Using Exit Overlays to Incentivize Email Signups
by Guest Blogger last updated on 0

Using Exit Overlays to Incentivize Email Signups

Are you lying about your email list-building capabilities? Have you convinced yourself those Facebook integrations and WordPress signup forms are enough to get the job done? You’re certainly not alone. Email has become so valuable that pretty much everyone is looking for ways to capture more addresses.

Here are a few eye-popping stats to illustrate my point:

  • Over 77% of online customers prefer receiving marketing messages via email 
  • Email marketing produces a $44.25 return for every $1 spent
  • Online consumers spend 138% more when contacted by email 
  • 85% of prospects prefer giving their email address to paying with a tweet 

These numbers may surprise some, since email has been given the last rites multiple times. Round about 2009, the ‘email is dead’ articles started popping up everywhere. But instead, email matured into a safe haven from the storm of social media; a place where marketers can communicate with prospects with the background noise removed. Today, gaining inbox access is the ultimate sign of trust from an online customer.

But before you can enjoy the fruits of email marketing, you need a good list. And I’m not talking the dead-end ‘get one or two leads’ or ‘half the emails get returned’ kind of list. I’m talking valuable warm email leads that are familiar with your products and have recently interacted with your brand. So without further ado, here’s one tactic for getting the job done. For more, check out this article that lists over 40 ways you can build an email list effectively.

Things you should know about exit overlays with examples:

What are exit overlays, and how do they work?

Exit overlays are a marketing tool designed to convert abandoning web visitors into leads, sales & signups. They run on what’s known as “exit-intent technology”.

Exit-intent technology uses a tracking algorithm to detect mouse gestures, resting moments, and other user movements. Using this algorithm, the technology is able to predict the exact moment a user is about to exit a website.

Example of exit overlays by The Chive
Exit overlay on The Chive, activated when a user begins to abandon the page

When the Rooster algorithm detects an abandoning visitor, an exit overlay is triggered to enable you one last chance to engage your visitor before they abandon your site.

Exit overlays work well for building a subscriber base because the value is big and the ask is small: just an email address. And in return, you get a valuable lead out of what was previously nothing more than an abandoning user.

The 3 reasons exit overlays accelerate email signups

1. Marketers can incentivize the signup

Inboxes are crowded, and that means customers need a good reason to sign up for your updates. Exit overlays are fertile ground for providing this incentive.

Busted Tees uses a discount as an incentive in the example below:

Example of use a discount in exit overlays

Here’s another example from CopyHackers, which incentivizes the email signup with the promise of 4-part CRO course for marketers wishing to improve their business:

Example of promise a course in exit overlays

2. Exit overlays maximize visibility, without being intrusive

Exit overlays are much more visible than traditional signup widgets. When an exit overlay activates, it dims out the rest of the window to maximize contrast and visibility, as per the example from Baby Age below:

Example of exit overlays maximize visibility

That said, an exit overlay is not intrusive in the way old school pop-ups were:

  • It doesn’t disable or inhibit the functionality of the navigation bar
  • It won’t slow or inhibit users from leaving your site
  • It’s shown only to abandoning users, they don’t interrupt active browsing sessions

Essentially, an exit overlay acts as a second page view that’s only seen by segments of abandoning users you choose to target.

3. Exit overlays can be targeted at specific users and pages

Abandoning users are not all the same; they leave your site for all different reasons. To accommodate different users, exit-intent technology allows marketers to target specific user groups such as first-time or repeat visitors, cart abandoners, referral traffic, and paid traffic.

Targeting rules can also be applied to pages. You can target (or exclude) any page on your site—which comes in handy for appealing to different users who are at various stages of your conversion funnel. For example, targeting first-time visitors from low-converting segments like social media traffic can be a very lucrative tactic for building email lists.

How Lavinia Lingerie grabbed 3,000 new email subscribers using exit overlays

Lavinia is a family-owned business that markets uniquely-styled lingerie to online customers. Lavinia gleans its design inspiration from European fashion, and promotes products under the idea that feeling and looking great not only serves a function, but is also empowering.

Example of Lavinia Lingerie homepage
Lavinia homepage

After identifying the value of emailing offers and updates to existing customers, Lavinia set out to rapidly increase their base of email subscribers. To accomplish this goal, Lavinia’s marketing team decided to try adding an exit overlay to the company homepage. The exit overlay incentivized abandoning users to sign up for email updates by offering an immediate 20% discount.

Example of offer 20% discount in exit overlays by Lavinia
Lavinia’s exit overlay

Given the company’s access to popular lingerie models, the imagery for the exit overlay was a no-brainer. The messaging and design were more of a challenge, however. To convey the offer clearly, the marketing team used bold, high-contrast design— with the CTA clearly delineated from other elements on the page. Copy was kept to a minimum, allowing Lavinia to convey the key message (20% off) to abandoning users in the few fleeting moments their eyes would be on the overlay.

Example of exit overlays activated for specific target group by Lavinia
Lavinia’s exit overlay—activated when users began to abandon the homepage without purchasing or signing up for offers.

Given the high lifetime value of a customer’s email address, the marketing team considered a one-time 20% discount to be a small sacrifice. To maximize exposure of the offer, Lavinia placed the exit overlay on the company homepage—the highest traffic page on the domain—with the hope of capturing emails from low-converting segments such as social media.

This hypothesis proved correct, as over a 6-month period, Lavinia’s exit overlay acquired 3,017 new email subscribers—more than tripling the company’s total number of subscribers:

Example of exit overlays collect 15 to 20 new email addresses everyday
The campaign produced 15 to 20 new email subscribers on a typical day

This represents an engagement rate of 2.59%. Put differently, Lavinia acquired 3 new email subscribers for every 115 users that abandoned the site.


Gaining access to a prospect’s inbox is the ultimate sign of trust, and this is why email marketing has become so valuable to ecommerce

Exit overlays — modal lightboxes that activate before users abandon your site—are one of the most effective tactics for building subscriber lists. With exit overlays, marketers can incentivize signups, capture addresses from uncommitted prospects, and target specific users and pages. All this adds up to an impressive number of email signups in a relatively short period of time.

Angus Lynch - Author of Using Exit Overlays to Incentivize Email Signups

About our Guest Author: Angus Lynch is a conversion copywriter at Crowdvert, a Vancouver-based conversion rate optimization agency, and the Director of Marketing for Crowdvert’s proprietary user engagement tool, Rooster.

Twitter: @TimeForRooster


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