popups, internet, upsell

The curious case of popups

Can you use popups without annoying visitors and driving away future customers? We can help you find the answer.

Popups are like the fruit flies of the digital world. They are everywhere, annoying, and seemingly worthless to have around.

As much as visitors hate them, companies and bloggers alike like to tout popups as the “it” solution for today’s websites.  There isn’t much Googling required before you run across stats to promote popups:

  • Popups drove 1,375% more email captures than sidebar opt-in form. (Shopify)
  • A website implemented a popup with a 60 second delay and received 100-150 emails daily. Before the popup, the website saw just 10 to 15 subscribers daily despite getting more than 44,000 unique visitors. (Shopify)
  • In one study of 1.7 billion popups, the average conversion rate for all pop-ups was 3.09%. Some popups produced conversion rates as high as 50% (Sumo)
  • WPBeginner used a Smart Lightbox Popup to increase email subscribers by 600% in less than a month. (WPBeginner)
  • Popups helped Entrepreneur increased subscriptions by 86% and sales by 162% (Entrepreneur)

I know, I know. It all sounds amazing and tantalizing.

In fact, those stats may even convince you to start using a popup on your website.

Wait! Before You Install That Popup

There’s no doubt that plenty of websites have utilized popups successfully, grew their email subscribers, increased conversion, etc. Those stats can be backed up by countless research or first-hand accounts, but what is the real story?

Copywriter and Web Consultant Gill Andrews said it best:

“You don’t need email subscribers. You need email subscribers who are genuinely interested in what you have to say.”

Gill argues that it’s not as simple as the stats make it out to be. While it may have driven an increase in email addresses, how many of those email addresses gained via that popup will produce engaged subscribers who actually open an email (and click on links)?

He calculates the average small or medium business would need to 158 people to see their popup to produce one subscriber who will actually open their eNewsletter. Furthermore, these businesses would need to show their popup to 1,319 people to get one email subscriber who opens AND clicks on a link within the eNewsletter.

Check out his full calculations here.

If you need another aspect of popups to consider, try this one on for size – last January, Google changed its algorithm to penalize “intrusive interstitials.”

The non-techy translation?

Websites that use mobile popups will be penalized by Google with a lower ranking.   Click here for a great summary.

Other potential cons of using popups include:

  • Notorious for annoying visitors, especially full-screen popups
  • Blocking content
  • Forcing a user to take action
  • Increasing the bounce rate
  • Risking losing other potential leads
  • Potentially damaging your brand reputation

What’s It All Mean?

As annoying as fruit flies are, they can be beneficial to gardeners. Even so, we can all agree that other than gardeners, most people would consider them more of a pest.

When it comes to your website, how do you know if popups are hurting more than they are helping?

One Shopify store implemented a popup to offer an upsell to users after they added a product to their carts. Instead of seeing an increase in conversions, she saw an increase in cart abandonments. So what’s a Shopify store owner to do?

The answer: Turn to website insight such as dynamic heatmaps and visitor recordings to explore the popup’s claims.

Lucky Orange fit the bill, and shortly after installing Lucky Orange, she watched in real-time as visitors added products to their carts and were immediately faced with the upsell popup. The products shown were irrelevant and the popup only confused/annoyed visitors, sending them fleeing from the store without completing their original purchase.

Now she was faced with a problem – should she trust the stats provided by the popup that turning it off would mean losing 15% of sales, or should she trust the insight from Lucky Orange? She decided to trust Lucky Orange and turned off the popup.

Seconds later, she watched Lucky Orange live recordings to see as visitors were not only able to add products to their carts but also complete their purchases in just three steps.

What’s Right for Your Website?

We can’t say one way or another if popups will be beneficial to your website’s goals and visitors. There are plenty of examples of popup best practices or ways to use popups to add value to your website.

But, like all advice on the Internet, proceed with caution and don’t assume it will produce the results you hope to achieve. Monitor popups and how your visitors are responding through tools like Lucky Orange, measure the engagement of your popups beyond the initial popup, and adjust as necessary.

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