How Exit-Intent Popups Can Skyrocket Conversions

Proponents of exit-intent popups claim that integrating them into your website can skyrocket your conversion rates. Regular pop-ups are annoying, but exit-intent popups only fire when the user intends to leave your website — making them much more user-friendly 

There’s a lot of controversy around exit-intent pop-ups — of this, there is no doubt. Are they annoying for the user, or are they truly able to skyrocket conversion rates as claimed? This has been the place for a huge amount of debate for a long time.

In this article, I’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of exit-intent popups, as well as how to use them. By the end, you should have a clear understanding of how the pros outweigh the cons, and how exit-intents can be fantastic for your website. Let’s dig in.

What Are Exit-Intent Popups?

Have you ever started to walk out of a store and had the owner come and politely try to stop you? Exit-intent pop-ups are the Internet version of that phenomenon. Software analyzes your mouse movement and detects if you’re about to navigate away from a page — and subsequently fires a pop-up to appear.

Credit: Popupsmart

If you’re a website owner, you understand just how important every single visitor is to your website. Exit-intents are smart popups that allow you to say “hey, can we talk before you leave?” each time someone’s about to leave your page. Just how it can make a huge difference in a physical business, it can be just as important for a digital one.

What Are They Used For?

Exit-intent popups have a pretty broad variety of applications, but you’ll mostly see them used in the following ways:


  • Generating leads – Just general lead generations via discounts, promo codes, and more
  • Increasing order yield Bonuses on current carts to get a little more money out of the customer — like when Panera offers a cookie at the end of your order
  • Collecting informationGetting information from the customer, particularly emails for email lists
  • Preventingn cart abandonment
  • Promiting social media – Promoting your social media pages to the user to increase your following 

The gist of any exit-intent pop-up is to get the user to do something before they navigate away from the page. That “something” may cause them to say one the page (such as with a discount offer), or come back in the future (like an email sign-up). The sky is really the limit on what you can do with exit-intent pop-ups.

Do Exit-Intent Pop-Ups Really Work?

So now we have to ask the big question: do they actually work? Can you really skyrocket conversions with exit-intents? The short answer is yes — if you do it right. Now, let’s talk about the long answer in full detail.

Let’s Talk Statistics

While some people argue that any kind of pop-up is a net negative for annoying a user, the statistics say otherwise. According to BigCommerce, effective exit-intent popups can increase an ecommerce store’s conversion rate by a whopping 20%. If you’re looking to add people to your email list, exit-intents can turn 4-7% of all users into subscribers.

Those statistics are amazing, and suggest exit-intents can be a massive game changer. Based off of these statistics alone, it looks like they make an incredible difference. However, as good website designers, we have to ask the question: “Is that all there is to the story?” Let’s discuss some of the finer details:

It’s All About Value…

Exit-intent popups are effective depending on the context. At the end of the day, your bottom line for the addition of any kind of content on your website is whether or not if provides value to the reader.

Will you use exit-intent pop-ups as a vehicle to provide truely valuable content to your visitor? Will the addition of this content prove to be genuinely useful for the user? Then yes, then you will achieve good results.In this examples I provided above, each pop-up gave something to the visitor that they would genuinely appreciate. Skullcandy gives you a huge discount, and Zutano gives you an entire $10 — both are the kinds of things visitors love. Your visitors will be thankful for that kind of pop-up.

…And It’s All About Context

Just make sure that they’re appearing somewhere that’s relevant for the offer you’re giving them. For example, I would never put a pop-up on my landing page. Why? Because that doesn’t tell you anything about their intentions. However, if someone was about to navigate off of a shopping page an exit pop-up with a coupon would be a great idea.

Do you understand what I’m saying? They effectiveness of your pop-up is dependent on its context just as much as its content. An pop-up in the wrong place will annoy the user, while a intelligently placed one will satisfy them.

Implementation Makes a Huge Difference:

It’s critical that I discuss the correct implementation of exit-intents as soon as possible, as these will have the biggest impact on their success. As with anything else, there’s a very wrong and a very right way of doing things.Not all exit-intent popups are made equally. If your pop-up doesn’t offer something genuinely usefull, you’re just going to aggravate and annoy the user. On the other hand, genuinely good offers will leave a good impression. Let’s look at a couple more examples:

Here, Skullcandy gives the user a great offer: an entire 20% off of their purchase. This gives the user a huge reason to sign up for their email list and leaves a great impression. If you’re running an ecommerce store, discounts are a reliable away to retain visitor interest.

Plus, they have the added humor of “no, I hate saving money” for the “no” option — making it all the more memorable. If your website allows it, never be afraid to have fun with your audience!

Another great exmaple: Zutano gives you a $10 coupon! Who doesn’t love saving money effortlessly, especially $10? This is the kind of exit-intent that’s extremely effective. Always make sure that your exit-intent provides true value to your user over everything else.

Don’t Use Exit-Intent Pop-Ups as a Crutch:

As great as they are, exit-intents were never intended to make up for a lack of effective page design. Remember: your primary instrument of conversion-creation is the actual content of your website. Exit-intents will never make up for poor website design.

Have you ever been to a website that has pop-ups all over the place? It leaves a horrible, spammy impression and makes you want to leave, right? Effective exit-intents only appear once a visit and the content is always relevant to the page and intent of the visitor. They are meant to be discover — not announced. Again, primary method of conversion is the content of your website.

Should You Use Exit-Intent Pop-Ups on Mobile?

As you might imagine, exit-intent pop-ups only really work on desktop because they’re tied to mouse movement in the overwhelming majority of cases. That said, a lot of people have tried work around by tying the pop-up to an exit-intent action such as back button pressing, tab switching, or a certain amount of time spent on the page.

It’s your call, but my advice is to stray away from any kind of pop-ups on mobile. Why? As you might imagie, pop-ups are a lot more inconvenient for a mobile user than a desktop user. This is because the pop-up would take up the entire screen, rather than occupying only part of it.

It’s also really hard to decode the exit intent of the mobile user, making finding the right time for a pop-up to appear much more difficult. All of this makes for a worse user experience, which will impact your conversions, sales, and search rankings. In my personal opinion, I would stay away from it.


In conclusion, exit-intents can be a huge contribution to your store — if used correctly. They have to be used as accents for a well-designed website, enhancing your conversion rates rather than being reliled on for them.

Remember that your primary goal — more than anything else — is to provide value to the user. Are your exit-intents giving offers the user is genuinely going to be interested in? If you ask them to a sign up for your email list, is it following behavior that suggests that they’d be interested in doing so?

If people don’t like your website, spamming pop-ups everywhere isn’t going to do you any favors. Conversely, if they perceive your product as valuable, exit-intents will go a long way towards enhancing your conversion rates.

You don’t to go all-in at once. Feel free to experiment, test ideas, and find what works best for you. As great as these kind of pop-ups can be, there’s never going to be one size fits all solution. However, once you’ve found a system that works works for you, exit intent pop-ups can work wonders for your website.

Good luck out there!


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