Subscription Popover Power: How to Grow Your Email List

Subscription popovers are the forms that appear inviting people to sign up to receive emails when they browse a website.

Not to be wrongly confused with popups (those annoying adverts that ‘pop up’ when you’re trying to read something online) popovers are smarter way to get more people signing up to your email programme.

When used well, popovers have been known to help marketers increase email subscriptions by up to 300 percent.

In this blog post, we show you how popovers can be used effectively to build your email lists. We focus on user-friendly tactics that won’t frustrate your potential customers, or make them frantically hit the back button.


You’ve probably seen a popover before, but the reason they may not stick in your mind is they’re not obvious —and that’s the way it should be.

To remain unobtrusive, popover messaging should be simple and relevant, appearing as part of the visitor’s web experience. Sometimes popovers can be shown in the middle of the site, or to the side, but they should always be on-brand and avoid the hard sell.

We love this example by retailer Madewell:

Madewell popover example

Simple and quick

When a popover appears it should be brief, asking the visitor to quickly read a catchy message with a clear and simple call-to-action.

Popovers work best when they’re simply asking the browser for their email address. Once you have their email you can contact them later and ask for more details—it’s the perfect excuse to send your first message!

We really like Kate Spade’s popover design—it’s clear, eye-catching, and friendly:

Kate Spade popover example

Incentivising sign-up

If you want to give browsers a little extra nudge to sign up to your email programme with a popover, incentivising them can work well.

Tell them about how you’ll make sure they’re the first to know about exclusive offers or offer them something for free: a download, delivery, or discount.

Incentivising sign-ups doesn’t just produce more data. It also ensures they enter their correct email address, as they’ll want to receive their freebie by email later.

The popover by boutique retailer ME+EM really tempts us to offer up our email address:

ME+EM popover example

Part of the page

Unlike those annoying popup adverts, popovers can’t be blocked and don’t open a new browser. This means your visitor will see them but they won’t irritate them.

Popovers are simply overlaid over existing content, so they don’t take the visitor away from what they’re reading. They’re often displayed in a way that means the reader can still see most of the content they started reading, making them just part of the page.

Keeping visitors hooked

When done well there should be a purposeful delay between the reader browsing a webpage and the popover appearing—about five seconds is what the experts suggest.

This delay is designed to allow the reader to become engaged and interested enough in the content that they’d want to subscribe to your emails to receive more. And they don’t have to appear only when browsers first visit your website—they can show at any time.

Some marketers even use popovers when the visitor browses away from the website to tempt them back with emails later:

Convertplug popover example

Easy to manage and stop

If the browser decides they don’t want to engage with a popover message, they can be closed by simply clicking on the cross on the top right corner.

When the visitor interacts by signing up, or closing it, you can also make sure they don’t see it again for a set period of time. And you don’t need to go overboard—if you display a popover message just once per website visit you will still get results.

Bonobos manage their popover messages by only showing them to new browsers:

Bonobos popover example


If you’re looking for something to pump up your database numbers then subscription popovers could be the answer.

When they’re implemented well they’re an easy, engaging, and unobtrusive way of collecting more visitors’ email addresses which doesn’t deter from their browsing experience.

And if you want to really get the most from new email subscribers then use popovers alongside our PureTargeting behavioural targeting software. This will allow you to get more people to join your database and immediately target them with a strong welcome email—or a whole series of automations—to keep them hooked.

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