For something that literally “pops up” in your face, the value of popups—and the variety of ways they can be used to convert more visitors—is often overlooked.
And while we’re sure the word “popup” brings some lousy user experiences to mind, don’t let a few annoying apples spoil the bunch. Popups can actually enhance your visitors’ experience and be an incredibly effective marketing tool when used in a thoughtful, targeted way. They help you highlight relevant offers, products, or sales, build email lists, and recapture your visitors’ attention before they leave the page.
With a few best practices and some steal-worthy examples, this guide is here to help you design and launch high-performing popups that convert more of your visitors into sales, leads, and customers.
Why Use Popups?
The short answer: because they work.
Popups keep people on your page, remind them of what you have to offer, and collect data to nurture leads. Think of them as your marketing sidekick with the superpower of boosting conversions.
How popups worked for these brands:
- Canvas Factory used a popup to bring in $1.1 million of revenue after struggling with high traffic that didn’t convert. They used tracking integrations to fine-tune their campaign.
- Entrepreneur magazine increased sales by 162% by adding a hover.
- Hotjar gained 60-70 new users per month with a popup that put user experience first.
- Broomberg wanted to generate more leads on a tight advertising budget. They designed a popup that increased their leads by 72%. They did this without having to spend more money on paid search advertising.
Popup Design Pro Tips
The headline is the hero
80% of people who see a piece of content will only read the headline, and a good headline can boost traffic by up to 500%.
So be sure to make the benefit of your offer clear right in the headline. This makes it easy for someone considering clicking away to know exactly what they’re turning down. Your call to action (CTA) should also be simple enough that it fits in a headline anyway.
Be clear, relevant, and concise
Like all content, you want your popups to be clear and to the point. It’s not just about the relevance of your popup to your visitors. It’s also about the relevance of your popup to the page it appears on—and the experience that you’re guiding your visitor through. Make sure it complements the content on your page instead of competing with it.
Canvas Factory found this out when they discovered a certain popup’s conversion rate on blog posts was just 0.18% compared to 11% on product pages.
The difference came down to relevance. The offer was the same in both cases: a $10 discount on your first order for signing up for their email list. Their A/B testing confirmed the natural assumption that a discount popup will do better on a product page (where potential buyers hang out) than on a blog where visitors might just be looking for information.
Design with user experience in mind
Think of the whole visitor experience when you’re designing a popup. That’s how you achieve relevance. The best way to get them to take the journey from visitor to buyer is to consider what that path looks like for them. Then design with their perspective in mind.
If you’re promoting a product, for instance, share a discount code and get new customers to sign up with a lead gen (form) popup. If you’re having a sale, direct them to related sale items with a clickthrough popup. And if you’re sharing a piece of content, either send them to a related piece of content that nudges them closer to becoming a customer—or send them to a product that’s mentioned or is particularly relevant.
Include a strong call to action
A call to action does exactly what the name suggests: it asks readers to do something. The CTA is the focal point of a popup. It should stand out, and what it’s asking visitors to do should be obvious—even if a visitor looks it for a split second. You only get one CTA per popup; there can’t be two offers. What’s the one action you want people to take? That’s the CTA.
Sure, popups sometimes get a bad rap. But if you follow the above tips and avoid making the mistakes below, you can make sure yours fall on the right side of popup history.
The internet has a word for dissing people who don’t want your popup offer: confirmshaming. That’s when your opt-out option is something like, “No thanks, I like being broke and friendless,” or, “I don’t like saving money.” This snarky tactic might have been cute for the first company that used it, but now it’s so overplayed that there’s an entire Tumblr dedicated to examples of confirmshaming in action.
Besides coming off as, at best, annoying, and at worst, downright condescending, confirmshaming can completely distract from your offer.
The value of a popup is that it allows your customers to take immediate action on something that can help and benefit them. Nothing should distract from that—especially not your attitude. A visitor who’s not ready to buy today might be ready the next time they encounter your content, but not if their first encounter left them with a bad taste.
No exit option
Another issue we see too often is the popup that’s like an escape room. Clicking away from a popup should be simple and straightforward. The extra captive eyeballs you might gain by turning your ad into a click trap aren’t worth the resentment and frustration you’ll stir up. And the worst part could be that people you trap with this kind of popup strategy may have been trying to close it so they spend more time browsing your site. Talk about a self-own.
Do unto others
When in doubt, stick to the golden rule: how would you like to experience a popup, especially one you’re not interested in? Look at the nice example below. No attitude, no snottiness, just a simple “No, thank you.”
Learn from others
Marketing and advertising pros collect “swipe files” of work they like. They use these examples to learn from and as inspiration for their own work. You can do this, too. Start taking note of popups you see online and screenshot the ones that grab your attention in the right way.
When you’re designing a popup, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Study what works and make those elements your own by incorporating them into your design. If it catches your eye or gets you to click, the creator probably did something right.
If you’re building popups in Unbounce, we have a ton of templates that allow you to plug your offer into a format that works.
A great thing about popups is that they can include all sorts of tracking technology that can give you insights into what’s working and what’s not—through insights like impressions, clicks, and conversion rates. Use that info to improve your offer and the design you use to present it.
That said, be deliberate when you’re testing. If you test a bunch of variables at once, you won’t know what’s working and what isn’t. Take testing one variable at a time. For example, testing the CTA and testing whether or not to have a popup triggered on exit are two different tests.
Target and Segment
Possibly the coolest thing about collecting data from your lead gen popups is that you can use it to create customer segments and Facebook “lookalike audiences” for social ad campaigns and other targeted advertising.
The popup and sticky bar builder allows you to trigger popups based on visitor behavior, like arriving at a page, exiting, or clicking a link. You can use advanced targeting features to talk to visitors based on their location or how they found your site (i.e., one popup for a visitor who followed a link in your newsletter and a different one for somebody who found you through social media).
Plus, dynamic text replacement (DTR) takes relevance to a whole other level by changing the text of your copy to match what customers are looking for based on data about their preferences.
14 Popup Design Examples to Inspire Yours
We gathered high-converting Unbounce customer popups and other examples from the world wide web to show that great popups come in all forms.
Unbounce Customer Popup Examples
National Sewing Circle
National Sewing Circle is an online platform for sewing instruction and ideas. They’re a subscription-based business that trades in information, community collaboration, and resources for avid sewers (or those who want to become one), making their popup especially clever.
With agency TN Marketing, they created an offer of a $40 sewing gift simply for signing up for their newsletter—which works as a lead nurturing strategy to eventually nudge subscribers toward signing up. Stating the dollar amount given in return for an email address makes the value crystal clear, allowing the newsletter to show the value of a full NSC membership over time. So far, this popup has converted 29% of traffic and over 70,000 visitors—and the circle continues to expand!
Regiondo is an activity booking software for facilitating, managing, and promoting ticket sales. Their software is robust in functionality and can be used by a range of people in a number of industries, making product information and education a key conversion driver.
This simple, no-frills popup to book a product demonstration gets visitors in the door and connected with a Regiondo team member while they may still be in the browsing or “evaluation” phase. It’s a great example of “well-designed” applying to functionality over flare—a clean, direct popup targeted to the businesses and professionals their services are for.
HiMama is a childcare app that streamlines childcare center management, parent communication, documentation, and administrative reporting. And streamlining is exactly what their popup does, too—effectively enough to convert 40% of multiple thousands of visitors. Yowza.
Because HiMama can be used for a variety of reasons, and by people in many different roles within the childcare industry, they’ve created a self-segmenting popup that helps them best tend to visitors enquiring about the platform. Contrasting colors, benefits-focused messaging, and straightforward calls to action lead visitors to individual SaaS landing pages targeted specifically to them. Kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure that ends with everybody happy.
Sulky is a high-quality thread and stabilizer company that ships all over the world. They have a huge inventory of products and know that people who land on their website are there for a reason—they’ve searched for thread suppliers, clicked on an ad, or were referred—and are ready to browse, if not already primed to buy.
Placing a 15% off coupon right on their homepage is a smart way to incentivize a purchase and show appreciation to visitors before they’ve even become customers. The popup’s imagery and messaging are fun, eye-catching, and even a bit silly—in a good way! It makes for a warm, friendly invitation that’s bang-on brand and nearly impossible to refuse.
Wealthify is a lead generation service for mortgage brokers and financial planners in Australia. They turned to growth marketing agency Webbuzz to help get them more leads for potential customers. To do this, they took a softer approach that’s paid off with a steady 19% conversion rate.
“It’s been so successful that we have used the ‘info pack’ popup on other client sites,” says Ben Carew, Webbuzz’s Director of SEO Service and Analytics.
By offering an information package to learn more about Wealthify, a bulleted rundown of what’s included, and a one-field entry to sign up, they’ve made it a no-brainer trade for a visitor’s email. The clever graphics, bolded information, and clear call to action don’t hurt either!
Energy Locals is an Australian energy retailer that provides clean, environmentally-friendly energy in an affordable way. Their service is location-specific and has a higher barrier to conversion than, say, buying a pair of pants, so they’ve given visitors a direct line to their 100%-local team should they have any questions or need more information.
Bright colors and minimal form fields make the popup easy to spot and easy to fill out. And the drop-down menu for when to call is a nice touch to let visitors feel in control, and know that their time is respected. At a 61% conversion rate, the proof is in the popup pudding.
Picks from Around the Web
Fun and to the point
Who doesn’t want $10? This popup cuts right to the chase and uses an upfront offer to attract customers. Meanwhile, the body copy manages to keep it light and fun.
Notice that this popup appears on a product page. It’s not coming up on the blog, where a visitor might have just been browsing for an article about hoodies. Instead, it’s right on a page where a customer can take advantage of the discount and buy the hoodie.
Empathy in action
This clickthrough popup gets so much right. It focuses on the visitor’s needs and perspective and highlights a limited-time offer (with a dash of FOMO). And it gives them the chance to postpone their purchase without missing out—a win/win. Someone who’s interested but not ready to buy is going to see this and feel understood. That’s very smart.
This popup also gets points for simplicity. Remember what we said about having a single-purpose CTA? That’s what they’ve done here. They’re not asking for your email address or anything else; you just click the button to set a reminder and they’ll see you when you come back to claim that deal (at which point, they can propose a different offer, like an email signup).
“Why did you leave me?”
This poor lil’ creature. This one is clear, creative, and very noticeable. Even if you bounced, you probably stopped for a second to figure out who or what that little guy is.
Notice even though the CTA isn’t on top—where you might expect to see the headline—it is the largest, hardest-to-miss text. CTA buttons are great because they put your CTA and your clickthrough function in one spot. No need for clutter or complication.
Is it mind-bendingly creative? No. But that’s okay.
This subtle, thoughtful popup does exactly what any good popup should do. It makes a clear offer that emphasizes what’s in it for you. They realize that you need a good reason to let them get in your inbox, and they’ve articulated three reasons in the body copy.
Notice how they’ve also given you two ways to leave the popup: the “X” in the top-right corner and some text at the bottom that says “close this popup.” Big points for respect and clarity.
Exclusive offers and best-kept secrets
Some words never get old: New. Free. Exclusive. Let your visitors in on a secret guide or grant them membership to an exclusive club. Just be sure that what you’re offering is genuinely valuable and appealing. If you’re not careful, the secret club angle can come off like a sleazy magic trick. But done right, it’s a great way to generate curiosity.
Call out objections
Sometimes it helps to address objections to your offer, especially in an exit popup. If your landing page has a high bounce rate, you may want to test popups addressing possible objections that are making them bounce. Not only will this lower your bounce rate, but it will help you better understand what customers think of your page and why they’re bouncing.
Did you know a popup doesn’t need to take up the whole screen or appear right in the middle of the screen?
A simple ‘pop under’ (we call ’em sticky bars) form like this one is like a gentle reminder to join a mailing list. This example appears on a product page, but a low-key popup off to the side or down at the bottom is ideally suited for a blog because something more in-your-face might interrupt someone in the middle of a sentence.
One way to be relevant is to just ask visitors what’s relevant to them. This example from a fitness site presents three choices that direct people to three tailored solutions (and organizes them into three customer segments).
The opt-in buttons are bright and attention-getting, so someone struggling with one of the three problems mentioned might see their issue before they read the question up top. This is an exit popup, so the person may be bouncing because they didn’t find content that was relevant to their specific fitness issue. This popup addresses that exact problem.
Hit the Ground Running with Popups
A well-designed popup can put your business on the fast track to more conversions, more leads, and more revenue. They’re one of the best ways to reach your customers directly and ask them to take action.
When you’re ready to include them in your marketing, try building popups in Unbounce with a free 14-day trial.