Popups can be useful. But they also might be killing sales conversions on your site.
In particular, entry popups — the popups that show immediately when your site loads — are used on (too) many eCommerce sites.
In this article, we’re going to:
- Explain why A/B tests may not show you the truth about popups
- Show you the specific process we use to get much more accurate data about popups and other stats for our clients
Most importantly, we’ll:
- Show you a better way to collect visitors’ info that won’t interfere with your sales.
(This is how we increased one client’s returning visitor conversions by 150%!)
Note: Want someone from our CRO team to evaluate your conversion strategy? Contact us here.
How We Figured Out Entry Popups Were Hurting Conversions
We first noticed this with a particular client when visitors and conversions from their homepage started sliding.
We nailed down when this started happening to a four-day time frame and figured out it was around the same time that we’d added a new entry popup.
When we removed the popup, new visitors to the homepage rebounded in our analytics numbers.
In addition, with the entry popup removed, the sales conversion rate went back to normal.
Our Analysis: Why Entry Popups Hurt the Conversion Rate
Imagine if — as you were entering the parking lot of a department store — you saw dozens of employees with clipboards asking everyone who got out of their car to sign up for an email list.
Would you park your car and go into the store?
Or would you drive by and go to some other store instead?
Whatever you would decide, some fraction of people would leave — choosing to shop elsewhere.
If you own the store, it doesn’t matter if you track conversions for people who enter your store; your numbers completely miss the people who leave before they park their car.
This is exactly what our analysis shows is happening with entry popups on many eCommerce sites.
Entry Popups Can ‘Kill the Pipeline’
Visitors who visit your website are just like the people in the parking lot of that department store.
If you add an entry popup, some fraction of them will get annoyed, leave your site, and never come back.
If any of those people were first-time visitors, the revenue you would have earned from them (either now or in the future) is gone.
Worse, entry popups can cause a conversion rate drop for return visitors to your site.
This is a classic pattern in the world of conversion optimization.
We sometimes call it “killing the pipeline” — because it causes a long, slow drop in conversion rate over time.
Here’s Why You Can’t Measure the Effect of Your Entry Popup
You may be tempted to run an A/B test on your entry popup — one version with the popup, one version without.
Ironically, if an entry popup is “killing your pipeline,” an A/B test probably won’t show it.
What Happens When You A/B Test an Entry Popup?
Behind the scenes, this is the order of events that happens when many eCommerce sites load:
- The entry popup loads
- Some unknown percentage of visitors bounce
- The A/B testing script loads
Because the A/B testing script loads after people leave because of the popup, it’s likely the variation with the popup will show as the winner in the A/B testing tool’s results.
That’s because — on one of your variations — some percentage of people left the site before the script loaded.
These are usually (lower-converting) brand-new visitors rather than return visitors.
You have — in essence — removed a chunk of lower-converting traffic from one half of the A/B test, skewing your data in favor of the variation with the entry popup.
This problem has been so persistent, we built a custom testing script for our clients that runs inside Google Tag Manager (GTM) — which manages the load order of scripts on a site.
In this way, we can ensure our A/B testing script is fully loaded by the time the entry popup fires, and thus, derive data we can trust.
Note: Want us to use custom analytics tools to help increase conversions (and revenue!) on your eCommerce site? Contact us here.
The Negative Effect of Entry Popups on Return Traffic
For the vast majority of eCommerce sites, very few purchases come from a user’s very first interaction with a site.
Instead, most purchases come from returning visitors.
If entry popups are causing a bunch of new visitors not to come back, you’re effectively losing a fraction of eventual buyers by making their first visit a negative experience.
And, you’re hurting the conversion rate for return traffic, a pattern that will show in lower conversion rates and lower revenue numbers over time.
The Old Fashioned A/B Test Still Works
There is one way you can get data you can trust: the old-fashioned A/B testing method
- Leave the popup on your site for 2-4 weeks
- Track the sales conversion rate with the popup
- Remove the popup for 2-4 weeks
- Track the sales conversion rate without the popup
- Compare the results
If you do this, we predict most sites will see a higher sales conversions without the popup.
If so, we have a solution to replace your popup — pushdowns and pushups.
Pushdowns and Pushups Instead of Popups
There’s more than one way to capture emails on your homepage.
Let us introduce you to two great tools that we haven’t found to be detrimental to conversion rates:
As we’ll describe in a moment, in our tests, neither pushdowns nor pushups have a negative impact on conversions.
Pushdowns slide in from the top of a site, pushing the rest of the site’s content “down”:
Pushdowns can load immediately, or they can be configured to appear a second or two after the rest of the content.
Pushups work on the same principle as pushdowns, except they slide “up” from the bottom of the screen.
Here’s an example (look at the bottom of this screenshot to see how it works):
Like pushdowns, they can be configured to “slide up” a second or two after the main content loads, as this one does.
The ROI of Removing Entry Popups
What’s the effect of removing an entry popup?
When we’ve replaced entry popups with pushdowns on our client sites, the conversion rates and email collection rates have always gone up.
In the case of one client:
- Return visitor rate increased 10%
- Sales from the homepage increased 13%
- Return visitor conversions increased 152%
As great as it is to collect a user’s email address, what you want more from them is a sale, and then to return to shop again.
Note: To see your best possible conversion rate, you need an advanced strategy designed for your specific situation, and we can help. Contact us here.
Great articles!! Do you know which app provides the
‘pushup” style for shopify stores ?
We’re plateform agnostic and tend to create our own tools for our clients when their devs can’t find what we know converts best. Last we tried, Shopify did not have a good push-up tool, but that was a while ago, so there must be something out there by now. Good luck!
Or do a server side test
Hi Jonny, server side testing is definitely cleaner for this kind of test, but most smaller businesses don’t have this capability, and the tools that allow for this like SiteSpect price most small businesses out.
If you do have server side testing capabilities, just make sure analytics fires before the entry pop up displays so that you don’t run into the tracking issue outlined in the post.
We at MailOptin (https://mailoptin.io) have always advise our customers against entry popups. Rather they you use it in combination with a trigger such as exit intent, on scroll or after certain number of page views.
This post will serve as an additional resource for them to read up to backup our claim.
Excellent post Keith.
Glad we could help Collins!