Shopping experience

7 critical elements to make effective popups for seasonal or promotional sales

Popups have a bad reputation. They interrupt navigation and disrupt the customer journey. But the truth is that a well-designed popup can be the virtual equivalent of a blockbuster sale: Top performing popups enjoy a conversion rate of 3.1%, making them more effective than display ad marketing campaigns and many other forms of promotion. Popups also have the advantage that, beyond the initial cost, you can run them free of charge.

Popups have a bad reputation. They interrupt navigation and disrupt the customer journey. But the truth is that a well-designed popup can be the virtual equivalent of a blockbuster sale: Top performing popups enjoy a conversion rate of 3.1%, making them more effective than display ad marketing campaigns and many other forms of promotion. Popups also have the advantage that, beyond the initial cost, you can run them free of charge. 

The trick is that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about popups. This is especially true with regard to seasonal offers or other promotional sales. Done right, sales and discount popups inform visitors that you are running a sale and that they can buy products on your website for less. Mostly, sales popups are used as an entry or a timed popup, in order to facilitate a visitor’s interaction with the site.

To get more customers and increase sales and revenue, you have a lot of options: email promotion, search or display ads, posts on social networks, affiliate or referral partners—the list goes on. However, when it comes to promoting a sale, popups are often your best bet. It’s no coincidence sales popups are among some of the most popular and effective popups.

Sales campaigns

Most ecommerce websites run different sales campaigns during the year, especially throughout the holidays. We have all encountered campaigns for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas sales. When seasonal sales begin, most ecommerce sites offer significant discounts and run popup campaigns to advertise them.

A typical sales campaign may include discounts, free samples, or bonuses like free shipping targeted for a particular season. These campaigns are a great opportunity to offer products and deals that make sense in the context of a certain holiday.

For example, around Mother’s Day, many shoppers will want to buy women’s clothes, flowers, or cosmetics. Based on the demographics of your customers, see which products from your store would make the most relevant gifts for Mother’s Day. Then offer a sale on those products.

West Elm sales popup for Mother’s Day

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Case in point: West Elm uses this popup to promote their Mother’s Day sale, inviting visitors to buy their mother a present crafted by popular mom bloggers. 

Unique, relevant, and clear, this offer is likely to wow visitors and convince them to purchase a one-of-a-kind gift for their own moms. But it doesn’t just happen magically! In fact, this popup is carefully composed and calculated to convert customers.

Effective popups

To be effective, popups need to follow certain principles. Otherwise, customers will not absorb the information and actually make a purchase.

Here are seven critical elements that go into every effective popup:

  1. Clarity
  2. Control
  3. Creativity
  4. Relevance
  5. Charm
  6. Value
  7. Respect

Combined, these qualities make the difference between a successful popup and an unsuccessful popup. At best, a popup will convert a visitor into a customer. At worst, a popup will cause a visitor to close their browser window and leave your store. With only a split second to win over the customer, there’s very little margin for error, so let’s explore each of these essential principles in detail.


Clarity means that the information you are trying to convey to your visitor is clear and unambiguous. If your customer cannot understand the information, they will be unlikely to convert or click on your call to action.

Informing customers of a discount or sale may seem pretty straightforward. But keep in mind you have to convey not only what you offer, but also how the sale applies to them. 

It’s important to offer full information and not omit any details. For instance, if you leave out a crucial detail about how some shoppers are not eligible for your offer, you are going to undermine the trust of some customers.

Hyphen Cyber Monday popup

Hyphen provides a good example of using very clear language to promote an offer. The copy explains to visitors that they will receive $100 off each product they buy, provides a code, and mentions when the deal ends.

In addition, there is an element of urgency in the form of a countdown timer. The call to action is also clear and prominent in the popup. 


When a customer navigates to your website, they want to be in full control of the experience. In fact, the main advantage of a website is that visitors can peruse it at their leisure.

By using a popup, in a way, you take the control away from your visitor. You attempt to point them in the direction you want them to take. This is the danger of popups, and it’s the main reason why people are repelled by poorly-designed ones. 

In order to avoid this problem, you need to enable your visitors to opt-out of your popup easily. If visitors can’t reclaim control quickly and easily, they will not be able to continue their customer experience and will most likely close their browser window, leaving your website.

Apt2B’s 4th of July popup

Furniture retailer Apt2B uses their popup not only for sales but also to generate leads. Their call to action button invites visitors to leave their email addresses in order to receive future promotional emails. The main point of the popup, however, is to inform visitors of the 4th of July sale.

The common “x” button at the right-hand corner of the popup allows customers to maintain control over their experience. The copy, in the patriotic spirit of the holiday, offers furniture made in the USA.


This principle is one of the hardest to nail down. To woo your visitors, you need to present them with compelling imagery and wording that will grab their attention. Customers who are delighted by a popup are much more likely to click on the call to action.

Include humorous copy or unexpected pieces of information to entice visitors to read the info all the way through rather than opt out.

United by Blue’s Black Friday Popup

United by Blue uses a popup for Black Friday. The copy is unusual, as it invites customers to help celebrate Blue Friday, providing an unexpected twist with the wording. True to the spirit of the brand, they use “Get Involved” as their call to action, since United by Blue promotes a sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle.


Crucially, the popup must be relevant to the customer. It needs to convey appropriate information and should also connect with the page the customer is visiting. If the popup doesn’t align with the content, the visitor will likely close it and proceed to the information they intended to find.

Your popup also needs to align with your brand. The content of a popup should provide the same visual identity, brand voice, and language that your customers are familiar with and will expect from your business. A relevant deal that’s on brand makes the chances higher that customers will actually convert.

Halloween popup

This highly relevant popup uses a pumpkin with a clock to indicate that time is running out for customers to take the deal. The copy clearly provides an incentive to seize the one-of-a-kind offer.


The charm of a popup is closely connected to its creativity. If the copy is creative, the charm part will take care of itself. Sufficiently charmed visitors may even share links to your website in order to show your interesting popup to their friends.

The charm of a popup is hard to quantify, but the best indicator is its conversion rate.

A charming popup from Applecrumby & Fish

This Christmas promotion from Applecrumby & Fish uses an image of a baby in a Santa Claus suit to promote baby toys. Both relevant and cute, it’s likely to grab the attention of visitors and get leads, thanks to its high charm quotient.


Like every other call to action or conversion process on your website, a popup needs to give something of value to your visitor in order for any of them to convert. For sales popups, the promise of value is very clear: an opportunity to purchase a product at a lower price than usual.

Madewell post-holidays popup

This popup offers value to customers by prolonging holiday giveaways. Visitors may already be familiar with Madewell’s holiday offers, but this popup informs them that holiday sales are still on.


Finally, an effective popup should pay your customers proper respect. Many websites make the mistake of using what is referred to as “offensive” copy in their opt-out buttons. Popups should not attempt to shame customers into accepting offers or opting in with phrases such as “I do not like to save money” or similar guilt-inducing sentences.


Contrary to popular belief, sales popups can actually be very interesting and useful as a tool to increase conversions. Their main advantage is they are instantaneous and provide information to your visitors without delay. However, they interrupt a visitor’s journey and need to be managed with care.

This is why popups should be as entertaining as possible. You can capture interest by presenting valuable and relevant information in a charming offer. Above all, ensure that the respectful content will allow visitors to maintain control of the interaction.

Conversion rates reach into over 50% for the best performing popups, making them a prime example of efficient marketing tactics for ecommerce stores. Now, it is up to you. Care to share some successful popups with us and our audience? Make use of the comments section—we will be happy to discuss or answer any questions you might have.

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