What’s the first thing that ‘pops’ into your mind when you hear or see the term ‘pop-up advertising’?
For many people, this term is enough to get them started on a rant about how annoying pop-ups are.
Years ago, ecommerce websites relied heavily on the use of popups to market their products without taking the user experience into account.
As a result, the Internet was flooded with pop-up adverts that:
- Provided nothing of value to website visitors
- Disrupted the user experience for online shoppers
- Used misleading clickbait to grab the attention of users
There was little to no consideration for providing a positive shopping experience for online buyers.
But if you look at some of the most successful online stores today, you’ll notice that the way popups are used is changing.
Popups, when done right, can seamlessly integrate in the user experience without disruption while providing value for website visitors.
Pop-up advertisement in 2023 takes the user experience into account.
Because of this, public opinion on popups is slowly changing for the better, which is good news for you.
Do pop-up ads really work?
The short answer is yes. Pop-up ads do work, and they can help you turn visitors into subscribers or buyers.
Popups convert an average of 3.77% of visitors into email subscribers on desktop, and 6.57% on mobile. That’s more than twice as high as what inline forms can deliver.
Pop-up ads work well beyond email list building, too. You can use them to offer coupons, promote sales, and prevent cart abandonment.
For example, if you own an online store, you can use exit-intent popups to offer a last-minute discount to abandoning customers.
According to our data, this tactic can save you up to 13.5% of sales that would have been lost otherwise.
This doesn’t mean that all popups are created equal. But you’ll increase your chances of conversion if you design them in thoughtful, non-obtrusive ways.
Let’s get into that.
How to make your pop-up advertising effective (and non-intrusive)
You can avoid what makes most pop-up advertisements annoying – as long as you keep the experience of your visitors at the forefront of everything you do.
Here are four ways you can achieve that.
1. Pick the right timing to show your pop-up ads
Have you ever landed on a website for barely half a second – and then got bombarded with a popup?
I have – and this partly contributes to the bad rap popups have gotten in the past.
For example, as soon as I landed on the Mava Sports website, this showed up:
I didn’t even have time to read their headline or scroll down.
If you want to provide a positive experience for your website users, timing is everything when it comes to popups.
You should always give your users some time to engage with our website BEFORE you try to re-engage them with a popup.
For example, you can create popups that only appear when users are about to exit your website (they are called exit-intent popups).
This means your shopper won’t see the popup while they are still engaged. Instead, the popup is used to attempt to re-engage them once they have already made the decision to leave.
On the other hand, you can take advantage of the fact that users are engaged to promote something to them.
For example, I got this popup when I scrolled about 75% down the home page of Guard Lab:
They know that users who make it to this point are at least somewhat interested in what they have to offer, so it makes sense to try to add me to their email list.
Additionally, you could trigger your popup after a certain amount of time. Let’s say your user has been on your home page for thirty seconds and hasn’t clicked on anything yet – now would be a good time to show them something they could be interested in.
2. Make it easy to close pop-up ads
Even though pop-up advertisements are a great tool to help you grow your business, you need to ensure you’re making it easy for people to ignore them if they wish to.
Otherwise, your visitors could get turned off and annoyed by your website. And if they were currently shopping and got interrupted by a popup that just won’t go away, you could lose a paying customer.
Want to see what I mean? Let’s compare two popups to explore this.
The first one, from Altitude Sports, is an exit-intent popup:
There is nothing wrong with this popup per se, but now let’s compare it to this one from Vix:
What I like about this ad are the two options to close the window. There’s the ‘X’ in the corner, but they also have an underlined text at the bottom that reads: “Take Me to the Homepage, I Don’t Want free returns”.
This serves two purposes. One, it shows visitors what they’re missing out on if they decide not to take action on this pop-up ad. Two, it provides two paths to remove the popup if they’re not interested.
This doesn’t mean you have to add two exit strategies to your popups. However, it does mean you should think about this when you are designing.
For instance, don’t make your ‘X’ too tiny or difficult to find – and make sure your popup disappears if users click outside of the box.
Always test your pop-ups on mobile devices too, so you can ensure mobile users can easily get rid of them if they want to.
3. Set up the frequency of your popups
Timing is important for your popups, but so is frequency.
Just imagine how annoying it would be to get the exact same popup every single time you land on a website – whether this is your first time visiting that site today or the tenth.
Instead of leaving it up to chance, make sure you change the settings in your widgets to adjust the frequency of your popups.
I know many websites are doing this right because when I’m trying to find and screenshot popups for posts like these, I often have to use Incognito tabs to see them. This means most websites don’t want to show me popups I’ve already seen that same hour, day, or week.
So what is the RIGHT frequency to use? That depends! For example, if you’re running a weekend sale and want to showcase your best-selling products or a countdown timer for that sale, it makes sense to up the frequency to at least once or twice a day.
On the other hand, if you have a popup that appears after a set amount of time or when your users scroll down to a specific spot on your page, you probably don’t need to show this again for at least a week.
These numbers aren’t set in stone, though. Test it out for yourself and see how your audience responds.
4. Use a clear and engaging call to action
When visitors see your popups, what they need to do should immediately be clear to them.
You can achieve this by making your call-to-action button stand out from the rest of your design.
Just look at the contrast between the black and white design of this popup and the yellow CTA button for Drybar:
No one can miss it.
The copy you use on your button should also be clear and action-driven.
Not sure how to word your CTA? We covered 12 of the best call-to-action words in another post!
What to advertise in your website popups
Now that you know how to create popups that don’t suck, let’s talk about what you can use them for.
1. Incentives to complete a purchase
In several cases, your website visitors will scroll around, look at your products, maybe even add something to their cart – and then leave.
You don’t have to keep your popups for the home page only. For example, if you shop on the Casper website, you’ll notice that there is NO exit intent popup on the main page.
However, when you add something to your cart and then attempt to leave, that’s when they try to re-engage you with a pop-up ad.
By that point, I’ve already added something to my cart, which means that getting an additional 10% could be what convinces me to stay and complete my purchase.
On the other hand, you could also show a pop-up survey to ask why visitors are leaving. This can help you figure out what isn’t working on your site to prevent future abandonments.
2. Limited-time offers
Are you running a flash sale or offering a limited-edition product?
If so, you should let your website visitors know.
For example, True Classic, a T-shirt brand, uses an exit-intent popup to invite customers to explore items on sale before leaving:
If you choose this approach, consider adding scarcity elements to your popups, such as timers or inventory warnings, to add a sense of urgency to your offer.
You can use the sense of urgency to promote:
- A popular product that is going out of stock soon
- A limited-edition product that will disappear from your shop soon
- Limited-time offers or coupons
- Free shipping periods that are about to expire
- Seasonal offers that are about to end
Just make sure you remove these popups once the promotional period is over.
You could also decide to create an evergreen scarcity tactic. In this case, your visitors have a set amount of time to redeem a special offer based on when they landed on the site.
This means the offer doesn’t expire at a specific time on a specific date – it expires X amount of time after each unique user lands on the site.
For example, Blue Apron uses an urgency-based pop-up ad to encourage visitors to try their service:
A word of advice – test this out first before setting it and leaving it on autopilot. Not all audiences will respond the same way to different popups, and there is no way to know how your audience will respond until you test it out yourself.
Here’s an example: I recently helped my partner launch a single-product site, and we discovered that the popup that used an evergreen timer for a limited-time coupon didn’t convert as well as the regular popup with no scarcity. When we discovered this, we removed the evergreen scarcity element and found that more people signed up for his email list!
3. Specific products or collections
What if you want to place a specific product at the forefront of your marketing efforts?
Whether you want to do this because you have found that this product converts better than others, or because you’re launching something new that needs a bit more traction, you can use your popups to bring more attention to that product.
You can keep this type of popup relatively simple: provide one clear, engaging call-to-action button that links to your product, and specify why your visitors should check it out.
If you’re offering a special price for that product, make sure the copy on your popup mentions that, too.
4. Subscription to your promos
One of the most common types of popups you’ll see is designed to encourage email opt-ins.
In fact, I found it extremely difficult to find examples that WEREN’T designed to collect email addresses.
If you scroll back through the examples I showed you in the first section, you’ll see that most of them capture email addresses. But here’s another one to show you what it can look like.
In this case, Yankee Candle showed me this popup upon exit intent. Like many ecommerce sites, they are offering me a discount in exchange for my email address.
If you want to offer something else than a discount, you could also:
- Offer bonus points if you have a loyalty program
- Gift a free item if they purchase above a certain amount
- Redirect users to a quiz that provides them to with curated products that are the best for their personality
There’s a reason why popups are used so often to collect email addresses. With email marketing, you can add several touchpoints to the buyer’s journey and increase the chances that your visitors will remember you.
Without collecting their email addresses, the visitors who leave are often gone forever.
5. Specific pages (such as gift guides)
Popups can do more than sell a product or ask for an email address.
Sometimes you’ll want to redirect your users to a specific page on your site, such as a blog post or a gift guide.
This is how Jamie Turner, a jewelry brand uses a pop-up ad to promote their Mother’s Day gift guide page:
In their case, they do ask for your email address before taking you to the gift guide, but it’s optional. You can either use popups to promote certain pages directly or reveal them after a visitor has joined your list.
6. Your rewards program
Customers love shopping rewards and other loyalty programs! Did you know that 84% of customers are more likely to continue shopping with brands that offer loyalty programs?
But even if you have a rewards program, your website visitor won’t automatically know about it.
Many ecommerce websites make their loyalty programs obvious by adding it to their menu and creating a dedicated landing page for it, like Holo Taco:
But not every customer will carefully analyze every section of your menu. So how can you let those visitors know about your program?
Pop-up advertising, of course!
You can display a pop-up that showcases your reward program in several ways:
- Add a link that redirects visitors to your rewards program landing page
- Collect email addresses on your popup to generate signups for the program
- Trigger your rewards popup on exit intent
- Show the rewards popup to existing email subscribers instead of showing them your usual welcome discounts
- Display the rewards popup (in a non-obtrusive way) during the checkout process
On your rewards popup, make sure to clarify why people should join your loyalty program. Don’t simply tell people to join for the sake of joining.
For instance, you can tell them they’ll earn points for free products based on past orders and referrals.
7. Customer reviews
If you already have a few customer reviews, you can use pop-up ads to display them.
Sure, some visitors will find reviews on your website – if they decide to search for social proof. However, you can also choose to be proactive, and show the reviews you’re especially proud of, like Thinx 👇
Thinx doesn’t display this review randomly either. You’ll only see this popup if you spend some time on the website and start heading to exit without purchasing anything.
8. Gift cards
Is it gift card season? If so, you can prioritize gift cards in your pop-up advertisements.
Instead of promoting specific products, simply remind visitors that you offer gift cards.
Let your customers know why a gift card is a great gift for their loved ones.
If you’re running your gift card promo during a specific holiday season, theme the copy on your popup to make it relevant.
9. Brick-and-mortar store openings
If you run your store online only, this topic won’t apply to you.
On the other hand, if you plan to open brick-and-mortar locations someday, you’ll want to make sure you make some noise when it happens.
Of course, you should send promotional emails to announce your new location. But you can also create some pop-up ads specifically for the occasion.
Here are a few ways to use pop ups to let people know about a new brick-and-mortar store opening:
- Tease the new location and ask people to join your list to get updated about when it finally opens
- Offer in-store coupons for people who join your list
- Use countdown timers in your popup with a CTA to receive a text or email reminder when the location opens
- Advertise an opening party with a CTA to RSVP for the event
Make sure your popups align with the rest of your promotion. For instance, you can update your popup every time you send new updates to your list via email!
10. Your live sale event
Hosting a live sale event soon? In addition to letting your audience know via social media and email, keep your website visitors in the loop, too!
You can show the popup promoting your live sale event to everyone who shows up on your site.
Alternatively, you can show it to people who have already joined your email list.
Finally, you could also create two versions of your popup:
- One that asks to join your email list to receive updates about the live event, and;
- Another that doesn’t ask for the email (for existing subscribers) and only links to the location of your live event (like a livestreaming app)
Similar to brick-and-mortar store openings, make sure to sync up your popups with the rest of your promotional efforts.
For example, let’s say you’ve let your Instagram audience know your live sale event is only one day away:
You can update your website popup to tease your website visitors in a similar way.
11. Shipping news and promos
Free shipping is a huge influence on customers. 80% of people who shop online expect free shipping if they spend over a certain amount, while 66% of them expect free shipping on all orders!
You can use popups or sticky bars to let people know how your shipping works — especially if you offer free shipping or if it’s a holiday season.
But free shipping isn’t the only “shipping-related” info you can share on your pop ups. For instance, you can let customers from other countries know when you’ve started shipping to their location.
Use your pop up to provide all the important details about your new shipping locations. For example, see how Saks Fifth Avenue lets Canadian visitors know that they’ll get guaranteed landing costs that are calculated at checkout:
Make sure to customize your pop up based on your visitors’ location. That way, they’ll only see such news if it applies to them.
Always prioritize your users when creating pop-up advertising
I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it again — the key to effective pop-up advertising is to prioritize a positive experience for your website visitors.
Your potential customers expect more out of you in 2023 than they did ten years ago – and chances are, your competition is using these methods to create a better pop-up experience on their own sites.
Luckily for you, creating popups that don’t suck doesn’t have to be hard! Getsitecontrol makes it easier than ever – you don’t need any coding or design skills for that.
Charlene Boutin is a freelance content writer & email marketing strategist for hire specializing in helping Ecommerce and SaaS businesses increase conversions by growing authentic relationships with their audience. She loves helping business owners tell their unique stories to capture the hearts of more customers.
You're reading Getsitecontrol blog where marketing experts share proven tactics to grow your online business. This article is a part of Lead generation section.Subscribe to our newsletter →
Subscribe to get updates
Get beginner-friendly tips for growing your online business.Join the list →