Why You Should Be Using Popups on Your Online Store

Why You Should Be Using Popups on Your Online Store

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Popups suck right? So why do so many of your favorite sites use them? If you don't know, popups are those little annoying boxes that pop up or out at you while you're comfortably reading a site. They are those things that interrupt your shopping or surfing experience and force you to find that little tiny X button to close them. They are annoying and rude and... they work. Really, really well. 

In this post, we're going to tell you why you must implement a popup for your store, the pros and cons of having a popup and the best practices to get the most from it.

Let's pop right into it. 

Popups Work

The purpose of a popup is to provide a very strong call-to-action. This action might be an announcement or sale you want to the visitor to know about, but more often than not, it's to collect email addresses. Test after test has proven that popups work extremely well. In one test, popups drove 1,375% more email captures vs. a sidebar opt-in form. 

In another test, a website was receiving only 10 to 15 subscribers per day despite getting over 44,000 unique visitors each day. After implementing a popup with a 60 second delay, they began receiving 100-150 emails per day.

Why would you want to collect email addresses? 

In a previous post, we talked about how your store is like a bucket of water with a lot of holes in it. You spend time and money to keep filling the bucket with water (visitors) but the majority (99% if you have an average 1% conversion rate) falls out of the holes and are gone, usually forever. This is obviously counter-intuitive to a successful business. Keeping people in the bucket and being able to bring back those that fall out is really important to running a long term successful business. 

By collecting email address of visitors, you get a second and maybe third chance to bring them back and convert them to a customer with effective email marketing campaigns

So why email? Why not try to get them to follow on Facebook or Twitter instead? 

If you've followed the Shopfy blog for a while you'll already know the answer to this question. Email converts better than any other channel. In fact, email has an ROI of around 4,300%, according to the Direct Marketing Association.

That's because your customer's email inbox is their most personal online environment and getting permission to message them there provides you with a level of distraction-free attention for your message that you just can't get on other channels.

The Darkside Of Popups

So with so much compelling evidence that popups work, why isn't everyone using them? Well, it's not all unicorns and rainbows. There are disadvantages to using popups on your site that you should be aware of before making a final decision to use them.

Let's take a look at some of the disadvantages below: 

    Disadvantages Of Using Popups

    1. Many visitors, especially those who are familiar with internet technologies, don't like popups. Some people dislike them so much, the will immediately exit a site with a popup.
    2. Some popups, especially those which contain scripts, might slow your page load time down which is a factor in conversions as well as SEO. 
    3. Anything less than the right message at the right time can be annoying and distract visitors from their experience.

    Types of Popups

    There are several ways to display your popup based on visitor actions. Let's take a look at some of the most popular below: 

    • Timed-Based - This method will show your popup after a predetermined amount of time. A time-based popup can work well if you set it to 60 seconds or greater, as you know at that point you are showing it to someone thats been engaged with your site for a while and more committed. 
    • Content-Based - Content-based popup will only show your popup on specified pages.
    • Scroll-Based - A scroll-based popup will show your popup when a user has scrolled a specific percentage of the way down your page. This is commonly used on blog posts and is similar to the timed method as you are only showing your popup to someone who has engaged with your page a specific amount. 
    • Exit-Intent - An exit-intent popup only shows when a visitor is about to leave your site. Using cursor tracking, the popup app will determine when someone is about to click the back or close button on their browser and show your popup in a last ditch attempt to get an email address or offer a discount before the visitor leaves your site. 
    • Pop-Out - A pop-out is a slightly different version of a popup. Instead of popping up and blocking the visitors surfing experience, it pops out of the side of the browser but still allows the visitor to continue browsing. 

    Making Popups Work For You

    If you've decided that a popup would be right for your store, there are a few things to consider to make it as effective as possible. Let's take a look at the two core characteristics of an effective popup below: 

    Timing Can Be Everything - You can show your popup at different points in your customers experience on your site. You can hit the visitor as soon as they come to your site, after a predetermined amount of time, when they complete a certain action (like viewing a particular page) or as they are about to leave your site.

    Showing a popup as soon as a visitor hits your site might provide you with more emails but it comes at the expense of being intrusive and possible annoying to some visitors. Some experts would argue that many times the emails you receive from this approach are less qualified because these people didn't have enough time to explore your site and truly determine if your brand and products are a good fit for their needs. This can possible lead to a poor email list with a lot of unsubscribes.

    Feel free to experiment with the various types of popups and see what works best for you. 

    Choose The Right Message - Choosing the right message is critical. Just like creating any ad, your image should be eye catching and interesting and your copy should be straight to the point and provide a clear benefit along with a strong call-to-action. Many visitors are accustomed to closing popup boxes immediately, so you only have a second to get their attention and pique their interest.

    Consider including a catchy headline, impressive numbers or interesting facts to attract the visitors interest right away. 

    Other Uses For Popups Besides Collecting Emails

    We have talked primarily about using popups to collect email addresses, however, they are other uses for a popup that should be noted:

    • To answer a potential question from visitors before they ask it. (Free Shipping to USA and Canada! SHOP NOW)
    • To encourage the download or viewing of a ebook or piece of content. (View Our Winter 2014 Fashion Lookbook! VIEW NOW)
    • To introduce attractive discounts. (10% Off Your First Order! Use Coupon Code HIGHFIVE)
    • To ask your visitors a question to gather more information on their habits. (Help Us Decide On Our New Logo! VOTE NOW)
    • To showcase a new product or product line to all visitors. (See A Sneak Peek Of Our 2015 Collection! PEEK NOW)

    Apps To Help

    There are no shortage of apps to help you get set up with the right popup for your business and visitors. Below, we have curated a few of the more popular ones from the Shopify App store:

    • Pop-Up Window - Standard customizable popup for your store. 
    • Email Pirate  - Standard customizable popup for your store. 
    • Smart Popup Box - Allows for email capture and social follows to reveal discount. 
    • Exit Offers - Only shows a popup if a visitor has added an item to their cart and attempts to exit or close the page. 
    • Picreel - Shows a popup right before a visitor attempts to leave your site. 
    • ExitIntent Shows a popup right before a visitor attempts to leave your site. 
    • Bounce BackShows a popup right before a visitor attempts to leave your site. 
    • Pixelpop - Six types of popups and four popup shapes available.

    For a list of all popup apps in the Shopify App store, just search for "popups".

    If you're not on the Shopify platform (and even if you are) you can try App Sumo's Sumo Me suite of website products which includes a popup as well as a popout application. 

    Before your start searching for app plugins to fulfill your popup needs, make sure your theme doesn't have a popup built in. Here's an example of three of the top Shopify themes with a popup built into the theme: 

    Retina from Out of The Sandbox

    Retina  from Out of The Sandbox

    Icon from Underground Media

    Icon  from Underground Media

    Weekend by Barrel 

    Weekend  by Barrel 

    Check out the theme store for more theme options with popups. Just open the demo to see if your theme choice has a built in popup. If it does, you'll see it as soon as you open the demo. 

    Get Popping

    By now you should probably know if popups are right for your business. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility. When implementing a popup for your site, always make sure you're considering the customer and always ask yourself "What value does this bring my customer?". If you can answer that question confidently, there's a great chance you'll find mega success in using popups for your business. 

    Bonus: 12 Popup Examples For Inspiration



    Bonus: 12 Popup Examples For Inspiration

    About The Author

    Richard Lazazzera is an ecommerce entrepreneur and Content Strategist at Shopify. Get more from Richard on Twitter.


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