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How to Use Popups (The Right Way)

As an ecommerce marketer, you’re likely spending much time and resources driving traffic to your product pages, growing an email list, and reducing cart abandonment.

The good news is you already own the perfect channel for achieving all the above and more: your website.

You can turn your website into a high-performing channel by making website popups, slide-ins, and bars a part of your onsite marketing strategy.

When I say popups, I don't mean the ones that make people reach for the close button right away, though.

I’m talking about timely and personalized popups that are tailored to your visitors’ needs.

Let’s take a look at 11 proven ways of using popups to engage your website visitors and turn them into email subscribers, first-time buyers, and repeat customers—without annoying them or hurting their browsing experience.

11 Popup Use Cases You Need to Know

1. Grow a Segmented Email List

2. Gamify Your Forms

3. Collect More Phone Numbers

4. Gather Valuable Feedback

5. Reduce Cart Abandonment

6. Promote Your Offers

7. Upsell and Cross-Sell

8. Welcome Returning Subscribers

9. Offer Guides

10. Inspire Shoppers

11. Offer Help When Needed

1. Grow a Segmented Email List

With consumers’ privacy concerns growing bigger, ecommerce marketers focus more on collecting zero-party data—the data people voluntarily and actively share with you.

After all, the more you learn about your prospects, the better you can personalize your emails.

One way to collect zero-party data without hurting your conversion rate is asking questions in multiple steps.

Say you grab the most important information such as name and email address in the popup’s first step:

Grow segmented email list

You could, then, in the next step(s), ask follow-up questions, such as interests, birthday, or a phone number:

grow segmented email list

If you use an advanced onsite campaign builder, like Drip's, you can still capture visitors’ email addresses even if they don’t fill out the second step. (However, we found that 76 percent of people who submit their email in the first step of a popup also fill out the second step.)

2. Gamify Your Forms

Many visitors today are bombarded with aggressive full-page overlays making opting in a far from a pleasant experience.

One way to make opting in more fun is gamifying the experience.

Rather than resorting to generic email capture popups, you can boost your conversions by inviting visitors to spin a wheel and get a chance to win different prizes, like in the example below.

gamify your forms

A word of warning, though: gamification is a double-edged sword. Use it wrong and you’ll lose not only conversions but also your visitors’ trust. But use it right, and you’ll see a spike in the number of quality subscribers, interested in your products.

When using gamification, make sure you:

  • Set up your prizes fairly (Nobody likes to feel cheated)
  • Select a non-intrusive popup style, such as slide-ins, rather than an aggressive overlay
  • Target a specific group of people, such as returning visitors browsing a product page
  • Use a teaser (pictured below) that previews your offer before showing the full form

gamify your forms

3. Collect More Phone Numbers

With around 97 percent of Americans owning a cell phone, SMS marketing is a goldmine waiting to be tapped for ecommerce brands.

Growing a marketing list with quality phone numbers, however, can be a challenge for many marketers looking to grow their lead base. That’s where onsite campaigns come in once more.

If you’re looking for a quick solution to kickstart your SMS list, try adding a phone input field to your email capture forms.

To make sure you comply with TCPA regulations, you can create a multistep form and ask for the visitor's email address, first:

Multistep form

And in the following step, collect their phone number and SMS marketing consent:

SMS collection form

Remember to incentivize text signups with an additional reward, such as a giveaway entry, and give people a compelling reason to submit their phone number.

4. Gather Valuable Feedback

Every ecommerce marketer wishes they had more insights into their audience. What do customers want? Why do visitors bounce from the site? Did they find what they were looking for?

The key to collecting valuable feedback from your website visitors is to ask your questions to the right people, at the right time.

For example, if you’re looking into customer satisfaction and ideas for improvement, create a survey popup and show it only to shoppers after they place an order.

Onsite Post-Purchase SurveySet your survey to show on your checkout success URL to ensure you target the right audience at the moment when they are most engaged with your store.

5. Reduce Cart Abandonment

Abandoned carts are a headache for all ecommerce brands, costing on average $18 billion in revenue each year.

While you can’t prevent cart abandonment completely, you can reduce it significantly by sending abandoned cart emails and recovering some otherwise-lost sales.

You can even stop visitors from leaving your site with an exit-intent popup before cart abandonment happens.

pop up discount example

With a popup that shows when visitors are about to leave, you can recommend alternative products, invite shoppers to get in touch, or remind them of your existing discounts and offers.

6. Promote Your Offers

You’re about to launch your next sale campaign. Your emails are ready and your ads are all set up. Your first goal is to bring as much traffic to your sales as possible.

Your next (if not more important) goal should be to make the most out of this traffic.

By guiding shoppers toward the relevant product page and helping them find the products they’re looking for, you can drive more orders from your sales campaigns.

countdown timer example

A countdown popup like the above nudges shoppers to browse the sale before it’s too late and creates a sense of urgency, driving more revenue from your sales campaigns in the process.

7. Upsell and Cross-Sell

One of the best ways to incentivize non-buyers to become buyers—and potentially spend more than they planned—is to offer free shipping. But rather than offer free shipping to all visitors, you can go one step further and offer it only to visitors that already have items in their cart.

With our SiteData feature, you can show visitors the amount they need to spend to qualify for free shipping in your store:

free shipping example

If you want to take this strategy one step further, you can insert relevant product recommendations into your popup and make it even easier for shoppers to spend more.

upsell example

8. Welcome Returning Subscribers

Most marketers think all popups are good for is collecting emails.

But as you’ve seen in this post, that’s not their only use case. In fact, popups can also help you engage the people that are already on your email list.

Rather than ask your existing subscribers if they want to join your list over and over again, consider offering a special thank you discount when they return to your site.

Or, if you’re not a fan of discounts, promote your new arrivals or the bestselling products in your store:

returning customer example

9. Offer Guides

Not all onsite campaigns need a direct, salesy call to action. When used correctly, popups can also double as virtual assistants that help shoppers make better buying decisions.

Whether you need a size guide, product guide, or video guide, you can create different popups for different goals and set them to show when shoppers most need to see.

For example, if you have products in your store that are difficult to buy online, such as clothing, footwear, or eyewear, you can create mini-guides and promote them with popups.

free guide with purchase example

A few best practices to bear in mind:

  • Set your suit guide to show only to visitors that are browsing the suit category
  • Give shoppers some time to look around before assuming they need help
  • Trigger your popup after someone scrolls 30 percent of your product category page or visits three suit pages

Of course, if you want to go one step further, you could create video guides and insert them into your popups to complement the guide you’re promoting.

size guide example

10. Inspire Shoppers

A good store clerk assures even the most casual of browsers leave their store feeling satisfied.

But it doesn’t take much to create an online equivalent of such a positive experience with onsite campaigns.

By showcasing seasonal gift ideas or trending products, you can inspire shoppers to discover their new favorite items much like a helpful store clerk.

Sidebar campaigns are especially ideal for this type of message.

sidebar campaign example

They don’t take up much screen space, yet can still display a lot by allowing visitors to scroll through.

sidebar campaign example

11. Offer Help When Needed

While you can’t always answer every question a shopper might have, you can do the next best thing: offer onsite help when visitors most need it.

If you already know when and where shoppers often drop off, consider setting up customer support popups to show on those pages. This might be when people view your high-ticket items or after they visit five product pages.

Or if you prefer, play it safe by placing your contact form inside all relevant content, such as your homepage or product pages.

Onsite Embedded ContactYou can even set up scheduled campaigns based on your working hours, and replace this form automatically with another one when your support team is available to pick up the phone.

Onsite Embedded Talk to an Expert


There’s much more to onsite campaigns than simple lead capture forms.

As you’ve seen in this post, onsite campaigns can help you achieve all your ecommerce goals, from growing an SMS list to gathering customer insights, to reducing cart abandonment, and selling more.

If you’re looking for a marketing automation platform that can help you do all of the above (and much more) try Drip for free now.

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