How to Use Pop-ups Without Annoying Your Visitors

Pop-ups, popovers, overlays. Whatever you call them, you’ve likely seem them across the web. And you might already be using them.

Used well, pop-ups are a powerful way to grow your marketing list, drive conversions, and reduce website abandonment.

In contrast, badly used pop-ups can detract from customer experience. They may disrupt the customer in their journey to purchase and create bad brand sentiment. At their worst, obtrusive pop-ups may alienate customers from your brand and slow business growth.

So, how do you use pop-ups without annoying customers? Read on to find out, as we explore the art and science of using pop-ups.


The benefits of unobtrusive pop-ups

Strategic use of pop-ups can support business growth. This happens in three important ways:

1. Growing your marketing list

Firstly, unobtrusive subscription pop-ups can help you grow your marketing list.

Subscription pop-ups ask for a visitor’s email address and permission to contact them for marketing purposes.

Used well, subscription pop-ups have been known to help marketers increase email subscriptions by up to 300 percent.

2. Driving conversions

Secondly, pop-ups can help you push prospects towards conversion. One way to do this is by using pop-ups to create a sense of urgency. This prompt customers to buy now rather than miss out.

There are a number of tactics you can employ to do build urgency using pop-ups. These include using a pop-up to highlight:

  • scarcity with low-stock alert
  • limited time for next day delivery
  • that items in basket will be held for limited time
  • that other shoppers are viewing the same product

Another way to drive conversions with pop-ups is by using them to offer discounts. A little money off is often all that’s needed to push a potential customer over the line.

3. Reducing website abandonment

You might be concerned that pop-ups might negatively hit your bounce rate but research suggests otherwise.


Dan Zarrella revealed that implementing pop-ups only caused his website abandonment rate to increase by 0.5%. At the same time subscription rates more than doubled. A very small price to pay for big list growth returns.

That said, pop-ups can actually help to reduce website abandonment. It’s possible to set them up to be triggered by exit intent. This is when the user moves towards closing a window.

Using pop-up to offer reasons to keep browsing can be an effective way to encourage a customer to continue their journey with your brand.

Common types of pop-ups

There are a number of different types of pop-ups, each with slightly different objectives. These include:

Entry pop-ups

Entry pop-ups appear when a visitor lands on your website. They encourage a micro-commitment which may make a user more likely to convert further down the line.

Timed pop-ups

Timed pop-ups appear after a visitor has spent a certain amount of time on your site or a particular page.

The rationale is that you will have offered them value in this time. Having gained value, someone is more likely to complete the action your pop-up asks of them.

Additionally, you could use timed pop-ups to show after a lengthy amount of inactivity. If someone was static on a page for a long time, a pop-up could help grab their attention again.

Scroll pop-ups

Scroll pop-ups appear after a visitor has scrolled to a certain depth.

Like timed pop-ups the rationale is that when a visitor has scrolled to a certain depth, you’ve offered them value. They should be ready to engage.

Exit intent pop-ups

Exit intent pop-ups appear when someone is about to leave your website. Their purpose is to give your visitor reasons to stay.

The dos of pop-ups

So, how do you use pop-ups effectively? Here are nine pop-up dos to help you succeed:

1. Sell the benefits

It is important that your pop-up clearly presents the benefits of completing the action being asked of the user.

For example, if you are asking them to sign up for your email list, tell them how this will benefit them. Perhaps you’ll give them an exclusive access to new products. Or maybe they’ll receive discounts.

2. Offer incentives

Offering an incentive in the form of a personal discount or free gift can often make good business sense.


While it may impact your margins, it can still be a cost effective way of growing your list and pushing people towards making that first purchase.

Our own personalisation platform allows you to only target first time and anonymous visitors so you don’t have to worry about cannibalising revenue from existing customers.

3. Reduce cart abandonment

Use pop-ups to keep customers on track throughout the checkout process. This will help to prevent cart abandonment.

For example, remind them how long they have left to benefit from next day delivery.

4. Make your message concise

To stand the best chance of prompting action, your pop-up message needs to be concise. It should be easy to scan and digest at a glance.

Presenting your visitor with too much text will overwhelm them. Avoid making it hard work for them.

5. Segment your audience

To increase engagement, segment your audience according to how they behave or their position in the customer lifecycle.

Showing the most relevant pop-up to each segment increases the likelihood your customers will complete the action you’re asking of them.

6. Personalise your message

Personalising the message shown on pop-ups is an effective way to increase engagement.

For example, if you know a customer often buy shoes, make sure your message is shoe themed.

7. Make them mobile friendly

Optimise your pop-ups for mobile to increase engagement across devices. Pop-ups that aren’t mobile friendly are unlikely to resonate when they appear on mobile.

8. Measure the impact

Make sure that you measure the impact your pop-ups are having on other metrics. This helps to ensure that your pop-ups are having the desired effect.

Metrics to consider include bounce rates, conversion rates, and time on site.

9. Test and test some more

To get the most out of using pop-ups, taking a test and learn approach is crucial.

Test, analyse, and optimise the performance of your pop-ups to continually improve results.

10. Comply with GDPR

It goes without saying that now GDPR is in force, you must ensure the data collection tactics you use on pop-ups comply with the legislation.

The don’ts of pop-ups

To avoid annoying your customers it’s important to understand the don’ts of pop-ups. Steer clear of the following:

1. Use language that makes people feel bad

There’s no easier way to create negative brand sentiment than by using language that makes customers feel bad.

Don’t make users click “No, I don’t want more traffic” to close your pop-up! (Passive aggressive much?)

Do let them click “I’ll pass for now”. This leaves them feeling good about engaging in the future.

2. Make pop-ups hard to close

Don’t be a jerk and deliberately prevent people from being able to close the pop-up easily. Doing so is a sure-fire way to frustrate your visitors.

Pop-ups should be easy to close. End of story.

3. Try to collect too much data

Avoid overwhelming your customers by trying to collect too much data. Their email should be all that you need. Everything else can be asked at a later date.

4. Bombard people on every page

Try not to bombard people with pop-ups on every page they land on. To stay effective, use your pop-ups sparingly. Ideally once per session.

If someone closes a pop-up, take that as a sign that they weren’t interested.

5. Disrupt your user experience

Avoid impacting negatively on your user’s experience. It is important that your pop-ups don’t get in the way of what your user came to your site to do.

If someone has added something to their basket and is about to checkout, don’t get in their way by trying to capture an email unnecessarily.

6. Offer irrelevant incentives

Offering irrelevant incentives will simply confuse your customers. If you’re a fashion brand, there’s no point in giving away an iPad. Keep your pop-up offers relevant and on brand.

7. Show pop-ups at the wrong time

It is important to avoid showing pop-ups at the wrong time. For example, avoid showing pop-ups during your checkout. Unless you can can clever timed targeting for hesitant buyers who might be ready to abandonment their basket.


Used well, pop-ups will help your marketing list grow, conversions lift, and website abandon rates drop. Following our pop-up dos will help your brand benefit from these positive effects.

Meanwhile, avoiding our pop-up don’ts will help you to stay focused on improving (rather than detracting from) customer experience. This is crucial if you want to maximise the success of this marketing tactic.

Pop-ups are just one of the many ways you can support revenue growth for your eCommerce business. We explore some other essential strategies in our Guide to eCommerce Revenue Growth.

The Essential Guide to eCommerce Revenue Growth