10 Scientific Ways Marketers Use Website Overlays to Skyrocket Their Sales

Have you ever been browsing a website or reading an article when suddenly BAM! A colossal message takes over your screen.

If you’ve been on any tech, news, or blog sites over the past few months, then the chances are you’ve encountered a website overlay.

Also referred to as an exit popup, or simply an “overlay”, these type of popups can be found pretty much everywhere. And for a good reason – they’re SUPER effective!

For marketers, getting traffic to a website is not the end goal anymore. Instead, marketers need visitors to “convert” in order for them to be useful. Whether this means buying a product, service, or just leaving their email address, getting users to convert is the goal in every marketer’s mind.

Although marketers, website designers, and copywriters spend countless hours trying to perfect their landing pages, they don’t always get the conversions they’re aiming for. Perhaps they’re not using the right call to action, or perhaps the user is only skim reading their content, whatever the case, marketers hate it when users bounce. If only there was a way to give users a final message or offer before they left to entice them into converting…

Well, there is!

Enter the overlay, (or the exit popup), whatever you want to call them; these things do a tremendous job of improving conversions. But how? Why are they so effective and why do they work? It’s actually all down to science, and we have 10 scientific reasons as to how they’ll help you improve your conversions. So grab a pen and pay close attention we’re about to dive into the science behind why website overlays are just so freaking effective.

What Is A Website Overlay?

Before diving head-first into why website overlays are worth your attention. You first need to have a firm grasp of what they are.

The chances are you’ve already seen one, but didn’t know what you were looking at. All you need to know is: website overlays are a type of popup that appears on screen after a certain amount of time or when a user tries to leave. Unlike other types of overlays and popups, the user doesn’t have to click a button in order for it to appear. It simply shows itself when certain parameters are met.

There are literally hundreds of different variations of website overlays ranging in size, style, and when they appear. There might be many of them, but they all have similar traits in common.

  1. They all have a call to action headline and button
  2. They all appear on top of the website
  3. They all improve conversion rates & sales

To help you understand website overlays better, let’s take a look at some real-world examples that other marketers are using. We’ll go into more detail as to why they’re effective and why they work so well later. But for now, understanding the various types of overlays and styles is important.

Website Overlay Examples

We’ve hack picked some website overlays from various different sites out there selling different products and services. By collecting overlays from different sites, this should give you a good idea of what other people are successfully using to increase their sales.

Income Diary

income diary overlay

This website overlay incorporates both a catchy headline and picture to draw users attention to the offer. In this example, the overlay is trying to make the user sign up to their mailing list by submitting their email address. The overlay promises a free gift with various tips and tricks on how the reader can increase their website traffic for less than $130. For many users, it seems like a good trade: their email address for some secret insider knowledge.

We found this overlay while browsing the Income Diary’s blog. Like most other overlays on this list of examples, having them on your blog can be very effective.

WordStream

wordstream overlay

This overlay might be considered very simple and plain, but the truth is all you need is a good headline and call to action to be successful. This website overlay is promising the user tips on how to improve their AdWords quality score in exchange for their email. When the user clicks the download button, an email field appears which must be completed before the download starts. Giving them the download without capturing their email address first would be a big waste of time. Nevertheless, by capturing the user’s email WordStream can remarketing them via emails in the future.

This overlay appeared while browsing the WordStream blog.

Authority Hacker

authority hacker overlay popup

Unlike the other website overlays on this list, this one is a lot more aggressive. By taking up the entire browser of the user, visitors have nowhere else to look apart from the message on the screen. Not only does it have a bold call to action headline and button, but yet again it’s used to capture user’s email addresses for their mailing list. Having a fullscreen overlay like this might look like it gets good results, but this level of aggressiveness can scare many users off. We’ll show you the right way to use these overlays later on.

This full-screen overlay appeared while browsing the Authority Hacker blog.

ConversionXL

conversionxl popup

This final website overlay was seen on ConversionXL and like many we’ve seen before, offers the reader a downloadable guide. With the main lessons of the guide listed in bullet points, this gives users something quick and easy to read to see if it’s for them.

This overlay appeared while browsing the ConversionXL blog.

Now you know what website overlays are how other websites are using them. Why are they effective in the first place? Here are 10 scientifically backed reasons why.

Why Website Overlays Are Just So Darn Good

1. Overlays Simplify User’s Choices

overlay choice

If you’ve ever been to a supermarket looking for an item, then you probably know the feeling of being overwhelmed by choice. With so many options available it can become very hard to make a decision and choose one.

Imagine an online store; the same principles apply. Give users too much choice, and they’ll freeze. Known as analysis paralysis, this phenomenon happens in many areas of life, including shopping. With too much choice available, the user will freeze and end up never making a decision. This means there’s a good chance the user will leave the site meaning no sale for the store owner.

However, by eliminating choices (and distractions), this can dramatically increase the chance that a user will make a decision. And as you’ve probably guessed, this is where website overlays come in.

Overlays help narrow the visitor’s attention and focus to a single offer or product. This, in turn, makes the decision-making process a lot easier. Simply put, overlays are effective for the same reason landing pages are: they eliminate distractions and ask them a yes-or-no question.

2. Overlays Hijack A User’s Thought Process

thought interrupt popup

When someone’s stuck in the same thought process, interrupting them can often help change their behavior.

Interrupting someone’s thought pattern has been successfully used by salespeople for decades. The concept is simple: do or say something unexpected that disrupts a person from their regular thought pattern.

In the real world, this could be shaking someone’s hand, asking a question or just making loud random noises. But in the online world, it’s best achieved with website overlays.

By interrupting thought patterns, users can become highly suggestible for a short amount of time which means you can influence their decisions easier. As you’ve probably guessed, website overlays are the interruption that interrupts a user’s thought process. They’ll either be reading your blog or website when suddenly an overlay pops up. With a strong call to action, different color, and compelling offer, this often hijacks many people’s thought process and makes them pay attention.

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming, this is often referred to as a pattern interrupt and can be extremely powerful. Using website overlay popups to interrupt someone’s thought pattern is perfectly normal and is used by some of the best internet marketers to boost their sales. If the pros are using them, then so should you.

 3. Overlays Help Reinforce Your Message

reinforce message overlay

How many times do you have to see something before you buy it? Once? Twice? Or More?

The changes are that you rarely pay attention the first time you see an advert or new product. But once you’ve seen the same advert or product several times, it’s only then that you start to get interested.

To summarise: many users need to see the same advert several times before they take action. In marketing lingo, this is referred to as the effective frequency or the number of times a person must be exposed to an advertising message before they take action.

Although the amount of times an ad has to be shown to a person varies from person to person, it’s usually more than once.

Website overlays allow marketers to use effective frequency by displaying a reinforcing message with the popup. By using an overlay to display a product, service or message, this can reinforce the message in a users head and turn them into a converting customer.

4. Overlays Help Convey Urgency

urgency popup example

When it comes to marketing, urgency is a technique used by many online stores to increase their sales and conversion. Urgency can be anything from alerting users that only so many items are left or giving them a deadline for a discount. Even the giants Amazon do it and you’ve probably fallen victim to their tricks without even knowing.

amazon fidget spinner urgency

Above is an Oakland Raiders NFL fidget spinner which is just about to sell out. With only 2 left in stock, Amazon are displaying a red warning sign alerting users to order soon. This sense of urgency can often increase conversions by playing on people’s worries and fears. If they don’t order now then who knows when they could be back in stock!

By giving users a sense of urgency, it can often convert a user into a customer. The same technique applies when using website overlays. By giving the user an ultimatum of buy now or risk losing the product forever, it can significantly increase website conversions.

5. Overlays Lure In Conversions With Discounts

hollister discount overlay

If a customer is unwilling to purchase an item at full price, then offer them a discount. No matter who you are or where you’re from, everybody loves a discount. Even if it’s only 10% off.

Many users will often abandon their cart when they get to the final stage of the checkout process and see the price. You’ve worked so hard to get users to your website and get them to the last step, the last thing you want is them to leave.

This is an excellent scenario of where website overlays really shine. By displaying an exit overlay as the customer is about to abandon their cart you often have one last try to get them to convert. And what’s the one thing everyone wants to see? A discount of course!

If they’ve made it to the end of the checkout stage, then there’s a good chance it was only the price putting them off. Now we’re not saying you should offer everyone 50% off at the final step, but just a small discount can go a long way.

6. Overlays Bribe Users With Free Guides

dog bow ties free guide

Website overlays can be used for a number of different things on websites. From offering discount codes and promotions to free bonuses, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. From looking at the examples we explored earlier they all had one thing in common: they all offered free guides.

That’s right, every overlay we looked at had a secret PDF or guide that the user signed up for. Giving away free guides and assets is a great way to obtain personal information from users such as an email address or phone number. This works so well because the user is basically exchanging their information for a product. Their email for your eBook, what a fair deal!

By using these free guides and gifts, you can quickly build a valuable asset such as a mailing list. Which brings us nicely to our next point…

7. Overlays Help Grow Mailing Lists

increase mailing list overlay

When a user visits a website, not all of them are in the right mindset to buy. Some users need a little extra convincing or reminding before they convert. Although website overlays do a great job of reminding users about offers, they only work when the user is on the site. What happens when they leave the site? They’re lost forever… unless you use a mailing list!

A mailing list is a bread and butter technique for many online marketers. Not only does it allow them to communicate with highly targeted users, but it also allows them to contact prospects multiple times. As we mentioned earlier with effective frequency, sometimes you need to show someone an advert or message multiple times before they take action and convert. With an email marketing list, this gives you an easy way to get your sales message in front of the user even when they’re not on your website.

By emailing prospects various deals on a regular basis, you significantly increase the chances of them converting which is the ultimate goal.

8. Overlays Give Users Confidence In Your Company

customer support overlay

When a user browses your website, it’s only natural that they’ll have questions about your products or services. No matter how many FAQ’s you have or how much information you have on your site, some users just want to speak to a real human being.

Since overlays are great at delivering important messages to users, they can also be used to help build trust and confidence in your site. Displaying an overlay with links to your support center and additional information such as an email address and phone number is a great way to give users confidence. It also helps to increase engagement with customers by giving them plenty of ways to leave you a message.

Instead of hoping that users will stumble across your contact information, you can literally through it in their faces so they have no excuse not to contact you.

9. Overlays Notify Users They’ve Left Something In Their Cart

abandoned cart overlay

Running an e-commerce store can be hard no matter what industry you’re in. You spend lots of money and time trying to get visitors to buy from your store only for them to abandon their cart at the last step. As frustrating as this is, there are actually several different ways to combat it and get users back to that all important payment page.

There are plenty of smart marketers out there that use exit overlays to help reduce their cart abandon rate and increase their conversions. All you have to do is browse a few e-commerce stores, and you’re bound to see these messages popup.

Known as the abandoned cart notifier, this method involves using an overlay to notify users when they still have something in their cart. Maybe the user left the website for whatever reason and ended up coming back several hours or days later. By reminding them they still have something in their cart it reinforces the message and turns them into a converting customer.

You can also be more aggressive and include an exit overlay on the checkout itself so every time a user tries to exit the checkout, they’re greeted with a message. According to a study by Web Engage, after implementing an exit overlay on their e-commerce store they saw a 6% increase in conversions. Just think of how many more sales your website could be bringing in all with just a simple added popup… crazy!

10. Overlays Help Reduce Your Bounce Rate

hubspot overlay blog

If you’re an SEO wizard, then you’re probably always trying out new techniques and ideas to help reduce your bounce rate. If you’re not then you should be, the bounce rate metric is an important statistic that Google and other search engines take very seriously.

For those that don’t know what a bounce rate is, it can be defined as: the percentage of visitors to a website who navigate away from the site after only viewing one page.

That means people who land on your site read some content, and then leave. To Google, this is a sign that your website isn’t very relevant or interesting for the given search term. With a very high bounce rate (over 90%) you can even start to decrease in rankings for that specific term.

To show Google that your website is interesting and relevant you need to reduce your bounce rate as low as possible. To do this, you need to entice users into clicking other pages on your website. As you’ve probably guessed, this is where overlays come in.

A good example of how to implement this overlay technique is on the Hubspot blog. When a reader finishes reading a blog post and scrolls to the bottom, it’s only natural that they’ll hit the back button in their browser. To stop this from happening, a small popup overlay appears on the bottom right of the screen with a chat bubble and profile picture. The way it appears on the screen is very attention-grabbing and unexpected. When a user sees it pop up they’re instantly intrigued as to what it has to say.

When a user clicks on the overlay it takes them to another part of the website and it’s this click that helps reduce the overall bounce rate. As simple as it might sound, this little trick is almost guaranteed to help reduce your site’s overall bounce rate and improve your rankings. If the big boys are using it on their site’s then it obviously gives results!

Go Forth With Your Newly Learned Knowledge

Now you understand the science and power of website overlays, it’s time to implement these strategies on your own website. No matter if you’re running an e-commerce store, blog or AdWords landing page, website overlays can quickly and easily boost your conversions.

At the end of the day, overlays are really just a platform for providing value and delivering a message. Make yours one that visitors will love and the results will follow!