A Practical Guide to E-Commerce Opt-in Forms

We've broken down the different ways you can collect emails addresses for your E-commerce store.

E-Commerce stores are probably one of my favourite types of sites to work with, there’s so many possible avenues to explore that can impact your conversion rates and revenue. You can work tirelessly to continually optimise your processes, funnels and offers.

One of the key metrics that I see many store owners obsess about is getting more traffic to the store. Whether it’s from sweet organic traffic, paid sources or even comparison shopping listings. Many of our customers are also using Gleam to drive traffic via giveaways.

But traffic is just one statistic, once you realise all the other metrics that traffic impacts you can easily fall down the rabbit hole:

  • What’s my bounce rate like?
  • What're my conversion rates?
  • What’s my cart abandonment rate?
  • Which countries convert better?
  • Why is this product not selling?
  • Why do I not rank well in search engines for these categories?
  • Which products should I feature in my newsletters?

It’s extremely easy to get paralysed by all the information, and not get anything useful done.

But, there is one thing you can do right away to start improving your conversions and driving daily incremental value for your business.

Build your Email List.

Have you ever thought about how you personally shop on the web? We don’t always go to a store and purchase right away, we’ll research and perhaps buy on our second or third visit.

This means, that as store owners you have a very limited time to grab a users attention.

This is why building an email list can be so powerful, it gives you a few opportunities to build a relationship with a customer and start communicating on a one to one basis.

In this post we’re going to delve deep into the E-Commerce trenches and give you some examples on how you can use opt-in forms to collect more emails.

But not just any emails.

We want to collect the right email, from the right person – at the right time.

What Are Opt-in Forms?

Opt-in forms are a simple way to ask users to opt-in to your mailing list. They have been around since the dawn of the Internet as a way to allow brands and websites to communicate directly with their users.

They have evolved over the years, and even more so in the last few years as Javascript frameworks and browsers have allowed you to do more.

The most common type of opt-in form you might see will popup when you enter a site. Often they might even provide you a discount for opting in, we call this an incentivised opt-in form. You’re essentially being bribed to join the list, and it works very very well.

From our stats alone, a form with an incentive is likely to attract anywhere up to 600% more subscribers than one without.

Gorman Opt-in Form

Types Of E-Commerce Opt-in Forms

The way opt-in forms can be used is probably the most exciting part. Modern technology now allows brands to target users very specifically, which allows for very personalised messaging.

So lets look at some of the most common ways these forms can be used and how you can leverage them for your own business.

Homepage Popup Opt-ins

These are the most common type of opt-in that you’ll see. They usually popup when you first enter the site, either asking you to subscribe or offer you a special offer.

Pre-Order Example Popup Capture

Some brands do shy away from popping up opt-in forms when a user first lands on their site, so as not to potentially push away a user that hasn’t even engaged yet.

For this reason you might consider using a rule to only show after some engagement metrics have been met:

  • Looking at a certain number of pages or products
  • Certain amount of time on site or time on page
  • Visiting key pages on your site that might warrant an opt-in
Signup Prompt Opt-in
True Religion takes a more aggressive approach by prompting for signups using a full-page takeover.

Depending on your audience and how often you show this popup to users, you might typically see anywhere from a 1% to a 10% opt-in rate.

Opt-in forms embedded in the footer have been around for a long time (long before pop-ups were in fashion).

They tend to blend in with the overall design better and are less disruptive for the user.

Footer Embedded Opt-ins

The downside of this however is that opt-in rates for these types of forms often are in the less than 0.5% range. Which makes them good for supplemental opt-ins, but not as a main strategy to convert users.

Pop Chart Lab's Footer Opt-in

If you’re only using Footer based opt-ins, then you’re likely leaving subscribers and money on the table.

Engagement Based Opt-ins

General opt-ins are great for getting a certain percentage of users to engage with your brand. But we’re at a point now where a large portion of users are desensitised to the bombardment of opt-in forms every time they visit a new website.

Engagement based opt-ins offer a way to delay showing an opt-in form to a specific user based on certain engagement or touchpoints on your website.

Examples of this might be:

  • On a Blog you might show the opt-in once the user scrolls 50% of the way through the post (we do this right here)
  • On an E-Commerce store you might wait until a user browses through a few products
  • On an informational based site you might wait until a user visits a few key pages
Engagement Based Opt-ins
Product Hunt's blog on Medium also shows embedded opt-ins halfway through a blog post.

This methodology allows you to be much more timely, unpredictable and more targeted with your messaging.

You could constantly be A/B testing various engagement methods to continually drive more opt-ins and sales. The options are potentially endless.

Behavioural Rules for Gleam Capture

Gleam Capture has over 50+ Behavioural rules to help you build engagement based popups on a wide range of sites in just a matter of minutes.

Your rules and the form will play a lot into how well these sorts of opt-ins perform, but you could see anywhere from a 1% to a 20% opt-in rate.

Incentivised Opt-ins

Everyone loves an incentive. In fact incentives are so powerful that, in the wrong hands you can actually seriously screw up your data.

An incentivised opt-in will dangle a carrot for the user by offering something in exchange for their email address.

What gets offered can range from:

  • A coupon code
  • A discount applied to your order
  • A free download
  • An entry into a Sweepstakes
  • A free gift
Supre Opt-in Form

You are applying basic psychology to the user, give them something they want in exchange for their email address.

But you can also use these forms to increase your overall conversion rates, give the user a discount so that they are more likely to order (and also more likely to spend more in your store).

You will see a huge increase in opt-in rates when using incentives, forms with a relevant incentive will typically see anywhere from 5% up to 80% opt-in rates. For example, when we offer an incentive in the opt-ins on this blog we see a 200% increase in opt-in rates.

First Order Discount

Consumers have so many options available to them now when making a purchase. That’s why it’s so incredibly important for marketers to capture and convert as many users as possible.

A common technique to drive more new customers is to offer a first time purchase discount that is much larger than anything else the user might be able to find online (i.e. coupon websites).

Glasses USA Opt-in

In order to execute this offer you’ll need a CMS that allows you to provide coupons only for new customers (otherwise you might end up getting users who have ordered previously using the large discounts), and you’ll also need a platform that allows you to display the opt-in based on the users current status.

Gleam Capture offers a way for you to pass through Javascript variables to the opt-in forms. So you might set an attribute like isNewCustomer, then you’d be able to show an opt-in to that person, but hide it from people who aren’t New Customers.

You’ll need to make sure that whatever technology you use offer the ability to show or hide forms based on user attributes like this.

First Order Discount Opt-in Form

These types of opt-ins blend quite a few techniques together, they are essentially a targeted incentive. So you can expect to see similar results, anywhere from 5% up to an 80% conversion rate.

First Month Free

If you offer a service instead of a physical product, then often you can use opt-ins to give users a Free month.

Netflix Free Trial

Netflix does this as soon as you hit their main website, there is absolutely no messing around. They know that if they can get you to subscribe and experience their service or at least 1 month then you’ll signup for a full account and become a paying customer.

Emma Chloe First Month Discount
Emma & Chloé takes a spin at the first month free offer by offering their subscription box at a steeply discounted price.

Depending on the type of business you have then you should be able to do the same. The key thing is knowing that your value proposition is strong enough that the user will keep subscribing, otherwise you’ll end up losing money.

The business above offers a monthly subscription box, they offer a free month via an opt-in form if you subscribe to 3 months. That way they ensure they give value to the customer, but they also know they are getting 3 months of revenue out of the exchange.

On Exit (Exit Intent) Opt-ins

Exit Intent opt-in forms have been causing waves across the marketing world for a few years now. They rely on determining the user's intent whilst on the page, and when the user shows sign of abandoning or leaving the page you can display an opt-in form or message.

These forms serve quite a different purpose to anything we’ve already looked at in this guide.

They are purely designed to re-capture users that have already decided to leave or abandon the page.

There’s a whole bunch of reasons why a user might abandon:

  • Unexpected costs during checkout
  • Just browsing / No intent to buy
  • Unable to find a coupon code
  • Found a better price elsewhere
  • Too expensive
  • Website issues

When you look at this list, there’s plenty of things that are in our control to change. We can make the price better with a good coupon code, or we can try to entice someone that is browsing with an offer awesome enough that they’ll stay and purchase.

Exit Intent Popup

This is the whole reason that Exit Intent popups exist, they are designed to make you rethink your reason for leaving.

They help businesses convert more customers, reduce revenue that would have otherwise been lost and also help reduce customer frustration by giving them what they want.

These types of opt-ins need to be wrapped inside a bunch of other rules in order to be fully effective. For example, you don’t want to show an Exit Intent opt-in to someone that has already purchased. They also typically work well on desktop only, as there’s no definitive On Exit trigger for mobile (other than the back button).

You can expect higher conversion rates for these types of opt-ins. Anywhere up to 50%.

Page Takeovers

When in doubt, just take up the users entire screen! But no seriously, as annoying as these sorts of overlays might be, they work really well at focusing the attention of a user towards a specific conversion point.

You may be familiar with them being called Interstitials from many years back. They would show you an ad inbetween downloading something or between reading articles.

Signup Prompt Opt-in

Page overlays are essentially the same thing, however they are focused on getting an opt-in, providing key information or driving a call to action.

Most businesses will use overlays when a user first enters the site, some may show them after certain types of engagement.

Page Overlay

There’s no right or wrong way to do it with this particular opt-in type. You need to track what works best for you business, if you find that showing it when someone hits your landing page is really driving up your bounce rate then you might consider showing it on exit instead.

Page Takeover Discount Opt-in

Floating Top / Bottom Bars

Floating bars offer a low friction way to show your users an opt-in form that follows them until they either dismiss it or fill it in.

The form takes up much less space, and generally doesn’t get in the way of browsing. However they are still incredibly effective at providing a quick way for the user to opt-in.

Ulta Beauty's Floating Opt-in

They can also be used for other things like announcement, links to sales, special offers, shipping closing dates/times. You name it, bars are amazing!

Everlane's Top Bar Opt-in

Expect to see much lower opt-in conversion rates on these types of forms. This is to be expected, as you’ll be pumping through a lot more impressions and showing it a lot more frequently than any of the other types of forms we’ve looked at. Anywhere from 0.5% up to 5% is an average opt-in rate for these.

Shopping Cart Abandonment Opt-ins

This type of opt-in allows you to blend the idea of an Exit Intent opt-in with a behavioural one that has a very very specific purpose.

Let’s imagine that someone has:

  • Added products to the shopping cart
  • Filled out their details
  • Got to the billing page
  • Decides to leave for some unknown reason

In this scenario you have a user who is so close to committing to the purchase, but at the last second they decide not to.

Princess Polly Exit Opt-in

There’s a few really cool things you can do here via email, however you can do more in real-time to try to recover the purchase with an abandonment form.

This is a form that shows when a user abandons from the cart process, offering them an incentive to complete their purchase.

These types of forms have been known to help increase conversion rates by up to an additional 10%, and also help recover what would have been lost revenue. The form you see above converts over 20%.

Country Specific Opt-ins

It’s becoming easier and easier to distribute products globally, which means that you will get customers from many different countries.

For example, Australian companies will generally get lots of customers from New Zealand.

NZ Specific OPt-in

One of our customers Princess Polly makes great use of an opt-in form that is country specific. It’ll only show to Customers from New Zealand to let them know that:

  • We offer express shipping to NZ
  • Here’s 10% off your order

Expect to see opt-in rates of 10% or more with this sort of hyper-targeted strategy.

Traffic Specific Opt-ins

We are big believers in partnering with other businesses to grow together.

If you are paying another business or website to send you traffic, you can use referring URL rules inside your opt-in provider to show specific offers or messages that are targeted to the partner you’re working with.

5% Discount Opt-in

I’ve seen some of these types of targeted offers convert at up to 50%. Especially when the partner site is linking to you with a specific message:

Get 25% off your order over at ACME > User visits > Targeted Opt-in displaying discount

Special Offer / Sale Opt-ins

If you have a site wide sale running, or even a sale running on a specific section or product line you can setup some quick opt-in forms to let users know.

Special Offer Opt-in

It’s up to you whether or not you decide to ask users for an opt-in or not, but consider that you can build a list of everyone that is interested in the sale, then email all the users that didn’t purchase a coupon code.

Raskol Apparel Opt-in

Giveaway Entry / Announcement Opt-ins

Whilst our main product actually helps businesses run giveaways, we often get businesses wanting a quick and easy way to collect an email address as part of a giveaway or direct users from elsewhere on their site to a giveaway happening on a dedicated landing page.

Artifact Uprising Giveaway

Opt-in forms can be a great way to bridge the gap between a giveaway that’s only hosted on a specific page by allowing you to announce anywhere on your site.

SIgn Up to Win Opt-in Form

Giveaways inside opt-in forms can also be a good opportunity to announce new products and also give users a chance to win them, thus increasing your exposure.

In-line / In Content Opt-ins

You may have heard of the term native ads, which is essentially advertising that natively happens inside the page rather than popping up and annoying the user.

It might show between articles, or at the end of the article.

Engagement Based Opt-ins

With embedded opt-in forms you can also offer a more natural way to allow users to opt into your list.

Most of our Capture templates have the ability to be Embeddable, which allows you to insert them into content.

Warby Parker's Opt-in

Floating Opt-ins

Similar to floating bars you can also build opt-in forms that float at various positions on the users screen. A common place for these is in the bottom right (or left).

This allows you to show small, but relevant offers an announcements that might interest the user to opt-in.

Lulu Funk Floating Opt-in

You can see both of the businesses above and below both use these types of forms differently. One offers a $10 off discount, the other uses theirs to award entries into a competition.

Floating Competition Entry

Informational Opt-ins

Sometimes you just want to let users know about something that’s happening on your site or with your business.

Informational Opt-in

Informational opt-ins can incentivise users to grab a report, or get access to some information about a future event. We use these sorts of opt-ins very successfully to let users know when we release new features for Gleam.

Blue Apron Opt-in

Exclusive / Time Sensitive Opt-ins

Scarcity is a fantastic way to drive conversions on your site, whether it’s some sort of exclusive range of products, or allowing users to get early access or even a time sensitive offer there’s plenty of ways to approach these sorts of campaigns.

2020AVE Opt-in

Both of these campaigns tease customers onto their list by letting them know they’ll get access to exclusive promotions. One even offers a Treat (but doesn’t tell you what it is yet).

Lore Opt-in

Gleam offers an app called Capture that can be used to setup most of the opt-in forms that you can see on this page or you can build your own custom HTML templates.


Stuart McKeown

Stuart McKeown is one of the Co-founders at Gleam. Aside from writing and helping businesses grow, he also enjoys sound design and drinking tea ☕️