The Ultimate Guide to Email Popups


According to internal data, that’s the average percentage of users seeing an email popup who leave their email address.

I joined WisePops a few months ago and knew nothing about popup marketing at the time.

At first, I couldn’t believe popups could be that powerful.  But my everyday job rapidly convinced me of their powers.

And I’m not the only popup believer out there.

A lot of external studies confirm these impressive results too:

But my job also taught me that all email popups were not created equal. Your design, your targeting or the offer you select dramatically impact your results. And there’s a huge difference between a good and a bad popup.

Today I’d like to share what I learned working with hundreds of top websites on their list-building strategy.

No complex words, just simple techniques you can copy and apply right away. Let’s go!

Disclaimer: we quote some case studies involving our clients. When we could, we named the client and shared screenshots of the campaign they tested. But not all of them agreed.

Set Clear Objectives

Before diving into the details of your campaigns, it’s important to sit and think about your objectives.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself

  • Whose emails do I want to collect? Are some emails especially valuable to me? If so, what kind?
  • Who are my visitors? Can I segment them into different groups/persona?
  • What’s the ROI of an email subscriber? What budget am I ready to spend?

Now, let’s dig into the process of crafting your popup.


Display Your Campaign to the Right Person at the Right Time

Timing is (almost) everything.

Here’s one illustration of users’ sensitivity to timing. One of our customers, a high-end hifi retailer, tried displaying the same exact popup on landing and after 2 pages. Notice the delta in in the subscription rate between the two versions?


Finding the right timing is mostly a matter of choosing the right trigger. What user action should trigger the popup to appear?

In other words, what’s the moment which maximizes the chances your user will subscribe?

Let’s review the most common triggers and their usage:



Identifying and targeting your segments

Once you’ve chosen your trigger, it’s time to refine your audience.

Let’s go back to your popup strategy. Whose email do you want to collect? What are your persona or segments?

Once you have your segments in mind, let’s see what targeting options you can leverage to reach them:

  • New/returning: first, you can distinguish between new and returning visitors. The first are completely new to your brand, the latter already engaged.
  • Traffic source: should you treat people who accessed your website directly the same way you treat users who came through an ad? Again, these two populations have different relationships with your brand and may need a different message to convince them to subscribe
  • Interest: if you offer different services or products, it can make sense to adapt your popup to the product they’re interested in. To do so, you can use page targeting and serve a specific popup to users seeing a specific product category.
  • Device: if your mobile visitors behave differently from your desktop visitors, it could make sense to create different campaigns as well.

Here’s a real-life example on SohoHome’s website. They’ve identified a specific segment, users interested in vintage furniture, and crafted a dedicated popup displayed only in the vintage category.

An exit popup form displayed on

Convert Your Users With Offers They Can’t Resist

Think as a user.

What could convince you to subscribe to a newsletter?

Here are a few options which worked great for our clients.


Strategy #1: coupons

Coupons are very powerful when it comes to popups.

Here’s an example of their impact on one of our customers’ campaigns:


Adding a $7 coupon, our client was able to capture four times more emails than without a discount.

But discounts are not the only option when it comes to coupons. Free shipping offers work great as well. According to a poll by Retention science, 21.8% of US retailers judge them to be the most effective kind of offer.

Why not give it a try?

Brooks Brothers - Cart AbandonmentAn email popup offering free shipping on Brooks Brothers

Strategy #2: sweepstakes

Sweepstakes can be a good way to convince your visitors to subscribe.

One of our clients, a top pure player, is running both “regular” popup campaigns with no offer alongside sweepstakes popup campaigns. Guess what? His sweepstakes campaigns generate three times more subscribers than his regular campaigns.

Sweepstakes vs optin popup

Compared to coupons, they add some fun and can cost less…

Here’s an example on Timberland’s website:

A popup on Timberland's website offering to win a pair of shoes


Strategy #3: freebies

Sometimes, offering exclusive content such as an ebook can be more valuable than a coupon or a gift. That’s especially true for B2B and SaaS companies.

A lead magnet example on

Lead magnet example


Strategy #4: mystery offer

This strategy is a bit weird but it worked so well for some of our customers that I wanted to share it. One of these clients was pixel retargeting solution PixelMe. They tried this offer one month after launching their product.

PixelMe's Exit Popup offering to receive a surprise


They didn’t know what to offer. So they tried offering a “surprise”. Turns out that hook worked pretty well:

PixelMe's popup converts 4% of their visitors into subscribers


Their opening rate is very impressive as well: more than 60% opened the email sent once they subscribed.

email campaign opening rate


What they did next was smart: they surveyed their new subscribers and asked them what kind of offer/content would make the most sense to them. Most of them replied they were interested in receiving expert content. That helped PixelMe adapt their offer.


Strategy #5: no offer

As PixelMe’s example demonstrates, most of the time, subscribers just want to receive great newsletters. Depending on your industry, that could mean for your subscribers getting access to exclusive news, product announcements, new collections, insider tips, special offers, etc.

Here’s an example from Neil Patel’s website. See? No coupon, no freebie, no discount. Just the promise to receive valuable advice.

full screen exit popup

Craft the Best Popup Copy Ever

Now that we’ve talked about your targeting and your offer, it’s time to focus on your popup copy.

I’d like to start with advice from CRO expert Michael Aagaard. As an Unbounce senior consultant, Michael was involved in countless CTA A/B tests.

When working on a form content, he always starts with the following questions:

  • What is my prospect’s motivation for clicking [a] button?
  • What is my prospect going to get, when he/she clicks this button?

These questions should drive the whole reflection when preparing your popup.



The copy of your popup is key to attracting your users’ attention and trigger their motivation to subscribe.

Here are some examples of strategies we saw which generated good results for our clients:


Strategy #1: state the benefits

Why not describe plain and simple what your subscribers will get when they sign up? This is what StyleRunner does:

styleruner optin popup


Strategy #2: use humor:

Humor works great to shake your visitors and convince them to join you. A fun popup announces fun content… Here’s an example on Lush.

popup example - Lush


Strategy #3: leverage a community

Everyone likes to be part of a club, to feel special. How about playing on that for your popup?

Fight club email capture popup


The call-to-action is the other half of your popup copy.

Again, let’s go back to Michael’s advice and focus on the benefit for the users. Forget the generic terms (“Submit”, “Download”) and step into your visitor’s shoes.

Here are a few examples of compelling call-to-actions:
call to actions examples

Design the Best Popup

Design is the last step of the process. You’re almost there!

Size matters

What size should your popup be? Let’s start with the simplest case: mobile popups.

Google has shared precise guidelines on the matter. If you want to avoid an SEO penalty, your popup shouldn’t prevent your visitors from accessing the main content of the page. In other words, it shouldn’t be too large.

Here’s an example of a mobile-friendly popup on Dickies:

a mobile popup on

See? Their banner is set to full width and its height is less than 250 pixels. That’s the size we recommend.

If you want more freedom, you can also add a trigger before your popup to respect Google guidelines and design a larger popup.

Here’s what it could look like:

Vans CTA Popup


On desktop, the situation is different. You’re free to choose your popup size.

A few elements can help you take a decision:

  • How visible you want your popup to be: the bigger your popup, the more difficult it would be for your users to miss it
  • How far are you ready to go: the larger a popup, the more intrusive it could be for your visitors

As a rule of thumb, we recommend designing full-screen popups only when your popup is triggered on exit. Otherwise, you risk increasing your bounce rate.

furless optin popup displayed on exit

A full-size popup example displayed on exit on FurlessCosmetics



slide in popup

A discreet slide-in popup on


Now that you picked a size, we can discuss visuals.

Visuals have specific benefits for a lead capture popup:

  • Draw your user’s attention to your popup
  • Reassure your potential subscribers that it’s safe to share their email
  • Remind your visitors of the benefits of a subscription

Let’s see how you can leverage these benefits.

Again, mobile is very specific. As bandwidth and space are limited, we recommend avoiding visuals or sticking to small visuals.

patagonia mobile optin popup

A simple mobile popup example on

On desktop, you can try one of the following strategies:

Strategy #1: using a product visual

Using a product visual is particularly popular in e-commerce. It reminds the visitor of your brand mission while contributing to make your popup more appealing.



Strategy #2: getting personal

Using a picture of you can reassure your potential subscribers. To put it another way, you’re telling them, “we’re starting a discussion”. It works especially well for B2B websites or bloggers.



Strategy #3: using a visual reminding the offer

Depending on the offer you make for your subscribers, it might be worth illustrating it right into your popup.

See this popup from Practical Ecommerce? It tells you right away what you’ll get when you subscribe.



Strategy #4: adding logos

Logos are great to provide social proof and reassure. Here’s an example on

conversioner popup


Call-to-action design

No click, no email. It’s that simple.

This is why you need to pay attention to your CTA design.

Picking the right color.

Studies have shown that there’s no universal rule for CTA colors. They must be adapted to your popup and website.

A few common sense recommendations can help though:

  • Choose a color which helps your CTA stand out (different from the dominant color in your popup and eye-catching)
  • Choose a color coherent with your website

Here’s a good example on Weebly. The CTA is white and stands out from the rest of the popup.



Choose the right size

Anything which can help your call-to-action be noticed can help.

Bigger is not necessarily better. But make sure your CTA can’t be missed.

If you’re having doubts, don’t hesitate to run an A/B test.

If you need more inspiration for your design, check the 15 examples of great email popups we shared.



Looks like you’re ready to build your email list building machine!