For the last 90 days of 2021, we were running an A/B test on our blog.
The participants were 5 different types of email signup popups: modal popup, slide-in, sidebar, bottom bar, and fullscreen overlay 👇
By the end of the test, we wanted to compare their signup rates and prove the following hypothesis:
Slide-ins, sidebars, and bottom bars can be nearly as efficient as modal popups at converting visitors into subscribers.
As a company developing a website popup builder, we’ve noticed that many website owners hesitate to use popups for collecting emails. Why? Because of the fear of coming across as pushy. As a result, they miss out on a lot of potential leads!
So we decided to collect the data to be able to say: “If you find modal popups too intrusive, you can use alternative, less distracting popup types and still grow your email list efficiently.”
If you are too, on the fence about adding popups on your website, read on. We’ll show you how exactly we conducted this A/B test, and what the email signup rates were for each popup type.
Here is how we conducted the test
Before we jump to the winners and losers, here is a little more context on what we did.
To conduct the test, we created an email subscription CTA and featured it on 5 different popups along with an incentive: a list-building cheat sheet (aka lead magnet).
This way, we only wanted to engage with the visitors who seemed genuinely interested in our content.
To keep the results of the test accurate, each popup was displayed to 20% of the readers – those were mutually exclusive audiences. Apart from the format, everything else about these signup forms was the same:
- Clean design
- Call to action
- Lead magnet
Which one do you think had the highest email sign-up rate?
Take a guess! I’ll give you a moment.
Here are the results of the test
The fullscreen popup showed the highest signup rate and converted 3,41% of those who had seen it.
Unsurprisingly, the runner-up in the test is the modal popup. Its conversion rate was 2.95% which is slightly lower than the winner’s.
The third place goes to the sidebar converting at 2.61%, followed by the bottom bar (2.3%) and slide-in (2.17%).
Here is a more detailed breakdown featuring the number of views and conversions generated by each participant 👇
By the way, this screenshot is taken from our Getsitecontrol dashboard where we conducted the experiment. For the sake of this blog post, we aren’t going into the technical details of A/B testing, but the process is really straightforward and requires no special knowledge. If you’d like to conduct a similar experiment, read this step-by-step tutorial.
If this was enough to convince you to try a pop-up signup form, go ahead and add one to your website right now.
In the meantime, we’re going to talk about the interpretation of the test results.
Here is what we’ve learned about email signup rates
For years, we’ve been talking to website owners about popups, and here is what we’ve learned. When someone says “popups”, most people instantly think of those in-your-face modals that tend to appear way too soon and cover way too much of the page content.
We get it.
We often find this practice rather annoying, too.
And the worst part? It throws a shade on the entire popup family! (Even though reputable conversion experts have repeatedly confirmed that popups are “damn effective” when used right)
So let’s talk about the best practices for creating those email signup popups to be damn effective without being damn distracting – keeping in mind the data we featured earlier.
Below are five conclusions we’ve made.
Yes, fullscreens convert extremely well (but should you be using them?)
Although the fullscreen popup won the competition, it doesn’t mean it should be your go-to solution for collecting emails. Quite the opposite: we always recommend using fullscreens cautiously and making sure what you’re offering on the popup is worth interrupting the user experience on your website.
The most common scenarios for using fullscreen popups are first-purchase discounts, flash sales announcements, or other time-sensitive deals.
If you choose this route, remember to never display fullscreens upon arrival. First, it’s not the best user experience practice; second, Google might not like you for that (especially if you’re displaying popups on mobile).
Sidebars are almost as efficient as modal popups
The most exciting conclusion we made after the test is the following: sidebars can be just as efficient as modal popups at collecting emails. As a matter of fact, throughout the test, there were a few weeks when the sidebar converted better than the modal popup!
If you’re slightly lost in our terminology, this is what a sidebar looks like 👇
As a huge fan of sidebars, I couldn’t be happier about this outcome. Why? Because it confirms the original hypothesis we started the test with: yes, you can use non-intrusive popup formats and get results that are almost as good as the results delivered by modals.
However, not all popups turned out to be that efficient.
Slide-ins show the lowest email signup rate
Even if we set the fullscreen overlay aside, the difference in signup rates of other popup types can be significant:
- 2,16% (slide-in)
- 2,27% (bottom bar)
- 2,59% (sidebar)
- 2,92% (modal popup)
Take the modal popup and slide-in as examples. The 0,78% difference in their conversion rates results in a 36% difference in email signups. This means that out of 1000 visitors who see the signup form, a modal popup will convert 295 people into subscribers, meanwhile, a slide-in will convert only 217 people.
Now, if the type of a popup alone matters that much, what else does?
There’s no single answer to that question because it’s a group of factors including:
- whether or not you’re using lead magnets
- where on your website you’re displaying the form
- which display triggers you’re using
Let’s break it down below.
Lead magnets can triple email signup rates
There’s plenty of evidence proving that lead magnets work extremely well for email list building. The most famous example is probably Brian Dean’s lead magnet case study featuring a signup rate increase from 0,54% to 4,82%.
From our own experience, lead magnets can easily triple email signup rates, and if you’re offering a discount in exchange for a subscription, this number will probably be even higher.
However, even with the lead magnet, our email signup forms performed differently on different pages. The reason is simple: your lead magnet is only as good as the context of the page. (We’ll talk more about the context in moment)
Consent checkboxes decrease email signup rates (but not too much)
When we finished comparing the performance of different popup types, we wanted to know if a mandatory consent checkbox would affect the results and scare people off. To find the answer, we launched a new test.
This time, variant A had a mandatory checkbox saying that the lead magnet comes along with a subscription to our weekly newsletter. Variant B had no checkbox.
Why test consent checkboxes?
Consent checkboxes are an important attribute of permission-based marketing, but marketers are still reluctant to use them. Presumably, such a checkbox can be a real deal-breaker because the majority of people aren’t looking to receive yet another newsletter.
We think these claims are exaggerated.
A 60-day test showed that the consent checkbox indeed can decrease the email signup rate. However, in our case, it’s only a 0,53% difference.
Conclusion? If you communicate the value of joining your newsletter clearly, and if your lead magnet offer is contextual, the consent checkbox is unlikely to stop the majority of people from subscribing.
Context is uber-important
You probably already know it, but it’s essential to keep calls to action aligned with the content of a webpage. It works for email signup forms too. For example, instead of using a generic “Subscribe” CTA, take the time to explain the value of joining your email list to the reader and come up with a more contextual signup CTA.
If you’re offering a content lead magnet in exchange for an email, make sure it aligns with the context of the webpage. In fact, if you have several popular pages that can potentially generate email signups, going the extra mile and creating different lead magnets for them will pay off.
For example, this is how one of our popups performed on different pages:
Notice that the top two pages generated drastically different numbers of signups despite the not-such-a-big difference in the number of views.
Wondering why? Because the lead magnet we were offering was more contextual to article #2.
Good timing helps you build a better quality list
Timing can be tricky.
On the one hand, you can display your email popups as soon as someone lands on your website, and guess what? You might collect more emails, faster.
However, before you do that, think of the value of such subscribers for your business. How likely are people unfamiliar with your brand to open your emails, read them and click your CTA?
At the end of the day, the size of your email list is a vanity metric. What matters is how engaged your subscribers are. (Think open rate, click-through rate, and unsubscribe rate). That’s why we recommend targeting engaged visitors:
- those who have read through your blog post
- those who have spent some time on your website
- those who have visited more than one page
- or even returning visitors!
An “engaged visitor” will look differently for different websites. It is only natural that ecommerce websites try to convert visitors sooner than media websites because visitors’ behavior on those two is dramatically different.
Check your web analytics tool to see an average session duration, percentage of returning visitors, number of pages per session, and other metrics that might help you understand what a typical visit to your website looks like. Based on this data, choose the best moment to approach your visitors.
Wrapping up: do email popups work?
Email signup popups work – there’s no doubt about that.
Popups have proven to convert 2-3 times better than inline forms, and if you’re ready to offer a lead magnet, you can easily double that number.
If you’re still feeling hesitant about using them on your website, start with the least intrusive types and make sure you carefully pick displaying triggers.
From the visitors’ perspective, signup popups are nothing but invitations to your mailing list, and you want to make sure you’re inviting engaged visitors only. At the end of the day, it’s better to have a smaller-sized list of people interested in your content, than a larger-sized list of people who signed up before getting familiar with your website – whatever the reasons were.
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