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Pop‑Up Form Copywriting for Online Retailers

Here’s how you can get more subscribers, even if you don’t offer a discount incentive.

Illustration of man holding pencil

Pop-up forms. Love them or hate them, they’re well-known to drive email signups, which is why so many online retailers use them. But writing copy for them isn’t easy! You know they’re a bit of a nuisance and you want to acknowledge that, but you also want your website visitors to sign up for your email list despite the slight annoyance. How do you convey all that in just a few lines of text?

We’ve written previously about best practices when adding a pop-up form to your website. In that post, we included examples of pop-up forms that were well-written, nicely designed, and offered a compelling reason to join a list. In this post, I compiled the pros and cons of different kinds of pop-up forms.

Because so many online shop owners wonder if they have to provide a discount or some type of incentive in order to get people to join a list, I divided these pros and cons based on whether they offered a discount (or some other form of incentive)—or just asked politely for people to join without offering anything. I also detailed some ways you can incorporate these lessons into writing your own pop-up forms calls to action.

Pop-Up Form Writing Best Practices

1. Discounts + free shipping

Offering a discount is probably the easiest—and most popular—way to get people to join your list. The most common discount offers seem to be 10% off your first order or free shipping. Some retailers go as high as 15% off the first purchase or offer a flat dollars-off discount.



  • People sometimes join just to get the discount, then unsubscribe
  • You have to discount your merchandise

2. Free gift with purchase

Offering a free gift to be included with a customer’s purchase is another way to add value to subscribing to an email list. The free gift is usually something small that doesn’t add too much to shipping cost. For example, a skincare brand might include a free facial mask with each purchase, or a stationery brand might throw in free stickers.


  • A gift adds tangible value to being on the list
  • The gift doesn’t have to cost you that much
  • Unlike offering discounts and free shipping, you have much more control over the cost of this giveaway


  • Hard to quickly communicate the value of the free gift (what is it, exactly?)

3. Free download

A handful of retailers offer a downloadable freebie as an incentive for joining an email list. This is less common in the e-commerce space as it is in the services space, but we’re beginning to see more retailers offer PDFs as email signup bonuses. Some examples include: recipes, checklists, calendars, and worksheets.


  • Except for the time it takes to create it, you’re not cutting into your bottom line by giving away content


  • It’s hard to communicate the value of a free PDF in just a few lines of copy
  • Some customers don’t think free information is as valuable as discounts or free stuff

4. Staying up-to-date (or “no incentive”)

Some retailers just don’t want to offer an incentive for joining the list. That’s OK! You don’t have to use discounts, freebies, or giveaways when you ask people to join your mailing list. If you don’t offer anything as an incentive for joining, you still need to communicate the value of being on your email list.

Some of these intangibles might be:

  • Future discounts
  • First access to sales
  • News of events (trunk shows, sample sales, classes, pop ups, etc.)
  • Exclusive content
  • Sneak peeks on new products
  • Being part of a community


  • Doesn’t cheapen the value of your products or train people to expect to pay less, like discounts do
  • More likely to build an engaged list of people who really do want to hear from you


  • May be harder to get people to sign up without a specific offer

5. Contests + giveaways

One of my favorite email signup incentives (and one that I’m surprised I don’t see more often) is entering to win a contest or giveaway. I’ve seen this done using gift cards as well as product giveaways.


  • You control the giveaway amount and frequency, so it’s easy to budget for
  • Contests make it easy to communicate the value of joining the list


Pulling it all together: writing your pop-up copy

Once you’ve decided what your incentive is, you need to figure out how to write it into your pop-up copy. I noticed 2 ways retailers tend to do this: making the incentive your headline, or incorporating it into the secondary copy.

Most retailers that had tangible incentives made that incentive their headline.

For example:

  • Enter to win a $2,500 gift card
  • Get 10% off your first order
  • Free shipping

When those incentives are the first thing you read in big, bold letters, you immediately get the value of joining the list, and you’re probably less likely to click away.

This is difficult to do when you’re not offering a tangible goodie. In the examples above from companies that were not offering a discount, gift, freebie, or contest entry, the intangibles (early access, sale notifications, etc.) were usually mentioned in the secondary copy, not the headline. The headlines were reserved for more direct calls to action (“Join Our Newsletter”), or branded greetings (“Hello, Friend,” “The Party is in Your Inbox”).

Example of discount-based pop-up copy

Use your incentive in your headline.

  • Headline (contains incentive): Get 10% off your first order.
  • Secondary copy: Plus updates on sales, new products, and in-store events when you join our email list.
  • Button copy: Sign up

Example of non-discount-based pop-up copy

Mention the intangible benefits in your secondary copy.

  • Headline: Hello there, friend.
  • Secondary copy (contains benefits): We’d love to send you occasional shop updates, info on sales and discounts, and party planning advice from our blog.
  • Button copy: Subscribe

Always be testing

Many of the pop-up form apps that are available for Shopify incorporate A/B copy testing as part of their suite of tools. This means you can test out copy to see which is higher converting. You can even test different incentives. (I highly recommend using the same design to test different copy so you’re comparing apples to apples.) What works well in one online shop may not work in yours, so run tests to see which incentive—and what copy—converts the most visitors from your site to your email list.

Written by Katherine Raz for Aeolidia, an official Mailchimp partner. Learn more about Aeolidia + Mailchimp in our Experts Directory.

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