How popups can help you capture more leads, build engagement, and boost conversions

Picture of Leo, Boostn blog author
Leo Jun. 2, 2021
Image representing a lightbox popup

In this article, we'll look at some of the key elements that make popups an amazing conversion machine.

Keep reading if you need to:

  • Tackle some doubts about the effectiveness of popups and understand what makes them a good ally instead of a bore for your users
  • Get familiar with lightbox popups and how and why they can serve as an excellent inbound marketing tool
  • Learn how to classify popups based on their trigger criteria and in which cases each popup is supposed to be beneficial

I bet you'll enjoy the sample scenarios where you can use the various types of popups we'll be covering below.

Let's get started!


How many of those advertisements, banners, billboards really catch my attention? Very few. I often find myself drowning in a barrage of ads. That's when I start thinking about something else. And what about the content of those messages?

Gone. For good.

The question is: how many of those advertisers who fight bitterly for my limited attention actually succeed in turning me into a customer?

Almost none. 👎

Entirely different story when I need something and actively seek information about a product. This is when a well-crafted message delivered at the right time can really make a difference.

If you do it right, you'll have my full attention. And yes, this interaction can result in a purchase.

Of course, this happens both online as well as offline.

Speaking to those who specifically run an online business...

You get in touch with a lot of people every day. Social media, search engines, advertising: your business got several shots to gain some exposure.

And how do you typically play your cards? Like the advertiser desperately seeking a crumb of attention from their prospect? Or like a savvy marketer trying to show the right messages to the right users?

Your goal is to bring visitors to your site and convert them into customers. To achieve this, you'll have to go from scoring a visit to capturing a lead. Then, you'll need to nurture your leads so that some of them eventually become customers.

This takes time and effort, but with some knowledge and the right tools, you can build a process that will speed things up for you.

In the end, it's all about engagement.

You need to create touchpoints with your audience that build trust and interest in you. Establish a connection between your brand and the user through a dialogue that is as personalized as possible.

If the user perceives exclusivity, then you're on the right track.

Ok. But how?

One way to achieve this is through the use of popups.

First, a popup can raise the odds of capturing the contact information of your visitor. Then, it can be used to obtain insights about your leads and help you qualify them. Finally, a popup serves to start a conversation with your leads and build engagement.

To accomplish this, of course, you need popups that are not generic and boring but highly targeted to the person and the context.

🗝 Here's the key:

You need to show the right message at the right time.

Recap section image


Here's a breakdown of the topics we're going to cover.

  • Some thoughts about popups: boring or engaging?
  • What's a lightbox popup and how to use it properly.
  • Why timing is so crucial.
  • A roundup about scroll popups, click popups, entry popups, and exit popups.

To popup, or not to popup, that is the question

There's a widespread belief among some marketers. They associate popups with an idea of annoyance, frustration, boredom. But this is a wrong generalization.

Every marketing tactic has its potential. It's up to you to use it wisely.

The responsibility for this negative generalization is on those who use this tool in a one-way direction: bombarding users with out-of-context messages, failing to assume the visitor's perspective, and thus making their experience frustrating.

Here's the thing:

You don't want to be one of them.

If you take on the visitor's point of view and use the popup to complement their experience instead of disrupting it, then popups really become powerful tools to create engagement and boost conversions.

Next, we'll deal specifically with one of the most effective forms assumed by this marketing tool: the lightbox popups.

Lightbox popups are meant to draw attention. Really. No way to go unnoticed here.

Basically, these popups interrupt the user navigation by stepping under the spotlight and making everything else in the background (usually) dark.

Since you're essentially preventing your users from continuing to browse your site unless they interact with the popup, it's of utmost importance that you build them the right way.

🤔 Let's see how.

First, don't bother your visitor. The message conveyed through the lightbox popup should not be an annoyance. You should create an opportunity instead.

And you accomplish this by drafting a relevant message.

Here’s what I mean.

  • Keep in mind your target audience. Thus, the message needs to be relevant to a specific user. For instance, in the case of a returning buyer or visitor, the popup may refer to products, services, or contents they have previously interacted with.
  • Pay close attention to the context. Is she reading a blog post or looking at the documentation? Is she visiting a product page or reviewing pricing? The message needs to be relevant to the specific content each user is consuming.

Simply put:

You really want to create custom popups. Ideally, you should design at least one dedicated popup for each page of your site. Even more, if you're willing to make some variants depending on the data you have about your users.

There's more:

  • Make the exit button really conspicuous. If the users are not interested, they should be able to quickly discard the message. Seriously. You don't want to induce a sense of frustration.
  • Make sure there's a clear next step. That is, you need to wrap up your popups with a precise call-to-action. A common issue is that users basically don't understand what to do next. With a well-crafted CTA, you won't run that risk.


The point, as always, is to deliver value: a message designed to meet the specific needs of your user and aligned with the content she's consuming. Clearly explain how to unlock the benefit you're offering and, in case it's not what she's looking for, provide an equally clear way out.

So… what’s next?

It's time for timing! Stay tuned.

When's the right time to trigger a popup (and why it's so important)

One way to trigger a popup is with a delay after the page loads. Basically, we wait a few seconds (or even a few minutes) before displaying our on-site message.

Here’s the deal:

Establishing a delay that makes sense is key.

You may be tempted to set a minimum delay so that the visitor doesn't miss the popup by abandoning the site before viewing it.

But remember: the goal is to safeguard the user experience. The earlier you trigger the popup, the greater the likelihood that the user won't have yet achieved that kind of engagement needed to pay attention to your message. Thus, you may be annoying her.


What you can do is take a look at Google Analytics (or your preferred tracking system) and find out the average time spent on each page. Next, determine a delay for your popup. It needs to fall within the average time spent on the page while also giving your visitor a chance to grow some interest.

Of course, the longer the delay, the greater the interest. Your message may then require a higher or lower level of attention. Take this into account.

Ok, now we’re getting somewhere.

Some of the most common types of popups

It's not just a matter of delay. You can also define other trigger conditions for your popup message. And the different ways through which you'll determine when your popup is displayed define the type of popup.

So, let's go through an overview of the main types of popups classified according to their triggering conditions.

Scroll popups

Once again, you want to show your popup when the visitor has already accrued a certain degree of interest. But instead of guessing the moment when this condition occurs by quantifying the time spent on the page, you'll define a specific point in the content that the user must reach.

Put another way:

Quantify the degree of engagement in terms of scroll depth. After a certain scroll percentage, you'll trigger the popup.

Compared to timing popups, scroll popups are therefore more objective.

With a delay, we might indeed overestimate or underestimate the user's capability (or willingness) to read a specific piece of content. With scroll popups instead, we take away this uncertainty and rely on the part of the content already consumed.

A few examples:

  • You can use a popup to highlight a customer testimonial when your visitor gets to the end of a product page or even of the pricing page. This kind of social proof popup will reinforce her perception of the value of your offering and the trust that can be put in your brand.
  • If we're talking about a blog, when the reader gets past the halfway point of the article (e.g., she reaches a scroll depth of about 60%), you can invite her to subscribe to your newsletter to stay updated on your upcoming articles. After reading most of your article, likely there's concrete interest in what you do.

Keep this in mind.

To ensure you don't unnecessarily bug your users and stay always relevant, also try to make your messages tailored to the information you already have about your audience.

For instance, if a user is already in your newsletter, don't ask again. If they've already created an account and subscribed to your service, it doesn't make sense to show a social proof popup. In these cases, you can still display a popup, but perhaps with different content adapted to the specific needs of your user.

A tool like Boostn allows you to accomplish all of this. Create custom popups (and more), define trigger criteria, and filter the audience based on their attributes and behaviors.

Pretty cool. 😎

Click popups

With click popups, you can count on the complete attention of your user. In fact, she's the one who requested the popup by interacting with your site (e.g., by clicking a link or a button).

Simply, there's no risk of being intrusive here

As usual, you'll need to lead the user's attention towards a call-to-action. Upon click, the popup will respond to the user's request.

A few examples:

  • You can offer your user a valuable piece of content in exchange for their contact information. This is a so-called lead magnet (you can find out more about lead magnets in this article). Back to the click popups, the lead magnet CTA can then open the message with which the user will unlock the benefit, such as downloading your premium content.
  • In the case of e-commerce, if the user is interested in a product that is out of stock, you can frame your CTA so that it opens a popup where users can leave their contact details. This way, you'll be able to reach out to them when the desired product becomes available.

Not bad!

Entry popups

While with click popups the risk of being intrusive is basically zero, with entry popups we move to the opposite end of the spectrum.


Because we trigger the popup exactly when the user opens the page. We're basically talking about a timing popup without any delay. As such, you need to be very cautious with these popups. For instance, you could make use of them on landing pages that users access after they already interacted with you in some other way.

Then, you'll have to clearly show the benefit – such as a discount – which must be closely related to the content of the landing page on which the user is doing her deepening.

Nice, right?

Exit popups

Exit popups are probably among the most widespread and easily recognizable ones.

The idea here is to track how the user moves with the cursor and trigger the popup when she navigates off the page, signaling an impending exit action.

It goes without saying...

Since we're dealing with a popup displayed when the user is about to leave the site, the goal is to get an extra chance. Hence, the content of the popup will need to be designed accordingly.

For this purpose, obviously, we have to offer something truly interesting for our users. As a matter of fact, we're trying to recover a slice of an audience that already decided to look elsewhere.

On top of that, let's also limit the impressions. If the same user comes and goes from our site multiple times, we don't want to show her the same exit popup each time.

As always, deliver value but also avoid annoyance

What are you going to do next?

I know we went through a lot today.

First, we debunked the myth that popups are always poor allies. And we looked at the key elements that make them tremendously effective marketing tools instead. Then, we moved on to speak specifically about lightbox popups and the various ways through which they can be triggered, along with the related best practices.

The conclusion is:

Be cool. Don't bug your users.

In other words, popups can indeed serve as a terrific conversion machine, as long as they're used correctly. Offer your users what they need. Deliver value. Stay relevant.

Now, I'm curious:

Will you give it a try? What's the next popup you're going to build? Let us know below in the comments.

And until next time!