An 8-Point Checklist for Exit Intent Popups that Work

Raúl Galera
Raúl Galera
October 31, 2019
2 min read
An 8-Point Checklist for Exit Intent Popups that Work

In this article

A well-executed popup can do wonders for your store’s success. A well-executed pop-up message can convert leaving visitors into the email list, increase sales and even help to overcome the dreadful shopping cart and checkout abandonment.

But note that I said, well-executed.

That’s because popups rarely work by themselves. They’re incredibly hard to get right, in fact. Well, unless you optimize them to the fullest, of course.

Luckily, that’s what I’m going to help you with. Below, you’ll find an 8-point checklist to ensure your exit popup absolutely rocks conversions.

But before that - we need to talk about exit pop-ups, and why they work so darn well:

What is an exit intent popup?

An exit intent-popup is a popup message displayed to visitors who are about to exit the site. Exit-intent can be detected based on mouse or scroll movement, and the pop-up message makes an offer to the visitor before they leave.

leesa exit intent popup referralcandy customer leesa wisepop

Exit-Intent Pop-Up on See where the mouse is going?

But does targeting the exit intent work?

Let me answer this with data.

How well do exit-intent popups convert?

On average, exit popups convert at around 4% - 5%. Such a conversion rate might not seem big but consider this: it's higher than display ads and landing pages.

The average CTR across all website ad formats and placements is 0.05% only.

Some formats like the sidebar banner might generate a slightly higher result but overall, these conversions are far from ideal.

display advertising clickthrough rates - wisepop referralcandy guestpost

Clickthrough rates for Display Advertising (Via Smart Insights)

In most industries, landing pages convert below 4% mark as well (although significantly better than banners and other ad formats above.)

lead generation conversion rates by industry - landing pages -- via unbounce

Landing Page lead generation conversion rates (Via

Compared with the above, the results you get with popups no longer seem so low, right?

But note that I referred to the popup CTR as the average. You see, many companies achieve far more significant results, with some of our clients generating up to 20% conversion rates from their pop-ups!

(Yes, you saw that right. Keep on reading to see the exact popup launched on a Shopify store that generated a one-in-five result!)

What’s more, those best performing popups have a few things in common.

Let’s go through them now.

8 Best Practices that Make Up a Killer Exit Popup

#1. Make a Relevant Offer

Creating a popup offer is ridiculously easy. Making sure the offer is something that your audience will want to act on, and exchange their email address for, is a completely different matter. Choosing the right incentives is key.

Yet, it’s the offer, that one thing your visitors will crave so much that they’ll do what you ask them to do, is one of the staples of the popup’s success.

Your offer must meet two characteristics to engage visitors:

One, it must be something they truly need or want, and

Two, visitors must understand the offer easily.

Although those criteria seem obvious, I see companies making all kinds of mistakes related to them.

Some make the wrong exit-intent offer, like a downloadable PDF to customers browsing their store. That works for content and marketing guides, not so much for consumers shopping for products. I’m sure you’ll agree that, unless the PDF relates to characteristics of a highly-technical product, most online shoppers won’t be interested.

Others promote specific products to customers looking for a discount. Finally, some online stores make their offer complex and hard to understand, leaving the visitor baffled (or clicking the popup off in a jiffy.)

Luckily, when it comes to online retail, it’s easy to predict what would engage the audience the most:

  • Prizes,
  • Discounts, or
  • Free shipping.

In fact, after analyzing our customers’ campaigns, we realized that prizes beat other incentives by a mile these days.

Check out the popup below for R-Pur; it's the exact overlay that generated the incredible 20% conversion rate. It offers nothing but a promise of winning a prize for signup - yet 1 in 5 visitors were more than happy to leave their emails in exchange for winning.

exit intent popup examples r-pur conversion rate referralcandy guestpost wisepops

Examples of the Best Exit-Intent Shopify Popups - via

#2. Write A Straightforward Headline

You have hardly any time to capture a leaving visitor’s attention.

They’ll give you an extra second, maybe slightly more, if you’re lucky.

That’s why, you must capture their attention fast, and the best way to do it is by displaying a relevant and easy to understand the headline.

Note, I’ve emphasized relevancy and simplicity on purpose.

As you’re trying to engage someone adamant on leaving, you cannot expect them to want to spend any more time deciphering or admiring a creative, cheeky headline.

Your goal is to stop them, and you must do it in the simplest way possible.

That’s why popups featuring headlines like these work so well:

exit intent popups
exit intent popup that work
exit intent checklist

Notice how straight to the point they are. All three headlines reference the exit intent. The copy is short too. No visitor will ever have to spend any considerable time reading and analyzing it.

The message hits them immediately, doesn’t it?

PRO TIP: Check out the offers that follow those headlines - discounts, coupon codes, a promise of exclusive offers. Those are all offers that are relevant and valuable to the visitor -- but more on that later in #5.

#3. Always Include Explainer Copy

Even if you offer something simple to understand – a discount, perhaps – it is still a good idea to include a short explainer copy on a popup.

You don’t have to write much, a sentence of two is more than enough. But having a clear explainer copy will ensure that:

  • The visitor will know what they get, exactly, and
  • They will also know what they need to do to get it.

This short blurb can also help you sell the idea of availing of the offer better. Consider the popup below. The headline stops the leaving visitor in their tracks. The explainer copy, on the other hand, tells them why they should do so.

exit intent marketing

#4. Make Use of Social Proof

Today’s shoppers are beyond skeptical. Sometimes, you have to convince them to even consider your marketing offer, and the best way to do it is by displaying social proof.

Social proof is a method of reassuring potential customers about their choice by showing that others have made the same choice successfully. It is based on our particular, and quite intriguing trait of behavior.

You see, we often perceive the behavior of others as correct, and choose to do the same.

That’s why we prefer dining in a busy restaurant or pay more attention to products with a greater number of reviews.

Having social proof isn’t a strict requirement for a popup. However, it can help convince skeptical visitors to pay attention to your marketing message. For example, you can make a note of how many people have already signed up or made use of the offer.

#5. Compelling Call to Action

All the popup elements we’ve discussed so far aimed at attracting and engaging a leaving visitor.

The purpose of a call to action, on the other hand, is to close the process and convert that person. There are many examples of call-to-action that drive a desired purpose, from making a purchase on eCommerce to signing up for a referral program.

In short, a call to action is supposed to tell a person what to do to get the offer and motivate them to do so.

The secret lies in creating effective calls to action is to include an active verb describing the exact action a customer should take.

These popups below perform exceptionally well. Notice how they entice a leaving visitor into action:

intent marketing
popup marketing
intent marketing popups

#6. Contrast the Popup from the Rest of the Site

Can you guess the one thing that absolutely must happen for your popup to work?

Your visitors must notice it in the first place. Unfortunately, I regularly see online stores forgetting this simple rule, and setting the popup to blend with the rest of the site.

Consider the popup below. It’s hard to notice it at first, isn’t it? It features a similar color scheme, and there is nothing that would contrast it from the rest of the page.

popups that work

Compare that with the following popups. It makes a stark-difference when your pop-up message really, well, pops.

referral candy marketing
checkout abandonment

So, every time you create a popup, make sure that you set it to stand out from the page it is to appear on.

Some of the easiest ways to do so include:

  • Setting the popup in contrasting colors,
  • Using a clearly visible frame around the popup,
  • Covering the page beneath the popup with an overlay.

Most popup creators feature all of the options above, so you should never have any problems setting the popups apart from the site.

cart abandonment

(Overlay settings in a popup creator.)

#7. Use Engaging Visuals

I’m not sure if this has been tested before but I believe that a popup has less than a second to capture the person’s attention. They will consider it further if you’ve captured their interest, of course. However, the decision whether to read the popup further or click it off takes no more than a second, I believe.

For that reason, you have to target every possible input a person can receive. The copy will engage them intellectually, but you could also do the same with their emotions.

How, by using engaging visuals, and there is a good reason for that.

Now, I admit that a popup is a small marketing message, with little space for complex images. That said, you can still use engaging visuals to attract the person’s attention.

Take a look at some of those popup examples:

checkout abandonment popup
cart abandonment popup
exclusive offers


What makes these visuals so engaging:

  • They all feature people, making them more trustworthy,
  • Those models either point at the offer or perform action relevant to the popup,
  • In the case of the first example above, the visual uses humor to engage (but also surprise) the leaving visitor.

#8. Optimize Popups for Mobile

FACT: Today, more customers browse online stores from their mobile devices than desktops. More and more also complete the purchase on their phone or tablet.

There is no reason why you should ignore those visitors. However, doing so requires you to launch a dedicated mobile popup campaign.

referral programs
timberland popup


On the flip side, they convert much better than desktop popups!

Many of our clients see 3 times higher conversion rates on a mobile, for example, with some reporting CVR up to 11%!


Exit popups work, there’s no doubt about it. However, to deliver significant results, you need to set and optimize them for success. Luckily, after reading this guide, you know exactly how to make it happen.

Good luck!

Greg d’Aboville

About the author: Greg d’Aboville is Head of Growth at WisePops, a popup app. He’s helped major brands like Fender, Nissan, and Skechers maximize lead generation strategies and 10X their results.

Raúl Galera
Raúl Galera

Raúl is ReferralCandy's partner manager.

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