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Home > Email Conversion > Why You Need to Test Lightboxes – The Justin Bieber of Email Marketing

Why You Need to Test Lightboxes – The Justin Bieber of Email Marketing

February 14th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

By Hunter Boyle
Senior Business Development Manager, AWeber


Lightbox forms are a lot like Justin Bieber: You either love ‘em, or hate ‘em, but lately you see ‘em everywhere – because they still pull in big crowds.

Every time I speak about email optimization, I ask the audience where they stand on lightbox forms. A few people always swear that they find these interrupters so annoying that they’ll never test them with their own site.

But then I walk through a few case studies and examples …

From daily stock tips sites (a 99% lift) to ask-the-geek sites (a cool 1,000% gain), the lightbox format can work wonders on your list-building efforts.

That said, there are a few details to keep in mind if you’re thinking about testing a lightbox form with your site.

3 Tips for Testing Lightbox Forms

1. Don’t Kill Your Conversion Flow

I recently got an email from online ticket seller Goldstar, promoting a show I wanted to see. I was using my iPhone. I clicked through the email to the event page, and immediately a lightbox appeared. That’s problem #1, but it’s only the beginning.

That lightbox asked me to “Help Goldstar be Better!” with a list of 10 circles, asking how likely I was to recommend the site to a friend. It was three smartphone screens wide, so you had to scroll over to even read the full question. They’ve almost lost me already, but now I’m curious to see what’s next (because this is my job).

goldstar lightbox

I close out that lightbox, and then they serve me a page that asks me to download the Goldstar app. Guess what? Strike three for them – but I’m the one who’s out.

The lesson here: Lightboxes shouldn’t disrupt a sales process, or add layers of annoyance out of sequence. Want me to recommend your site? Let me complete a quick, easy transaction, then ask me to do it and/or download your app. And if your site knew I was on mobile, why have a lightbox that’s ludicrously unfriendly for that screen?

2. Don’t Use A Weak Offer

Sure, many of us find lightboxes annoying, but if the value is there and it’s a compelling offer, suddenly it’s not annoying anymore – ah ha, then it becomes more of a “Yeah, that’s what I’m looking for” moment and we start typing in our name and email.

But free content is everywhere now, and email updates aren’t nearly as attractive anymore. Who’s excited to sign up for yet another email with tips?

Your lightbox form had better put the benefits, value, What’s-in-it-for-me (WIIFM) and credibility front and center. That, and of course having some legitimately kick-ass content, is what’s going to drive conversions.

Here’s an example that does just that, and gets awesome results:


CCblog4-ST lightbox


The lightbox brings together all the key ingredients: Clear benefits (more traffic, leads and sales), WIIFM language, specific takeaways, third-party credibility indicators and social proof, and a much better call-to-action (Get Instant Access!) than a “Submit” button, right?

Here’s another killer example:

CCblog-Extra Lucrative Conversion Rate Optimization   ConversionXL

The ConversionXL lightbox also puts a clear benefit upfront, but adds the urgency and immediacy (“get the answer instantly”), and exclusivity (“my private CRO newsletter”) with visual examples of the product. Plus, instead of the usual X-box to close the window, the text link takes a humorous stab at making the viewer reconsider declining the offer.

The lesson here: Go big on value, benefit and WIIFM. Or go back to the content and design lab.


3. Don’t Get Too Clever

When it comes to lightbox forms, clarity is your best friend, and too much friction is your enemy.

Make it easy for viewers to close the box if they’re not interested. Why hide the close function? Nobody wants to be a hostage on a lightbox page. And skip that “Are You Sure?” backup option. Even if you see a lift in opt-ins from that, those people already like you a little less.

Timing and frequency are also incredibly important. And there’s no one-size-fits-all time that wins. Evaluate your visit sources, average session length for key pages, and related factors, to determine display timing. In general, a number of tests we’ve seen performed well between the 5-10 to 30 second mark – but please read that earlier sentence again about how your mileage may vary. As for frequency, avoid serving up the form over and over to repeat visitors, at least within the same session. Form testing services and plug-ins can make these options fairly easy, so take advantage of that when mapping out your tests.

The lesson here: Don’t try to outsmart your visitors. Before you test a lightbox, put yourself in their shoes, and honestly assess whether the core offer and presentation is compelling enough, then nail down the timing and related details.

Then, come back and share your experiences. And if you’ve already run some lightbox opt-in tests, share your results and takeaways in the comments.


About the Author:

boyle-vHunter Boyle leads business development for email marketing powerhouse AWeber. A seasoned speaker, content marketer, and recovering introvert, Hunter’s been helping organizations optimize their digital initiatives since the dot-com days. The former editor of Marketing Experiments Journal and Internet Marketing Report, outside the office, he’s also an avid traveler, photographer, volunteer and craft beer lover.

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  1. Barry Feldman
    March 20th, 2014 at 00:08 | #1

    Hunter, I gotta give it a go. What’s your stance on whether or not to offer a bonus paper or webinar? Looks like ConversionXL does but Derek doesn’t.

  2. Hunter Boyle
    March 25th, 2014 at 20:36 | #2

    Hey Barry, thanks for the question. In my experience, you can go a few ways, but if you have the traffic, it’s worth doing a few tests without the bonus first, then testing the impact of the bonus incentive (ebook, video, etc.). If you don’t have a ton of traffic, or don’t want to wait, testing with an added incentive is likely to give you a bigger result — based on several important factors, of course. That’s for a longer post though! Cheers — Hunter

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