Marketing popups: user experience experts hate them but marketers love ‘em. Almost half of web users find them to be annoying, mostly because they ARE annoying. Who needs to be confirmshamed into getting 10% off free shipping on your next order? Not us.

And yet, it seems like every single website has some sort of pop-up urging you to sign up for their newsletter, offers, more info, or whatever they’re pushing that day. And of course, that’s because they get results–marketing popups can grow subscriber lists by 40% or more.

On a recent visit to sephora.com we ran across a particularly aggressive form of marketing pop-up.

Account signup popup on sephora.com

Sephora has evidently decided to just go HAM on marketing pop-ups. They aren’t just asking for your email address – they’re going all in and asking you to create an account with them. This approach is problematic for several reasons.

Think about this from the visitors’ perspective: if they have just landed on your site, how do they know whether they want to share their info with you? They haven’t even had time to look at the site! Also, most web users assume–and not unreasonably–that they are going to get spammed any time they hand over their email address to a marketer.

This gets to an important issue for business owners: list quality. How many of the email addresses in your marketing list are “throwaway accounts” that exist solely for marketing messages? Sure, you’re sending out messages to thousands of potential customers, but how many of those message are even being seen? Low-quality mailing lists won’t do much for your outreach efforts.

But back to Sephora. Let’s see what happens if you’re crazy enough to enter your email address and click “Continue.”

step two of the account signup popup on sephora.com

Holy Toledo! Now they want your first and last name, phone number, zip code, and birthdate. And in case you’re wondering, birthdate is NOT optional.

That’s a whole lot of information, and they didn’t even give us an upfront offer as enticement. No 10% off, no free shipping, nada.

Perhaps this works for Sephora. We’d be very interested in seeing their conversion rates on this. Fortunately, Sephora has shown a shred of restraint by not hammering their mobile visitors with this signup form. It’s pretty well known that people dislike forms on mobile devices so this most likely wouldn’t generate great results on mobile.

The takeaway here is that moderation is key. It’s not necessarily a problem to ask your visitors to sign up for a newsletter. But don’t push too hard or you risk turning folks away before they even look at your offerings. This is particularly important for small and medium businesses. Big companies can get away with a lot more than smaller ones: sephora.com averages around five million visitors per month. So even if only 0.5% of their visitors sign up, that’s still 25,000 new accounts per month.

Small businesses rely much more on trust and personal interactions when dealing with their customers. It’s more important to build relationships with your customers–that’s what keeps them coming back. If you decide to use marketing popups on your site to solicit contact information or request feedback be thoughtful about timing and placement. In the long run you’ll get better results and have happier customers.

Matt Rife

About Matt Rife

Matt has worked on both sides of the tech/design divide. He started his career in IT and worked as a sysadmin and business analyst for more than 10 years before discovering the wonderful world of design. Now he mostly does UX design while dabbling in code and operating systems in his spare time.