How exit-intent pop-ups can help fight cart abandonment

The word “pop-up” carries a stigma with it, courtesy of more than a decade of irresponsible, overbearing internet advertising. Fortunately, pop-ups have evolved and, arguably, transitioned from “always infuriating” to “sometimes helpful.” The latter is where well-crafted exit-intent pop-ups can, ideally, live.

Exit-intent pop-ups appear when a website detects that a user is about to leave. That usually means the site detects that the mouse moving up toward the top of the browser, where the user is most likely going to click on another tab or type in a new web address.

Pop-ups that are triggered by exit-intent behavior have only been around since 2010, but at least one out of seven top eCommerce websites today are using them. And that’s because exit-intent pop-ups are tailor made for eCommerce.

That’s not to say they’re exactly beloved. Three out of four people still say they dislike pop-up ads, making them the most hated type of advertising. But… they’re effective. Approximately 70 to 96 percent of people who leave your site will never come back. Exit-intent pop-ups have been shown to convert 10 to 15 percent of those people.

Exit-intent pop-ups can be especially effective when it comes to cart abandonment. The key to curbing cart abandonment is to get another chance to pitch the customer to try to get them to follow through on their purchase. Exit-intent pop-ups give you a chance to do that—or, alternatively, to capture their email address so you can use your cart abandonment emails to try to resuscitate the sale.

This article will examine five exit-intent strategies to help fight cart abandonment and some tips for implementing each of them.

1. Offering a discount or incentive to check out

This type of exit-intent pop-up is akin to the customer who starts walking out of a car dealership so the salesperson will run offer them and offer a better deal.

If you’re going to risk irritating your visitors with a pop-up, you’d better make sure that pop-up has a great reason for existing—and providing a discount or a deal certainly qualifies.

The top reason people abandon carts is “extra costs are too high.” In other words, they get to the checkout and once you add up all the stuff in their cart and tack on shipping and tax, suddenly they’re on the hook for significantly more money than they initially expected.

So if that sticker shock is driving them to leave your site, hitting them with a well-timed discount could save the sale. 54 percent of customers say they’ll reconsider leaving and purchase the products in their cart if they’re offered a lower price. (PDF) And that’s why discounts are the most common type of exit-intent pop-up.

Offering a discount here also helps curb another of the main reasons people leave your website in the middle of a sale. One survey found 73 percent of customers who see a “use discount code” box during checkout will leave your site to go to Google to search for a code—and not all of them will come back. So you can stop them before they leave by giving them the discount yourself.

Via: Raven.

Of course, there are some potential downsides to consider before you start offering big discounts every time someone tries to leave your site. Offering cart abandonment discounts isn’t always a slam dunk. It can devalue your brand, train your customers never to spend full price, and irritate customers who learn about your offer after they spent full price. So make sure to consider those factors when you decide whether or not to offer a discount in your exit-intent pop-up. But if you do, here are our top tips.

Make a great offer

Make your exit-intent offer your best offer. The customer was planning to leave so this is your one last shot to convince them to stay to go through with their purchase—and you have a matter of seconds to do so. Make the moment count.

Via: Justuno.

Push your free shipping threshold

There’s an advanced but extremely lucrative strategy where, rather than offering a discount, you incentivize the customer to spend even more to get a discount.

We all loathe paying for shipping, to the point where one in four customers are willing to spend extra to qualify for free shipping. (PDF) So if your exit-intent pop-up can let a customer know how close they are to hitting the free shipping threshold—and show a few products that could get them there—you might be able to get them to come back, resume their purchase, and spend more than they were planning in the process.

Via: Sleeknote.

2. Grab the customer’s email before they leave, then send cart abandonment emails

This sounds obvious, but it’s worth restating: In order to send cart abandonment emails, you need to capture an email address. And an exit-intent pop-up might be your last chance to grab it.

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Offer a future discount

Again, a discount offer is a very popular way to grab an email address. A future discount can be particularly alluring to someone who was browsing your site and probably planning to buy eventually, just not at this exact moment.

Offer to save their cart

Alternatively, you can capture an email by offering to save the customer’s cart. As frustrating as this can be to eCommerce merchants, people frequently use their cart as more of a “holding area” to compare items or save products they might come back for later. Roughly 30-40 percent of people putting stuff in a cart aren’t planning to check out right away—they just want to compare prices, think about what they want, and maybe come back for it later.

Those people are good leads; you really want to snag their email address so you can keep in touch—and remind them to come back soon to make their purchase. Offer to save their cart so they can return anytime (and, perhaps, even imply that their cart will imminently be deleted otherwise so they feel more of a sense of urgency to save it).

Via: Nosto.

Whether your exit-intent pop-up captures the email via a discount offer or via a cart save, now you have the email—and you can begin your cart abandonment email drip.

3. Use psychological triggers to entice customers to check out

You want your exit-intent pop-up to trigger a strong desire in a customer to go back to their cart and complete their purpose. And here are some psychological tactics (isn’t that a benign, mollifying euphemism for “mind games”?) you can use to make that happen.

Create a sense of scarcity

You want to convey the feeling that if your customer doesn’t hurry up and check out, the product they want could sell out at any moment. Amazon very effectively uses this technique on their product pages. How many times have you clicked on a product and had that slight sense of panic because Amazon told you there were “Only two left”?

There are a number of ways to create a feeling of scarcity with an exit-intent pop-up. You can use that Amazon technique of showing that stock is limited. If the product is seasonal or a limited edition, make sure to note that it needs to be snatched up immediately. Or you could even show how many other people are interested in buying that same product right now.

Check out this example from They use an exit-intent pop-up that shows there are 26 other people vying for the same hotel room you are—so you’d better stay on the site and finish your reservation before one of those other people snags it instead.

Create a sense of urgency

Urgency isn’t quite the same as scarcity. While scarcity makes a person think the product could sell out any moment, urgency makes the person think they’ll miss out on an opportunity if they don’t buy it immediately.

It’s why you frequently see words like “WAIT” and “HOLD ON” in exit-intent pop-ups. Those words intentionally make people feel anxious about something urgent happening in front of them.

The most common method to establish a sense of urgency is a limited-time discount or offer—both of which are highly effective. 48 percent of people who are on the fence about making a purchase say they’re swayed by a limited-time discount.


You can even take it a step further and use a ticking clock in your exit-intent, showing the customer their great discount that’s about to expire if they don’t buy ASAP.

Use the Zeigarnik Effect

The Zeigarnik Effect is a fancy name for a relatively simple human phenomenon: We’re programmed to hate leaving our tasks half-finished. The human brain is, by nature, completionist—so if someone reminds us we’ve left something almost-but-not-quite done, it deeply bothers us.

The Zeigarnik Effect is heavily tied to cart abandonment since, by definition, abandoning a cart is leaving a task half-finished. You can capitalize on that feeling with your exit-intent pop-ups by reminding a customer that they aren’t quite done—maybe even add a progress bar based on how far along they are in the checkout process to push them to finish.

Via: Wishpond.

4. Use social proof

Social proof is a very powerful way to convince someone to do something. Customer reviews are the top factor that convinces people to buy from a site they’ve never shopped on before. But even beyond that, knowing that lots of people are doing something has a strong effect on us and makes us want to do it too.

There are a few ways to slip social proof into your exit-intent pop-ups to imply that, yes, all the cool kids are buying your products.

Use big numbers

What’s your most impressive statistic? Is it your number of sales? Your percentage of positive reviews? Your social media following? Whatever it is, get it into your exit-intent pop-up to encourage the customer to join that pack.

Utilize your testimonials

As we said earlier, reviews from other customers are the number one thing that convince someone to make a purchase. So your best reviews are, in a way, your most powerful sales tools. By incorporating a review or two into your exit-intent pop-up, it’s like your most satisfied customers are making the hard sell for you. And they can be very convincing.

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Check out this example, combining almost all of the techniques from this article: Offering a discount, creating a sense of urgency, and capturing an email address. But perhaps the most convincing part of the exit-intent pop-up is that customer testimonial at the bottom. It’s a nice touch to include the customer’s first and last name, hometown, and picture as well—that significantly adds to the sense that it’s a real review from a very happy customer.

Via: Beeketing.

5. Anticipate and overcome a customer’s objections

There are a number of common objections people have that stop them from making an eCommerce purchase. Some of the big ones are:

  • I need to think about it more.
  • I need to talk to my significant other.
  • I want to shop around for a better price.
  • I don’t really need it.
  • I can’t afford it.

From customer feedback and testing (or just your understanding of your market), you can gauge which objection is blocking the most sales on your site. Then use your exit-intent pop-up to address and try to overcome that objection.

Use your copy to give your customers the final push

Here’s an example of a pop-up addressing one of the most common issues for every store: Convincing your customers that yes, they really do need what you’re selling to make their life complete. Until this moment in my life, I’ve never been concerned about whether or not I eat superfood goodies for the sake of my skin’s glow… but this pop-up sure makes me feel like I ought to be.

Via: OptiMonk.

Offer real-time help

One of the best ways to address a customer’s objections is to be ready to chat with them and provide answers and solutions to all of those objections. So an exit-intent pop-up offering real-time help or a chat can be effective, especially if your product is more complicated or generally takes some back-and-forth before a purchase.

Via: Beeketing.

Key takeaways

Exit-intent pop-ups can help you re-engage 10 to 15 percent of the people who are about to leave your site—often forever. And they can be especially effective when it comes to reducing cart abandonment if you employ the right strategies.

  1. Offer a discount or incentive to finish checking out. The top reason people abandon carts is because of the final cost (or because they head off to Google to hunt for a coupon code), so a well-timed, high-quality offer can help push them to buy.
  2. Try to grab their email before they leave, so you can send cart abandonment emails. Incentivize them to give you their email, whether it’s for a future discount or just to save their cart, so you can begin your cart abandonment email series.
  3. Use psychological triggers. Use your exit-intent pop-up to create a sense of scarcity about what they’re buying, establish a feeling of urgency to buy it now, and even make them feel uncomfortable because they’ve left the task of checking out incomplete.
  4. Use social proof, like your number of satisfied customers or high-quality reviews, to encourage people to buy so they can “fit in.”
  5. And overcome their objections by addressing a big potential roadblock, like wanting to think about their purchase more or debating whether your product is something they really need.


  1. Thank you very much for this great article ! I really want to implement this kind of technology on my website but Jilt does not integrate with any application proposing professional pop-up

    1. Hi Laurine & Thibault,

      We’re in the process of integrating Jilt with a few pop-up / email collection tools now! We should have more details soon and will announce on our blog shortly when those integrations are ready.


  2. Interesting article thanks, but you’re assuming that if someone moves their mouse towards a different tab, then they are intending to exit the site. What evidence do you have that this is the case? It’s just as likely that they are clicking to another tab temporarily (for example, to look something up or copy some information), fully intending to return to your site. An exit intent popup gives these people a discount when they would have bought anyway!

    To make an exit intent popup worthwhile, you need to know that the revenue it generates which would otherwise have been lost outweighs the loss from giving discounts to people who would have bought at full price. Do you know if there is any research on this?

    1. Hi Katie,

      That’s a good question and comes down to the quality of the tech powering the exit-intent pop-up. From my research, it seems that exit-intents aren’t usually just “mouse moves toward tabs pop something up”—they’re also weighing other factors. Say, if someone reached the end of a blog post and then is moving toward another tab. Or put something in their cart, then delayed for a bit, then headed toward a different tab. I couldn’t find any research on the difference between revenue recovered by exit-intents versus revenue lost by offering discounts in exit-intents. I’d say two possible approaches if you want to try out exit-intents for cart abandonment but you’re worried about offering unnecessary discounts would be (1) run an exit-intent without a discount (using the scarcity/urgency mentioned above, showcasing social proof, etc.) or (2) try a month-long test using exit-intents, see how many people are using the discount code from them, and comparing the results to a similar month (e.g. don’t compare a holiday season month to, say, August). I’ll keep looking for more info on this and let you know if I find anything.

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