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When Google Chrome stops supporting third-party cookies in 2022, it will be the end of a nearly 30-year era in digital marketing as the industry decisively shifts toward consumer privacy. Though marketers shouldn’t lose sleep over the coming change to data collection practices, it’s important to spend 2021 securing alternate data sources to compensate. One of the primary ways that you can ensure you're ready for this cookie-less future is by collecting your own sources of first-party data — and an easy way to do that is through building your email list.
Email lists are exactly what they sound like: lists of email addresses that consumers have volunteered to receive brand messages. The more consumers who opt in, the broader a brand’s reach. And that’s irrespective of cookies.
Focusing on expanding your email list is a smart early strategy for 2021 because it enables a brand to engage consumers who have confirmed their interest and are therefore more likely to convert than the average Jane or Joe.
That’s why research shows email marketing is responsible for huge lifts in return on investment (ROI), helping brands build long-term relationships. Here are four other reasons why email — and email lists — are so important:
Consumers who verify their email addresses for brand communications are effectively raising their hands to say, “Yes, I want to hear from you.” And starting from that single data point, the relationship grows.
When that customer starts making purchases, it’s a clearer signal of who they are and what they want. Meanwhile, brands can ask for more information at various engagement points to supplement their customer data profiles further. In the end, connecting the dots between intent, purchases, and engagement history will prove critical for the personal targeting required in modern marketing.
Email is a direct link between a brand and consumer, which is another reason it’s such an effective tactic. Unlike other channels, it’s a one-to-one connection through which brands can offer relevant content. If brands can effectively deliver that content without leaving consumers feeling like they’re getting spam, email builds trust. After all, a consumer’s personal email is just that.
Despite the long-running mission of digital marketing to deliver the right ad to the right consumer at the right moment, ads can still be disruptive. Though no one opts in to receive ads, customers on your email list have volunteered their information to receive updates from you. Use that to your advantage, but also make it worthwhile with content they can’t find anywhere else and unbeatable offers to keep them engaged.
There’s an old saying you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. Marketers who have relied too heavily on third-party cookies are realizing now how true that is. Even the customer relationships you build through search and social media are subject to the whims of the platforms on which you are interacting. But an email list and any additional first-party data belong directly to the brand.
So how do you build an email list? There are three main avenues:
For starters, you’ll have to build a conversion form for consumers to fill out. Static forms work just fine, but pop-ups or fly-in forms that appear after 10-15 seconds are better. (Also, be sure to set the pop-up to appear only once per session.)
No one likes a bait and switch, so communicate exactly what you plan to send — and how frequently. Make your value proposition clear upfront. And, if possible, link to a sample newsletter to give recipients a clearer picture of the actual experience.
This is also not a good time to get greedy. All you need is an email address, so don’t ask for other personal information yet. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to get to that later. Plus, the more fields they see to fill out, the more likely it is they’ll simply walk away without submitting anything.
And most importantly: Use an opt-in or double opt-in method to confirm consumer interest. This demonstrates to consumers that you value their privacy, creating a solid foundation for your relationship.
It stands to reason if you want consumers to fill out your form, you’ll have to make it easy to find, much like a brand’s social media profiles. You can simply put the form on every page of your website, which is a perfectly acceptable solution if you’re short on time.
However, for better results, build personalized landing pages. Speaking of which: Don’t use generic forms on every page. Instead, customize them based on page content. Feel free to experiment with static forms, pop-ups, and fly-ins to see how your site visitors respond to each and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Meanwhile, if you have some customer data already, do some of the heavy lifting for them by pre-filling the form fields to increase the likelihood that they’ll submit the form.
Sadly, none of these tips will help you without site traffic. That’s why it’s critical to make growing your email list an acquisition priority.
One easy method is to add track form sign-ups as a separate goal to existing ad campaigns. But you can also drum up interest on other channels where you engage with consumers, like social media. Depending on your target audience, you can even use content like white papers with exclusive research or data as a lure.
The strongest motivator of all is killer emails. If your brand is behind emails consumers feel compelled to forward to friends and family, you’re golden. Personal recommendations like this go a long way to convincing other recipients to sign up, so they don’t miss out on your amazing brand emails in the future.
For a complete guide on email marketing:
More than four billion people worldwide use email, making it an even more popular channel than social media giant Facebook. Though it’s important for brands to remember email engagement is arguably more important than the size of a given email list, the list itself is vital to the brand’s future success.
That’s because it’s a tipping-off point for the collection of first-party data, which brands will sorely need a year from now. Consider it a way to boost customer engagement and sales, too.
For more information on the future of digital marketing after the end of third-party cookies:
The tips above are a good start for growing your email list — take it one step further with AdRoll experts who are available to offer more personalized assistance with email marketing and digital marketing overall.
Originally published on February 17th, 2021, last updated on July 12th, 2022.