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Three Risky Ecommerce Techniques That Could Actually Increase Your Conversions

In order to improve your ecommerce conversions, you might need to take some risks. Here are three techniques that might seem foolish, but which could actually produce a massive improvement in your conversion rates.

1. Use a popup.

What’s the first word that comes to a user’s mind when they see a popup?

Hint: It often contains four letters, and is represented with symbols ($%#&)

bad popup

Popup source

“Popup” is synonymous with “annoying.” And you should avoid anything annoying on your website, right? Maybe not. Popups, annoying though they may be, can drastically improve your conversion rate.

Popups are successful for the same reason that they are annoying. They demand a response. Some people are going to get ticked off at your popup. That’s a risk you’ll have to take. The upside is that a ton more people will probably convert.

Here are some case studies.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do popups. Plus, there are a ton of different types of popups, each with dozens of different variations. Here are a few tips that will make your popups more successful:

  • Popups are best for email subscription opt-in.
  • Make the popup big.
  • Use a lightbox popup.
  • Provide an easy way to close the popup.
  • Show your popup infrequently.
  • Time the popup to appear at least 1 minute after the user lands on the page or after the user scrolls 75% of the way down the page. Setting up the popup with parameters like this is a good way to qualify a likely level of on-page engagement.

Popups do not have to be a UX disaster or a source of heart-surging anger. They can be slick, impressive, and satisfying, especially when you tailor them towards user intent.

This popup from WordStream uses large imagery, an appealing aesthetic and a simple question to focus the popup:

wordstream popup

For WordStream’s audience, this kind of popup is perfect. It meets the audience’s need, and provides them with an easy-to-convert action.

The approach used by Conversioner is similar. The popup is clean, intuitive, and simple. The open and airy design scheme is a marked contrast from the noisy and intense design of old-school, annoying popups.

find out how to increase revenue

Wishpond uses a popup to provide a free guide for conversion tips. Again, the principle of simplicity and intuitiveness prevent the popup from being over-the-top annoying:

4 free guide

2. Do stuff for free.

Zappos has legendary customer service. They offer free shipping on deliveries (which isn’t really unusual) and free shipping on returns (which is unusual)! If you’re selling shoes and apparel, such a return policy might sound suicidal. Their return rates are estimated to be as high as 30%).

The homepage of Zappos, along with most of their landing pages, features “Free shipping and returns.” They recognize the customer’s love of free, and focus their marketing accordingly.

zappos home page

Zappos does a lot of stuff for free, and from a business perspective, they seem to be doing just fine, thank you.

Giving away free stuff — shipping, books, products, studies, etc. — will endear you to your customers and improve your conversions.

The most popular form of free is free shipping offers for physical products. Customers detest tacked-on shipping charges, so they spring for free shipping. Another popular form of free is the free ebook or whitepaper. Usually, these free downloads are used as newsletter opt-in bait. Another freebie technique involves a contest, such as a drawing for a free iPad. A standard free methodology for SaaS businesses is the free trial version of software.

For SaaS, free has a proven business model of success. There are expected dips, but continual gains, based on new feature introduction and improvements.

adopter graph

Image from Harvard Business Review.

Ecommerce marketers have long understood the power of free. In fact, much of the holiday-season shopping craze is fueled by its power.

what is your most effective holiday promo

Image from via CrazyEgg.

Free will always have its challenges — both from a revenue and a customer service perspective. Here are some of those challenges, as indicated by eMarketer.

aspects of online shopping that US online buyers would like retailers to improve

In spite of those challenges, however, there is consistent payoff. Free works.

In a marketplace that is crowded with free stuff, it takes a special form of free to stand out. Here are some suggestions for making your free stuff matter, and for making it improve your conversion rates.

  • Make it easy to qualify for the free product or service. Forcing the user to fill out long forms can reduce the amount of conversions you’ll get. Don’t make people feel like they are working for the free product. Make them feel like they’re actually getting something for free.
  • Do a “giveaway” rather than a “promotion.” Unbounce’s research determined that the word “giveaway” produced 27% more conversions than “sweepstake,” and 50% more conversions than “promotion.” Specific words matter.
  • Show a picture of the free product. Images will improve the likelihood of conversions by as much as 22%. Even if your “free” product is non-physical like shipping, cash towards a purchase you can still show a picture (a delivery truck, a pile of cash, a gift card).

3. Create a landing page that is 4,499 words long.

Amazon’s landing page for Kindle is 4,499 words long.

That’s a really long landing page. What’s going on? Is Amazon being stupid?

You’ve probably heard the conventional wisdom on landing page length.

  • “Make it short.”
  • “You’ll lose people on a long page.”
  • “Don’t make users scroll!”

As one Unbounce article admitted about longform pages, “They’re ugly. They feel icky. You don’t want anything to do them.”

So marketers make short landing pages, cross their fingers, and hope that conversion rates will hit the roof.

I’ve discovered that long landing pages can be just as effective, if not more so, than short landing pages. Marketing Experiments tested the following two landing pages, and found that the long landing page produced a 220% improvement in conversions.

control vs. treatment

Images from Marketing Experiments.

But long is boring, right? People don’t read long content, do they?

That’s what we’ve all been told. But that’s wrong. Web users read content that they are interested in. As long as that content is well-written, engaging, and relevant, people are going to read it. A landing page that tracks a user’s cognitive flow needs to be long, and it will convert better.

Basecamp’s landing page — unarguably long — is killing it with conversions. They are not shying away from lots and lots of content.

Here’s an idea of their landing page length:

basecamp long form

Image from CrazyEgg.

On Crazy Egg, we created a landing page that was 20 times longer than the original. It boosted our conversions by 363%. Moz revamped their landing page, ballooning the size by a multiple of six. Conversions rocketed by 52%, netting Moz an additional $1 million.

Here’s a comparison of the Moz redesign:

original vs. redesigned page

Image from


Risk-takers win. In the ever-evolving field of ecommerce, sometimes the riskiest moves are the best.

“Annoying” users with popups, giving stuff away for free, and dumping a long page on your visitors might be risky.

But it also might be rewarding.

About the Author: is a lifelong evangelist of Kissmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

  1. I like the popup idea and have been contemplating using it myself. However, all of the examples available are always from blogs.

    From my experience, people rarely arrive on blogs with the intent to buy but are more in search of information and arrive on individual blog posts.

    While many of these blogs have some product as a back-end sale item, the goal is much different than a 1000 shoe or pen website with traffic arrives on product pages. I suspect that showing them a popup in this case will hurt conversions rather than increasing them.

    That said, if you have any example of ecommerce sites that increased their conversions with a popup on the store pages (not blog), I would love if you could share it.

  2. We did a referral campaign experiment at Toggl (time tracking app) using a pop-up. The development team hated the popup idea – with a passion – but it worked like magic. We had a control group in the campaign and a pop-up group, and the pop-up group performed significantly better. (@Gillad – it was an in-app test, we asked people to recommend Toggl, didn’t have anything to do with collecting emails or following blogs). We did get some rage as well, but like Neil said, it’s just a risk we had to take and number showed we should do it again.
    We have also found that giving away free stuff works brilliantly too, we’ve done many campaigns giving away mainly ipads – an example of the most recent one is here:
    The idea of the extremely long landing page is interesting, though.. we’ve gone minimalistic all the way, but this could be something to test out also.
    Thanks, Neil, for the fascinating insight!

  3. Just now i came to know that there are lot of works to be done to convert leads in an ecommerce website. landing page is the main factor here, you have explained this well.Thanks for sharing this useful article.

  4. tushar grover Oct 08, 2014 at 10:13 am

    hi there
    i really liked your ecommerce techniques
    thanks for giving us info about these


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