January 11, 2019

Should I ask for peoples email to download a free product?

Hi IH,

I am building a niche template/theme platform where I plan to provide a ton of free content along with premium products all at the same high-quality level.

My question is simply whether or not I should ask for people's email before enabling them to download the free products?


  1. 3

    I've made it optional for the excel budget generator (http://budget-fox.com/free-personal-budget-template that I have and the users barely ever provide an email. Maybe it's due to the copy, not sure.

    My advise, run an A-B test for a while and look at the numbers.

    1. 1

      Yes, of those five clicking through none gave their email...

  2. 2

    I think it depends on the product.

    I've had really good success offering access without requiring an email, but then asking for an email if the user wants to be made aware of updates. Also have a list of what updates are in production and coming soon.

  3. 2

    I would give you my email. What's the link to the theme platform? Are they for WordPress?

    1. 1

      Thanks, Laur, that's good to hear!

      The platform is not online yet, hopefully soon!

      I definitely think there is room for WordPress templates, I am planning to use a specific CSS framework/methodology, so I don't see how WordPress would not fit this, in the beginning it's gonna be mostly plain HTML templates with included ports for popular framework so the code is as easy as possible to copy-paste and use.

      1. 1

        Got it. All the best to you, and keep us updated!

  4. 2


    As a user I used to hate giving away my email address but now working on the other side I can why collecting emails is vital.

    In marketing there are customer acquisition and customer retention. Customer retention is generally harder than acquisition. It would be a waste of resources to spend time on acquisition and not on retention. You would be collecting the email addresses as part of the retention strategy to keep your users informed of new releases.

    1. 1

      Good point, it also aligns with my own thinking on this!

  5. 1

    I agree, don't force users to give up personal info for free downloads. When they click download you are going to have their IP address anyway.

  6. 1

    The correct answer for your product or service is....

    "Nobody knows"

    So test it..

    Evaluate the numbers and then decide!

    Any other is pure guess work!

    1. 1

      Definitely will test it :)!

  7. 1

    Your long term plan may matter here. Are you looking to have them join a mailing list or forum? Or to simply get marketshare? If it’s marketshare, make it as frictionless as possible, skip the email.

    Here are some things to consider if you make it mandatory. If you make it mandatory, you may get some throwaway emails if they are one-off downloads. It’s different when you’re storing user data because then they'd want to retrieve or change their passwords, etc. If your products are free only for a limited time and users would have to log in to access (for example training videos on customizing your themes) or you give them points for each video viewed and all, then making it mandatory will also work. In the latter case, you would be able to build a community around the users if that is part of your plan.

    I also like @Bangkokian suggestion here by making it optional. You can decide what to do with the emails after the fact. As long as it doesn’t come off as a suprise to users.

    1. 2

      Thanks for your insight!

      I want to be able to convert them to real user accounts, meaning that when they give me their emails, I actually create an account for them in the system, and then if they want they can input a password and see previous purchases/downloads etc.

      1. 1

        Gotcha. That’s a good strategy and can be well executed by providing a “receipt” of sorts when they receive their download. That way, it sets up the expectation of recording purchase history and having non-zero priced products to download in the future. Good luck.

        1. 1

          Thank you! It's gonna be interesting to see how people react to this :)

  8. 1

    Agree with the folks saying you should get email addresses. If it's awesome content, an email address is a small price to pay. (Note that you can offer some content without an email gate.)

    1. 1

      Good point about offering some content without using an email gate, is that something you have any experience with?

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        Sure, although I wouldn't say I'm any kind of guru. There's generally some content that's just freely available. For example, I have a blog, a podcast, and some online tools that people can use without giving me any info. Then, people can get various pieces of content in exchange for an email address ("Lead Magnets"-- in my case, content to help small services businesses get more clients, in your case, your themes, and maybe some more advanced "how to" checklists on using them effectively).

  9. 1

    Yes, this is a totally valid trade-off. Collecting emails is a great way to build an audience in order to market and sell to them later.

    I would go so far to say that a large majority of businesses depend in some form or another of providing something for free in exchange for an email address. Coupon codes, discounts, webinars, PDFs, ebooks, all serve these purposes.

    The best way to build an audience IMO is to provide something of value in exchange for an email address.

    1. 1

      Yea this is also how it works right now, but really nice to get some confirmation from you guys :)

  10. 1

    Hi @Reached,

    In my opinion, as long as you provide value and need with your content they'll provide whatever you ask from them :)

    As a user, if I really want to get the free material I usually provide my email address, however, I add a flag to be able to track where I used it. (basically adding a "+whatever" tag to my address)

    BTW I see a trend rising that sites tend to send the materials (or link to the material) via Messenger.

    After I received the content sometimes they send me other contents which I don't mind until it's relevant.

    For example, this site is using an email gate and also a Messenger gate after you provided the contact details for example https://www.productschool.com/the-product-book/

    I can imagine they collected a bunch of emails since they got a lot of traction and they provide value.

    1. 1

      I’ve never personally seen the messenger approach, but I’ve heard of it before :) maybe I should look into that!

  11. 1

    Depends on your goal.

    If it is simply that you want to get your name out there and gain some publicity, I would not make it mandatory.

    If you want to sell products, then I would insist on it. If a user is reluctant to give you an email address, will they ever actually be prepared to pay you?

    1. 1

      I definitely have a goal of selling products at one point, so it's a very valid point you raise about their willingness to pay if they don't "even" wanna give me their email.

      Thanks for your insight!

  12. 1

    Yes and no.

    • Yes, if you inform your users why you need the e-mail address but should optional.

    • No, if you ask for the sake of asking.

    Privacy is a big "thing". Some users are ok with that, and others don't.

    Think about it this way: So you find a nice template, but the platform asks for an email address to "download it", would you give it? (back in your head you are already thinking that you will probably be spammed and probably will "block" that address, or you probably will get a temporary e-mail).

    It's bad for the user and it's bad for the "business". The users that care, will give you the email address.

    1. 1

      Yea I also think that a large portion of the users would likely unsubscribe as soon as the template has been downloaded. However as you point out there is also a chance that it would help to get the users who actually care.

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