19 Ways to Boost Conversions with Exit Overlays (Pop-ups)

by Jeremy Wallace on November 19, 2014
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Abandoning visitors leave your site for all different reasons.

Some weren’t swayed by your value proposition.

Some didn’t get their questions answered, or found your content wasn’t relevant.

Some found your navigation confusing, or got distracted during their session.

And others just bounced, because that’s just what users do sometimes.

So when using an exit overlay to capture leads, sales and signups from abandoning users, the last thing you want to do is serve the same message to every user, and just let ‘er ride.

An exit overlay is a versatile marketing tool that’s most effective when targeted to specific pages, visitors, and user behaviour. This post isn’t about simply designing something that looks good and pressing Launch; we’re going to dig into the nuts and bolts behind a sound exit overlay strategy.

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Not an advisable approach

When looking for gold, your first step isn’t digging in the dirt with a shovel. And when marketing to the massive pool of users who abandon your site—by most counts 70 – 95% of total visitors—this one-size-fits-all approach won’t work either.

There are 5 primary marketing goals for abandoning traffic:

  1. Driving immediate sales
  2. Building email subscriber lists
  3. Reducing shopping cart abandonment
  4. Generating sales leads
  5. Moving traffic to high-converting funnels

Each of these 5 approaches should use different visitor targeting, page targeting, and design/copy.

So without further ado, let’s tuck in to how each of these approaches works in practice.

1. Drive immediate sales

Research indicates that although 75% of abandoning visitors intend to return to your site to continue the purchasing process, just 11 – 29% follow through.

With these numbers in mind, working to secure a sale before users leave your site forever can be a smart strategy.

In this scenario, your ‘ask’ must be more bold than it would when generating a lead or signup, and that can be tricky. That said, it could be a huge boost to your bottom line.

Here are 5 approaches to securing a last-second purchase from abandoning users.

Coupon or immediate discount

A coupon or discount is the most popular way to secure last-second purchases with exit overlays.

Below is an example from Neil Patel of Quicksprout, who uses an exit overlay to offer a last-second purchase of his consulting services.

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With discounts, it’s always critical to make sure you aren’t cannibalizing the value of your products by being too aggressive with the offer, or making the discount too steep.

Target this offer at: First-time visitors, paid traffic

Place this offer on: Landing pages, pricing or sign-up pages, product pages

 

Shipping Discount

Shipping is a pain point for many online shoppers. No matter how well the costs are disclosed throughout the shopping process, many simply pick up and leave once the cost is added to their bill.

As such, a discount on shipping can often make the difference between a new customer and a lost sale.

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In the example above, Easy Canvas Prints uses an exit overlay to not only offer a last-second discount on shipping, but also capture an email address in the process. More on that later!

Target this offer at: First-time or repeat visitors, paid traffic

Place this offer on: Product pages, pricing or sign-up pages, shopping cart pages (more on that later)

 

Free gift/offering

Free giveaways have been a standard marketing tactic for decades.

They work well on the web because a free giveaway often comes at no cost to the vendor (you), especially if you offer subscription tools or services.

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In the above example, Crazy Egg attempts to recapture abandoning users by offering a free heatmap—one of their most popular tools.

Other ideas for free giveaways include ebooks, whitepapers, estimates/quotes, or consultations

Target this offer at: First-time or repeat visitors, paid traffic, organic traffic

Place this offer on: Landing pages, pricing or sign-up pages, product pages

 

Time-based discount

Here’s where things get a bit risky. Time-based examples can be effective, yes, but they must also be sincere.

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In the above example, BabyAge uses time-sensitivity to promote a coupon. It’s fine to use this tactic, but I’ll stress this: make sure your users only ever see it once.

If you serve this offer on too many pages and/or put it in front of too broad a user segment, you risk losing credibility with your customers.

Target this offer at: First-time visitors only

Place this offer on: Landing pages, pricing or sign-up pages

 

Customer support (phone)

A personal connection sometimes adds the missing element to completing an online sale.

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Reaching out with live chat agents can help solve technical issues yes, but support agents offering deals or discounts is another idea. It’s a lesser-used tactic, but has still worked for some companies.

Target this offer at: First-time visitors, repeat visitors, paid traffic

Place this offer on: Landing pages, pricing or sign-up pages, product pages

 

2. Building email subscriber lists

Email is the core revenue driver of many web-based companies, and that means email lists have never been more valuable.

Here are a few eye-popping stats to illustrate my point:

  1. Over 77% of customers prefer to receive their marketing messages via email (MarketingLand).
  2. For every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $44.25 (I know…crazy) (EmailExpert)
  3. When contacted through email, consumers spend 138% more than those who don’t receive email offers (Convince and Convert).
  4. A 2013 study found email to be almost 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter (McKinsey & Company).

When done right, exit overlays are incredibly effective at building valuable email lists.

And I’m not talking the dead-end ‘get one or two leads’ or ‘half the emails get returned’ kind of list. I’m talking valuable warm email leads that are familiar with your products and have recently interacted with your brand.

Exit overlays work well for building a subscriber base because the value is big and the ask is small: just an email address. And in return, you get a valuable lead out of what was previously nothing more than an abandoning user.

Here are the 4 best approaches for building email subscriber lists with exit overlays:

Email signup for deals

Offering deals in exchange for an email address offers two benefits:

  1. It greatly increases your chances of securing an immediate sale
  2. You can establish a customer relationship through email

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An email signup for deals is effective with many different traffic segments.

First-time or repeat visitors can be targeted, and it’s a means to grab value from lower-converting segments like social media traffic, or add value to high-converting segments like PPC traffic.

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Busted Tees uses this tactic in the above example. Grabbing a valuable email address for remarketing purposes makes a steep discount like 40% is easier to swallow.

Target this offer at: First time or repeat visitors, social media traffic, paid traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, product pages, blog pages, company pages (ex: ‘About,’ ‘Contact’).

 

Email signup for newsletter

Though not as lucrative as they once were, newsletters can still drive revenue. The Chive uses an exit overlay to grab signups in the example below.

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Building newsletter subscribers with an exit overlay implies you have a user base that has already interacted with your content, and likes what you have to say. It should be targeted only at repeat visitors, and/or lower-converting segments like social media traffic.

Assuming you have good content surrounding your offers, newsletters can be fertile ground to drive traffic to your high-converting offers.

Target this offer at: Repeat visitors, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, product pages, blog pages, company pages (ex: ‘About,’ ‘Contact’).

Ebook, case study, or course

Ebook, case study or course offers generally convert at a higher rate than newsletters.

Like newsletters, you need loyal readership to make this offer work. Here are a couple good examples from KissMetrics and Copy Hackers—both of whom boast impressive blog readership:

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Offering a course has the advantage of securing multiple user interactions, as you can serve this offer piece-by-piece to keep users engaged.

Target this offer at: Repeat visitors, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, product pages, blog pages, company pages (ex: ‘About,’ ‘Contact’)

 

3. Reduce cart abandonment

67.89% of online shopping carts are abandoned, according to the Baymard Institute.

Across the web, we see marketers capitalizing on this number, and promoting the idea that poorly optimized carts are costing retailers two-thirds of their sales.

But is it really true? Our research tells us it’s not.

Yes, many ecommerce companies are letting sales slip through the cracks because their checkout process isn’t optimized. But retailers are not losing 67% of sales simply because their shopping carts suck.

Shopping cart ‘abandonment’ rates are inflated by a group called hedonic shoppers, and they fill carts for much different reasons than normal ‘utilitarian’ shoppers.

Utilitarian shopping is all about actual need and function. Utilitarian motives for shopping include meeting our basic needs, finding greater convenience, and searching for better prices.

Alternatively, hedonic shopping is driven by our desire for fun, entertainment and satisfaction. It’s derived from the perceived fun or playfulness of shopping experiences.

The effects of hedonic shopping manifest themselves most noticeably in shopping cart abandonment.

Conventional wisdom tells us cart abandonment results from breakdowns in the purchasing stage. But hedonic shopping theory counters that many carts are abandoned because the consumer is satisfied—they’ve had their fun.

To illustrate my point, check out the top six reasons for cart abandonment according to Savvy Panda:

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Two of the top six reasons have nothing to do with the cart itself, but rather the mindset of the shopper, who is expressing only interest in the product, not commitment.

So the question now is obvious: how do we engage cart abandoners who are only loosely committed to our products?

To extend the engagement—and build a mutually beneficial relationship—you must either:

  1. Get an email address and remarket through triggered emails
  2. Offer a discount or incentive that convinces the shopper to buy before they abandon the cart

With this in mind, here are 4 approaches to reducing shopping cart abandonment using exit overlays.

 

Email signup for deals

Post-abandonment emails provide fertile ground for continuing the story you began telling cart abandoners on your website.

With an email address, you can build upon momentum established on your cart page, and establish a customer relationship.

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PetFlow uses this tactic well in the above example, though the ‘deal’ is actually entry into a contest. But hey, it’s a win anytime you can have kittens and puppies sitting in your email form field.

Sending a cart-triggered email puts you a step ahead of most competition, as roughly 80% of etailers fail to send triggered emails after cart abandonment.

Target this offer at: Cart abandoners from both paid and organic traffic sources

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

Notification (something in your cart)

This is a simple tactic for notifying cart abandoners they’ve left items behind at the checkout.

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In this example, BabyAge links their CTA directly to the next step in the checkout process. This may not generate earth-shattering results, but it’s definitely something to test.

Target this offer at: Cart abandoners from both paid and organic traffic sources

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

Shipping discount

Shipping has been the biggest customer pain point at online checkouts for a number of years.

It’s generally accepted that shipping costs should be presented earlier rather than later, but regardless of where presented, this stage in the checkout always has the highest rate of customer drop-off.

Removing or discounting shipping costs with an exit overlay can be a highly effective tactic for reducing cart abandonment, especially when done selectively.

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Diamond Candles uses a shipping discount in the above example—and adds a countdown timer to heighten the urgency.

Even a 10-20% discount is often enough to tip the scales in your favor, but generally the more aggressive the discount, the more abandoners you’ll convert.

Target this offer at: Cart abandoners from both paid and organic traffic sources

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

Customer support (phone)

Many shoppers still routinely struggle to complete online checkout processes without assistance.

For companies with longer/more complicated checkouts, using an exit overlay to offer help at checkout can significantly reduce cart abandonment.

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Massage Magazine’s example above shows how an exit overlay can used to help clarify the terms of complicated products or subscriptions. It also has the added benefit of grabbing a valuable email address.

Target this offer at: Cart abandoners from both paid and organic traffic sources

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

 

4. Generate sales leads

Generating sales leads with an exit overlay is closely related to our previous section on building email lists—but with a few subtle differences.

Sales leads don’t necessarily require a free resource in exchange for contact information; simply reaching out to a visitor on your site can also produce a lead.

Further, you can generate a sales lead by merely offering help—free advice, free quotes—on your product. It’s usually just a one-time engagement, whereas marketing to email list prospects often requires multiple engagements.

Free quote or advice

Free quotes have long been used as a lead-generation tactic in brick-and-mortar organizations. On the web, free quotes are a great way to offer value without actually giving anything away.

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The example above from YourMechanic uses a free quote offer drive home the ease and convenience of using mobile mechanics.

I would generally advise against using this type of offer on paid traffic, as “paid” implies these users should already be strong leads. An offer that drives an immediate sale is better suited to this type of user.

Target this offer at: First-time or repeat visitors, organic traffic, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage or any high-traffic/low-converting page, product pages, blog pages

Ebook, case study, or course

Assuming you have good content that users value, an ebook, case study or course can be an effective tactic for generating sales leads.

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As with any information resource offer, this works best if you have already established an audience. If you don’t already have literary repoire with your visitors, this offer may go ignored.

Target this offer at: First-time or repeat visitors, organic traffic, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage or any high-traffic/low-converting page, product pages, blog pages

Customer Support

Sometimes keeping things simple with traditional customer service outreach is the best way to generate sales leads.

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If you have complicated products or your checkout process is more than a few steps, offering customer support on an exit overlay can 1) clear up confusion and 2) generate a valuable sales lead along the way.

Target this offer at: First-time or repeat visitors, organic traffic, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage or any high-traffic/low-converting page, product pages, blog pages

 

5. Traffic-shaping: driving traffic to high-converting pages

When you have a high-converting pathway on your site, you want to direct as many users towards it as possible.

So isn’t it frustrating when users abandon your site without ever seeing your best stuff?

In a perfect world, your goals would align with the user’s goals, and all your traffic would be dying to follow your high-converting funnel. Unfortunately, users often don’t find this funnel.

Traffic-shaping with exit overlays can help solve this problem. The concept is simple: building a bridge that moves traffic from low-converting to high-converting funnels.

In a brick-and-mortar store, we would call this cross selling. And that’s essentially what it is, but of course, everything in the online marketing world must get a fancy name.

Traffic-shaping works especially well with low-converting traffic segments such as social media. If you’re drawing users from Twitter, Facebook or Reddit to read a blog article, building a bridge from your article to a high-converting offer page can vastly increase your conversion rates for this segment.

Here are the two best approaches for using traffic-shaping with exit overlays to drive traffic to your most lucrative pages.

Incentivized user path

TopBet.eu shows a great example of incentivizing the user path towards a high-converting funnel.

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TopBet’s homepage serves as a good primer for new visitors, but isn’t the highest converting page on the domain.

To channel users towards the first step of its conversion funnel, TopBet incentivizes the user path towards this page by using an exit overlay to show abandoning users its deposit offer bonus.

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Clicking the CTA on the exit overlay brought users directly to the membership signup form, seen below.

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Relevancy is critical to building an incentivized path; you can’t push steak on vegetarians. Building the bridge is one thing, but you also need a compelling reason to cross.

Target this offer at: First-time and repeat visitors, social media traffic, organic traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, blog pages, company pages (ex: ‘About,’ ‘Contact’)

Cross-sell

Cross-selling has been around since the dawn of commerce.

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On the web, cross-selling lacks the personal connection used in brick-and-mortar stores—but it’s still effective.

In the example above, Diamond Candles targets abandoning homepage visitors with a cross-sell promoting a high-converting line of products.

Try this type of offer on your social media traffic—it can turn segments with miniscule conversion rates into something much more valuable.

Target this offer at: First-time and repeat visitors, social media traffic, organic traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, blog pages, company pages (ex: ‘About,’ ‘Contact’)

Takeaways

  • Abandoning visitors leave your site for all different reasons, such as poor value proposition, irrelevant content, or confusing navigation
  • Since abandoning users are not all the same, marketers need to use targeted approaches in order to generate results
  • Targeted messaging on exit overlays is a highly effective tactic for converting otherwise abandoning users into leads, sales and signups
  • Exit overlays can be used in many different ways, but it all boils down to 5 primary approaches: driving immediate sales, building email lists, reducing cart abandonment, generating sales leads, and directing traffic to high-converting pathways
  • Look into your analytics to find out which of the 5 approaches will be most effective for reducing abandonment on your site

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One response to 19 Ways to Boost Conversions with Exit Overlays (Pop-ups)

  1. Good suggestions on the exit overlays and interesting point that offering an e-book or course might work better. However, these conversion are not opting into an email list so you only get one additional touch point with them which might not be as valuable. Just a thought for those of considering how to implement some of the ideas presented here.

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