From nuisance to competitive edge

Pop-up ads have become synonymous with annoying internet interactions. Seeing windows open left and right without your permission made for a horrible time to access the internet before AdBlock was born. Although pop-up ads nowadays don’t precisely follow the same code of its ancestors, the slight change in form and approach has turned it into one of the more useful tools of modern advertising to date. Being aware of how these different UI (User Interface) components are present in digital marketing strategies can give ecommerce businesses the edge against their competitors.


Pop-up ads’ love-hate relationship with users.

The year was 1994 when, and the first banner ad was developed. These were strewn up all across webpages with brightly colored font and outrageous product claims and offers. To improve conversion rates, advertisers saw the potential of this new medium of advertising to target a wider audience. As banner ads continued to increase in number, so too did users’ annoyance of it.


About 69% more internet users in 2014 from 2013’s numbers showed the growth of people using an ad blocker. That number continued to increase which puts the number of AdBlock users to over 200 million by the end of 2018. However, not everyone is against the use of pop-up ads. Around 77% of users would rather have a ‘filtered’ program instead of indiscriminately blocking all ads of the same format. Much of the general hate against pop-up ads stems from the 63% of users who the put their dislike on the ad form due to its misleading and unappealing nature.


On the other side of the fence, users and digital marketers’ who approve of the advertising tactic shows a different story to how pop-ups are viewed. Copyblogger reported an increase in email opt-ins by switching to a pop-up approach. Around 40% of pop-up ad clicks are due to customer’s interest in the offer, with another 13% due to a compelling copy and visual appeal. In short, it’s not the pop-up advertisements itself that are hated, but the implementation of it, which turns off users.

Why do pop-up advertisements still work?

Pop-up ads became such a nuisance that a mass downloading of AdBlock programs became the norm until web browsers offered built-in AdBlock software from the early 2000s onwards. But instead of it being phased out of the internet, it has evolved, which has led to its continuously become popular use with mobile apps and webpages, so much so that you can see it in different web environments – like new sites and ecommerce product pages.  As a feature that’s present from news websites to eCommerce product pages.

Optimized pop-up placements have been found to potentially can boost your lead and subscriber conversion rates to up to 40%. Pop-up ad campaigns are specifically effective when it comes to:


  • Growing your email list.
  • Increasing your site follows and subscriptions.
  • Promoting newly-released content/products.
  • Enhancing lead generation.


With social media marketing involving the use of various platforms, there are now multiple avenues to explore customer interactions online. A clear shift into catering towards customer preferences has become the trend for online retailing websites’ UX(User Experience) design.



Surprisingly effective popup ad strategies

Give first-time buyers discounts

One way to entice potential customers is by offering first-time buyers a special discount. As soon as you arrive on the Revolve site, for example, you are greeted by a popup offering 10% off when you subscribe to their newsletter.

By getting people to subscribe to their newsletter, they’ve utilized popups to generate and nurture leads, while also enticing a sale. Another good thing about this strategy is that users are already on their site, which means they’re already interested in the brand. The 10% discount is a great way to usher them through the door.


Offer incentives to repeat visitors

In a similar vein, you can also offer to incentives users who continually visit your site. Repeat visitors mean that they’re seriously considering purchasing from you, and offering a special discount, for example, can be just the nudge they need.


Offer free shipping

Everyone knows shipping cost is one of the factors for cart abandonment. So why not address that by offering free shipping? This is a particularly effective strategy if you already know that a user is strongly considering a purchase.


To up the ante even further, you can even combine the free shipping order with a special discount on their purchase, and include a timer to create a sense of urgency. That’s a trio that’s tough to deny.


Provide free samples or a trial period

This works particularly well if you’re confident you have a great product. If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you can attest to this. You bit on that free first month offer, and within that month, you discovered that Netflix is something you can’t live without.


Hide the form on your landing page

Form fields have been found to decrease conversion rates. Bur everyone needs to capture leads, so how do you go around this? It’s quite simple, hide your forms. Check out the example below:


Again, with this approach, you’re banking on an existing interest in your product. In this example, when users click on “Download the free guide,” that’s when the form pops up.

Here, the popup is triggered by the user, which takes away the surprise element of the popup – so basically, it’s the users requesting for the popup. Win!


Combat cart abandonment

It’s been found that on average, close to 70% of all ecommerce shopping carts are being abandoned. And while there are a number of reasons for this (extra costs, complicated checkout process, not enough payment methods, etc.), a major reason behind all these is the lack of trust.

In the example below, they do a good job of addressing that.

When visitors put an eco-friendly t-shirt in their shopping carts, the Pact website shows the above popup. As you can see, it offers to prompt a call to “real people,” providing a hotline and hours of availability. This can help alleviate customers’ concerns by helping nurture trust.


Show other relevant products

We’ve all fallen for this tactic. You visit a website, browse around their product pages, and are shown other similar products before you leave. This is effective because, again, the user has already shown interest – the popup serves as something to entice them even further.

This can work whether the user already made a purchase or is a repeat visitor.

Give them a chance to win something

Everyone’s likes free stuff. And when you combine that with a chance to win, then you’re tugging at two different, yet similar emotional triggers. In the world of popups, this is commonly done by providing visitors with a chance to win something in exchange for their email addresses.

This a good lead generation and nurturing technique, and a way to further educate them about your products.

Remind visitors of a limited time offer

FOMO is a very real thing, as you may have experienced with all those 8.8, 9.9, 11.11 sales that have now become a monthly thing. So reminding visitors of a limited time offer via popups is a great way to constantly create a sense of urgency.

In the example below, they’ve taken this up a notch as when visitors arrive on their homepage, a countdown timer immediately appears saying that if they don’t purchase within the time frame, the tickets will cost more.

Inform visitors of new website features

Maybe you’re just testing a new feature, or maybe you’ve actually added something to your list of services. Popups are a great way to let your customers know about it, as TripAdvisor does below:


As you can see, creating a website for your business and adding popups don’t always have to be annoying – they can be helpful and informative. While there are many ways to leverage popups to help your cause, it’s important to test which one works for your market. If you find that a particular approach isn’t quite performing, try another one. There’s a popup for everyone, discover which one works for your customers.


Author Bio:

Vincent Sevilla is a professional graphic designer and inbound strategist for His goal? To innovate ideas, create good music, and to travel to all the best places in the Philippines.