What is the optimal amount of time to wait before displaying an e-mail address capture modal (like the one below) to first-time visitors after they land on an e-commerce site? Does it depend on site-specific factors, or are there general best practices?

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    From a UX point of view, the optimal time is 'never'. Don't throw pop-ups in their face when they haven't requested it. Find a better way of getting this information from the user instead - make it part of their browsing journey "Why not sign up and get a 40% off discount" as a panel on-screen while they're browsing relevant sections of the site. – JonW Nov 6 '14 at 14:39
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    We have tested showing a modal, not showing a modal, and showing something passive like you suggest. Overall sales are highest with the modal, so while it may not be ideal for UX, it is best for the business. The goal is to show it at a time when people are most interested in the offer without losing customers. – Kevin Borders Nov 6 '14 at 14:44
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    Well yes, but hitting people over the head with a hammer and asking them for money is more successful than just asking them for money. It's not going to win you any friends though. But in response to your actual question - there is no optimal time to show an ad. You cannot know that after 25 seconds they are primed to see ads. But you can tell when they may be more succeptible based on their journey around the site. If they go into a 'Promotions' section for instance then you can make an assumption that it's because they want to see promotions, or when they hit 'subscribe' too. – JonW Nov 6 '14 at 14:58
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    I agree with JonW. And with the information you added in the comments, you just changed it into a marketing question. An off topic side note: I think most of us like answering questions here because we like to make the world a better place for users, not businesses. – Ruudt Nov 6 '14 at 14:58
  • That view is a bit short-sighted. If more people end up purchasing a product that they want at a lower price, then everyone wins. Presenting a valuable proposition that many customers accept in a prominent location is arguably good for the entire user experience even though it may interrupt the immediate action. – Kevin Borders Nov 6 '14 at 15:33

There is no "best" time for anything out of context. As others have suggested, this is the kind of thing you should test.

A quick Google search shows the potential for wide variety of results:

Unbounce - Get Subscribers from Popups

The best time to show a pop-up is 60 seconds after your visitors enter your site.

How to raise your email opt-in rate: three CRO case studies on overlays

...the 15-second timing won, beating 30-seconds by 11% and beating 45-second timing by 50%

ConversionXL - In defense of Popups

When it comes to testing timing of big ass overlays - data from SumoMe shows that with their users find that the best time by far is 5 seconds.


The optimal time to show an email subscription popup will be specific to your users and your landing page.

While existing tests and "best practices" may provide a helpful framework for testing methodologies, optimal results will only be arrived at through testing.

  • Sounds like it's most likely somewhere between 5 and 60 seconds, which is a wide range but at least a starting point. Thanks! – Kevin Borders Nov 6 '14 at 20:45
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    I think a better place to start might be your time on page (ToP) metric. Take the example average ToP of 10sec. Most users are not going to be around to see a popup at 60sec. A popup at 3sec will be seen by most visitors, but that group will contain visitors who might have left after 5sec because they're not interested. A popup at 13sec will be seen be fewer visitors, but those visitors have shown sufficient interest to stick around for longer than average. – dennislees Nov 6 '14 at 21:17
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    Thinking about this further, the best solution would be a variable one. That is, the time of the popup depends on factors, e.g. referrer. You could segment your traffic by referrer and deliver popups accordingly. i.e. quickly hit the low quality search traffic with a popup before it drops off, but wait longer to hit the higher quality (more interested) internal traffic or traffic from highly relevant external sites, giving them time to consume the content and confirm their interest. – dennislees Nov 6 '14 at 21:33

Poor context = poor UX

Yes, the pop-up looks like an advertisement. Yes, knee-jerk adverse reactions are to be expected. That is because most ads are not relevant and serve as a disruption/distraction: they are in poor context.

The optimal time is when it is relevant and beneficial to the user.

Showing an initially irrelevant screen is raising the barrier to entry. It is crucial to make a good impression the first few seconds of a visit. If you slap them with an AD, that is going to be the impression you leave. It is alot like speed dating.

Check out an article about banner blindness and how leveraging the users flow can result in a $300mm button.

One solution might be to leverage a checkout process. You have an engaged user, simply ask them to opt-in (or opt-out) in the checkout process. This way you have you lead who is already sold on the idea.

Another solution might be to place it on the page with a useful CTA.

While the simple answer is context, the exact answer will be test results.

Optimizely is a great tool for conducting multivariate tests.

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