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The Ultimate Exit-Intent Guide To Convert Abandoning Visitors

  • Conversion Rate Optimization
  • List Building

Did you know that 98% of your visitors leave your website without doing anything? They don’t buy anything; they don’t sign up for your newsletter – They simply don’t engage with you or your website in any way.

 This is a huge potential opportunity lost.

Wouldn’t you want to lower that percentage? I know I do. Every single visitor to your site should be presented with an opportunity to engage. Thus, you’ll lower those 98% percent and potentially get a lot more value from your visitors than you do today.

So how do you get value from your abandoning visitors?

You’ve probably already heard about it – the famous exit intent. Exit intent is a technology that tracks your visitors’ movements and triggers a lead capture form the moment your visitors are about to leave your website.

According to Bryan Massey, you can convert 10-15% of your lost visitors with exit intent popups.

In this post, I’ll dig into the famous exit intent technology and explore the many opportunities it holds. Nothing will be left unexplored, and when you’re done, you’ll be equipped to create awesome exit intent forms that will convert your abandoning visitors. 

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How does exit intent work?

The exit intent technology is designed to detect the precise moment a visitor is about to leave your site, and trigger a popup.

How is that possible you might think?

The technology tracks your visitors’ mouse cursor movements while they browse your site, and when your visitors move their mouse cursor to an exit option, such as the address bar, a new tab, or the close button, the exit intent technology triggers a popup on your visitors’ screen with a customized message.

With an exit intent popup, you can convert your visitors into leads or customers, you can re-engage them with your site, and you can use them to improve your website. The opportunities are endless.

The exit intent works because you ensure that every single visitor is presented with a conversion option. Many websites have a small signup form somewhere on their site. This signup form is usually overlooked or ignored, and even though it might convert a small percentage of your visitors, it’s nowhere near the conversion rate of an exit intent popup.

Here’s how our signup form looks on the Sleeknote website:

As you can see, it’s not the biggest attention drawer. However, it still converts a small percentage of our visitors, so we don’t want to remove it.

What makes the exit intent so great is that we can see how effective it is immediately. When we add an exit intent form to any of your pages, we convert 2-4% more of those 98% abandoning visitors, which might not sound like a lot, but when you look a the pure number of signups you can really see a significant increase.

Understand your visitors

Before you embark on the awesome exit intent journey, you must prepare for it as you would with any other journey.

The key word here is your visitors. These are the people you want to convert and they are the ones who have all the power and hold the fate of your company in their hands.

With that said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you need to understand your visitors before you try to convert them.

So how do you do that?

The best way to understand your visitors is through talking to them. You can use Hotjar for this. They can easily create a survey and record sessions along with other cool features.

Alternatively, you can create a survey on your website and ask a few questions about their reason for visiting your site and their interests. It’s a good idea to offer them something in return for their time and participation.

That’s not all.

You can also talk to your existing customers. Send them an email when they’ve bought something and ask them to rate their buying experience and leave a comment – negatives and positives. It’s the negatives we learn the most from, so don’t be afraid of negative answers.

This example from G Adventures is a bit different as it was sent after a travel purchase when the traveler (customer) had returned from the trip. However, it illustrates my point very well. They ask for the customer’s opinion and offer a 5% discount towards the next trip in return.

Furthermore, they note that it won’t take more than 5 minutes to answer, which is a good way of ensuring people that they don’t have to fill out a 50 question survey which would seem too overwhelming and time-consuming.

Offering customers something in return for their answer can convince a lot more customers to share their opinion.

The next step in understanding your visitors is to analyze their behavior. What do they do on your site? What pages do they visit? What pages are they on when they leave? What pages do they stay on for the longest? Etc.

Go to Google Analytics and analyze what traffic (direct, social, referral) takes which actions on your site. See if there is a pattern in whether or not different types of traffic take different types of actions.

Find out why your visitors are leaving. Where do they leave, and why? – This is the key to re-engaging and converting your abandoning visitors.

The questions to these answers might be very different depending on what traffic source you’re looking at. A visitor leaving your checkout page might need a different offer than someone leaving your support page; just like a visitor coming from Instagram might need a different offer than a visitor who came in from Google.

Their pain, and thus the solution they’re looking for, could be very different and they might be from two different target groups.


  • You need to understand your visitors before you try to convert them.
  • The best way to understand your visitors is through talking to them. You can use Hotjar for this.
  • Talk to your existing customers and ask them to give you some feedback.
  • Offering customers something in return for their answer can convince a lot more customers to share their opinion.
  • Analyze your visitors’ behavior and see if there are any patterns.
  • Find out why your visitors are leaving, and try to eliminate that reason.

Once you’ve gotten an understanding of your visitors, you can begin to segment them and ensure that the right visitors get the right message.


Segmentation is about grouping the people who visit your website into different segments and then target specific campaigns based on these segments.

You will not be able to individually adapt a message to each of your visitors (well, you can but it would be way too time-consuming). However, segmenting them will still enable you to create more personalized messages based on their interests.

This will make your visitors feel more valued, and thus your conversion rate will increase.

This is how I would segment visitors on an e-commerce site:

  • First-time visitors, vs. returning customers. You don’t want to offer returning customers a discount code for their first purchase when they’ve already completed their first purchase.
  • Visitors in the early stages of the buying process who are just browsing your site vs. visitors in the later stages of checkout who might have products in their cart.
  • Lastly, you should segment based on whether or not your visitors are already subscribers or not. It wouldn’t be wise to offer an exclusive deal for new subscribers to visitors who have already subscribed and won’t be able to use the offer.

You can also do page level targeting, where you customize your message based on the page your visitors were browsing when they try to leave.

In this example from Scrum Alliance, the exit intent popup appears on a page about Mike Cohn and as you can see, the popup offers tips from Mike Cohn. It illustrates perfectly how page level targeting works.

Depending on how long they’ve browsed the page, they could be interested in the content on the page but maybe haven’t found exactly what they were looking for, or for the right price. A targeted message will work wonders and increase your conversion rate significantly.

I’ll show examples of the different messages later on in the post where we’ll have a look at the different ways to use exit intent.

You can check out this post on how to create segments in Google Analytics.


  • Group your visitors into different segments and then target specific campaigns based on these segments.
  • Possible segments: First-time visitors, vs returning customers; visitors in the early stage of the buying process vs. visitors in the later stages; subscribers vs. non-subscribers.
  • Page-level targeting: Target visitors based on what pages they are on when they try to leave.

Now that you understand your visitors and you’ve segmented them accordingly, you can begin to consider the purpose of your exit intent form and how you want to incentivise your visitors.

Getting high-quality email leads doesn’t need to be an uphill battle… Discover how one retailer increased their email list with 17% with one simple change. Learn more

How to use exit intent

The content of your exit intent form is what convinces your visitors to convert. Whether it’s into newsletter subscribers, paying customers, etc., this is your golden moment where you need to give them value.

You should customize your message according to the purpose of your exit intent form. There are a number of different ways in which you can provide value to your visitors. Always give your visitors an incentive to convert. You’re basically asking them to give you their email address or buy something, so you need to offer them something in return.

Let’s take a look at the different ways in which to use exit intent.

Abandoning cart visitors

In 2015, the average rate of cart abandonment was 68%. That is two thirds of your visitors who add items to their cart just to leave it again and never return.

Offering your visitors a discount code at this step could prove valuable because they are interested in your products but might not be completely convinced yet.

Here’s an example of an exit intent popup from Cocomi offering abandoning visitors a discount code.

Best practice for abandoned cart popups:

  •  Offer to call your visitors. Something prevented them from executing their purchase, so help them out with that obstacle.
  • Start a live chat. Same reason as above. It’s an easy way to help visitors get answers to their questions in a quick and effective manner.
  • Offer a discount code as Cocomi does.
  • When you offer them a discount, you should send the email right away. Add them to an automated email flow that checks whether or not they have made a purchase.
  • Only show your exit intent popup once per session.

The survey

Another way of getting value from your visitors is to get them to complete a short survey.

In this example from Italiarail that I also used in the beginning of the post, you can see how that’s done.

Italiarail offers their visitors a discount in return for answering a few questions. Depending on what questions you ask in your survey, you can use these answers to optimize your website, your products, or your overall user experience.

Best practice for survey popups:

  • Don’t ask your visitors more than 3 questions. Answering more questions will be more time-consuming and the purpose of using an exit intent popup is to convert visitors quickly and efficiently.
  • Be careful when you offer a discount code in return for answering a survey. You might not get high-quality answers because visitors can get the discount by just writing nonsense and not even reading your questions. If you send them to a landing page, you can look at time on site to reach your goal. Time on site will indicate how much time they spent on the survey. If it’s really fast you have to include it as spam.
  • Test landing page vs. direct feedback in your popup. Set a goal for your landing page so you can see the conversion rate.
  • As an e-commerce store, you should definitely have an exit intent survey popup on your receipt page. They’ve already made a purchase, and it’s a much easier way to ask for their experience than getting them to answer an email. You can use radio buttons where they can rate their experience on a scale from 1-5. Always include a text field for more elaborate comments.

The newsletter

Discount codes are not the only way to incentivise your visitors. If all you want to offer them is your newsletter that’s possible to do as well.

Here, it’s important to consider how you want to present your newsletter. It should be focused on what visitors get from your newsletter instead of the newsletter itself. No one wants to receive a newsletter without any value in it. So focus on that value.

This optin form from Experience UX is triggered on exit intent. The focus of this form is the value of the newsletter. They don’t offer a discount or any free stuff, they simply “sell” their newsletter to visitors by focusing on the value of the newsletter “Get advice & tips from top UX leaders in our monthly UX Insider interviews”.

However, I don’t like the “subscribe” CTA. Here, they should have focused on the value again and for instance written “Get my insider tips”.

Best practice with newsletter popups:

  • Try to use humor. We’ve seen really good results when our customers have used humor in their popups. Remember, though, to include an incentive to get them to sign up.
  • You can, for instance, create an exit intent popup for searches where no results were found.
  • Remember to exclude existing newsletter signups from your newsletter popups.

Re-engage abandoning visitors

By re-engaging your abandoning visitors, you increase your chances of a conversion. If visitors choose to stay on your site for longer after they were about to leave, you know that they are interested and more inclined to convert.

If you want to re-engage your abandoning visitors, you can ask them to check out one of your newest arrivals and re-direct them to that page.

This example from B&O Play is not an exit intent triggered campaign, however, it illustrates how you can re-direct your visitors to another page by introducing a new product.

Instead of introducing the product the way B&O has, you can create a message more similar to the one Cocomi has used such as: Hey! Before you leave… Have you checked out our newest arrival? And then a sentence about why they should check it out.

This type of content would be suitable for visitors who have browsed a specific type of product on your site, but may not have found what they were looking for.

There could be several reasons why they leave. One could be that there are too many options within that product range and it’s hard to make a decision.

If this is the case, you can guide them in the right decision by showing them a brand new product or one of your most popular products.

You can also use exit intent to offer notifications when new brands arrive. Let’s say you run an e-commerce with skiing equipment, and your visitors leave after searching for Burton snowboards without getting any results.

You can then trigger an exit intent popup where you tell your visitors that you’re working on getting Burton products on your site, and offer them to send an email notification once these products have arrived.

It saves visitors the hassle of researching different sites for that specific brand, which is valuable time they can spend on something else.

Best practice with re-engage popups:

  • Help your visitors make a decision. Show them your most popular products. We, humans, are by nature flock animals, and we want to do what others do.
  • Show your products with images in your popup. Humans process images 60.000 times faster than text.
  • If your products are quite complex, you should offer your visitors how-to guides.
  • Check your Google Analytics for landingpages with high bounce rates. Ask your visitors why they leave by creating an optin with a text field and maybe a few radio buttons. Then you can use this information to create an optimized exit intent survey.

The contact form

Another way of converting your visitors into leads is through the contact form.

If you’ve researched your visitors and found out which pages they tend to browse for a long time but then leave without taking any action, you can show them the contact form when they try to leave.

The contact form serves the purpose of offering a direct line of communication between the visitor and the company, whether that be through email or telephone.

This contact form from Airtame’s website is a good example of a contact form where visitors have the option to get in touch and schedule a meeting.

Usually, we wouldn’t recommend this many input fields. The ideal would be to get an email address and then send an email where they ask for details prior to the meeting. However, the leads that do sign up for this video chat are high-quality leads and might be a lot easier to convert into paying customers than leads who gave their email address.

Best practice with contact popups:

  • Every time you add an input field, your conversion rate decreases by 45%.
  • Include images even though it’s a contact form. The best would be to add a picture of the person who will be contacting them: “This is Anna – she will be calling you within 4 hours :-]”
  • Only ask for the information you really need for your specific purpose.
  • Always write how long it usually takes before visitors are contacted. This way they know what to expect.

The design

Your exit intent form should always be a popup. It’s your final chance to convert your visitors before they leave, so you need to catch their attention immediately.

When it comes to the design of your popup, it’s very important that it matches the design of your website.

The key is to make it as eye-catching as possible while still matching the style and theme of your website. If it doesn’t, visitors will assume that the message isn’t from you and they’ll never interact with the popup.

An example can be seen in this popup from FxPro:

Why does this one work?

The popup has bright green colors that draw your attention to it. However, it still matches the colors of the website and you can see that it was customized to match this specific site.

If you don’t know what color codes you use on your site, you can use HTML Color Codes to get the HTML color code by simply uploading a screenshot of your site.

Adding an image is always a good idea as well. It makes your popup more fun to look at while also drawing attention to it.

Exit intent popups with images convert 50% more than those without, and I’ll show you an example of that later on in the post.

We process images much faster than text, which is why your images should always support your message and product. If you run a competition, you should add an image of the item you can win as B&O Play has done in their popup.

You can also experiment with rounded edges on your popup which will make it look more smooth and not as “aggressive”. However, your exit intent is supposed to be aggressive as it is your final chance to convert your visitors.

You can also try different sizes when it comes to your exit intent form. This one is all about balance and testing, as you don’t want it to be too big, or too small. If it’s too big it might seem too “spammy”, and if it’s too small, people might not be able to read what it says.

Regarding the amount of text you add to your popup, you should always keep in mind that it shouldn’t take more than a few seconds for visitors to read it and sign up.

Keep your text to a minimum and to the point – and even more so with exit intent popups as people are on their way to leave, and you have even less time to convince them than you would have with a regular optin form.

Lastly, you should use the same fonts as you do on your website. All of these design tips and tricks are the small things that will make your form seem more relevant and convince visitors that it’s not spam.


  • Make your form as eye-catching as possible while still matching the style and theme of your website.
  • Adding an image will make your popup more fun to look at while also drawing attention.
  • Experiment with different shapes and sizes to see which convert better.
  • Keep your text to a minimum and to the point.
  • Use the same font as you do on your website.

The Call-to-action

The CTA is what makes your visitors take the plunge or not. It’s what will give your visitors that final push in the right direction and accept your offer. The CTA must tell your visitors exactly what they get when they click that button.

This is what many marketers do wrong:

They write “Sign up” or “Subscribe” in their CTA buttons.

If you want your visitors to sign up for your newsletter, don’t write “sign up” in your CTA. Your visitors are not signing up to receive your email newsletter. They sign up to get value.

The newsletter

This doesn’t mean that you have to offer them a discount or a product, it just means that you have to consider how you present your newsletter. What’s the value?

This example from Cruiseguru demonstrates my point very nicely. Notice that they don’t offer any discounts, exclusive deals, free stuff, or anything like that. The only thing they want to “sell” is their newsletter.

They do it in a way where the focus is on the value you get from their newsletter. “Want to get the latest cruise offers delivered via email?”, “Free newsletter”, “never miss a deal again!”. These sentences are full of value, and they appeal to our natural fear of missing out.

The CTA is yet another example of how they focus on the value. They tell visitors exactly what they get when they sign up – cruise deals.

They don’t deceive their visitors by not writing sign up. They just shift the focus from the newsletter to the value by being creative with their CTA.

The exclusive deal

If you offer an exclusive deal, the focus should be on that deal, and again, not on the signup or purchase.

KCAL Healthy Fast Food offers their abandoning visitors a free week on their meal plans. This deal is for new customers who subscribe to a monthly meal plan.

They focus on the fear of missing out while pointing out the amount of money you can save: “up to AED 1,363 of savings”. They’ve also included that same message in their CTA while making it personal at the same time: “Get my free week”.

But I’m not completely sold on this popup. Here’s why:

I’m missing an image of some sort in this popup. It has great colors that match the website, but it’s still very simple and a bit boring. A great option would’ve been to add an image showing some of the meals you can get in this meal plan.

Neither do they mention anything related to their product in the popup which I recommend you always do. This popup could, hypothetically, belong to any website offering a subscription based product. So always incorporate your product in your popups, whether that be through an image or text, so the popup will be perceived a lot less “spammy” because visitors will know it comes from you.

The competition

Here’s an example of a great CTA for when you offer your visitors a chance to win something.

Blacksnow offers their visitors a chance to win a $640 pair of skis, and their CTA says “YES! I WANT TO WIN THEM!”.

This CTA is great because it focuses on the value of the offer. It’s an expensive and high-quality pair of skis, and anyone interested in skiing (the majority of Blacksnow’s visitors) could easily be persuaded by this offer.

Moreover, it’s personalized by the “I” in the sentence, and it has a bright orange color that draws attention to it. Also, it’s written in capital letters, making it seem more exciting – almost as if you’re yelling it out while you click it.

This may not have been a great approach on a regular popup, but because it’s an exit intent popup it works.

Most of the previous examples I’ve given you have a single CTA button and a closing option.

Your popup should always have a closing option, and it should be visible. Some popups close down if you click somewhere outside the popup – that’s not a proper closing option.

Yes vs. No

Another option is to create two CTA buttons for your popup. A “yes” and a “no” option.

By offering your visitors two options you can emphasize that they say no to a great offer by clicking the no option. You shouldn’t just write “Yes” and “No” on the two CTAs. Be creative.

Here’s an example from Slideshop’s website:

As you can see in the example, two CTAs are provided. The “Act now” button, and then below that one, there is a less visible option that says “No Thanks. I don’t care about getting a deep discount”.

The only way to close down this popup is to either accept the offer or click the “no thanks” button. The advantage with this option, and not having a close button, is that visitors have to read the content of this popup if they want to close it down.

It’s easier to ignore the content of a popup if you can close it down by clicking an X in the corner.

You should always be creative with your negative CTAs as well as the positive. Slideshop has put focus on the fact that visitors will miss out on a significant discount if they click the “no thanks” option.

You won’t find many people who don’t care about discounts, so people will feel less susceptible to click the “no thanks” option, than if there had been an X in the corner instead.

But be careful when you create your negative CTA. There’s a fine line between being implicitly negative, and insulting your visitors.

Don’t do like Jackie Chan here. If you insult your visitors, they will never return to your site, so be careful.

With this strategy, you can guide your visitors to accept your offer. Furthermore, you can increase the visibility of the “yes” option, and decrease the visibility of the “no” option. However, don’t hide the “no” option too much so visitors can’t see it. Then they’ll just get frustrated when they can’t close it down, and they’ll end up leaving your site.

For many marketers (myself included), the call-to-action is a very complex thing. You want to be creative and fun, but you still want it to make sense and have a purpose.


  • Tell your visitors exactly what they get when they click your CTA button.
  • Don’t write “Sign up”. They sign up for value, not your newsletter.
  • Newsletter: Focus on the value of your newsletter.
  • Discount: Focus on the discount
  • Competition: Focus on what you can win.
  • Create two CTAs and force your visitors to actively say yes or no.
  • Be creative with your CTA, the more unique, the better.

Creating an effective CTA can be a balancing act, and the only way to ensure you have a good CTA on your exit intent forms is to test many different options and see which one converts more visitors.

This brings me to my next point – the importance of A/B testing.

A/B testing

As most e-commerce geeks, we love testing! It’s the best way to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

You can test every single element of your popup, such as colors, fonts, sizes, CTAs, triggers, images, and much more.

When you test, you shouldn’t test too many things at a time. The best would be to test just one thing at a time. By doing so, you will know exactly which option is the best and that it’s this precise element your visitors respond differently to.

Take for instance this example from Livingshop:

They ran an A/B split test on one of their popups to see if it would perform best with or without an image, and how big the difference would be.

The two popups are identical except the fact that one has an image and the other one doesn’t.

This is a perfect example of a split test because they only tested a single element to see how much a difference that one element would have on the conversion rate.

The results:

The one without the image had a conversion rate of  3,1%, while the one with the image converted at 5,1%. This is a 64,5% increase in signups just by changing one element.

By testing all the different elements of your popup, you can ensure that only your highest performing popups will appear on your site.

Performable (now owned by Hubspot) once tested a green vs. a red CTA button and found that the red CTA button increased their conversion rate by 21%.

Here are the two options they tested.

Again, the two forms are completely identical except the color. Remember to test your message and copy before you start testing colors. Different colors work better for different messages. Get your message right first and then test your colors.

You can never test too much. You’ll learn a valuable lesson each time you test something, and these might save you valuable time the next time you create a new popup as you will know what your visitors respond best to.

Also, there are no negative test results. If you run a test that doesn’t show a huge difference in conversion rate, it just means that those two options are equally good. Then you should try changing one of them and see if that get’s you a higher or lower conversion rate.

If your tests on one single element keep showing no difference between the two options, it just means that this particular element doesn’t have a big effect on your audience, and you can move on to test another element that might be more important and have a greater effect on your conversion rate.


  • You can test every single element of your popup, such as colors, fonts, sizes, CTAs, triggers, images, and much more.
  • Don’t test too many things at a time. I recommend testing just one or two things.
  • Add images. Exit intent popups with images convert 50% more than those without.
  • When an exit intent form doesn’t convert very well, change something and see if that makes a difference.
  • You can never test too much! There are always things to improve.


Tracking your results is key when you work with optins – not just exit intent but all optins.

You probably already track results on your website to see which of your pages are most popular and what content your visitors are most interested in.

You should definitely do the same with your popups. Tracking is very much related to A/B testing. The tracking enables you to see the results of your tests and all other results your popups might produce such as when your conversion peak happens.

Take this example:

By looking at this statistic you can easily see when the conversion rate is at its highest, and in GA you can dive even deeper into the data, and see what time of the day you get most conversions and adjust your optins accordingly.

Sleeknote automatically transfers all your data to Google Analytics so you can monitor your progress. We’ve even created a Sleeknote dashboard in Google Analytics to make it a lot easier for you to navigate your Sleeknote data and see how your different popups perform.

How to set it up

Setting up an exit-intent form is quite simple. I’ve created a quick how-to video for you here:

If you want to test two different exit-intent forms to see which works best, you can set up a split test. Here’s a short video of how you set up a split test with Sleeknote:

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Wrap up

Exit intent technology is a true contender when it comes to capturing leads on your website. Adding the exit intent to your site can increase your conversion rate significantly and help you convert abandoning visitors before they leave.

To put it simply, it’s the Robin to your Batman. Whenever your website can’t convert your visitors, the exit intent will step in and help you out.

It might seem overwhelming with all the preparation you need to do, but in reality, it doesn’t take that long, and once you’ve done your preparation once, you will have learned so much, and you’ll save that extra prep time the next time you create an exit intent form.

Always keep your visitors in mind when you create any optin. The forms are there to get you value, but in the end, it’s up to your visitors whether or not they choose to offer you that value.

There isn’t much more to say besides – get started!

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