Look What Popped Up

Written by Kim Chapman, Senior Account Executive

Look What Popped Up

So, you know those annoying email sign-up pop-up boxes that sometimes appear on websites of retailers, and other companies?

Well, as annoying as you may think they are, over the last year or so, I have definitely noticed an increase in the amount of them (also known as lightboxes, hover boxes or overlays.) So why are so many companies using them? And should you follow suit?

When I’m on a clothing retailer’s website, the last thing I’m thinking about is signing up for email. Instead, I’m completely absorbed with what I’m looking at- a flowy blouse, a beautiful pair of leather boots, etc. If an email sign-up box pops up during my search for the perfect outfit, I will admit that it temporarily interrupts my shopping trance. But, as long as the box only appears one time while I’m on the site, and it’s easy to close out of, it in no way deters me from staying on the site. Plus, lightboxes increase the chance that I will sign up to receive emails, because it brings the matter top-of-mind. Otherwise, I would not consider signing up to receive emails. Because like I said, when I am shopping online, signing up for emails is the last thing on my mind. (And I’m sure there are many people who feel the same way.)

Companies are increasingly using this email sign-up tactic because it works, and there are even ways to increase this tactic’s effectiveness further:

–       A time-delay: Most boxes I’ve noticed have popped up just seconds after I’ve come to the site. I find this odd because if it’s my first time to the website, how do I know if I want to sign-up for emails yet? Apparently other companies had the same thought. Ask-Leo.com looked at their site analytics and discovered that visitors spent an average of 66 seconds on their site. So they did some A/B testing with different seconds to determine the optimal time-delay. Check out their case study for some interesting information.

–       Restrictions on how often a visitor will see the sign-up box: I.E, only serve sign-up boxes to visitors who have not subscribed, only serve them to visitors once a month, etc. This way you are targeting the right people, and you are not inundating them with this sign-up message on a regular basis. (The one negative is that visitors who have cleared their cookies will been seen as someone who has not subscribed.)

–       Exit-intent technology: This means tracking mouse gestures in order to predict when someone is likely to leave a page, and then serving them the box prior to leaving.

–       The transition effect: Pop-up boxes usually do just that- pop up, very abruptly, when you don’t expect them to. If they fade in more slowly, it might not be seen as interruptive.

–       Size: In my opinion, the smaller, the less intrusive, the better. Covering up the entire screen with the box is not a good idea.

–       Easy to close: Making the close feature very apparent is important. People should be able to close the box within a split-second if they want to.

–       Consider an incentive: This may help increase the amount of email sign-ups you receive, but it may also falsely inflate the value of your email address list (people signing up for emails only b/c they want something.) To counteract this potential drawback, make sure your incentive is tied to something that will keep the visitor engaged with your site/company.

The results of email sign-up boxes will differ by company and by the tactics they choose to employ. But according to this article in E-consultancy, “generally, a site with an overlay garners up to 400% more email opt-ins than a site that relies on an in-line form will.”That is a huge increase in opt-ins! And while all companies will not see as high of a lift, it seems like the benefits outweigh any potential disadvantages. Just make sure you consider ways to increase its effectiveness, keep a diligent eye on your site analytics (especially making sure your bounce rate is not increasing), and do testing in order to optimize your results.