How to master the art of popup timing
You’ve created a website popup and now it’s time for the finishing touches: deciding when to make it appear.
Should it trigger five seconds after someone arrives? Or will that immediately drive people away? If you wait longer before firing it off, are you missing the boat, so to say?
There’s no universal answer to any of the above questions. I can’t tell you the optimum trigger time for an email-centered popup or when to deploy a sale announcement popup.
However, there are two things I can say with certainty:
- Website popup timing is a balancing act
- Testing, refinement, and more testing will determine the right formula for your brand
And third — this may garner opposition from some shop owners — releasing a website popup before five seconds is a bad idea.
More on that last point later, along with general popup timing suggestions.
First, it’s important to understand the many aspects of plotting a popup timing strategy. Knowing these things will help you better pinpoint what’s right for you.
The visitor experience as a beacon
The roots of successful website popup timing tie directly to the user experience you want to create. Think of the ideal visitor experience as your North Star.
It can be a tricky path because you need to remember that people come to your site for different reasons. You want to react appropriately to those differences.
Take a clothing shop as an example. Some visitors arrive via a search engine by typing in “dresses” as their query. Others enter your store because a paid ad attracted their attention. And some receive a marketing email, lured to check out a seasonal dress collection page.
Acknowledging that there are multiple routes to your site is the first step in setting yourself up for greater website popup success. Let’s examine each of these ways, and how you might orient your popup timing to improve the experience in all cases.
New to popups? Get started with our beginner’s guide to on-site popups.
The homepage, through a general search
Many visitors land on your homepage first, so you should do a self-assessment and consider the perspective of someone who knows nothing of your store. How easy is it to distinguish what you offer?
If comprehension happens relatively quickly, then this is where a shorter popup time — waiting five to 10 seconds — is OK.
This is what Simple Modern does. The top part of its homepage is dominated by a photo of multiple water bottles from a special floral collection.
It doesn’t take long to grasp that the shop specializes in beverage containers. About a handful of seconds later, a website popup touting a short-term win appears, inquiring if you're interested in a discount code.
For more complex homepages and sites, I recommend waiting a little longer before interrupting with a website popup. Consider any of these options:
- Wait 15 to 60 seconds to allow the visitor to absorb what they’re seeing. You worked hard to design an experience that would pique your visitors’ curiosity and keep them scrolling. A too-soon website popup could be damaging.
- Trigger website popups at a “punctuation” point. This strategy is about scroll time — the percentage of a page that is viewed. Think of it as inserting a popup at a natural break on the page. At what point is there a pause or shift in content?
- Base website popup deployment on page consumption. This is advantageous when further site exploration is integral to understanding all that your store offers. Maybe you set the trigger only after the user visits one or two pages.
A landing page, through a paid ad
When you spend money to draw folks to a specific landing page, you want them to interact with it. So as in our last example, a website popup based on page scroll is a good tactic.
A big ad trend sends visitors to an all-in-one landing page containing answers to common questions. It’s about taking visitors on a journey.
You don’t want to interfere with that journey. Nor do you want these people to depart without sharing their email address and/or phone number.
So be strategic instead of assigning an arbitrary time. Allow the visitor to view at least 50% of the page — but not the entire thing — before interrupting with a website popup.
If you’re more comfortable with defining the trigger by amount of time, give them up to a minute max.
A product page, through an email
I think a lot of brands leave money on the table in regard to product pages.
They’re a great spot within your shop for a subtle, secondary website popup. Highlight a valuable offer — it may be what pushes someone over the shopping finish line.
For instance, use a popup to promote free shipping on purchases totaling $25 and more. Release it once a visitor wades into the lower territory of a product page.
Product pages are also ripe for using a website popup to grow your email list. Anyone who spends a lot of time looking through pages of your collections is interested in you. Capture their email addresses by promising them news of the latest styles, straight to their inbox.
Catch visitors before they leave
We can’t talk about website popup timing without mentioning the exit-intent popup.
This website popup appears when visitors using a desktop computer move their cursor toward the browser exit without making a purchase. It’s really your last chance to entice your visitor to stick around, whether it’s for the short term (more time on site) or long term (as an email subscriber).
Consequently, there’s no decisions to be made about timing, just whether you want to use one and on what pages.
Exit-intent popups are great for addressing or abolishing a pain point. Shipping fees are a huge point of friction for customers, so perhaps you offer free shipping for first-time customers.
It appears Thinx has identified brand trust as cause for hesitation. They use an exit-intent popup as a means for showing product affirmation, steering would-be site abandoners to customer reviews.
One more note on exit-intent popups: it’s absolutely essential that you pay attention to settings if you embark on a multi-popup strategy. Build in some guardrails, through page containment and timing, so you’re not annoying a visitor with one website popup after another.
Website popups are one essential component to subscriber growth. Take a look at our course to understand what else is important for growing your email list.
The do’s of website popup timing
Near the beginning of this post, I said you shouldn’t release a website popup before five seconds. Bombarding a visitor immediately upon arrival can escalate your site’s bounce rate and negatively impact sales.
Imagine a site that already has flashy imagery or sophisticated web design, with sections expanding as you scroll. Now throw in a popup. I’d run, too.
So if not below five seconds, then what? A basic starting point is between five and 60 seconds, and no longer, if you prefer a clock-based approach. Specifically, a lot of brands say the five- to 15-second range is their sweet spot.
Try a time that you think will work, based on all that we’ve covered here. Let it run for at least two weeks. Then test a new time and compare the two by way of:
- Subscriber list growth
- Site bounce rate
Finding your “Goldilocks” answer right away is unlikely. You’ll undoubtedly make adjustments, and test again, as you pursue the right balance.
Your job boils down to a few things. Be mindful of how traffic is coming to your pages. Think of how website popups can be a complement, not a detriment. And through it all, let your North Star be the guide. What is the user experience you’re aiming for?
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