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How Exit Overlays Can Make Your Landing Page Offer More Persuasive

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If visitors and leaving your landing page in droves, you need a trusty sidekick to make your offer more persuasive. Image by Daniel Go via Flickr.

When Maverick was busy shooting down MiGs, Goose was watching his tail.

When Han Solo was cornered by storm troopers, Chewbacca was there to bail him out.

And when a high percentage of visitors abandon your landing page, you need a trusty sidekick to swoop in and make your offer more persuasive.

So what’s the perfect sidekick? How about an exit overlay to sweeten the pot for users who are about to abandon your page?

What are exit overlays?
If you aren’t familiar with exit overlays, they’re modal lightboxes that launch by what’s known as exit-intent technology. The technology tracks visitor activities as they navigate your site. When abandoning visitors are detected, an exit overlay is triggered to capture an otherwise lost conversion.

And though the use of exit overlays is a controversial subject, they can be extremely effective when used strategically. When done right, they’re the perfect landing page sidekick; the Robin to your Batman, the McMahon to your Carson.

But like any good duo, there must be chemistry or it just won’t work. And chemistry can’t be forced (*cough* Clooney and O’Donnell *cough*).

rsz_robin-batman (1)

So how can you partner your landing page with an optimized exit overlay that captures conversions that you would have otherwise lost?

Here are three companies that are successfully capturing more conversions with an exit overlay – plus advice on how you can couple your landing page with an exit overlay to make your offer more persuasive.

How to use exit overlays to escalate urgency

YourMechanic, a mobile repair service, positions itself as a convenient, time-efficient alternative to visiting a traditional repair shop.

The YourMechanic marketing team drives traffic to their landing page with a series of PPC campaigns, and has seen lots of success from their exit overlay – converting 7.16% of otherwise abandoning users and resulting in hundreds of new customers.

But what makes their exit overlay so successful?

It all begins on their landing page:

rsz_your-mechanic-landing-page

YourMechanic creates a landing page backed up by several elements of social proof – and a very mild dose of urgency is established with the CTA, “Get a Quote.”

But for users who are about to abandon the page, YourMechanic takes things to the next level with an exit overlay.

How YourMechanic uses exit overlays to escalate urgency

For users ready to abandon the page, YourMechanic uses an exit overlay to step up the urgency:

rsz_your-mechanic-exit-overlay
YourMechanic’s exit overlay is activated when a user begins to abandon the page. Image via YourMechanic.

A time-specific headline is used, and the CTA becomes “Get a Quote Now!”

This heightened level of urgency makes the offer a little more compelling by telling users just how quickly they can get a quote.

Further, a directional cue connecting the headline and CTA adds clarity to what the user is being asked to do. They use an arrow, but as Oli mentions in his guide, you can get creative with directional cues and try things such “the suggestive power of the eye.”

Or better yet…

rsz_zecart
This page should go in the directional cue hall of fame.

With any directional cue, you want your conversion target to be where design pathways (such as arrows) are leading to, or where people (or animals) are looking or pointing towards.

Action item:

An exit overlay is like a second page view served only to abandoning users – try using it to amp up the urgency and entice visitors to make a last-second purchase or opt-in.

Urgency is often conveyed through copy, as per the example above, but another tactic is to use a timer or countdown on your overlay to show that the offer is only available for a limited time.

How to use exit overlays to counter objections

Amen Clinics provides brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) analysis to diagnose and treat disorders including ADHD, behavioural problems and memory issues.

To promote its services, the clinic runs online campaigns focused on a single disorder, usually featuring videos of founder Dr. Daniel Amen.

This is the landing page for one of their more popular programs, “Healing ADD at Home in 30 Days”:

rsz_amen-clinics-landing-page
Amen Clinics’ landing page for “Healing ADD at Home in 30 Days.” Image via Healing ADD.

The landing page makes excellent use of many of the techniques that Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner discusses in his Ultimate Guide to Conversion-Centered Design; they employ a liberal use of contrast and whitespace to ensure that users focus their attention on the desired action: the big red button.

But even with a landing page chock-full of conversion-centered design techniques, Amen Clinics knew their conversion rate had room for improvement.

How Amen Clinics’ uses exit overlays to counter potential objections and allow prospects to try before they buy

Amen Clinics’ marketing team hypothesized that although “Healing ADD at Home in 30 days” was a good selling point (and a strong starting point), perhaps some users weren’t yet sure that 1) they had ADD, and 2) the program was right for them.

They decided that an exit overlay could be used to address this issue. The exit overlay would take a step back, allowing users to self-diagnose and try part of the program before purchasing.

rsz_amen-clinics-exit-overlay
Use exit overlays to help prospects clear up any doubts they might have about your product or service. Image via Healing ADD.

Amen Clinics’ exit overlay counters objections and allows people to try the program before they commit.

In exchange for their email address, skeptical visitors could try the program without any commitment and determine whether it was right for them.

The results were impressive; during a 30-day test, 19.44% users who viewed this exit overlay were converted from abandoning visitors to highly valuable sales leads.

Action item:
If a high percentage of users are ditching your landing page, an exit overlay is fertile ground to test a last-second offer that counters any objections they may have.

This could come in the form of a quiz, email course series or a free trial offer that employs the “Try before you buy” principle, where visitors are offered the chance to try the product before purchasing to help determine if they’ve chosen the right solution.

How to use exit overlays to provide added value

Yes-Downloads partners with leading software providers to promote PC-based versions of over 50 different games, productivity tools and security programs.

In exchange for the software, Yes-Downloads promotes signups of partner programs – some paid, some freemium.

For their Candy Crush campaign, the marketing team runs high-volume PPC campaigns and uses a combination of attention-driven design principles and an exit overlay to secure conversions. Have a look at their campaign page:

rsz_yes-downloads-landing-page
Yes-Downloads’ free Candy Crush Saga offer. Image via Yes-Downloads.

Once more, this page makes excellent use of whitespace and contrast – and a strong directional cue near the CTA. In his guide, Oli calls this type of arrow “about as subtle as a punch of the face,” and I agree – but that’s why they work.

Once their page was optimized with attention-driven design techniques, Yes-Downloads turned to an exit overlay to further increase their conversions.

How Yes-Downloads uses exit overlays to sweeten the pot

To reduce the number of abandoning visitors on the page, the marketing team added an exit overlay that used the same attention-driven design principles as the landing page – but sweetened the pot with a package of additional resources to help users master the game:

rsz_yes-downloads-exit-overlay
This exit overlay includes a package of additional resources to help users master Candy Crush. Image via Yes-Downloads.

To validate their assumptions, they ran an A/B test with an exit overlay on the test variant. The results were pretty staggering:

rsz_yes-downloads-metrics
For landing page “Candy A”, an exit overlay (by Rooster) brought Yes-Downloads from a 10.45% sign-up rate (S/U) to a 18.84% sign-up rate – an impressive 80.28% lift in conversions.

Over a 45-day test, the variant with the exit overlay saw a phenomenal 80.28% lift in conversions.

Action item:
Use an exit overlay to offer more. Are there other incentives you can include to sweeten the pot and encourage prospects to convert?

Does your landing page have a trusty sidekick?

In essence, an exit overlay creates a second pageview for your site; when it activates, it should be:

  • Consistent with your landing page offer, but a little sweeter
  • Consistent with your landing page design, but simpler
  • Consistent with the persuasive tone of your landing page copy, but with the urgency ratcheted up

To ensure your exit overlay achieves all of the above, test using attention-driven design principles such as blank space, contrast, urgency and directional cues.

When done effectively, an exit overlay will help make your landing page offer more persuasive and can help recover users before they abandon your page – just like a trusty sidekick should.

— Angus Lynch

Listen to Angus on the Call to Action podcast:

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About Angus Lynch
As a freelance copywriter, Angus helped ecommerce site owners increase conversion rates. In 2014, he joined Rooster Engagement Tools, which was purchased by Unbounce in April 2015. He now serves as copywriter on the Unbounce Marketing Team.
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Comments:

  1. Dean

    People leave for a reason – because you don’t offer what they want, or they can’t find what they want.

    If you are having people leave in droves, then you need to research your user needs to make sure they match what the business offers.

    If people aren’t finding what they want, then you need to refine your Information Architecture to make things easier to find.

    These overlays only serve one purpose – to upset your actual users, and reduce the likelihood of them becoming return visitors!

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    • Angus Lynch

      Hey Dean,

      Thanks for the comment. I think if we were talking about traditional pop-ups–the type that were very common before browser ad-blocking technology stepped in–I would agree that a large percentage of users may be upset.

      But with exit-intent overlays, we’re talking about a tool that:

      1) Does not open new windows,
      2) Does not disable/restrict the navigation or inhibit users from leaving the page
      3) Isn’t controlled by third-party advertisers, but by site owners who have their long-term brand to consider (Neil Patel, who uses exit overlays, is a good example of this)
      4) Activates only when users are about to abandon the page — so doesn’t affect the user experience

      As for your argument about having a well-researched, well-organized page, I agree that this is priority #1, however the world of online marketing isn’t perfect. Let’s take the Yes-Downloads.com example from this article. A healthy percentage of their traffic was looking for tips and tricks as well as the game, and they weren’t able to separate the traffic into two landing pages. The exit overlay gave them a second page view (within the same window) to make this pitch to abandoning users. Yes, they could have added this pitch to the page itself, but there’s only so much real estate in the hero section.

      Appreciate your take!

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      • Dean

        Yep – I understand the article, but what it is really missing is the actual ‘humanity’ in it all. Exit-overlays produce x% improvement to people signing up is entirely different from ‘how happy are your visitors using your website?’

        I just googled Neil Patel to read his article – http://www.quicksprout.com/2011/01/20/my-5-favorite-but-often-ignored-marketing-tactics/

        I was there for 5 minutes before a full screen Quicksprout advert came up with two super large buttons asking if I wanted to receive a free report.

        If I click yes then that is a success in your metrics, I might click that just to close it down so I can actually read the article.

        The one thing is for sure as that website to me is dreadful, it bombarded me with unwanted spam and ruined my experience. I may click ‘yes’ to get rid of your ad box, I will never return.

        Think of the people, not the clicks.

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      • James

        So I came here on an obviously incorrect google search looking for a way to prevent sites from displaying modal overlays.

        Showing them when I first show up to a page is going to annoy me. Showing them when I try to leave will ensure I never return to a site.

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  2. Rich Page

    Awesome article, great job Angus! Love the testing results in particular.

    Now Unbounce just needs to add exit intent functionality to their great tool ;)

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    • Angus Lynch

      Hey Rich,

      As per Jade’s comment below, adding exit-intent functionality to a site is as simple as adding 1 line of code to your site’s header. Unbounce’s Javascript tag manager makes it really easy to do this.

      An exit-intent campaign should be run on a third-party tool, as you’ll need a full dashboard to monitor engagement ratios, adjust your targeting (new vs. returning visitors, or homepage vs. landing page) and make adjustments to your creative.

      Thanks for the comment!

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      • Kevin

        I think this would be a phenomenal addition to the Unbounce suite of tools. The 3rd party tools mentioned in this article are far too expensive ($139/mo. for Rooster vs. $100/mo. for Unbounce – no thanks!).

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  3. J.Duncan - Paperless Creations

    This was a great article! However, how would we add this to an unbounce page?

    It isn’t built into the platform is it?

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    • Jade Luo

      Hey J.Duncan – this isn’t something that’s currently built-in to the platform. To add this to an Unbounce page, you’ll need an embeddable javascript that doesn’t require any additional uploaded files. A 3rd party service that meets these requirements would work, or as a reference, you could write or find a script that looks something like this:

      http://www.andysowards.com/blog/2008/easy-javascriptajax-exit-pop-up-script-creates-div-overlay-on-page-exit/

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      • Angus Lynch

        Agreed with Jade’s comment above.

        Adding one line of code to your header is all it takes.

        The benefits of a third-party tool are being able to:

        a) accurately monitor the performance of your exit overlay
        b) easily make adjustments to the creative
        c) target specific users and pages (this one is the most important)

        Another benefit is getting help with the strategy and creative work from the toolmakers (this is the case with Rooster).

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  4. Nico C

    Excellent article… I’ve been looking to implement this for some time now and I think this just bumped it up to the top of my priority list!
    Fantastic graphics in this article BTW…

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  5. Angus Lynch

    Hey Nico – Thanks, glad you like the article. Drop me a line if you’d ever like to discuss implementation in further detail.

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  6. Martin Ray-Jones

    I appreciate the boost in conversion numbers, which is difficult to ignore, but I think you have to be quite careful when you’re using tactics like exit overlays. When you’re deciding exactly what the second offer should say, keep in mind two things:

    1. The user decided to leave your landing page, and the fact that they signed up after intending to leave might mean you have a conversion that is lower quality in the long term compared to someone who signed up right away.

    2. If the second offer tries too hard to sweeten the deal or add urgency, it can lead to mistrust. I’ve seen tactics like claiming there’s only 1 spot available, or giving a time-limited 90% discount, which only make me question the authenticity of the whole site.

    I haven’t tried using them myself, but I am generally against interruption tactics in online marketing because it can only affect user experience negatively, so this is definitely a controversial area.

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    • Angus Lynch

      Hey Martin,

      Thanks for the very well thought out comment, you make great points.

      For your first point, I would argue that the most valuable customers are cultivated over time, not with just 1 interaction (the rule of 7). Since an exit overlay is often employed for email capture, this can provide the marketer with an opportunity to build trust and convey value over time.

      Absolutely agree on the second point. Disingenuous claims about time-sensitivity or absurd discounts can kill trust and dilute the value of your products. The offer needs to add value in a way that avoids this.

      As for interrupting, I will again state that exit overlays do not interrupt active browsing sessions. I would compare them to a salesperson standing at the exit of a store, pitching exiting customers on a great deal, but in no way blocking their path of exit (navigation is not interrupted).

      With your comments in mind, here’s what I would suggest for avoiding low-value conversions and/or diluting the value of your products/brand:

      1. Make sure your measurements are set up properly, so that if people are not responding to an exit overlay on your page, you can take it down immediately. A high engagement rate is a good indication that users aren’t bothered by the messaging.

      2. Make sure your user targeting is set up well, so that most abandoning users view your exit overlay only once. Further, target it only to specific pages, such as landing pages and shopping cart pages (exit overlays are killer for reducing cart abandonment).

      3. Make sure you are offering real value to the customer. Sweeten the pot in a way that gives prospects something truly valuable to them, while avoiding steep discounts (but 10% off sure seems to work well :)

      Finally, I will stress SeeWhy’s figure that 75% of abandoning shoppers intend to return at some point to continue shopping (only 11-29% ever do in the end). An exit overlay is a great way to stay in contact and make sure these users return, especially when used for email capture.

      Appreciate your points!

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  7. Michael F.

    Hey Angus, very good article and usefull insights. I’ve found another great idea on http://www.rebounceplugin.com – what is your opinion to this solution? Similar to the exit intent technology?

    I’m not sure if I should give it a try …

    Thanks for your feedback, Michael

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    • Angus Lynch

      Hey Michael,

      Thanks for the feedback. It appears this plugin redirects users to a different page without their consent, which is a bit predatory in my opinion.

      I would advise against using any user engagement tool that restricts/disables the navigation bar in any way, and/or takes users to pages they have not consented to.

      They key is to offer value to the user–preferably in a way that builds on value established within the landing page.

      Angus

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  8. Mac

    Interesting topic. And great points too. If exit overlays can minimize bounce rates, then they are definitely worth trying. Thanks for this great information.

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  9. Angus Lynch

    Thanks for the kind words Mac!

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  10. Matt Dollinger

    Angus – This is just the type of thing our team needs to read – so thank you for putting the time into this study.

    My question to you is whether or not have seen a larger increase in effectiveness with exit overlays when applying them to sites that are “registration focused” vs. sales? Most of our customers are looking for the user data.

    We’re definitely looking to put this into place in some of our landing pages and would love any direction as to providers you could offer. Keep up the great work.

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  11. Angus Lynch

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks, glad you found the article useful!

    We see many companies use exit overlays for email capture, and they generally get the highest engagement rates. This is mostly because the “ask” is much smaller than when the offer is sales-focused. Most often, companies will offer a free resource (ebook, white paper) or some sort of value in exchange for the email address. I would assume this is similar to the registration-focused offer you’re referring to, am I correct?

    Could you tell me more about the landing pages you wish to run exit overlays on? Feel free to ping me on Skype (rooster.engagement) if you would like to take the convo offline.

    Thanks for your interest!

    Angus

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  12. Hugh Macken

    Just curious as to your thoughts concerning how google perceives exit intent popups. This post seems to suggest that Google frowns upon them. https://community.unbounce.com/unbounce/topics/exit_popup_upon_heading_for_x_icon
    I’d really appreciate any insights on this.

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  13. Sarah

    Ah controversial pop ups! Very interesting post. Recently, my live chat provider, Visitlead, started offering an exit intent widget so I decided to give it a try and I have to say that they are very effective. A must have! https://visitlead.com/features

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    • Angus Lynch

      Thanks Sarah!

      Use it wisely:

      – If you have the targeting options, try to exclude returning/regular visitors to your site from seeing it more than once

      – Avoid those scuzzy opt-out lines at the bottom that say things like ‘No thanks, I’m a moron!’ etc

      – Try to offer something truly valuable to the user…not just a rehash of what your landing page offers

      Best of luck!

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  14. James Mahoney

    Are exit overlays allowed on Facebook landing pages or even in Facebook ads? I know that pop ups that are triggered when someone first comes to the page or is about to leave the page are not allowed.

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  15. Auto Mechanic Services

    Excellent article! Thanks Angus. My understanding is that exit overlays are useful for user experience and navigation. Through exit overlays, website can enhance conversion rate.

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  17. Paul Potratz

    Great article! Exit Overlays is in fact controversial. We have a technology called Exit Gadget and we promote it on Facebook and it’s amazing the negative comments we get from strangers that know nothing about marketing nor conversion. We are seeing conversion on clients sites from 1.26% to 7.83%. Exit gadget makes perfect sense… it’s the same concept as trying to close the sale in a showroom when someone is getting ready to walk. Again Great Article! Paul

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  18. john burnett

    Overlays are those popup thingies that you have to click to get back to the page or to dismiss the page? THEY ARE SHEER EVIL!!! i not only close the page, I WILL NEVER VISIT THAT SITE AGAIN!!! They are intrusive, presumptuous, and (OB)NOXIOUS.

    DO NOT USE THEM, AND DO NOT RECOMMEND THEM!!

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    • Angus Lynch

      Hey John,

      What we’re talking about here are exit overlays, which do not populate during active browsing sessions, nor do they inhibit any functionality (e.g. the ‘Back’ button) on the site.

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