Part III in the Series “How to Build an Email List.” This article’s topic is Customer Emails at Checkout.

Read Part I here: How to Build an Email List Part I — Should you try to create email marketing?
Read Part II here: Email Signup Contest Ideas.

Why You Should Get Email Addresses at Checkout

Big-box retailers like Kohl’s developed email-gathering programs a decade ago and figured out it’s best to give the discount the same day. For Kohl’s that means $5 off at the register regardless of the fact that this process stops the checkout line.

David Cost, VP/eCommerce & Marketing of retail apparel chain Rainbow Shops, said during a recent webinar run by digital-marketing company Listrak that his company also executes as much as possible at the register even though Rainbow focuses heavily on checkout time.

“Having to prompt a customer to ask them for their mobile number or their email address, and entering that at the register … (even) if you’re lucky enough to have a customer-facing pinpad, that clearly goes against trying to minimize checkout time,” he said.

Nonetheless, Rainbow Shops tries to gather both email address and mobile number anyway.

The Rainbow Connection

How Listrak helped the Rainbow Shops gain email addresses via mobile numbers 

Smart Retailer attended a marketing webinar presented by Listrak ( and its client Rainbow Shops, which has honed an effective program for gaining mobile numbers and email addresses. Here’s a summary.

  • Emailed Coupons Take Too Long
    Rainbow learned that emailing a customer a coupon can take hours and you can’t control how long that delivery will take.
  • So Send Coupons Via Text Message
    Text messages are virtually immediate, so the company switched to sending coupons via SMS. For Rainbow, that means 1) in-store signage with a text shortcode to receive a coupon good on today’s visit, 2) Rainbow will text a link for an email-only coupon later for email acquisition.
  • Then Get Their Email Address Later
    Cost said 92 percent of SMS customers eventually register a valid email address via texted links to email-only coupons. Cost said about half of emails acquired in this way stay active on the email list.

What you can learn from this even if you don’t send out SMS marketing

If you don’t obtain cell phone numbers now, and don’t have a method to text a coupon, put that on the list to investigate later, but at least take note: This major retailer wants email addresses so badly it will go through the effort of getting phone numbers just so it can try to convert them into an email address later.

The lesson learned: Either start SMS marketing and use Listrak (or the method they’ve perfected) or at least start trying to gather email addresses at your register.

Not just as a courtesy but also as a recommendation, please visit the websites of both companies using the links above to learn more about each.

Can Gift Shops Afford to Stop at Checkout for Email Addresses?

The question might be phrased better this way: Can you afford NOT to?

Many smaller retailers have started to test this idea.

“I offer a monthly coupon as an incentive to sign up at the register,” said Lisa LeBlanc of Nest Interiors in Ponchatoula, La. She’s a Mailchimper at the Free level who spends a few hours a month creating emails and gets $50-$200 in sales per email. Her next goal is to increase the size of her list and the register is the focal point of that activity.

Email service Campaign Monitor also agreed that the register is the honey hole for email addresses. Read its outstanding article on building an email list here and take note of this relevant piece.

“By getting your employees to ask every customer if they’d like to join your email list to get a discount or special offer at the point of sale, you’re hitting every possible customer with a very compelling and simple offer,” stated a Campaign Monitor article. “So much so that stationery company Paradise Pen Co. actually collect 80 percent of their customer emails in-store, while just 20 percent of people sign up online.”

Summary: Why You Should Create a Process for Getting Email Addresses at Checkout

  1. Because other retailers have already proven it’s worthwhile. If this wasn’t worth the minute it takes get an email address, other retailers wouldn’t have started doing this a decade ago and kept doing it all this time. Yes, that minute is a crucial time (as they’re checking out). But obtaining your customers’ email addresses is also crucial.
  2. Because email marketing has proven to be worthwhile. If you don’t trust that you can start an email marketing program, then you don’t need email addresses. We’ve already written enough on that topic (go back to Part I of this series if you need to). It’s time to either start an email marketing strategy, or at least start gathering email addresses so you’ll have them when you do.
  3. Because there’s no better time to do it. Retailers have been trying to devise ways to get email addresses in-store but before the register. There isn’t a great way to do that. So in that moment you’re speaking to the customer, ask them for their email address.