors—and a fantastic way for building email lists.

Here’s onsite notifications on Pedego:


As you can see, you click on a “bell,” browse the feed, and click on a message to get more details. In most cases, websites add products, news, and of course, forms to get emails.

Here’s a closer look at the notification signup form:

notifications to get emails

This brand has a pretty straightforward message to convince visitors to join their email list.

But you can create your notifications differently. For example, add discounts and any other bonuses you might want to use to build your email list.

Because every notification is 100% customizable—

Meaning you can easily change headlines, texts, and images 👇

setting email capture campaign

But there’s more—

You can personalize the design of onsite notifications even more. Cabaiia, an online store, made some customizations to make a cool feed like this 👇

onsite notifications


Here’s what happens when you click the message. 

onsite message

As you can see, the brand announces new products through the feed. That’s an easy way to focus the attention of visitors.

And you can make your onsite notification feed truly yours thanks to customizations.

That’s why onsite notifications are a great tool to a) build email lists and b) announce products in a unique way.

5. Spin-to-win contests

Here’s the deal:

Most websites are static. Some might even say boring. (Can’t blame them for that.)

And that’s why game elements have direct and positive effects on engaging online shoppers. As far as email list building is concerned, those could be contests and giveaways.

First, contests.

The trick is simple: shoppers enter their details to get a chance to win something. It’s easy, it’s fun, and effective (especially when the reward is nice).

Faguo, a clothing store, chose a pair of expensive sneakers to give away. They created a spin-to-win wheel (a good-looking one, too) and invited visitors to participate.

Faguo popup example

The results were quite impressive.

Faguo converted 17.5% of their visitors with the wheel and added 48K new emails to their list. Take a look.

Learn more: Faguo email list building project

Next email list building strategy—


This simple strategy can also land you thousands of emails. Pick something your customers would consider valuable, (here are giveaway ideas if you need inspiration), create a campaign, and choose winners.

Here’s Pela Case’s gift card giveaway as an example.

gift giveaway popup
springly logo
Case study

Learn how Springly, a nonprofit software, uses lead magnets to build their email list:

Read case study

6. Website bars

A bar is a horizontal text field at the top or bottom of a website.

Although folks mostly use them for announcements, website bars can be a great way to build an email list, too.

Here are a few advantages of website bars:

  • They’re non-intrusive

  • You can add them to any page

  • They’re highly visible

See for yourself—

PDPAOLA, a jewelry store, captures emails with a bar containing a 10% discount 👇The campaign fits the overall website design perfectly.

signup website bar

Also, note the bar at the top—the black one announcing a sitewide sale.

The placement of the two bars is something to keep in mind—this way, you can display important messages without taking up too much screen space.

7. Referral programs

Referral programs can be a way to build an email list fast.

Here’s why—

They let you take advantage of a fantastic promotion strategy: personal recommendations. Research shows that most people are likely to buy something recommended by someone they know 👇

product recommendations statistics

To capture emails with referral bonuses—

Create a program where you give existing customers some incentive in exchange for bringing in new ones. 

Example: Chubbies gives $10 off to both.

referral program example

Besides discounts, you can also try:

  • Free shipping

  • Store credits

  • Gift cards

  • Free products

Before you decide to try this email list building method, know that referral programs require some work. You’ll have to create a dedicated landing page + get a referral program app to get started.


👉 Examples of loyalty programs (including Chubbies, Dollar Shave Club & Starbucks)

8. Wishlists

If you’re building an email list for an online store, consider this idea. 

Wishlists work like this:

People register at an online store and make a list of products they love. (Of course, the products come from the same store). Then, they sign up for a giveaway to win that list.

Next, you choose the winner and give away a gift card covering the cost of all products on that list.

That’s exactly what BrüMate does 👇



If you’re interested in learning more about this promotion, here are the conditions 👇


As you can see, the goal here is to have more people sign up. Doing so is very easy—wishlists don’t require any purchases or pre-payments.

This way, you can generate plenty of emails and potential customers. Also, note that BrüMate is a store that sells products that are often gifted—this also helps to get more participants.

9. Webinars

This email list building strategy works for SaaS businesses and bloggers.

A webinar is a live online event hosted to teach or inform the audience about a specific topic. Webinars are often interactive, with participants asking and answering questions and completing surveys.

You could have webinars pretty much about anything.

Like, fashion…

webinar example


Shoppable social media…

example webinar


About how to sell more on Black Friday (this one is our own webinar).

webinar wisepops

Webinars like this can help your business stand out and establish credibility.

Besides, those who go through the trouble of signing up are likely to be interested in what you’re doing (or selling), so those leads will be more engaged and of high quality.


A large, active email list.

That’s the best way to quickly grow your business. 

Now you know where to start and how to continue building your email list. 

Although this project will take some time and effort, it’s a must-do for getting a customer base and becoming a real business. I hope this post helped you to get a good idea of where to start building your email list.

Have more questions or some suggestions? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Oleksii Kovalenko

Oleksii Kovalenko is a digital marketing expert and a writer with a degree in international marketing. He has seven years of experience helping ecommerce store owners promote their businesses.

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