Love them or hate them, exit-intent popups are here to stay.

When designed and implemented correctly, popups are an extremely effective tool in extracting value from each and every visit. This is especially true in eCommerce, where many online retailers are pursuing market growth through paid channels like Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. It’s more important than ever to make every interaction count. 

But with the widespread adoption of exit-intent popups, their impact is beginning to diminish. In order to stand out from the crowd, it’s crucial that you consider some important rules when designing exit-intent popups – rules that will help you leverage this conversion optimization tool to its full potential.

Don’t Make Your Popup Look Like Every Other Popup On The Internet

Popups are everywhere. That’s because they can be an effective means of keeping visitors engaged, even as they demonstrate bounce-like behaviour.

However, their very popularity means that retailers need to work harder to distinguish themselves from the pack. This starts with the design of the popup itself.

In the below example, the offer itself is compelling, and the image is relevant to the product (handmade sweaters, in case you were wondering). However, the effectiveness of this popup is compromised by the design of the box, which together with some low-rent branding, makes the popup ad look like an ’out-of-the-box’ default template design.

eCommerce Exit Intent Popup

Popups need to look like they belong on the page; they need to fit in with the overall branding of the website. An inconsistent design can make visitors think that your popup is spam, rather than something that could potentially provide value. Matching the branding with the colour scheme and font of the website creates a seamless experience while staying unique in a world full of ‘me-too’ popup designs.

The below popup from My Jolie Candle is a great example of consistent design in action, with colour scheme and overall branding firmly in sync with that of the website. 

eCommerce Exit Intent Popup 1

Make Sure Your CTA Offer Is Relevant, Concise, and Instantly Redeemable

Less is more when it comes to the design of your CTA (call-to-action). Two key reasons why visitors often skip popups is because the CTA simply lacks concise relevance (i.e. perceived value), or doesn’t provide any sort of instant gratification. In the case of exit popups, the user has already made a decision that the landing page lacks relevancy, either through brand or product-specific cues. Therefore, the exit popup is your last shot of demonstrating meaningful relevancy, and should be short, concise, and instantly redeemable. In other words, it should answer questions relating to the ‘what’ (is the offer?), the ‘why’ (is this valuable?), and the ‘when’ (can I get it now?).

The below example illustrates an instance where none of these factors are at play.    

eCommerce Exit Intent Popup 3

Here, the popup simply doesn’t convey any sort of meaningful value (after all, being the ‘first to know’ is not adding value to the buyer’s journey). Worse still, there is no sense of immediate benefit.

This next popup from Pura Vida Bracelets is a perfect example of an effective CTA. Here, not only is the offer concise and visually appealing, but the ‘Get My Discount Now’ button conveys how the offer will be fulfilled, and the text beneath it provides further reinforcement of instant gratification.

eCommerce Exit Intent Popup 4

Always Follow The ‘F-Shape’ Rule

The ‘F-shaped’ rule is a well established rule of thumb in the conversion rate optimization world. It assumes that when visitors first encounter a new website, they study the landing page in an ‘F-shaped’ pattern.

When it comes to designing an exit popup (or any popup, for that matter), you should adopt a similar approach – place your key messaging in an F-shape. This is especially true if your popup is larger than three-quarters of the overall screen size.

In the example below, the left side of the popup is prime screen real estate, as this where the user’s eyeline will naturally gravitate to. As such, the left side is where you should place the key textual elements of your CTA, reserving the right side for you main imagery. This will draw more attention to your key message, thereby increasing the possibility of keeping prospective customers engaged.

eCommerce Exit Intent Popup 5

Don’t Make All Your Exit Popups The Same

A common mistake among retailers is to employ the same exit popup for each and every page. This fundamentally ignores the context of the ‘exit’ action (the specific reason why people choose to exit a given page). Understanding this context presents a significant opportunity to tailor your popups with personalized offers.

For example, cart abandonment is a major issue for growing and established retailers alike. The cost of shipping is commonly seen as a key trigger of cart abandonment, or perhaps more specifically, the added cost to the order which is only disclosed immediately prior to checkout. This can be a major issue for customers who may feel that the shipping charge is excessive, and therefore look to shop around for a better deal. So your ‘standard’ exit popup in this case is unlikely to be effective in persuading the user to continue to checkout, unless it offers some form of transactional discount. And if you’ve spent a lot of time, money or effort in attracting customers to your site, only to see them fall at the final hurdle, you might want to consider triggering a customised popup where the CTA offers free shipping (or some form of shipping discount) in order to win the initial sale.

Diamond Candles have utilized this approach when users attempt to exit the website from ‘down-funnel’ pages.

eCommerce Exit Intent Popup 7

Yes, you’re sacrificing margin, but this one trick can work wonders for your overall conversion rate!

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Don’t Convey a False Sense of Urgency

Conveying some sense of urgency through a limited time offer is an oft-used tactic amongst sophisticated retailers. However, doing this right does not look like this:

eCommerce exit intent popups

Your customers are smart. Reducing your price in such an overly-dramatic manner (and just as your prospective customers are heading for the exit door) can also quickly diminish the perceived value of your product and your credibility. In other words, this may prompt the user to think ‘is this actually a one-time only deal or can I come back some other time and see the same popup?’.

The issue here isn’t the reduction in price. Instead, the mistake lies in how this reduction in price is communicated.   

A better way to execute this tactic is to follow the below example, and add a time-specific countdown to claim the offer.

eCommerce Exit Intent Popup 9

This popup doesn’t fake urgency. Instead, it gives the user a personalized, and time-sensitive, offer.    

So how do you get started? The great news is that there are lots of tools out there to transform the effectiveness of your popups. Here are just a few to get you started:


OptinMonster is possibly the most feature-rich popup tool at its price point. Their signature exit-intent technology promises to convert an additional 2-4% of visitors.


Marketizator is a full CRO suite, offering much more than just popups. Their web personalization feature gives you some pretty cool advanced targeting options that can really push the needle and drive more conversions.


Picreel is easy to integrate and has a particularly strong A / B testing feature, which allows retailers to test the performance of different buttons, styles, colours, and texts.


WisePops enable you to easily create awesome-looking popups in minutes. They provide a robust solution to design, targeting, and analytics. Better still, they offer a free 14-day trial.


These guys specialize in exit popups. Easy to use, yet feature-rich, it’s definitely one of the better popup tools on the market.

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