How ecommerce stores build their email list using content upgrades

In this blog, we will look at the following:

  • What is a content upgrade?
  • Why are content upgrades important?
  • Creating a content upgrade
  • Where should you put your content upgrade on an ecommerce site?

What is a content upgrade?

Simply put, a content upgrade is a unique lead-magnet created specifically for a particular blog post or page, offered in exchange for a prospect’s email.

You might think it’s a lot of hard work to create one, and it is. Why create more content after you’ve probably spent hours creating the original piece?

But it is worthwhile, the numbers speak for themselves.

Jeff Bullas, for example, was able to increase his email conversion rate by 344%!


Why are content upgrades important?

Join-our-mailing-list forms aren’t as effective anymore. People are savvy and have trained themselves to ignore them.

Remember, they’re on your blog reading about X, at that moment in time, all they care about is more information on X, so why not provide it as a content upgrade?

You can be sure, certain almost if they’ve read your content and taken value from it, they will want the upgrade.

Creating a content upgrade

You might want to put content upgrades on all your content and that’s okay, but for now, put it only on top performing content.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-15-25-15If you use tracking tools, like Google Analytics, use it to find high-traffic content. Your top posts won’t necessarily be your newest posts, sometimes older evergreen content is most popular.

Your best performing content will provide a clearer understanding of your conversion rate.

Low traffic content will take some time to show any useful data. High traffic content will benefit from a content upgrade.

Remember, the goal is to get people onto your list, not to get them to read your favorite piece of content.

Your content upgrade needs give prospects value and wow them, or they’ll unsubscribe as soon as they get the next email.

The resource should improve your content and be something the user needs. Be sure the only way people can access the upgrade is through the content you offer and make it more specific than a general opt-in offer form.

Where should you put your content upgrade on an ecommerce site?

When it’s time to put the content upgrade together, make it attractive with a catchy headline and crafty copy.

Wherever you place the upgrade on your page, best practices are to use a seamless 2-step opt-in, which is known to achieve higher conversion rates than a separate landing page.


Because of the Zeigarnik Effect, which suggests, if a user chooses to initiate contact with you (by clicking the button – 1st step), they’re more likely to finish the process (subscribe – 2nd step).

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-15-25-26A 2-step opt-in means the user doesn’t even have to leave the article to subscribe.

For ecommerce stores without a blog, it’s still possible to utilise content upgrades.

Let’s look at some examples: Evelo Bikes

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-15-25-32If I were looking at electric bikes, there are loads of things I’m probably interested in that would entice me to exchange my email like:

  • Guide: How to take care of your electric bike
  • Fact sheet: Breaking down the costs of an electric bike
  • Infographic: How to adjust your bike for your height

Or even:

  • Best places in [location] to ride an electric bike
  • Transitioning from a conventional bike to an electric bike

In fact, Evelo could go further and add different content upgrades for each bike, and use those to segment groups of users.

When a customer downloads content about the ‘Luna’ bike, not only do Evelo know they’re interested in electric bikes, but they know which particular bike they’re interested in.

That’s a lot of data to have on someone who hasn’t even made a purchase yet.

Converting your prospects all boils down to knowing them really well.

On the Luna bike page, towards the bottom is a mailing list sign-up form.

The user is specifically interested in the LUNA bike, but Evelo uses a generic ‘join our mailing list’ form.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-15-25-37Collect emails a different, focused way. Like offering a video: “See the Luna tackle mountains.”

It works for other eCommerce niches too. Suppose you were on Lakeland, interested in the Spirelli Spiralizer.

You have two options: buy the Spiralizer from here, or go somewhere else.

If we put ourselves inside the mind of the consumer. What is it they need right now to make a purchase?

What value can Lakeland provide so they don’t choose to go elsewhere? Don’t let them leave without trying to capture their details in some way.

Perhaps a pdf download of 5 tasty recipes you can make with the spiralizer?screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-15-25-46

Yes, they might exchange their email for the guide and still shop elsewhere.

But, with their details on an email list and knowledge of the product they were interested in, Lakeland can reach out to them with a super personal email to see if they’re still interested in the product.

Even if they’ve already bought it elsewhere, Lakeland knows enough about them to offer similar or supporting products  screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-15-25-26 


It’s no secret content upgrades take more time and work to produce, but they yield better results because they’re hyper-relevant.

When you’ve nailed a content upgrade on one post, replicate the technique on other content.

You’ll soon be planning, in advance, different content upgrades for upcoming content.

Valuable content upgrades will always consider the following:

  1. Does it relate to the specific content – is there an incentive to download it?
  2. Have you considered what the user needs when reading the content?
  3. Is your upgrade unique to each blog post, page, or product listing?
  4. Does downloading give the user an edge compared to those who don’t download?


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