Don’t Leave Leads on the Table – Use Exit Intent Tools

You probably spend a lot of time or money or both driving visitors to your website. So before they leave and never come back, you absolutely must grab their email.

Of course, there are the regular non-exit intent ways of asking for emails. Things like email subscribe inputs, subscribe banners, sider widget boxes, slide-ins as your scroll down and footer inputs boxes. These are good, but they still leave potential leads on the table. Exit intent tools can help you reach out and take them.

What is exit intent technology?

Exit-intent technology is a fancy term for tools that detect when a visitor is about to leave your webpage. But the specific actions users take to leave a website are not always universal and differ across individuals, browsers and devices. However, at Wheely Sales where it’s our business to capture exit intent, we do so as follows:

  • Exit Intent On Desktop: When the mouse moves up out of the browser window.
  • Exit Intent On Mobile: Somewhat trickier since there is no mouse to watch… so instead any slight touch swipe upwards is used. Users typically do this to reveal the browser bar at the top once they’ve finished touch swiping down.

The real world use case for exit intent is obviously website pop-ups that detect and only appear when the user is leaving the page. So when we say “exit intent tools”, we mostly mean exit popups.

Many popups aren’t so smart and are just on predefined timers. So they may show up after thirty seconds or even slap you in the face straight away! These are not exit popups, and they give popups in general a bad reputation.

How does exit intent help you capture emails?

If you’re not using an exit popup you’re missing out on one of the most effective ways of growing your audience.

I know what you’re thinking – you loathe popups! They can be infuriating when they’re abused. There’s no way you’re going to subject your website visitors to them.

But there’s a balance to be struck. On the one hand, there are those full-screen popup modals that appear as soon as you hit a website. These would actually be better described as “entry popups”, they cover up your landing page’s value proposition and they make me bounce of that page harder than a rabbit on steroids.

On the other side of the spectrum, you can avoid using a popup at all and use a static subscribe widget or banner. But they blend into the noise and confusion of the rest of your website. They’re often missed. You can and should use these, but you can use them in conjunction with an exit popup.

A popup that uses exit intent technology (ie. an “exit popup”)  is the way to go. A good exit popup can successfully walk the line between too aggressive and non-existent. This is because it is non-existent until the visitor is leaving. The visitor has digested your page content and message, and when it appears they can continue to the browser back button if they choose. It doesn’t adversely impact them in a significant way.

But for you, it’s your “last chance saloon” to stay connected to the visitor after they leave your website forever. And since humans are evolved to see movement and exit popups accelerate into view, they’re effective in engaging the visitor’s attention.

Of course, you need to put something valuable on the exit popup to make it worth the user’s time to pause for a second. Typically, a juicy discount does the trick.

Which exit intent popup format should you use?

  1. Box Modal

    Possibly the most common exit popup you’ll find – these are the small rectangular boxes that appear on top of the page’s content as you leave. They’ll usually have a nice discount or some other incentive to enter your email address. This type is great for getting going quickly with a cookie-cutter exit popup. You’ll start to benefit from more email opt-ins, but a lot of visitors will still ignore it as they see these all the time. 

  2.  Full-Screen Overlay

    These are more in your face as they take up the whole screen and are generally more bespoke to the specific website. The point is you can’t miss them and they capture your attention with quality media, branding and customization. These perform better and is good for anyone willing to invest a little time building an exit popup that stands out and converts.

  3.  Wheel of Fortune

A relatively new format that displays a Wheel of Fortune prize wheel (like the classic TV game show). Visitors have to enter their email to spin to win a discount or prize. It performs better than any other kind of exit popup as it’s both interactive and something visitors haven’t seen it before. Though whether this format should be used on your website really depends on your brand and niche. For example, it would suit a fun sports apparel store but not necessarily a time-tracking SaaS tool!

(Full Disclosure: I work at Wheely Sales which lets you build this kind of Wheel of Fortune exit popup for your brand.)

What kind of email opt-in rate can you reasonably achieve?

There’s no specific number or rule that applies across all websites. Opt-in rates vary wildly and can range from 0.1% to 40% depending on the website. But here is a graphic with some industry averages for the static signup box, box modal popup and Wheel of Fortune popup formats:


There are specific factors that drastically affect the opt-in rate success your particular website could potentially achieve. The main ones are:


  • Incentive offered – if you something real that visitors can actually use then they’re a lot more likely to subscribe. For example offer a 30% discount or free shipping, not “the chance to win a free holiday”.
  • Traffic quality – if you’re traffic is junk then they’re not going to convert, end of story. But if your traffic is from highly targeted and relevant sources then you’ll achieve much higher opt-in rates.
  • Website quality – the better your website looks, the better your content & copy and the faster it loads then the more likely you are to convince people to fork over their email.
  • Brand quality – if visitors become loyal followers that trust you, then they’re more likely to give you their email so that you can proactively reach out to them.
  • Market – different niches have different audiences that vary in their propensity to share contact info and follow brands.

Overall it’s best to focus on increasing your own opt-in rate rather than comparing it to a specific benchmark and overall:

  1. Use an exit popup!
    1. If it suits your brand, use a Wheel of Fortune style popup
    2. If not, use a box overlay popup with a discount
  2. Experiment with different calls to action and discount offers on the popup.
  3. Keep using your static email subscribe widget or header banner on your webpage.

Then your next focus will be on creating a killer email sequence to nurture these leads into purchasing!

Josh Howarth
Founder at Wheely Sales
Josh is the founder of Wheely Sales - a Wheel of Fortune style exit popup that integrates with any website. He's a startup and ecommerce growth nerd living in Japan.

You Might Also Like