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    Why Pop-Ups Are No Longer Effective

    What if I told you that pop-ups don’t work? And not only do they not work, they deliver a painfully bad user experience that’s hard to overcome.

    Hold on! Don’t run away quite yet.

    I know that statement can sound a little extreme, especially if you have a website with pop-up ads that are converting into lukewarm leads. But just like you want to continue seeing that incoming stream of leads, you also want to improve how well those leads translate into buyers. There’s a way to have the best of both worlds without ditching pop-ups completely, but first let’s look at why companies bother with pop-ups in the first place.

    Why Bother With Pop-Ups?

    In short, many businesses continue to bother with pop-ups because “they work.” You’ve probably heard how annoying pop-ups are. Heck, you might even share that same sentiment. But, look around the industry and you’ll hear stories about how effective this marketing tactic still is today.

    Sumo, one of the biggest providers of pop-up software, published pop-up statistics based on their own analysis of 1,754,957,675 to prove the strategy works. Yes, their numbers were statistically significant, and yes, you can probably guess the outcome of their internal study — pop-ups work.

    Not to say they’re wrong, but their conclusions are a bit misleading. Although pop-ups might seem to work on the surface, as you dig deeper, you’ll find that it’s really only the top 10% of performers that get the real conversions.

    Pop-Ups and Conversion Rates

    Photo credit:

    The average pop-up only sees a 3.1% conversion rate, whereas the top 10% of performers see triple that. Sure, those aren’t horrible numbers. Even an average performer could get hundreds of new e-mail subscribers a month with that kind of conversion metric.

    But here’s the problem. Just because they can capture an email address doesn’t mean the user’s experience on the website is sublime, or that users are making a positive cognitive association with your brand. It’s a classic battle of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) vs. User Experience (UX). And in my book, UX always comes out on top.

    User Experience is Critical to Reaching Your End Goals

    I don’t say this lightly. The experience people have on your website is critical to reaching your end goals. Just take a look at these eye-popping web design stats as proof.

      • Almost 40% of people will stop engaging with your website if the content or layout is shabby.
      • 94% of visitors stop trusting a website with poor design.
      • Only 1% of visitors click on content sliders — the area of the website designed to guide the user’s journey.

    And here’s a bonus stat — 95% of people agree with the statement that good user-experience just makes sense. That’s right. UX is thought of as common sense instead of exceptional. A seamlessly personalized experience is now expected among today’s consumers and when it isn’t delivered, your business suffers. Bounce rates increase while conversion rates decline. And sorry, but adding a pop up at this point isn’t going to compensate for poor design. In fact, if your UX is lacking, then pop-ups are just rubbing salt in the wound of an already poor experience.

    Even so, this is common practice. Many pages turn to pop-up ads to take one last shot at getting the visitor into their funnel. The tactic has become so ubiquitous that browsers now come with built-in ad-blocking features. Will users even see your attempt at capturing their attention? The use of pop-ups, especially as a last ditch effort, is often a short-sighted decision. Need proof? Take a look at these responses from a recent survey on ad blocking usage from Marketing Land.

    pop-ups and ad block motivators

    The number one reason people seek to block ads or pop-ups is because they feel like they’re annoying or irrelevant. They disrupt the user experience. Is that the perception you want for your brand? Based on the stats we just mentioned about user experiences, probably not.

    Need even more evidence that this intrusive approach is a bad idea? Look to the Internet’s crown jewel, Google, as evidence that pop-ups destroy UX.

    Google’s notorious for tweaking their algorithm and sending websites to the back of the search engine results page for violating UX protocol. In July 2019, they’re introducing a Chrome ad blocker to be of better service to their users in creating an improved experience. This search giant gets it. They know that intrusive marketing doesn’t feel good. And although it might convert sometimes, those conversions don’t often equate to highly engaged users.

    Conversions Don’t Equate to Engaged Users

    While you might get more conversions on the front end with a pop-up, those conversions don’t equally translate to more sales on the backend. For example, let’s use Sumo’s statistics above and say your ads land in the top 10% of pop-ups, achieving a 9.3% conversion rate. Assuming you get 100 visitors per day, you’ll gather around 280 email addresses per month.

    Now let’s look at what happens after those email addresses roll in using an intrusive approach. If you’re a small or medium sized business, the average open rate is hovering around 18%, according to Get Response’s email marketing benchmarks. And of those who opened, only 3.1% are clicking through. User engagement at this level is low across the board. Less than a fifth of subscribers open these emails and while far fewer will click through to convert from there. If you crunch the numbers, it equates to you needing to display around 3,000 pop-ups just to get one or two engaged users — and that’s if you’re in the top 10% of pop-up ads. That’s not much.

    Even though pop-ups have potential to yield a high conversion rate, what’s lacking is a way to continue that engagement long term. In order to do that, you need to capture your user’s attention up front. That attention is rarely piqued by an intrusive pop-up message, as the data shows, but can be garnered with a personalized message, delivered in a format that feels good. We know the importance of creativity in advertising and how it relates to elevating user experiences. That’s where conversational guidance comes into play.

    Conversational Guidance: The Happy Medium

    Delivering a personalized message that feels good sounds simple enough, but what does it look like in action? It’s in the art of answering the questions your customers are asking at the exact moment they’re asking them, and then guiding them toward the steps they should take next to continue their path-to-purchase within your brand’s ecosystem.

    People don’t like feeling lost as they’re browsing your site looking for answers. When users glean more question marks than epiphanies from your pages, you’re missing a good chunk of potential conversions. But with our limited attention spans, not to mention that we’re consuming more and more online content every day, long form text boxes often go unread. So, what’s a business to do? How can you cut through this digital clutter and connect with the person on the other side of the screen? We’ve developed a strategy we like to call conversational guidance.


    Conversational guidance happens as you naturally and empathetically guide a visitor from one point to the next in their journey. By displaying a subtle pop-up, triggered by a user’s behavior or engagement on your site, you can make your content feel helpful rather than intrusive and annoying.

    To further enhance the experience without diluting your conversion rate, pair that pop-up or slideout with a personal touch. Personalization at scale is hard to do, but by adding your voice or other human elements, you can create a conversation-like atmosphere throughout your website. As users listen to your voice, they can scroll through the visual content on your page. Then, at the perfect moment, a slideout appears at the bottom of the screen inviting your user to continue further into their journey with you.

    The end result is an experience that combines the conversion efficacy of pop-ups with focus on the user’s experience, increasing the likelihood that your visitor will be eager and willing to engage with you when your emails land in their inbox, or when they meet you at that next step in their journey.

    It’s Time to Innovate on the Digital Experience

    One of the worst things you can do for your website is to chase conversion tactics without getting down to the brass tacks about opportunities for improving the user’s experience. Sure, pop-ups are annoying. What’s even worse is a page that doesn’t feel personalized or intentional about their messaging. We’re seeking to change that through conversational guidance. Will you join us in that effort?

    Written by Logan Hill

    Logan Hill

    Logan Hill approaches digital marketing from a graphic design and video production angle with a focus on creating engaging online content. Not limited to just video, Logan works closely with everyone at RocketSource to assist companies through the process of digital transformation.

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