Clients ask me all the time about how to organically build their lists. That's why I was so pumped when a few days ago I was forwarded an email from a friend inviting me to join the mailing list for Shop It To Me (learn more about what Shop It To Me is here). I opened immediately because it came from my friend, whom we'll call Sally (the from name was "Sally via Shop It To Me"). Now, while the email could have been optimized further and potentially contain branding or HTML, it's possible Shop It To Me was looking to drive home the fact that the email was coming directly from a friend. I am a clotheshorse, so I was intrigued by the offer. Framing the forward messaging by saying it was a "private invitation" and I have a limited time to act caused me to click-through immediately. I was taken to the following landing page:

Again, the "private invitation" messaging is reinforced as well as reminding me why I'm here (Sally recommended the site to me). The only thing I'm curious about is why I have to click-through again to start the sign-up process. Shop It To Me could very easily make this the first page in sign-up, because, as you'll see, the sign-up process is very long. Anywho, I clicked through.

See the first page I hit. I love the progress bar - it let's me know just how much is left to fill out. On the other hand, this could be a deterrent for some that don't want to provide a lot of information. But again, I like to pretend I'm a fashionista, so I'm plowing forward. Here's the next page I was taken to. Wow, that's a bit overwhelming and there's 642 total brands to choose from?! The subhead is reassuring though, as it lets me know I can choose just my favorites now and come back later. On the next page, I select product interest and sizes, for what I hope means very segmented and targeted emails. I am almost there! The last page I reach is this one:

I LOVE the helpful popup that tells me exactly why they need this information. Yes, they require everything, which is not a best practice, but telling me why you need it goes a long way. They also allow you to select frequency from weekly (with the ability to select the day of the week) all the way up to daily. To take a step back here, Shop It To Me could have implemented an alternative sign-up for those not wanting to fill out four pages of profile information wherein the new subscriber can just fill out this last page and then be directed to the remaining three pages to fill out in the welcome message where Shop It To Me can provide additional incentives for providing all that information. Back to the story: I hit Finish and anxiously await my Welcome email. Shop It To Me actually required a double, or confirmed, opt-in prior to receiving my welcome message, which is another story altogether, but seems a bit unnecessary after all the hoops I just had to jump through. After confirming, I received the following welcome message within minutes:

One of the best welcome emails I've seen. Everything is spelled out for me in the preview pane and I'm provided quick and easy actionable tips. The welcome email is actually much longer than this as it gives me my first group of products, customized to my preferences. What really caught my eye though, is #1: $10 gift card for inviting friends. I wanted that gift card! Here's what I found after I clicked: 

Again, Shop It To Me nailed the urgency piece of the puzzle with the countdown clock and provided further incentive by allowing me to customize my reward.

All in all, Shop It To Me is utilizing Forward to a Friend (FTAF) effectively to build their list - they build through word of mouth and exclusivity while keeping the entire process well within email best practices. Bravo Shop It To Me and thanks Sally for introducing me to the brand! I'm off to share with more friends.

What do you think of Shop It To Me's strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Kelly Lorenz
Email Marketing Strategist at Bronto
@KNLorenz