It’s happened to you, I’m sure. You’re browsing a site looking for a new piece of furniture, and just as you start to close the window and move on, the popup appears and entices you with a 10% off coupon.

Do you take advantage of the offer? Or, do you get annoyed? The companies getting the best results from using exit intent popups strategically have found the magic of timing, content, and relevancy.

If you’re considering adding an exit intent popup to your website, you’ll need to understand how they work, how to create one that converts, and find some inspiration for your next campaign.

What Is an Exit Intent Popup?

An exit intent popup is a popup that only appears when a user shows intent to leave your website. The cursor’s swift motion of moving outside the upper page boundary (typically where the tab to close the page appears) prompts the popup to surface.

The goal of these popups is to prompt a visitor to take action before leaving your website. For example, many online retailers use exit intent popups to offer a promotional deal or coupon to entice shoppers to stay on the page.

The exit intent popup is one of many digital tools at marketers' disposal and, when used strategically, can enhance conversion rates.

The data around conversion rates for these popups are still unclear, mainly because users define conversion differently. For some, conversion might mean that the user stayed on the website for an additional minute or two. For others, a successful conversion means the user returned to their cart and purchased a product.

So, how does it work?

How Does an Exit Intent Popup Work?

According to Google Patent records, “exit intent technology, including the detection of exit behavior of an internet user, was invented and patented by Ryan Urban, the CEO, and co-founder of BounceX, in 2012.”

The technology relies on Javascript, a programming language, to detect the speed and direction of the cursor. Essentially, when a user moves their mouse in the up and left position quickly, the programming language behind the website interprets this action as an intent to close the page. The code then instructs the browser to display the popup.

The exit intent technology is slowly making its way to mobile devices, although triggering actions on a smartphone vary significantly from those on a desktop.

While this explains how the exit intent popup works technically, the question is: does it actually work when it comes to converting visitors to customers?

How to Create an Exit Intent Popup That Converts

Creating an exit intent popup is one of many strategies to increase the time a user spends on your website, a factor that plays heavily into how well your site ranks on search engines.

However, the strategy can also backfire by frustrating users and discourage them from returning to your site later. Some website visitors need more time to make decisions, especially if your price point is exceptionally high or the decision-making process involves several people.

A bit of planning is required to ensure your exit intent popup helps your audience and converts in the way you want.

Decide What a Successful Conversion Looks Like

Before creating your exit intent popup, decide what qualifies as a conversion and what specific goal you want to achieve.

If you’re a website designer, you may want users to book a discovery call before they leave your website so that you can answer any questions they have. In this case, your exit intent popup should prompt them to book the call and be counted as a successful conversion when they do.

However, if you’re an online retailer, your exit intent may need to focus on prompting the visitor to complete their purchase.

Choose the Landing Page Carefully

It is not wise to have an exit intent popup appear on every page of your website. For example, if someone initially lands on your homepage and is not convinced to stick around and explore your site, the chances of an exit intent popup converting them are very small.

Their choice to leave your site (or bounce) means that your efforts to pull them in using compelling content, lead magnets, or keyword-rich headlines have failed. It is unlikely that an exit intent popup will convince them otherwise.

And, to return to our website designer example, if a user lands on the homepage and is looking for a website audit but receives an exit popup that prompts for a discovery call, this sends a message that they are in the wrong place.

Instead, placing the exit intent on the website design package page makes more sense. If the popup leads with a headline like, “Still have questions? Book a call,” this is more likely to convert an interested visitor.

Optimize Your Website First

An exit intent popup cannot do the work of your website for you. Instead, the best popups help you capture a potential customer if or when the other strategies in place have been unsuccessful.

Before creating your popup, ensure your website has clear and compelling headlines that tell your audience they are in the right place. The use of intuitive navigation, bold call-to-action buttons, and the absence of jargon will help your visitors understand what problem you solve and why you are the best to solve it.

The exit intent popup should address an objection that your website has not already covered. For example, if you have a large section of your homepage promoting your lead magnet and the opportunity to join your email list, and your exit intent only restates the same message, it’s not likely to convert.

Instead, use your popup to give another reason to get on your email list. For example, if your primary lead magnet is “10 ways to sell your ebook,” then your popup could be “Don’t have an ebook yet? Here’s how to create one.”

Examples of Good Exit Popup Campaigns

Need some inspiration? Here are three ways to use an exit intent popup on your website.

Ask for Feedback

If you’re running an e-commerce store and selling digital products, ask for feedback in your exit intent popup.

Didn’t find what you need? Tell us what you want!

The popup can lead to a form where users can make product suggestions. This strategy is a great way to build your email list and start a conversation with your audience. You might even consider offering a promo code to the user if you add that specific product to your shop.

Offer a Demo

For technology companies, making a case for new software purchases can be difficult using only words or images. In your exit intent popup, present your case using a different format like video.

Need to see the system in action? Watch a 5-minute demo.

By giving the user a different way to consume the information and telling them exactly how long it will take, you offer a new perspective and a chance to make the sale.

Build the Relationship

Using an exit intent popup to build your email list can be quite effective for anyone with a solid email marketing strategy and a consistent email schedule. If your lead magnet hasn’t done the trick, a popup that encourages visitors to connect for a different reason is a great strategy.

Wait, can we talk about this later? Our newsletter goes out this Friday.

This type of popup can direct visitors to your email signup landing page and works well on blog pages. It also reinforces the message that you have plenty of relevant content to share and want to continue the conversation with your audience.

Final Thoughts

Like any digital tool, exit intent popups require intentional strategy and design with the ultimate goal to enhance the user’s experience, not interrupt it.

Exit intent popups are continuing to evolve and must adapt to user behavior trends and feedback. Measure, analyze, and test all of your popup strategies to understand how they’re working and if they’re contributing to your most important goals.

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