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Using Overlays to Get More On-Site Conversions

Unbounce Conversion Optimizer Angus Lynch will teach you how overlays work and when you should use them. Plus, find out which offers to include based on buyer intent.

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15 Ways Marketers Use Overlays to Get More Conversions

Let me paint an ugly picture for you.

The end of the month is approaching. In one week, you have to report to your boss about marketing metrics… and you’re not even halfway to your targets.

Maybe you call an emergency brainstorm meeting with your team:

giphy
Are there any last-minute email or social campaigns we can run? Image source.

Maybe you pump more money into your PPC campaigns. Or maybe you do nothing at all and start a mental list of excuses reasons you couldn’t meet your targets.

At the end of the day, you didn’t meet your goals because you’re lacking something — resources, know-how, money or bandwidth.

You need more conversions without the overhead of running a major campaign or redesigning your entire website, regardless of how you define a “conversion”:

  1. Driving immediate sales
  2. Building email subscriber lists
  3. Reducing shopping cart abandonment
  4. Generating sales leads
  5. Moving traffic to high-converting pages (to get more conversions)

Let’s see how marketers are using overlays — modal lightboxes that launch within a web page and focus attention on a single offer — to get more conversions without more overhead.

Part I: Drive immediate sales

Research indicates that an average of 68.8% of shoppers will abandon their carts — that’s well over the majority. What then can you do to secure a sale before users ever leave your site to begin with?

You offer something irresistible at the moment prospects are ready to give up.

Note that the key word here is irresistible. You’re asking for a lot (for prospects to whip out their wallets), so you need to over-deliver in value. Your offer must be generous.

Here are five high-value approaches to securing a last-second purchase from abandoning users.

1. Offer a coupon or immediate discount

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

Below is an example from Neil Patel of Quick Sprout, who uses an overlay to offer a massive discount on his consulting services.

overlay-ideas-quicksprout-discount

Test different discounts values, but be careful not to downplay the value of your offering with a super-steep discount, which could hurt your credibility.

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

Place this offer on: Pricing or sign-up pages, product pages, landing pages

2. Offer a shipping discount

Shipping is a pain point for many online shoppers. No matter how well the costs are disclosed throughout the shopping process, many will leave once they see the final price with shipping included.

For that reason, a discount on shipping can often make the difference between a new customer and a lost sale.

overlay-ideas-canvas-prints-free-shipping

In the example above, Easy Canvas Prints uses an 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

3. Offer a free gift

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.

overlay-ideas-crazyegg-heatmap-offer

In the above example, Crazy Egg attempts to capture abandoning users by offering a free heatmap — one of its 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: Pricing or sign-up pages, product pages, landing pages

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4. Offer a time-based discount

Here’s where things get a bit risky. Time-based overlays can be effective because they add an element of urgency, but only if they are sincere.

overlay-ideas-time-based-discount-babyage

In the above example, BabyAge uses a countdown clock to promote a coupon, which (ideally) invokes a feeling of urgency in its users, pushing them toward the conversion.

This may be effective for some audiences, but I encourage you to test. And whatever you do, make sure your users only ever see it once. If you serve this offer on too many pages or put it in front of too broad a user segment, you risk losing credibility.

Target this offer at: First-time visitors only

Place this offer on: Pricing or sign-up pages, landing pages

5. Offer customer support

Some prospects might appreciate being able to talk to a human before they make up their minds about converting.

In the example below, Timesulin uses an overlay as a standin for a virtual salesperson, tapping you on the shoulder and asking if you have any questions:

overlay-ideas-timesulin-customer-support

Especially for more complicated or high-commitment offers, an overlay like this can help squash doubts and counter objections that your visitors have.

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

Place this offer on: Pricing or sign-up pages, product pages, landing pages

Part II: Building email subscriber lists

If you need convincing that email marketing is an effective marketing channel, consider this eye-popping stat from the Direct Marketing Association:

Email marketing has an ROI of 3800%.

What have you done lately to ensure that your email list is continuously growing? And not a bunch of unqualified subs  — I’m talking about warm email leads that are familiar with your products and have recently interacted with your brand.

Overlays work well for building a subscriber base because it’s easy to offer value that outweighs the small ask of an email address.

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

6. Offer a discount in exchange for an email address

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

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

Have a look at this example by PetCare:

overlay-examples-petcare-discount

PetCare offers a substantial discount in exchange for an email address. It’s a win for your prospect, because they’ll save on their next order. And it’s a win-win for you, should you make a sale and snag and email.

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’)

7. Collect newsletter subscribers

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

overlay-ideas-chive-newsletter

This type of overlay is especially effective when you’re reaching out to 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 lower-converting segments like social media traffic.

Target this offer at: Repeat visitors, social media traffic

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

8. Offer an ebook, case study or course

Ebook, case study or course offers generally convert at a higher rate than newsletters, because it’s easier to communicate the value to the reader.

Done right, this type of overlay will clearly communicate the benefit of reading, as in this stellar example from ContentVerve:

overlay-ideas-offer-ebook-content-verve

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 (e.g., ‘About,’ ‘Contact’)

Part III: Reduce cart abandonment

68.81% of online shopping carts are abandoned, according to the Baymard Institute.

People abandon shopping carts for a variety of reasons, and understanding these various behaviors can help you better optimize your sales funnel. Check out the top six reasons for cart abandonment according to Savvy Panda:

why-web-abandonners-abandon-shopping-carts

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 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 abandoning the cart

With this in mind, here are four approaches to reduce shopping cart abandonment using overlays.

9. Collect an email (to follow up later)

Post-abandonment emails are a great way to continue telling the story you began telling cart abandoners. You can use them to build upon momentum established on your cart page, and nurture a customer relationship.

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 a kitten and a puppy sitting in your email form field:

overlay-ideas-petflow-reduce-cart-abandonment

Sending a cart-triggered email puts you a step ahead of most competition, as roughly 80% of retailers fail to send triggered emails after cart abandonment. Why not test following up with a free shipping discount?

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

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

10. Notify visitors that they’ve left something in their cart

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

overlay-ideas-cart-notification-babyage

In this example, BabyAge links its overlay 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

11. Offer telephone support

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

For companies with complicated products or checkouts, using an overlay to offer help at checkout can significantly reduce cart abandonment.

overlay-ideas-telephone-support-massage-magazine

Massage Magazine’s example above shows how an 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

Part IV: Generate sales leads

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

Sales leads don’t necessarily require collecting contact information in exchange for a free resource; reaching out to a visitor on your site can also produce a lead, and is often incentive enough.

Further, you can generate a sales lead by merely offering help — free advice, free quotes — on your product.

Finally, whereas marketing to email list prospects often requires multiple engagements, sales leads usually just a one-time engagement.

12. Offer a 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.

overlay-ideas-free-quote

The example above from YourMechanic uses a free quote offer to 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

13. Offer a resource that qualifies prospects

Offering a resource to prospects is a great way to demonstrate that you understand their pains — all while confirming that they’re a good fit for your solution.

Gr8fires created an overlay with an “installation calculator” that detailed the costs associated with installing a Gr8fires product:

overlay-ideas-estimate-calculator-gr8-fires

The results of Gr8fires’ overlay campaign were incredible: 300% increase in monthly sales leads and a 48.54% lift in sales.

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

Target this offer at: Repeat visitors, organic traffic, social media traffic

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

Part V: Traffic-shaping (driving traffic to high-converting pages)

As you look through your analytics, you may notice that there are certain pages on your site — like your blog homepage or ecommerce site — that don’t have particularly high conversion rates.

This is where traffic shaping overlays can come in handy.

Traffic shaping overlays allow you to direct users from a low-converting to a high-converting page, whether your conversion goal is lead generation or revenue generation.

For example, you could direct traffic from a well-performing blog post about watch reviews to a product page for the best-reviewed watch.

14. Cross-sell

Regular blog visitors likely already recognize your brand, but they could have blinders up when it comes to the calls to action you have embedded on your site.

A cross-sell overlay can help focus a user’s attention on a relevant offer.

For example, at Unbounce, our analytics showed that a roundup of the 16 Best Digital Marketing Conferences of 2016 was bringing in a lot of organic traffic.

Assuming that people who read about marketing conferences are also interested in attending marketing conferences, we served up this overlay (with a ticket discount to sweeten the pot) that directed people to our Call to Action conference microsite:

overlay-ideas-cross-sell-unbounce-cta-conf
Target this offer at: First-time and repeat visitors, social media traffic, organic traffic

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

15. Re-engage with more content

Keeping visitors on your blog or resource library has a lot of advantages. The more they stick around, the more opportunities you have to:

  • Show visitors that you understand their pain and are uniquely qualified to help alleviate it
  • Educate visitors about your solution (ideally the solution to their problem)

A strategically placed exit or timed overlay on your blog can help keep visitors on site by recommending content similar to what they were reading previously:

overlay-ideas-content-re-engage

This type of overlay is most effective when targeted at first-time visitors.

These are the prospects that need a lil’ warming up before you ask them for their email address.

More conversions, less overhead

Next time the end of the month is rolling around and you haven’t met your targets, don’t scramble to run one-off campaigns to make up the difference.

Instead, pick one of these overlay campaigns and create a baseline of conversions every monththe type of campaign that keeps on giving without more overhead.

And when building your overlays, don’t forget the following:

The best marketing is mutually beneficial.

Conversions happen in that magical moment where your goals as a marketer align precisely with the goals of the user. You want the sale, they want the bargain. You want the email, they want the ebook.

If you focus on delivering relevant, timely offers that minimize intrusiveness and respect the user experience, your users will thank you — with their conversion.

About Amanda Durepos
Amanda Durepos is Unbounce’s Blog Editor and an aspiring dog owner. Former gallery director and freelance blogger, she has a love for curating great content. Find her on Twitter: @amandadurepos
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  • It’s really a great and helpful piece of line.I am glad that you shared this helpful info with us.Please keep us informed like this.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for sharing your valuable views with us. Your post helps to increase my knowledge Keep posting .

  • Thanks for the insights, my conversion is too low these days, will try to use this overlays. I have a query, which is the opt-in plugin, you suggest for my WordPress site of blogging niche ?

  • Are there any stats surrounding how visitors really feel about overlays? I’ve found through testing and surveys that there’s a fair amount of annoyance and negative feelings associated with these. It makes me wary of continuing to use them.

    • Amanda Durepos

      Hey Tamara, there are stats around conversion rates but less around how people perceive them. I think the issue with surveying someone about whether or not they like overlays is the person tends to think of the more negative experiences they’ve had with them. When an overlay offers something that a reader actually finds useful, the means through which the message was delivered can largely go unnoticed.

      I would argue that overlays are really just a channel for delivering a message — just like email marketing. And just as email marketing can be used to annoying ends, so too can overlays. But if you’re delivering something that is actually of value to your visitors and at an appropriate time, they can actually be warmly welcomed.

      We’re learning that our best-converting overlays on the blog are ones that are relevant to the topic of the post (or whatever is on the page). Really look forward to digging more into this and then sharing our findings.

  • It’s a very nice post,I really appreciate your efforts,Thanks for sharing

  • Really interesting ideas put up with this post. Thanks!

  • Great Post.
    Thanks for Sharing this valuable info.

  • Cool Marketing

    This is a great post I always wanted to learn how to get more conversion. Thank you for sharing.