I dont know about you, but I’ve found that exit intent popups are becoming more and more prevalent on sites the days. You’d think therefore they’re an effective tool for reducing bounce rates and retaining user engagement. The good people at UX specialists Nielsen Norman Group would disagree.

Personally I don’t think I’ve ever been sufficiently offended by an exit intent popup appearing that I’ve crossly closed the tab in protest. If i was that bothered about the content I’d push pass the unintended intrusion (I can honestly say I’ve never seen an exit intent without a clear close button so it’s never been an issue) and return the page to its previous state to access the content. But the golden rule of UX of course is you are not your customer. I’ve never clicked on a paid advert in the Google search results, I always put far more trust in the organic returns, and yet Google makes billions of dollars every year from them, so there must be people who do.

I think you need to tread lightly with exit intents. We’ve been running a signup popup on our blog for the last month. It triggers when the user reaches the bottom of the blog post. We planned to A/B test this where the user is presented with the popup when they head to the top of the screen with the intention of hitting the back button or closing the browser window, but we got cold feet! In actual fact we’ve downsized the popup and shifted it bottom right, more akin to how HubSpot presents it ‘Did you like our content popup on their site. We’ll perhaps switch in the exit intent in a month or so, if we’re feeling more brave...

I think the issue with it really is how do you measure the effectiveness (or damage of a poorly timed) of an exit intent popup. The thing is you’re trying to stop them leaving. If they were leaving anyway then you’ve not really lost anything. But if they weren’t going, and NNG are right and you’ve put them off with the popup, how do you know that? I guess you could measure the CTR of your call to actions on the page, but they might have gone on to click another link on the page that wasn’t a CTA and so you’d have to measure all of those as well to see any drops in engagement.

If you’re smarter than I am (that’s not hard) you could measure the behavioural flow in Google Analytics to see if the user journey was being disrupted by the new addition, if you can make sense of all those green waterfalls…

I think the best thing to do is start with a focused page with a singular or limited set of options for the user, something like a landing page, where essentially the users only job is to fill in the form on the page. If you notice a dip in the submission rate to the form, it could be NNGs theory in action and you can either ditch the popup entirely or soften its impact on the page by having it slide in more surreptitiously… Of course you have a user who has indicated their intent in relation to the content they’re after as they clicked the related call to action, so even if the actual landing page offer didn’t float their boat, an exit intent might give you a second bite at the cherry to offer something they do want to download.

I think the key is benchmark your metrics beforehand, use 2 pages that have had traffic (the one hosting the exit intent and the one to link to) and so you can see clearly whether your new implementation has had a positive or negative effect on your marketing efforts.