Digital Marketing

E-commerce 102: How to Use Crowdsourcing to Grow Your Email List

Ecommerce 102

Trying to grow your email list for your business? This is how:

Crowdsourcing product ideas makes it easy to decide what products your customers need. It’s also a good way to build your email list or build a community around your products.

You are able to ask your customers directly what products they want to see you selling, with crowdsourcing.

Your potential and existing customers get to vote for their favorite among a few different products. Then you produce or order the products with the most votes.

The products that consumers want do not always have to be products in your niche or physical products they can buy.

Did you know that before you can submit ideas- you have to register with, among other things, an email address? Okay, maybe that’s obvious.

Apart from getting new subscribers or new product ideas, you can get extremely useful input on improving existing products.


Crowdsource Product Ideas

Show samples of products not yet in stock and ask customers to choose which of them they’ll prefer to buy.

You can let their votes guide your decisions during production or when you order your inventory.

Just remember to ask for an email address as an entry requirement.

With this strategy, items with plenty of votes mean items in high demand, and you can be sure they’ll sell out when you produce or order them. Because you’ll have the emails of interested customers, you can let them know when items are in stock.

Another way you can grow your email list through crowdsourcing product ideas is by creating the product and letting your customers choose their favorite.

I want to stress that when you show samples of your products and allow customers to choose their preferred product- You are in total control!

You don’t have to worry about customers asking for products that are not in line with your company’s values or objectives.

But, even if customers choose new products themselves, make clear guidelines on what your brand considers valid products.

For example, some brands will have nothing to do with any product that promotes or encourages gambling, pornography, smoking etc.

You can ask customers to submit designs for new products, or you can create new product samples with varying designs and have them choose their favorite. Think of a mutually beneficial way to reward customers or potential customers for their efforts and interest. You could:

  • Produce the product with the most votes.
  • Give discounts to the first 50, 100, or whatever number of voters you’re comfortable with, its up to you.
  • Give a random entrant the finished product or product design that had the highest number of votes.

Crowdsource Market Research

It’s simple.

Using surveys, ask your customers what features they would like to see in your products. Collect email addresses via the survey forms. Give a (relevant) prize to a random entrant.

That’s the simple part. There’s more.

Depending on the questions in your survey, you can easily segment your email list.

Why is it important?

For starters, you can segment emails according to:

  • Gender. This is important for stores that sell products specifically for men or women.
  • Location. So you do not send customers special offers about winter clothing when it’s summer where they are. This may not apply to your business, but you get the point.
  • Frequency. Helps you decide whether you’ll send daily, weekly, or monthly emails to your customers.
  • Product Interests. Most ecommerce stores have product categories. Let customers choose to receive emails only about the products they are interested in.
  • How they found you/your survey. This gives insight into their interests. If a customer finds you via Facebook, for example, it may mean they’re very active on the social network, or your Facebook game is strong. Evidently.
  • Email type. Some subscribers will be interested only in sales and special offers. Others will want to know about special offers and your latest blog post. Let them choose what they get.

At the barest minimum, I believe your survey should help you segment your list in the ways outlined above.

Again, you should realize that there are serial survey participants who partake in every survey they can find online just to earn the rewards or incentives.

Unfortunately, offering prizes relevant to your niche will not always deter them.

Let’s say you decide to run a survey on your clothing store, and some participants will win a dress. That incentive, although appropriate, may not stop serial participants.

After all, most women and some men wear dresses. So how do you carry out your survey to avoid or minimize such occurrences?

How to determine the validity of emails and data you get during a survey

Any or all of the following will determine the validity of responses you get during a survey, and in turn, the validity of the associated emails:

  • Timing: Some survey tools allow you to see how long it takes a respondent to complete your survey. Some tools even let you see how long a respondent spent on each page of the survey.

Generally, longer completion times mean more thoughtful answers.

  • Response Pattern: If you get the same answers for every question, it may be an indication that the respondent is just completing the survey for a reward.
  • Consistency: Include a repeat of a particular question in a different format in your survey. If the answers are different, the respondent is likely not immersed in the survey.
  • Fake answers: One-word answers to open-ended questions are an indication that a participant isn’t interested in the survey. This can also mean they did not provide truthful answers elsewhere in the survey.
  • Trap questions: Include simple questions with obvious answers to determine who’s completing your survey aimlessly. A question like, “Winter or summer, which is hotter?”

A wrong answer could indicate wrong answers from that respondent elsewhere.


Effective crowdsourcing involves mutually beneficial terms and conditions for both parties—business owner and customer.

That’s how you’ll get their emails. That’s how you’ll grow your list. That’s how you’ll grow your business.

The question is: Are you ready to reap the rewards of email marketing in your ecommerce business?

Sure! That’s why you’re reading this.

What email strategies have you used to reach more clients for your ecommerce business?