8 Tips for Using Popups to Grow Your Mailing List (Without Annoying Your Visitors)

Posted by Rita Braga Martins 16 Dec 14

shutterstock_119508370It’s easy to get frustrated at those in-your-face lightboxes that immediately pop up when you enter a website, asking for personal information before you’ve even seen what the site has to offer.

From a consumer point-of-view, these popups (a.k.a popovers or lightboxes) are annoyingly delaying the main goal of the visit - checking the site’s products out. Because of that, many retailers often avoid using email signup popups in their webstores, afraid of high bounce rates.

On the other hand, there are those who believe signup popups are an effective tactic for acquiring new subscribers, in a fast and easy way. A smart, user experience-led email registration popup can help you grow your email list and effectively segment subscribers. What´s more, according to Email Audience, visitors who subscribe to carefully-thought-out email popups are likely to spend more time on your website, and convert more.

So how do you make the most of this potentially very powerful tool for growing your email list?

In this post we’ll give you 8 helpful tips for successfully implementing (or improving) an email signup popup on your website, along with great examples from 40 retailers we’ve analysed.

1) Decide the optimal timing to trigger the signup popup

The optimum time for launching an email signup popup will depend greatly on your business model, but the majority of retail websites show their popups on their homepage within the first 3 seconds of the session, to avoid interrupting a purchase.

Other retailers trigger them to appear only when the visitor browses a category page or a specific product, so once they detect some engagement. But the truth is, there is no right or wrong timing - you must test different options and decide which works best for you in acquiring new subscribers.

Another thing to take into account is whether your pop-ups appear to the right people at the right time. Using careful cookie tracking, you might want to test creating popups that only appear:

  • to first-time visitors (though you may want to appear to second- and third-time visitors who haven’t subscribed yet)
  • once every browsing session
  • to those who haven’t subscribed already
  • to those who haven’t clicked through from your emails
  • to those who haven’t bought yet

2) Ask for the right kind of information

When deciding on how much information you should ask for, the most important rule is to keep it short and simple. Nobody wants to spend more than a few seconds filling out a form - remember that you’re interrupting the visitor’s experience.

Think about the exact information you want from the subscriber: consider your product ranges, the market you sell to, and how you segment your email list. If you sell products to both women and men, you should consider adding a male/female button. Also, if you sell in more than one country, it might be worth asking for geographic information (though smart retailers can use IP tracking to pre-fill this field). Here are some great examples:


cos email signup popup

By asking for the right personal data, COS are able to segment subscribers and group them efficiently by gender and country.

The quality of your newsletters is another matter, but keep in mind that the subscriber will have certain expectations when they sign up. Don’t make them regret giving away their email address (and eventually unsubscribe) - make your emails personal and relevant to increase email conversions.


Another great example of a smart, straightforward email popup is the one from AQ/AQ below. They have a single button to register - you either subscribe to the women’s list or to the men’s list. AQ/AQ make it super easy to signup with one single click, and also shout out their incentive (more winning points here).

aq/aq email signup popup

3) The trade-off: offer an incentive to sign up

Engage the visitor with an incentive that will make it impossible not to sign up. Free shipping, an exclusive first-purchase discount or a prize withdrawal are generally good ways to lure your visitors to sign up (or at least to answer predictable questions like ‘what’s in it for me? why should I give you my email?’).

Powerhouse Fitness

Powerhouse Fitness engages you from the moment you arrive - who could pass up the opportunity to win a £250 voucher? A prize draw can be an excellent way of getting emails from first-time visitors, as the incentive is crystal clear in the popup. Powerhousefitness only require an email, which makes the subscription process very quick.

powerhouse fitness email signup popup

Pretty Little Thing

Pretty Little Thing’s email popup clearly highlights the value proposition of signing up, and even the button to register alludes to the incentive - ‘Get my promo code’.

pretty little thing email signup popup

4) Clearly state what the subscriber should expect from your newsletters

Visitors often skip email popups because it isn’t clear what the subscription will imply. Am I getting discount vouchers if I sign up? Am I getting invitations to exclusive events? Will I get a preview of new collections? Without an explanation or some clue about what they’re signing up to, visitors may simply choose not to give away their details.

The good news is you don’t need a lot of text. Some of these doubts can be easily answered if you simply state what your newsletters will entail, and (even better) how frequently you will be sending them.

Taylor Stitch

Taylor Stitch make it clear that they will send you a newsletter with exclusive products every Wednesday, and even inform you that on each product release day you’ll have 10% off (how can you possibly resist signing up?)

taylor stitch email signup popup

Temperley London

Straightforward and engaging, this popup by Temperley London clearly lives up to what the typical high-fashion lover would expect from a top designer (new arrivals alert from a top designer? New collection preview? Yes please!).

temperley email signup popup


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5) Win over the super skeptical by announcing your privacy policy

A number of web shoppers are still very concerned about personal information being shared with third-parties, or used for other undesired purposes (nobody wants a flood of irrelevant emails coming in to their inbox).

Reassure would-be subscribers that you won’t contact them on behalf of third-parties, or provide a link to your terms and conditions or privacy policy - this will decrease the number of bouncers, and imply trustworthiness to your brand.

Aphrodite 1994

Aphrodite 1994 state on the bottom of their popup that you are registering to a weekly communication (frequency detail) and provide the link to their privacy terms.

aphrodite 1994 email signup popup


Adidas also use most of their popup space to provide the detailed conditions the visitor is agreeing to, plus how to redeem the incentive. By adding a privacy statement, they are providing a guarantee that their brand can be trusted.

adidas email signup popup

6) Allow (entice!) visitors to signup with their social media accounts

Wolf & Badger

Wolf & Badger’s email popup is one of our favourites, as it’s engaging and very efficient at letting the visitor choose how to signup.

By giving you the choice to you sign up via Facebook, Wolf & Badger invite you to be part of a community, while at the same time they get access to both your email and Facebook ID. And to avoid privacy concerns discussed previously, they highlight that they won’t post without your permission.

As for the other option of signing up with your email address, it is also smartly implemented, as they request visitors to create a password, which means they automatically create an account - killing two birds with one stone.

wolf and badger email signup popup

Accessing Facebook profiles is tremendously powerful for marketing segmentation purposes - just think about all you can do with Facebook custom audiences.


Betabrand’s popup is also a brilliant example of cleverly integrating social media and getting more than just an email. They not only allow you to signup with your email and get a discount, but even offer you a better incentive if you signup using your Facebook profile.

betabrand email signup popup


7) Acknowledge the signup

Nobody wants to be in the dark after giving away personal information. Once the popup closes, you need to help subscribers trust your brand by simply acknowledging and welcoming the new subscriber. You can do this by either by confirming their subscription in the popup or by triggering an immediate welcome email.

Rue La La

Rue La La is a great example of a confirmation message on popup.

rue la la email signup popup

8) Let the visitor escape your signup popup

If somebody doesn’t want to use the incentive you’re giving out in your popup, doesn’t want the latest news from your store or simply doesn’t want to be included in your marketing mail-outs, give them a way out. While some successful ecommerce models are subscriber only (Frank & Oak, Secret Escapes, Brand Alley, etc.), giving visitors a chance to subscribe later or go straight to browsing your website is often the best route in terms of customer experience. Some of the best ‘way-out’ highlighters are:

Oliver Bonas

Oliver Bonas not only place a big cross on the top right of the popup but also give the visitor a second chance to sign up later, if they click ‘Remind me later’. This is a smart strategy to let visitors first browse and interact more in the webstore, and then get a popup reminder which they agreed to if they clicked it.

oliver bonas email signup popup


Similarly, Volcom also have a two-way escape exit, making it easy for the visitor to get rid of the popup. They have a visible cross on the top right of the popup, and a ‘No thanks’ link under the ‘Sign up’ button.

Volcom email signup popup

We hope you now feel a bit more encouraged to give email popups a go, or simply improve them if you’re already using them!

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Topics: Ecommerce email marketing, Ecommerce marketing tips

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