Personalization is no longer a luxury; it’s an expectation. Marketers need to reach subscribers on their terms in order to engage and, more importantly, convert them. The effects of the shift towards personal marketing messages reach every aspect of your email campaigns, including your acquisition tactics.

It’s no longer enough to think of list building as just email capture. Instead, email acquisition is actually a customer acquisition strategy. Old tactics, like purchasing an email address list, simply won’t work. Not to mention that these archaic tactics are likely to lead to less than desired results or worse -- penalized by your email service provider.  

What will work is modal lightbox pop-up combined with a series of triggered, personalized welcome messages. These types of eye-catching and personalized content campaigns stand out to visitors and, when done right, are some of the most effective ways to build email lists.  

Modal Lightbox Acquisition

Regardless of how you feel about pop-up lightboxes, the simple fact is they work. We’ve seen retailers grow their email list by 30% or more in a matter of weeks using this tactic. And these aren’t random email addresses – they’re subscribers with the highest likelihood of becoming loyal customers.

Many companies use the modal lightbox approach when it comes to capture new customer contact and identify potential leads. Although they can be used in a variety of ways, this example is trying to get people to sign-up for the Michael Kors VIP rewards program. It clearly outlines the benefits to the customer and asks for their information to join. Image courtesy of Michael Kors website.

If you’re considering implementing this strategy, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Get the Timing Right

Test the timing and location of the overlay. Try triggering it three seconds after a shopper visits your site’s homepage, 20-30 seconds on specific product pages, and even test an exit modal, which detects when the visitor is about to close the site and triggers at that point to re-engage them.

  1. Gather all of the Important Information

The overlay should include an email capture form, but may also include additional personalization fields, such as product or brand preferences or the ability to sign up for more than one email list. Maybe your customer is interested in only receiving emails about one specific product or area of your business -- allowing them to identify the information they want to receive will improve their experience with your content.

This example from Nike collects user information and also asks what their shopping preference is. In this case, the dropdown simply helped to identify between men and women to help Nike know what types of shoes this user is interested in. Just one additional step to personalizing the customer’s shopping experience. Image courtesy of Nike website. 

You can also use dynamic or smart fields to capture different information from users each time they fill out a form on your site. This will allow you to understand your customers on a deeper level and take your personalization to the next level. 

  1. Incentives Aren’t Required

We’ve all been there -- a form pups up and offers you a 20% discount on your next order for joining the newsletter email list. 

While offering an incentive to sign up is a common practice, it isn’t necessary. Yes, this is a great way to grow your email list but it’s not a requirement when developing your listing building strategy. Many loyal customers will sign-up to receive content or updates from your company without the incentive of a discount.

  1. Have Your Welcome Message Ready 

Your first welcome message should be triggered upon subscription. Welcome messages have some of the highest open, click and conversion rates, and the event-triggered email will ensure it reaches customers at the time when they are most likely to buy.

  1. Increase Reachable Rate of Visitors

Modal lightbox acquisition has the added benefit of increasing the reachable rate of your onsite visitors; meaning you’ll be able to send remarketing messages, such as browse and abandon and shopping cart abandonment campaigns, to more customers, as you’ll have a higher percentage of their email addresses.


There are a variety of ways that companies compile their customer lists -- but sign-up forms rank the highest. These forms would include general information and contact us forms, but also modal lightbox forms as well. Why not test out various form options to determine what works best for your visitors? Image courtesy of Mass Mail Software.

Welcome Email Series

On average, welcome messages have four times the open rate and five times the click-through rate of broadcast campaigns, meaning customers are more engaged and likely to take action on these messages. These automated email marketing messages are triggered by the customer’s behavior and received at the right time.

Welcome emails easily out-perform other promotional emails when it comes to total opens. These types of emails should be a staple in your email marketing and list building strategy -- make the right impression from the first contact after the form submission. Image courtesy of Brandon Gaille.

Triggered welcome emails can simply thank subscribers for signing up or can deliver the discount or offer promised in the lightbox that was used as the opt-in incentive. However, don’t stop there. These messages have the highest likelihood of being read and acted on, so take advantage of this opportunity by creating a series of messages.

Welcome emails can be presented to customers in a number of different ways. This particular one offers users a discount code for sharing their contact information and gives them incentive to go back to the website and continue shopping. This could be the first of multiple welcome emails in a campaign or a stand-alone email. Image courtesy of Francesca’s marketing email. 

Here are some things to consider as you create an effective automated welcome series:

  1. Don’t Overthink It

Don’t think about how many messages to include, but; instead, think about what messages you want to convey and then determine how many emails you’ll need based on the content. If you spend too much time worry about the number of messages, you may lose sight of the most important parts -- the content and the action you want the customers to take.

  1. Focus on One Campaign at a Time

In most cases, it makes sense to only send new subscribers welcome messages and suppress them from the regular email messages during this time. Only begin sending new subscribers broadcast campaigns when the welcome series ends.

You’ve created a welcome campaign to nurture your customers through their first few weeks or months with your company. You don’t want to start sending them emails that are designed for a repeat or loyal customer before they have made their first purchase. 

  1. Email Timing Still Matters 

Think about the timing of the welcome messages and carefully monitor results so you know the right cadence. If your series contains three messages, the first could be triggered upon subscription, with the other two going out in 24-hour intervals. 

If your series is longer, you could send two messages per day – one in the morning and one in the early evening. We found that first- time shoppers are more likely to place the all-important second order within the first week as long as the experience is positive, so don’t feel like you need to wait too long between messages.

  1. React to New Email Subscribers Immediately 

Trigger the first message to go out immediately upon subscription. It will not only reach subscribers when they’re most engaged and interested in shopping for your products, but it will also confirm the email addresses, ensuring that invalid addresses aren’t added to your list.


This example is only just part of the welcome email received after signing up for Petco emails. The email was sent within minutes of filling out the form and provided plenty of information on what Petco does and how they can help customers take care of their pets. Image courtesy of Petco marketing email. 

  1. Communicate Like a Person, Not a Computer

Try to be as personal as possible. Your messages can include items that the subscriber browsed on your site, an invitation to update personal preferences in your preference center, local store information, top-selling merchandise based on gender, etc. 

Remember, customers expect to be treated as individuals, and you’ll be getting off on the right foot by customizing the message to each subscriber.

  1. Keep Things Fresh 

Update these messages quarterly. It is easy to set up automated messages once and then forget all about them, as they run in the background. But you should have a process in place where you review your triggered campaigns quarterly to be sure you aren’t sending information that is outdated.

Converting Subscribers into Customers

Combining modal lightbox acquisition with a triggered welcome series is a strategy that will greatly increase both engagement and revenue. And when the messages are personalized, including information on gender, produce or category browsed, subscribers will feel an immediate connection to your brand. Each message of the series is another chance to engage subscribers with new content and messaging, giving you the opportunity to capture additional customer data that you can use to tailor future messages.

Learn how to build a substantial email list, convert visitors to customers, and keep those customers around  Listrak CEO Ross Kramer recently contributed the following blog post to iMedia Connection: