I asked 913 people what they thought about Exit Popups

Image with many exit intent popups

There’s a group of marketing strategies that combine potential uplift and potential user annoyance. Welcome Mats, Entry Popups and Exit Intent popups are three things that can a) deliver an increase in X (conversions, newsletter signups, cross-selling) but also b) frustrate visitors. In fact they can do both at the same time.

I’m particularly interested in Exit Intent popups (Nudgr is building an exit intent platform that uses Machine Learning to predict if a user will exit a website) and I wanted to go beyond the case studies around conversion rate increases and to ask consumers how they felt about Exit Intent popups. I wanted to reach a volume of consumers that were unrelated to me (and Nudgr). I use the phrase Exit Intent Popup, but many exit intent platforms show an image within the page. The image “pops up”, and I consider that to be a popup that appears based on predicting exit intent.

Pre-survey feelings

My gut feel is that although Exit Popups are annoying, and that is driven by the way that current exit intent platforms work, they are so prevalent that website vistors have got used to the annoyance. Even if you don’t know what an exit popup is, it’s likely you’ll have experienced one. It’s likely that you experience them multiple times per day.

This belief is tempered by my research on Exit Intent popups. A high proportion of large brands don’t use Exit Intent technology, and in some cases they have used Exit intent in the past and no longer do. Did they turn away from the technology because it wasn’t giving them a conversion boost, or because it caused complaints? Was the deployment always going to fail because there was a pushback internally on it? (People hated it). This is just my take on it, and I wanted to get real data.

My Methodology

I used Google Surveys to get access to consumers, and used their Publisher Network as I wanted to remove anyone monetised to respond. I split our questions across the US and UK, two mature, English speaking markets. To keep the surveys light (3 questions or less) I carried out two surveys with these themes: 1) Your feelings towards exit popups 2) Your use of discounts that pop ups reveal. I was curious to find out how margin was being degraded (or not) by exit popups giving discounts when a user was always going to complete the purchase.

What did I want to find out?

I filtered respondents by the first question (“Have you seen an exit popup on a website”), but the second was the most important to me: “How do you feel about exit popups”. I wasn’t interested in whether the user converted from a popup, there are plenty of case studies that discuss the c% increase when popups are deployed. I wanted to know the reaction that users have when their journey was interrupted by a large image.

My questions:

Survey 1 – How do you feel about exit popups?

  • Have you seen an exit popup on a website? (Single choice answer: Yes, No)
  • How do you feel about exit popups? (Single choice answer: I hate them, I don’t mind them, I like them)
  • Why are exit popups annoying? (Multiple choice answer: They interrupt me, They’re not helpful to me, They look awful, I wasn’t going to exit the website, None of the above)

Survey 2 – Popup Discounts

  • Have you seen an exit popup on a website? (Single choice answer: Yes, No)
  • Have you ever used a discount code in a popup even though you would have completed the purchase without it? (Single choice answer: Yes, No)

Survey results

Note: The age and sex of every respondent was not always available

Question: How do you feel about Exit Intent popups?


How feedback from UK and US breaks down

Men dislike popups slightly more than Women

The oldest age group dislikes Exit Popups the most

Respondents who hate Exit Popups, by income band

Question: Why do you hate exit popups?


Note: This was a multiple choice answer, the chart below, and further charts below that that include the reason why people hate popups, add together all the responses (which will be greater than the total number of respondents). 70.46% of respondents chose more than one reason

The majority are interrupted by them, with a third saying they’re not helpful

More Females find that they are interrupted by popups, and that they’re not helpful

25 – 34 year olds are the most likely to find a popup interrupts them

The biggest issue for millennials is popups interrupt, followed closely by popups not being helpful

Question: Have you ever used a discount in an exit popup, even though you were going to buy without it?


15% of people are getting discounts that they didn’t need

Men are more likely to see and use discounts that they didn’t need

18 – 24 year olds are more likely to see and use a discount that they didn’t need

Summary

  • 86.5% of people surveyed hate exit intent popups.
    I wanted the emotional response to a popup, and that’s why I asked if people hated them. The volume of haters (vs “I don’t mind them”, and “I like them”) was much higher than what I expected. If you’re engaging with a traditional exit intent platform then know that the majority of your users will hate the popup, and potentially hate your brand and site for showing it.

  • 58.3% of reasons why people hate exit popups is because they appear at the wrong time.
    I asked survey respondents why they hated popups, and included two options that are effectively the same: “I wasn’t going to exit the website” and “They interrupt me”. Both cover the experience of having something appear on the page when the user didn’t need it. That may be because it appears at the wrong time, or because it should never have appeared. What’s interesting is a third of answers are for “They’re not helpful”. If the user is about to leave the site, or in the case of current technology has already started to leave, then the results suggest that the messaging is wrong. From my research on current exit popups the majority are focused on either monetising the user with a discount, or getting the user to share their email address.

  • The reason why people hate exit popups varies significantly by age group.
    There are a lot of differences between 18-24 year olds and 45-54 year olds: the devices they use, the time they have, their online experience and their technical capabilities are different. The survey results reflect this in the reason why people hate popups, and if you’re focused on a demographic then bear this in mind when you run an exit intent strategy.

  • 15% of respondents have used a discount in an exit popup though they were going to buy regardless.
    I wanted to gauge how many people were using discounts that they shouldn’t have seen, and the impact of discounting in exit popups on margin. There’s two ways of looking at this: Sites could increase their margin by (%Discount Given x AOV x 15% / 100). For a site with an AOV of £100 that gives a 20% discount that’s an increase of £3/3% if they stop exit intent completely. The flip side is that the remaining 85% of people may, or may not, be driven to purchase based on the exit popup discount. This survey doesn’t dig deeper in to this, and I’d love to return to it to ask “Have you ever bought anything online solely because you got a discount in an exit popup”. What is clear is that if you can improve the mechanism that users are given discounts then you could reclaim more of that 15% who didn’t need to be given a coupon.

Conclusion

I had assumed that some consumers would dislike exit popups, but I was surprised by the volume. I had also assumed that some people would find them useful – after all the current exit popup style includes discounts, saving a basket for later and other mechanisms to make life easier. What really surprised me was the different feelings that age groups, on exit popups themselves and the reason why they disliked them. Marketing is driven by segmentation and it appears that segmenting by age is just as critical with an exit intent platform as it is with outbound marketing.

The biggest surprise in the survey was how many responders disliked popups because they are interrupted by them. A close second for some age groups was that they weren’t helpful, but the biggest reason for dislike is that the exit popups are appearing when they shouldn’t. A good strategy will show the right message at the right time, and if you get the timing wrong then it becomes an unnecessary interruption. In the drive to get conversion rates as high as possible then minimising interruptions is critical.

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