Our company has a website that sells wine. Our idea is that we will the ask user to sign up using their email address before we present them with any products.

The reasoning behind this is that if a user comes to see products on our website but is not interested in anything that they find they may leave for good. However, if we add new products to our website that might be of interest to the user then if we have their email address we can advertise directly to the customers email, in the hope that they might be interested and come back to our website.

Is this a good strategy?

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    I, for one, will certainly not commit to give my email before I see what you are offering, and at what price. It feels like having to let a shopowner make a photocopy of my ID before I enter his store. In both cases, I'll just move on to the competition.
    – André
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 8:17
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    If you force them to give AN email address - then it probably won't be THEIR email address...
    – PhillipW
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 8:55
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    And what incentive do I have to give you my e-mail address if I can't see what you are offering? Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 9:04
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    I don't think I've ever bought a product online from a company that doesn't make pricing/etc information readily available. I operate under the assumption that "If you don't want me to see it, you're assuming that I probably won't like what I see"; I see no reason not to assume the vendor is wrong in their assumption so I close the tab, and take my business to another site. Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 12:58
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    And also... how are search bots supposed to index your site, if they can't access your offerings? Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 13:14

15 Answers 15


No, it's not a good idea.

You want to make purchasing from your website as easy as possible. Forcing a user to give out an email address before they're even able to see what you're selling is not a good approach. This will most probably push a big part of your customers away from the site rather than forming a commitment to it.

You should read the $300 million dollar button, an article about a case brought to public attention by Luke Wroblewski. The article covers a case where an e-commerce site grew their revenue by 45% by making purchases easier for visitors by Removing forced commitment between the user and the site.

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    @Matt, thanks. It's a very interesting case indeed. I've used this article professionally to argue my stance on certain issues. Its figures catches the attention of most stakeholders. Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 8:25
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    Brilliant link, worth a read for any UX person who works with web
    – TJH
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 12:59
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    In the $300 Million Dollar Button story they are forcing people who have already clicked the "Take my money!" button to jump through needless hoops. Bad idea. But random visitors to the site are an entirely different story. 99% of them aren't going to buy a thing. Buying is based on trust. And one of the best ways to build trust (and remind people that your site exists) is through regular lifecycle emails to people who have given you their email address.
    – pkamb
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 5:29
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    @pkamb Ok, so forcing a user to commit to the site before they can make a purchase instead of just offering it as an option would build trust in the user...? Gosh, what are you thinking.... Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 7:25
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    @pkamb But the case that the article covers in the answer above is not you, me or jwenting. That's a case with a very wide demography, it's been hinted that the site in question is Amazon, which has a very broad target group. And in this case having forced input of email scared users off. You can argue all you want that it's not the same scenario, but that there would be any difference in a case where you don't even show content before users leave out their email I simply wont buy. I'm positive that the result would be even more catastrophic, with an even larger drop-out. Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 11:12

Usability aside, there are also some technical points against your strategy:

  • Basically, you are sending spam to your users.
  • The content of your site is hidden behind a login page - that makes it unsearchable. In many sites, the absolute majority of traffic comes from search results and price comparison sites (like Google Shopping).
  • Similarly, the content of your site is not linkable. A user cannot consult with their friends, or even recommend your product, once buying it.
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    Spam is unsolicited email. Assuming he is not deceptive about what the emails will be used for, the users are soliciting future correspondence by registering.
    – Superbest
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 7:57
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    @Superbest - True. There are ways around being pure spam. But still, "advertise directly to the customers email" does not sound good - most people regard that as spam. You are right though - if you are honest about it, you can get around legal issues.
    – Kobi
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 9:02
  • It's not even legality. I imagine if the user ticks a checkbox saying, "yes, please send me periodic special offers" then they probably want to get the "spam". Unless you left the checkbox ticked by default, and hid it out of the way and used small type.
    – Superbest
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 9:10
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    @Superbest - I partially disagree. In 90% of the cases where signup is required to gain access the user is NOT consenting to get emails, they just want access to the site and they were forced to add their email. This is why sites like Mailinator.com are in business. ;-)
    – scunliffe
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 12:44
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    I guess without clarification from the OP it might be a bit hard to judge... but my take on it was that the user didn't know they were signing up for a "service" to be notified of future releases... just that they had to provide it to gain access to existing product listings. If this were the case, I'd prefer a button/link "we don't have product XYZ, but enter your email and we'll notify you as soon as we do" would work better. Especially if I don't want XYZ, emailing me about its arrival "becomes" spam.
    – scunliffe
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 19:02

(See the comments for a lively debate about this idea!)

I disagree with the other answers here. (There are 5 at the moment.)

Like all good design answers: it depends. In 99% of cases, you'll want to put off on gathering information for as long as possible. But there are a few very good reasons you would want to collect information first. It all depends on your strategy.

If you're selling cheap, mass-market wines and you just want to sell to as many people as possible, then taking the information last approach is probably the way to go. Think amazon.com. You can do basically everything without logging in. This kind of structure works for a very general type of audience, since most people don't want to give out information right away.

However, if you're selling boutique wines to high-end clients, and you want to create a sense of elite membership, then asking for information first is pretty much required. This is how the mighty Facebook got it's start, and it's the model that sample sale sites like Ruelala and Gilt rely on. (They also rely on invitations, but if that works for your customers, it can be very effective.) If your site relies on word-of-mouth to get around, you don't even need to show them anything to get them to sign up. Look into private torrent trackers like waffles.fm. They even try to keep things secret.

But, from the sound of your question, it seems like you should go the more public route. I just figured I'd throw this out there.

** EDIT: **

Some references:

Here's an article on why invite only works. Here's an interview with the founders of Gilt. (Read the questions from mid-page, by the book image.) Here's a view of these sites from a user perspective.

The important points in my eyes are:

  • Users value their membership more.
  • If they have a good experience, they will want to share with others.
  • You have better control over your inventory.

To me, this really boils down to the kind of customer you're after. If you want repeat customers who are looking for unique items, special discounts, high-end items, etc... then a "membership" is the route I would take. But, if you're looking for mass-market, one-off customers who are just there to get things done, then put off info gathering as long as possible.

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    selling boutique wines to high-end clients that would only work if you already had a credibility to do it, or you are confident you can build that credibility.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 15:02
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    Absolutely. In this particular case, I'd guess that they're not going to have such a high credibility. So I'd probably suggest going the Amazon route. But who knows! Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 17:49
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    Considering throw away email addresses's are easy to come by, the "for the elite" does not work. If you want to push that, then you need to do some kind of vetting process before letting them on. For example recommended by another customer. Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 7:35
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    I like this answer, it's a good contrast to the other answers here. However I'm not totally convinced. Yes, Ruelala and Gilt may require emails before you can access the site, but how do we know that this is better for them than just having open access? It would be great if they'd published some findings stating something like "when we switched from open-access to subscription we saw an increase of 20% in sales" but I've not seen such data. For all we know they could be losing £1000's in potential sales by imposing such restrictions.
    – JonW
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 8:56
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    A referral code would be more then just vetting on email. The point I was making, if you plan to market yourself as a high end website you need to be able to keep the riff-raff out, and creating an email only authentication will not work due to the ease at getting throwaway email addresses. Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 6:55

No. Forcing the user to enter an email address before they can view your products will more than likely drive them away, for the following reasons:

  1. Increased barrier to entry to your site - resulting in a dramatic reduction of "eyes on the prize".
  2. It's suspicious. The user will wonder why you're asking for their email address to just see your website.

You need to make the experience for the user as straightforward, simple and trustworthy as possible. Emails can be used for various forms of malicious behaviour, requesting them before you've earned even a smidgen of trust is not recommended.


Essentially forcing the customer to input their email address before viewing the product can be viewed as an aggressive marketing strategy by the user. It is common that the customer, or potential customer will not like this method of marketing, and in fact have a negative vibe about the approach within itself.


It is and is not a good practice. It depends on what you are practising and what you want to achieve.

there are two approaches/goals possible:

Approach 1.

Your primary focus is to let customers see your website It is not to ask for any e-mail until it is really required (or user asks for it). You want your website to be seen as user friendly and your focus is on letting customers in and see.

FYI : for some users (including me) if I am browsing on a website and it is not required for me to login( I just want to browse, for that why we need login, Huh!) and the website is asking me to enter email/login/number etc. I close that website. (unless I have a very strong urge to enter or I don't have anything else to do)

You wrote that you sell wine: suppose a user is looking for a particular brand of wine. which at that moment is out of stock. So there you can have an option to ask for e-mail so you could notify the user when that wine is available.

Approach 2.

Your primary focus is not to have users see your products (this is secondary), your primary focus is to fish e-mail addresses.

You could send e-mail promotions etc, in that case its good to give a required login/enter email screen

if its case 1, then its not a good practice to give a required email dialog. if its case 2, then its a good practice.

  • You are basically re-iterating many of the answers already left here, however one of your points: "Suppose a user is looking for a particular brand of wine which at that moment is out of stock." is a very good on, so I upvote you for that point alone.
    – JonW
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 8:19
  • @JonW: thanks Mate, will try & make sure i don't reiterate in future
    – Mukul Goel
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 8:26

I would ask yourself the following:

  1. Approximately how many times have you bought something online in your life?
  2. On how many of those occasions did you give your email address before seeing the product/price the website was offering? (In the figure, feel free to include websites to which you gave your email address, didn't buy anything, but returned later to buy something when they sent you promotional email.)
  • It's not so much about what experiences you personally have come across, but more general competitive analysis to see what your competitors are doing that is more important. It's easy to forget that you may not actually be the target audience of the product, so competitive analysis would be more appropriate. But yes, as a thought exercise then you should start with your own experiences (just don't present your experiences as the hard evidence)
    – JonW
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 15:05
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    @JonW You are entirely correct. However the other answers already explain this so I thought I'd throw a different perspective into the mix :-). It's entirely possible that the OP agrees with the answers but is asking this in a neutral fashion so as to gain ammunition for a discussion with superiors. In which case my thought excercise might be of use as something non-technical people can quickly relate to without needing to read anything. In any case: what are your answers to the two questions?
    – Fletch
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 15:11
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    @JonW The simplest possible competitive analysis is googling for "boutique wine" and finding out whether anybody else does that. At a glance, none. Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 8:32

I think you could encourage registration if you showed a few products w/o having to enter email, and then asked them after say 5 product views to enter their email for free access. It would have to be snappy, and I would not bother validating email.

  • Would that encourage registration though? There would be a development overhead to consider if you are going to keep track of the number of products viewed and display a registration page after 5 (or however many) views, and if its purely speculation that this would be result in significantly more registrations you may have just wasted time developing something unnecessary and / or even harmful to the sites performance. I would want to see supporting evidence that this approach works before implementing it.
    – JonW
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 6:16
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    I don't have any evidence. But I think it could be done. You could just interrupt after 5 views and give them the option to say "No" and continue browsing.
    – chovy
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 6:18

"Is something that the majority of users hate a good UX?"

Gee, I don't know.

Look at Stack Exchange. You can start using Stack Exchange sites without creating an account. Yet, you can later create an account and the content you previously created is linked to that account. If you don't like the site, you don't have to. You have limited powers, but are able to do basic things like answer questions.

That is a good user design, which allows the system to meet its need to have registered users without throwing a bad experience at the users (requiring an up-front registration to do anything at all).


Although it is tempting to use this opportunity to collect email addresses in order to access the Website, especially with a site that sells alcohol and requires some sort of age verification (...what's one more piece of data?), it is not a good idea.

Essentially, it boils down to trust. Three things come to mind:

1) All good business practices revolve around establishing trust. If your customers trust you, they will come back. And repeat business is crucial to success in any retail environment. Trust is a two way street. By requiring an email address right off the bat, you are asking your customers to give you something pretty substantial without the common courtesy of giving them something first. There are alternatives out there for your customers... the onus is on you to initiate the relationship and establish trust.

2) With a product as diverse and capricious as wine, customers will depend on you to help them make decisions. In fact, you should want them to rely on you to help them, which would greatly increase your retention rates. The more you can understand what they are looking for and the more you can deliver information that meets and exceeds expectations, the better off you are. Instead of asking them for an email address... ask them what they are looking for. Red? White? Sparkling? Help them and then they will help you.

3) "That which grows well, grows slow." Some shortcuts end up dropping off the edge of a cliff. Take the time to develop relationships and you'll get their email address pretty quickly... as soon as they make a purchase or sign up for something else that you are offering that looks good to them (newsletter, coupons, etc.). More importantly, by gaining their trust you may soon start to collect their friends' email addresses, and then the email addresses of their friends' friends too.


Totally bad idea. 90% of the users will close the browser window for your website and move on to the next tab if they don't find anything useful or if the prices don't show up by default.

You must not force your users to give you their email id. In my case, I will always use https://www.guerrillamail.com/

Other than that, sending product promotion emails to users without their consent is illegal. Instead , you should focus on the users who just close the browser window when they do not find enough information ( price ) on your page.

Any new user will always hesitate to give his email address, because he does not not know how much you will be frustrating him with spam emails afterwards. He will prefer not to register. What do you think ?

If you are not sure, try experimenting with both the strategies.

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    "90% of the users will close the browser window for your website and move on to the next tab if they don't find anything useful or if the prices don't show up by default." That is quite a sweeping generalisation. Are you able to support that statement with anything?
    – JonW
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 15:24
  • I agree its a generalisation. The figure are not actually statistically and scientifically calculated. But transparency on the Web is the hottest and the biggest thing as far as getting people to purchase or relate to your services. If you hide something from a person who has money in his wallet, he will assume you have a gun .. Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 15:34
  • If you read this article uie.com/articles/three_hund_million_button , it says that - 75% of these people never tried to complete the purchase once requested. Also the point to note is that - " They took away the Register button. In its place, they put a Continue button with a simple message: "You do not need to create an account to make purchases on our site. Simply click Continue to proceed to checkout. To make your future purchases even faster, you can create an account during checkout.".. This is of course statistically calculated and proved Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 15:36

If you have a really persuasive value proposition for your site (say, really great member perks or coupons) and can communicate that value effectively to the user, then you might be able to get away with requesting an email before the user accesses the site.

Why not consider an often used alternative to obtain emails of your most engaged users? After the user is on the site for a set period of time (or visited a certain number of pages) have a pop up that requests his or her email in exchange for additional content (could be a newsletter or extra content). That way, you will only be targeting (presumably) engaged users who are the ones that are most likely to buy your services! PopUp Domination is an example of a plugin that allows for this (I have never used it, just giving as an example).

  • That is a technique that gets used, but do users respond well to it? I'd like to see some data from sites that have used this to see whether or not it's a suitable option, or if it just annoys users so much they just up and leave. Is it worth risking turning off an already engaged user just to try to get their email address?
    – JonW
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 21:43

By having a login (sign up) form before customers can even see the product is not only a barrier to those browsing or comparing prices, it is also a barrier to SEO.

How can anyone ever even find your store if it can't be indexed by Google?

How can you gain popularity enough for customers to trust you when Google doesn't?

Also, put yourself in the customers shoes. Don't answer for the sake of getting people to agree, I mean really picture the customers full buying experience.

First they have to get to your store by chance since you aren't in search engines, or they will go directly because they found your URL somewhere. They want wine obviously, but are YOU their only choice? Once that pop-up reveals itself stating, "You must provide your E-Mail address to view products."

Would you seriously go forward or look at the competitor next to you. Suppose they do click it. You say you take emails so that if they don't find what they want, you can keep them updated with new product arrivals.

But, as a customer, if I couldn't find you in the search engines, then had to give you my information, then browsed the store & you didn't have what I want, what have you given me in return?


The main concern is that the user is not interested in anything that they find and may leave for good.

One way to find out it to use a click pattern to see if the user is really struggling to find anything and show a pop-up like below


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups


You Should Probably Send More Email Than You Do

Please don't listen to anyone here regarding their personal email marketing preferences. They are not your customers. Geeks categorically hate email. Real people don't.

Look at the responses here. "If I hit a site like that, I'll close the tab and move on to your competition." Again, we are not your customers. An email splash page would probably be terrible for a specifically geek-targeted wine website. But it worked ok for Groupon.

So yes, you should absolutely make getting email addresses one of your top business priorities. Though not necessarily from an immediate splash screen. I really suggest reading the link I posted above for ideas. Some good quotes below:

For example, if you’re not just publishing anonymous “content” but rather trying to reactivate users of an application (lifecycle emails) or educate-them-to-the-point-where-they-want-to-buy-something (drip marketing), a little nudge in behavior could result in adding thousands of dollars of customer LTV.


Almost every first-class e-commerce company treats their house email campaigns like they are the goose that lays the golden eggs, chiefly because they are. For companies which have repeat-purchase models, direct response to emails can represent half or more of customer lifetime value.

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    The crux of that article appears to be that "if you send an email then the recipient will probably read it". OK, that is as may be, but how does that link in with requiring email addresses to access a website? They're already at the website trying to read it and you're denying them the ability to do so by requesting an email that they will probably read. Well if you didn't request the email address then they would definitely read the website content because they are already on the site trying to do just that.
    – JonW
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 8:18
  • @JonW The increased read rate is important, but it's the later half of the article you should read. Keeping prospects warm, building trust in the brand, educating them on wine, and selling directly to their inbox week after week rather than whenever the customer happens to land on their site. I assume this wine site is "groupon-like", because that's what everyone is building these days. Daily or weekly deals on wine. In that case especially, email lists will drive their revenue.
    – pkamb
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 17:25
  • @JonW They're already at the website trying to read it and you're denying them the ability to do so by requesting an email that they will probably read. Statistically, a single person landing on your website is very unimportant. Only 1% of them (or whatever your conversion rate is) will actually result in a sale. That's why sites require email addresses to see content; getting an email address is far more valuable than one clickthrough with potential to buy. This is completely different than requiring a signup at the point of checkout, by the way. You shouldn't do that.
    – pkamb
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 17:29
  • You're still working on the assumption that by presenting the user with an email entry field as the first thing they see before allowing them into the site that they will actually enter their details in there, and not that they may just leave altogether because they don't want to give their details at that point. Then your 1% of site visitors equates to an even fewer number of people because you're getting less people into the site.
    – JonW
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 7:43
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    @pkamb I'm gonna be honest, I believe you're totally wrong. I understand how you think, but I don't think your assumptions are correct. I'm convinced that trading a visitors email address in exchange for them to even be able to see the site will make the absolute majority of visitors go: "pfft... I don't think so" and leave the site. In the $300 million button they had at least made a visitor keen enough to make them want to place an order, and still it scared them off! Here you have nothing, absolutely nothing up front that would appeal to the visitor. Why would they ever go along with it? Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 17:01

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