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Popups for ecommerce

Ecommerce websites use a variety of popups to elicit a reaction from the visitors. Popups can be used to greet the visitors to the website, inform them of deals and similar. The popups can be initiated using behavioral, timed or automatic triggers.

Visitors navigating to your website may be motivated by an ad, a marketing email or an organic search result. After reaching your website an ideal outcome for you is that visitor knows what they want to buy, find it out quickly and complete a transaction, netting revenue for your website. This happy end depends a lot on the motivation of your customer - highly motivated customers will be more likely to complete the purchase.

However, these highly motivated customers will not be the majority of the visitors who reach your website. Many visitors will be browsing it without strong intent to purchase, researching a future purchase or just gathering information instead. Without some way to elicit the interaction, these visitors may simply look around the page and bounce, leaving without making any action.

“popups work because they require (as extreme as that sounds) the site visitor to act. Whether it’s to fill out the form or to click the close button, they have to click on something to continue viewing whatever wonderful content you have on your page.” Wishpond article

Types of popups

Trigger types

Ecommerce websites use a variety of popups to elicit a reaction from the visitors. Popups can be used to greet the visitors to the website, inform them of deals and similar. The popups can be initiated using behavioral, timed or automatic triggers. The popups can present customers with a discount or show the products that are most popular with other customers.

Popups can also be used to match customer actions like scrolling, clicking links or images or moving the pointer outside of the limits of the window, indicating exit intent. Behavioral triggers allow you to match customer intent and show them the information to make them more likely to convert.

Timed triggers allow you to show the popup at the specified time (for example after thirty seconds) of visit duration. This allows you to match the popup to the average behavior of your visitors, for example, and show a pop-up when your customer is near completing reading the content.

Finally, you can use automatic triggers to show important information, remind customers of products they have added to cart or to get leads and capture their email address. There are six major types of popups a website can use.

  1. Entry popup
  2. Overlay popup
  3. Click popup
  4. Scroll popup
  5. Timed popup
  6. Exit popup

Entry popup

Entry popups trigger as your visitor navigates to the website. It shows up at the moment your customer opens the website before they have been able to view the content of the site. The main issue with entry popups is that your visitors may not be primed for the action your popup is trying to elicit.

For example, trying to get customers to purchase right off the bat before they have actually seen your offer, products or got to trust your brand. The best use of entry popups is to get leads, offer coupons, or similar benefits for first time customer. For the first time customers, entry popup can be used to emphasize benefits for the first order.

For ecommerce stores that have a large number of international sales, getting the location of a potential customer can allow them to offer more personalized service, such as accurate shipping cost, products that are popular at that location, etc. 

Revolve entry popup

Revolve uses entry popup to offer customers a discount as an enticement to provide their email address and gender. This helps the company to better personalize the offer and provide more relevant emails to prospects. Visitor can opt-out of the popup easily and using a visible link at the bottom, to minimize the popup intrusion.

Frank & Oak

Frank and Oak entry popup

This store also uses a popup to get an email from the customer as soon as they arrive on the site. It also offers the visitor an option to use social login to improve their experience. This makes it easy for the customer to complete orders later on.

GlassesUSA Entry pop

Entry popup of welcomes the visitor with a question ‘First time here?’. This attempts to connect with the visitor and an offer of 50% discount for the first pair of glasses is sure to entice visitors to leave their email address. The only issue can be if the visitor is using a different device to navigate the website, as that would make the popup irrelevant.

Overlay popup

Overlay popup covers the entire content of the page, requiring a visitor to take action before continuing the navigation. Due to the size of overlay popup customers will likely take the expected action, if it is represented as beneficial enough. For example, many brands give away discounts, free shipping or other tangible benefits in exchange for subscribing to their newsletter. 

The rationale behind this is that an email campaign will bring in returning customers and increase the customer lifetime value. It is a well-researched and documented fact that email marketing is potentially the best acquisition channel, so ecommerce stores should spare little to get the email address.

Overlay popups can have a significant drawback - unless the call to action contains a tangible benefit, involves limited or no effort from the customer and does not cause the visitor to close the window entirely. To make overlay popups effective, they need to have a clear and simple procedure to complete the action you expect visitors to do.


Sportique uses a full-screen popup to grab visitor attention

This full-screen lead generation popup Sportique uses is an excellent example of how a brand can use imagery to connect to the visitor's lifestyle. In addition to attractive imagery, Sportique offers 10% discount and offers insider news if a visitor provides their email address. Popup is easy to opt-out using a underlined link.

Click popup

Click popups are the behavioral type of popups, which trigger based on the actions the visitors take on your website. Their primary advantage is that they can be highly personalized to respond to the intent of your customers.

This makes popups less intrusive to the customer experience since they are activated by choice, rather than popping up without warning. Click popups are useful to get leads based on the link your user clicks, such as for example, a link to a blog post on your site. Some ecommerce websites use pop-ups that appear when a customer clicks on add to cart.

The primary purpose of add to cart popup is to entice your visitor to provide their email address for the purpose of reclaiming abandoned cart. Since a click popup makes an integral part of the add to cart process, it is much more natural for your customers and does not overly intrude in their shopping experience.


Amazon uses on click popup to showcase their product

Scroll popup

Scroll popups are triggered and activated by customer behavior such as scrolling down the length of the page. By triggering a popup at specific points on the web page, you can also match visitors intent and integrate popups seamlessly into the customer experience. Since you can know how far down each page your customers scroll down with good accuracy, you can trigger a popup to show when they reach for example the end of the article on your blog.

In addition, you can use scroll popups to match the popup message with the products your visitor is viewing. Unless you have a highly dynamic store with high product turnover rate, you can set the popup to trigger on products your visitor is currently viewing. The advantage of this is that you match customer intent with a popup promoting a specific product, they may be viewing.


Definitive uses a scroll triggered popup

A scroll triggered popup like the one above is useful to grab customer attention at the end of their engagement with content and provide a link to your product page like Definitive is doing. This way you lead your customer toward the goal. 

Timed popup

Another way to trigger popup is based on the time the visitor has spent on your website. A timed trigger can be tied to either average time visitors spend on a particular page or average session duration time. Timing the popups should be matched with a period of customers greatest engagement on your website.

You can use the scroll tracking tools to determine when and how long your customers spend at parts of the page, for example reading the product information. This allows you to show popup to visitors when they are most engaged and primed to receive the message popup conveys.

Matching the popup with most engaged time makes it possible to continue a natural customer journey and show the relevant message to visitors with a higher likelihood to engage them further and lead them down the conversion funnel.

Lids Locker Room

Lids use a timed popup to engage visitors

When a visitor has spent a predefined amount of time on their cart page, Lids activates the popup and tries to offer help to a prospect. This way they can answer any question a customer may have about prices, shipping, product specifications or anything else before a customer leaves the site, abandoning the cart.

Exit popup

Exit popups are some of the most popular popups used by an ecommerce website. Their popularity is based on the fact that exit popups do not intrude into the visitor's journey or intent. These popups show when the visitor shows the intent to leave the page and close the browser window.

Since a visitor has already decided to leave the website, any additional engagement with them is welcome. You can use the exit popups to get the leads, remind visitors of items they added to cart or offer them content they may have missed. It is also common to use this opportunity to emphasize benefits such as items on sale, discounts or free shipping.

Exit popups do not have usual limitations of other types of popups, such as interrupting customers interactions with the website or needing a short and clear call to action. One of the uses of exit popups is if your website has a high bounce rate. To counteract this, you can show an exit popup that will send your visitors to attractive and popular content they may have missed.

Additionally, exit popups can be useful to reclaim an abandoned cart. When you detect a visitor who wants to leave your website but has not completed the purchase, you can remind them of this and emphasize specific benefits, such as free shipping or special deals. You can also offer them to type in their email address so you can notify them when the item they added to cart is on sale.


Hannahpad uses exit popup as a last minute attempt to get a lead

This is fairly typical exit intent popup, which attempts to get a lead and capture prospects’ email before they leave the website. Discount worth $10 serves as an enticement for prospect to provide their name and email address.

Purpose of popups

The main purpose of popups is to increase the engagement of visitors. Left to their own devices, visitors will view the website as a static entity - look at the homepage, browse a product or two and leave. However, if you can point them to the engaging content, exciting offers or other similar items, you can improve the likelihood your customers will remain on the site for longer and see something they may be interested in buying.

Several research studies have pointed out that using popups for lead generation is superior to lead generation forms and can help your website reduce the bounce rate, by recapturing visitor attention. Popups are generally used for several main purposes and ecommerce sites make use of them to gather email addresses, present discounts and sales, offer coupons, promote new product additions or gather data about their visitors. The overall goal of a popup is to push your customer towards the goal (and it must be a goal that benefits both sides - you and your customer).

Lead generation popups

Getting an email address from your customer is necessary to engage them with one of the most effective marketing channels. Using a popup to get an email address is how most ecommerce stores gather leads. The popup is superior to static lead generation form as these can easily remain unnoticed in the content of the website.

To function properly, the popup needs an effective incitement, calls to action that provide benefits, also known as lead magnets. Most stores use discounts or a promise of free shipping or other similar benefits. To be effective, you need to weigh the value of the benefits with the value of a lead.

For example, if your average email conversion rate is 5% and an average customer lifetime value of email acquired customer is $100, it means you can pay up to $5 for each lead. To ensure the profitability of your store, therefore, you need to make sure your enticements do not create higher costs than that.


Brooklinen uses this simple full screen popup

To get an email address from the prospect, Brooklinen shows off their product in the full-screen image and offers a $20 gift with free shipping. Opting out of this popup is easy, but the enticement is really great, so I do not imagine many people would opt out.


Boardwalkbuy uses gamification to increase interest

To make customers more interested in providing information, Boardwalkbuy uses wheel of fortune and gives prospects a chance to win up to 20% discount on their products if they provide email address. It also uses side slide in popup that minimizes the intrustion on customer experience. 

Cart abandonment popups

In addition to using popups for lead generation, many ecommerce stores use it for abandoned cart recovery. For example, if a visitor adds products to the cart and moves the pointer to exit the website, a popup reminds them that they have items added to the cart that they may have forgotten.

Cart abandonment is an issue plaguing ecommerce stores and according to studies, products valued up to $4 billion are left in the carts. In order to address the issue, ecommerce stores usually use cart abandonment emails. However, cart abandonment popups can provide more timely (virtually immediate) feedback to the visitor, making it more likely they would convert.

The advantage of cart abandonment popup is that it adds a dynamic element to the reminder. Popup can offer customers to create an account and add the item to a wishlist. You can also capture an email address by offering to notify prospects of any reduction in the price of the item.


Threedropsoflife abandoned cart popup

Threedropsoflife combines enticement - 10% discount and free shipping with urgency by leaving 10 minutes for prospect to make a decision. This way they address two of the most common reasons for cart abandonment - high product price (25%) and high shipping cost (44%). Using urgency, it also attempts to convince customers who are not ready to buy yet (another reason for 41% of cart abandonments).


GiftBasket combines lead generation and cart abandonment

When a customer abandonds cart on GiftBasket, the popup that shows up offers them $10 discount for any gift over $50. They can get the $10 voucher immediately or leave their name and email address so the company can send the email later on.

Information gathering popups

Another important way ecommerce stores use popups is to gather information about the visitors. Information is important as it can be used to provide a more personalized experience. Personalization is one of the best ways to increase the conversion rate. The more accurate personalization is, the more effective it is. If you offer your prospects relevant offers, they will be more likely to actually convert and purchase an item. 

For example, a clothing brand may use a popup and ask customers about their gender. Knowing that piece of information, the store can offer prospects products that match their gender preference. If women are taken to the women clothes immediately, that shortens their navigation route and improves their customer experience, increasing the likelihood they will dedicate more time to considering the products they may want to buy.

You can also improve the relevance of your offer by getting the information on your prospect location. Not only will this enable you to calculate shipping cost more accurately and provide the information to your prospect you will also be able to show more personalized offer.

An example of personalization popup

By providing some basic info about themselves, prospect enables the store to provide more relevant offer

This popup asks prospects to provide some info, promising they will receive better deals. The popup has a progress indicator so a prospect knows what is expected of them. It is also easy to opt out, by clicking the close button on the right hand corner of the popup. It only lacks a clear incentive, other than better deals mentioned in the subhead.

Discount information and other info

Finally, one of the most common uses of popups on ecommerce websites is to inform prospects that there is a discount they can take advantage of. This information can also double as a lead magnet, by asking your customers to provide an email address to enable you to send them a timely notification.

For example, if a sale starts on a particular day, such as Cyber Monday or Black Friday sales, a popup announcing pending sale could include an email capture field so you can inform prospects when the sale starts.


While undoubtedly useful, popups can turn into an ugly experience for both prospect and ecommerce site owner. The main advantage of popups - to require a visitor to act is their main weak point. Popups tend to interrupt visitor’s journey and a popup that is too intrusive can drive visitors away, frustrating them in the attempt to navigate the website.

Popups that provide no clear way to opt out, or make it difficult for customers to complete the action the popup expects them to. Besides using several popups appearing all at once can make customers very doubtful of the legitimacy of your website.

Popups with too much text, too many fields, invisible or difficult to see opt-out options make it hard for prospects to continue with their navigation, you will cause the customers to close the browser and leave your website, likely never to return.

Make your popups visually attractive, with a clear message and simple call to action. Popup should enable the prospect to quickly and efficiently complete the action expected of them, moving them towards the goal.

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