For ecommerce marketers, the golden goose of customer data is obtaining the all-powerful email address.

This digital ID of the modern consumer not only offers the opportunity to engage the shopper with email marketing. It also allows you to connect the browsing history of a previously unidentified shopper and to act on it across channels and devices.

Pop-ups and banners are an effective way to capture email addresses. They can also help enrich existing customer profiles, e.g. by inviting shoppers to flag their interests in a preference centre or to participate in a survey about their shopping experience. And they can combat site abandonment and support promotions by displaying relevant offers and information to customers.

But the pop-up has attracted its fair share of criticism, with a reputation for being annoying, intrusive, and random – to put it nicely. This is mostly down to the “set and forget” approach that many marketers apply to data capture, displaying a pop-up as soon as a shopper lands on the website and prompting them to enter their email information.

How marketers can beef up their email lists before Christmas

Pop-ups that are set, like clockwork, to pop up on the screen to anyone and everyone are not only ineffective but also irritating. Consumers immediately look for the “X” button to close them out, or worse, leave the website altogether.

It’s equivalent to walking into a store and the first thing that happens is the clerk asks for your phone number. It is a clear missed opportunity for the retailer, and can lead to a reputation of being intrusive.

However, let’s be clear that data capture pop-ups and banners are an essential tool in a marketer’s toolbox – they just have to be approached strategically. Here are some techniques retailers can implement to organically acquire valuable customer data – email addresses and beyond.

Key considerations to get pop-ups right

1. Timing

Consumers have come to expect pop-ups and banners when looking for discounts, offers or additional information. However, timing is everything. We experimented with pop-up timing on our own site and found that 30 seconds on a single webpage is the optimal amount of time to give a first-time visitor before a sign-up window appears.

Of course, the results vary across verticals. But it is worth noting that our email list growth more than doubled thanks to the optimised timing, with close to zero change in bounces and unsubscribes.

2. Content

Utilise real-time data to tailor the content of the pop-up to the shopper’s stage in the purchase funnel and serve hyper-relevant content that leads website visitors along the customer journey.

For instance, display an exit intent pop-up to offer browse abandoners to send them an email summary of the viewed products. Or to remind cart abandoners of the items they are leaving behind in their baskets. You could also offer an incentive, such as free shipping when spending X amount. It all depends on your marketing strategy.

How to deal with cart abandonment: Inside the mind of a customer

Also harness the scarcity of products. If you carry a popular brand, position a banner or pop-up when someone looks at those specific products, so shoppers can sign up to be the first to learn when new items are released.

The same concept applies for products that sell out fast and you see customers eyeing them – issue a pop-up that lightly prompts them to purchase now before it’s too late.

3. Design

Keep the style simple, true to brand and action-oriented. Always make sure there’s always a clear exit, like a cross in the corner so the consumer doesn’t feel locked in. A discreet way to keep a foot in the door after the customer has closed the pop-up is the pop-up to banner approach. A banner stays on the page in a header or footer position and travels with the customer as they browse the website.

Another option to increase effectiveness is to add a data capture device to the website that doesn’t pop-up over the content. A banner sits attractively at the top of the page waiting for someone to say “Hmm, I think I like what I see and I want to learn more.’’ This avoids the problem that shoppers often encounter: The point where they are willing to share their email address, they can’t find the spot to sign-up for the newsletter.

The net-net

Data capture devices have become a vital contributor to the customer journey. Using the website visitor’s behavioural and transactional data allows you to trigger personalised banners to the right person, in the right place, at the right time, with the right messaging.

The considerations outlined above are important all year long, but are amplified during the festive season. During the busy days leading up to Christmas Day, harness pop-ups to learn more about the increased number of visitors coming to your website and guide them along their customer journey to conversion.

Placed strategically, data capture devices will help maximise customer engagement and revenue.

Learn more

Dive deeper into best practices for improving your conversion rate with Econsultancy’s Conversion Rate Optimization Report, produced in association with RedEye.