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by Michael P. Hill November 24, 2015

Despite having gotten a bad name for themselves in the earlier days of the Web, popups can also be a very effective marketing tool for your Shopify store.

Many premium Shopify themes, including those from Out of the Sandbox, include a built in popup feature that you can use to promote special offers, new products or gather email addresses for your mailing list.

Will my popup be blocked?

Often users are concerned if popups in Shopify themes will get blocked by popup blockers or security software that customers have installed on their computers. Fortunately, the answer is generally no.

Even though we call this feature a “popup”, it’s technically known as a modal (pronounced MOW-dul). Unlike many of those popup ads that infiltrate the Internet, modals don’t actually create a new browser window, but instead create the illusion of a box overlaid on top of the website using some CSS and JavaScript tricks.

Because of this, and the fact that modals are also used extensively across websites and apps for a variety of reasons — including the image upload feature in your Shopify backend, for example — they typically aren’t blocked.

Grab attention

The one downside of a popup window, however, is that many users are quick to close them, knowing from experience that they contain an ad or other marketing message.

One way to combat this is by using eye-catching graphics and text. Think creatively and consider using bright colors, large typography and unique imagery that users can’t help but notice and be curious about.

You should also aim to make the popup worthwhile for your customer — whether it gives them a special offer, displays a discount code, offers access to your email newsletters or even, as a last resort, just entertains.

Make sure users can clearly see how to close the modal. Although it may be tempting to make the “close” link tricky to find in an attempt to keep a user’s interest, this strategy will often lead to more frustration than it’s worth and possibly prevent users from making a purchase quickly and easily.

Limit the popup

In most cases, it’s better not to show the popup to the same user every time they visit one of your store pages.

That can lead to a poor user experience — sending the shopper elsewhere to buy. The thought process here is simple — if the user doesn’t respond to the popup the first time it’s shown, it’s not likely they ever will if you keep showing it.

Many premium Shopify themes, including those from Out of the Sandbox, include the ability to cease showing the popup to the same user until a certain number of days have passed, and this is almost always a wise idea.

When trying to decide what length of time, consider how of you change the content in your popup. If you change it weekly, for example, 5 to 7 days might be a good pick. If you change it less often, however, increasing it to 10 or more days is often a good way to go.

Email newsletters

When using the popup in your Shopify theme to encourage users to join your mailing list, a good strategy is to incentivize them with a special offer or discount code. You can use Shopify’s built-in discount code feature to give users an offer of your choosing — a percent off a minimum purchase or free shipping are two good ideas.

It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to offer a financial incentive to join your mailing list. Instead, consider emphasizing the content or features you’ll include in the newsletters that users receive. Perhaps it’s a first look at new products, or exclusive notification of special sales or events.

It’s also worth considering combining both strategies.

Finally, consider testing different configurations across two time periods with relatively similar traffic trends and see which works best for you.

Other options

The popup feature isn’t just limited to collecting email addresses, either. Instead, you can use it to promote a myriad of things — whether it’s a new collection or product, special sale or even a new blog post. To do this you can simply choose to disable the email signup form in your theme settings and just show text and images in the popup instead.

Think creatively and experiment with different types of content and see what resonates with your users.

To better track engagement with the different types of content you promote in the popup, consider using a link shortening service such as Bitly to track how many clicks each popup gets.

First create an account on Bitly and then paste in the full URL you’d like to send users to. Bitly will then generate a new link from that information, and you can use that one instead as the link in your popup.. Make sure to create a unique link for each variation you test, even if they lead to the same page, and then use your Bitly account to see which one gets the most clicks.

Popups can also be used to display notifications about order deadlines for upcoming holidays, notices about inventory levels or other important shopper information. When shopping for a new Shopify theme, look for modals that offer this kind of flexibility, such as those in Out of the Sandbox Shopify themes, which let store owners create and specify the content for their popups and control whether or not an email signup form should be included.

Michael P. Hill
Michael P. Hill

Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn.

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