Conversion Rate Optimization

How to Use Opt-In Pop-Ups to Grow Your SMS Marketing List

May 14, 2021
Melanie Angel

SMS marketing is efficient and effective, but you need a list to market to first! Learn how to create high-converting pop-ups that maximize SMS opt-ins and collect more phone numbers.

When your phone buzzes, do you open the notification right away?

Odds are, if that notification is for a text message, the answer is yes.

Text message marketers commonly cite the statistic “90% of text messages are opened within 3 minutes of receiving them” as proof of the power of SMS, a power that more and more marketing teams are tapping into.

Business text message traffic jumped 10% in 2020, and it seems to be paying off. In fact, Omnisend reported a 102% year-over-year increase in SMS conversion rates in 2020.

So what’s next for SMS marketing in 2021? Well, according to Attentive’s SMS Marketing Benchmarks Report, list growth is top-of-mind for text message marketers in 2021.

Promoting your opt-in keyword on social media and in-store is a great way to grow your list, but with more shopping taking place online, your site provides the perfect opportunity to kick your SMS list growth up a notch (or two). Brands use opt-in pop-ups to grow their text message marketing list quickly by grabbing site visitors' attention and inviting them to subscribe.

sms opt-in popup with discount
An example of a pop-up used for capturing mobile numbers.

With a well-designed opt-in pop-up, SMS list growth becomes much easier.

In this post, we’ll cover the following:

  1. How to Design a Mobile-Friendly SMS Pop-Up
  2. How to Set up the Targeting and Timing Conditions for Your Pop-Up
  3. How to Increase SMS Opt-Ins with Advanced Pop-Up Features
  4. How to Ensure Your Opt-In Pop-Ups Don’t Hurt Your Site’s User Experience

 Ready to start? Put your phone on silent, and let’s get to work!

How to Design Your SMS Opt-In Pop-Up

Whether you’re new to SMS marketing or your onsite pop-ups need a makeover, keep these guidelines in mind as you create your SMS pop-up.

1. Choose your form factor.

There are several types of pop-ups, varying in size, on-screen location, behavior, and level of intrusiveness.

While placement options and naming conventions may vary across pop-up builders, the Digioh screenshot below shows where each type of form appears on your site.

choose from lightbox, sidebar, banner, and inline form factors for your sms opt-ins
Digioh's Wizard allows you to find the right form template with ease, giving you the option to choose templates for lightboxes, sidebars, banners, and inline forms.

Digioh’s Theme Wizard provides pop-up templates of each type to get you started, or you can create the pop-up of your choice from scratch.

As you decide what type of pop-up to use, consider the benefits and drawbacks of each:

Banner (Bar)

Banners allow you to promote opt-ins in a static bar at the top or bottom of the page. These small bars remain in place as the visitor scrolls, making them an effective way to convey important information. While eCommerce sites often use banners to communicate free shipping information, you can also use them to promote your SMS communication.


These boxes appear in the center of the screen, commanding your visitors’ attention. Visitors must close lightboxes to continue browsing the site, making them more intrusive than other types of pop-ups. When used tactfully, they can grow your list effectively.

Sidebar (Sliding Box)

Sidebars slide in from the side of the page. The sliding movement captures visitor attention without being intrusive, providing a good balance between conversions and user experience.

Inline Forms

Inline forms appear embedded within your site content. While these aren’t technically pop-ups, you can use these forms in addition to pop-ups so visitors who close your pop-ups can opt in when they’re ready.

2. Offer value in exchange for their mobile number.

If you’re promoting your SMS communication on your site, you should be able to offer something in return for signing up. This offer will vary by vertical:

  • Retail and Restaurant brands often promise access to the latest deals, as well as a bonus coupon for signing up.
  • eCommerce merchants also promote deals, though sometimes they provide additional value by asking visitors to take a quiz that provides product recommendations in exchange for their email or mobile number.
  • Nonprofit or advocacy organizations may offer the latest updates on relevant issues, pending legislation, or local events. If your organization works on Get out the Vote (GOTV) initiatives, you can also invite visitors to sign up to receive updates on key dates in the voting calendar.
  • Media brands might offer breaking news updates, early access to event tickets, or updates when there’s a new contest to enter.

Once you lock down your value, it’s time to convey it to your site visitors.

3. Write a compelling Call-to-Action (CTA).

Keep your main message brief. Get to the point, and communicate the value of signing up for text updates before visitors close out your pop-up. For example:

  • Get 10% off your first order when you sign up for text updates.
  • Sign up for text alerts, and save 10%.
  • Join us! Get weekly campaign updates sent to your phone.
  • Be the first to know about our latest deals. Sign up now!

4. Stand out, but stay on-brand.

To many visitors, giving out a mobile number feels more personal than signing up for an email list. Establish trust by keeping your pop-up design in tune with your site’s branding.

lightbox cta for a clothing ecommerce website
This lightbox matches the feel of the rest of the site, keeping things on-brand.

A pop-up that’s poorly-designed or doesn’t fit your site may appear spammy to visitors, making them less likely to sign up.

The best way to grow your list is with a fully-custom pop-up that complies with your brand guidelines, including fonts, colors, and images. If the pop-up tool or templates included with your SMS or email platform don't provide the flexibility you need, it may be worth considering a dedicated pop-up solution with more customization options.

5. Make sure your opt-in forms are mobile-friendly.

If site visitors are opting into communication sent to their mobile device, you can assume many are opting in while using that mobile device.

To convert your mobile visitors, follow mobile design best practices as you create your opt-in forms. Use responsively-designed forms, or create a targeted, mobile-only form to show your mobile visitors.

sms list growth pop-up following mobile design best practices
This pop-up example is designed for mobile devices.

Also, make sure the form fields and buttons are appropriately sized and spaced so visitors can comfortably complete the form on their phones.

Once you create your pop-up, test it on multiple devices and mobile browsers to ensure they appear as you intended.

6. Add the appropriate compliance language to all SMS forms.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) requires businesses to collect “express written consent” from recipients before sending them automated promotional texts.

You can collect this consent with a web form, but only if you include the language required to maintain compliance with the TCPA, as well as compliance with guidelines set by the CTIA.

sms opt-in popup that includes compliance language at the bottom
Note that this pop-up example includes opt-in compliance language under the opt-in button.

The example pop-up above shows some sample compliance language in the bottom-right corner. Note that this example includes the purpose of text communication, sending frequency, a link to the Terms of Service, a link to the privacy policy, and information about message and data rates.

If you have an existing text message marketing program, you should have familiarized yourself with compliance by now. Marketers new to text messaging can read SimpleTexting’s SMS compliance guide to catch up on compliance, then consult with legal counsel or your in-house compliance team to ensure your opt-in paths and messaging are compliant.

7. Integrate your pop-ups with your SMS marketing platform.

Chances are, if you don’t use the built-in pop-up solution included with your SMS provider, you must set up your pop-up form to send your new opt-ins to your system.

For marketers who use form builders like Digioh, this step is usually quite simple. Digioh integrates with Postscript, Attentive, and other mobile marketing platforms to pass mobile numbers (and other user data) to your SMS solution and other marketing technology in real-time. That way, you can start engaging new users with targeted, relevant messaging right away.

Collect More SMS Opt-Ins with Timing and Targeting

Once you’ve designed your pop-up, think about where and when you want your pop-up to appear. For instance, you may have certain pages that shouldn’t trigger a pop-up, and you probably don’t want your pop-up to appear the second your page loads.

Use your pop-up builder’s targeting features to set up the conditions that trigger your opt-in pop-up for best performance.

In Digioh, the targeting and trigger conditions look like this:

conditions editor that displays opt-in pop-up form on mouse exit

The above example shows the targeting configuration for a checkout abandonment pop-up that appears when a visitor moves their mouse out of the browser window.

Timing is everything.

If you display a pop-up the millisecond a visitor arrives on your site, that visitor hasn’t even had a chance to see your site. Why would they sign up for something they don’t know about yet?

To increase conversions, allow visitors to browse your content or products for a bit, then display pop-ups at a point when visitors are more likely to opt in.

popup display conditions screenshot
Use Digioh's "total seconds on page" condition to display a pop-up after a set period of time. In this example, Digioh triggers the pop-up after 3 seconds.

Some common timing and trigger conditions include:

  • Time a visitor has spent on a particular page.
  • How far down a visitor scrolls on your page.
  • Number of pages the visitor has viewed in the current browsing section.

Digioh’s targeting conditions include each of these, as well as cookie values, page content, and other advanced options.

Prevent site abandonment with exit-intent pop-ups.

Another common pop-up tactic is to target visitors who are about to leave the site. With an exit-intent pop-up, you can set your pop-ups to display as a visitor moves the cursor out of the browser window, indicating that they may be navigating to a new site.

eCommerce sites often use exit-intent pop-ups to prevent shoppers from abandoning their carts before checkout. These sites typically offer abandoning visitors a discount in exchange for their email address or mobile number.

This exit-intent pop-up prevents cart abandonment.

That way, even if shoppers don’t complete their purchase, the brand can still market to them with abandoned cart emails and targeted text messaging.

Target site visitors by location.

If you only send text message marketing to your American audience, target site visitors in the US with SMS opt-in pop-ups. That way, when visitors from other countries view your site, you can target them with email signups instead.

You can also take it one step further and target visitors by default browser language to show pop-ups in their native language.

digioh conditions to show multilingual opt-in pop ups
Use default browser language targeting to show pop-ups in a visitor's preferred language.

This is especially helpful for brands or organizations that send SMS updates in multiple languages.

When in doubt, A/B test your forms.

The right pop-up configuration can help you grow your list more effectively, but just what is the right configuration?

While every site’s audience is different, A/B and multivariate tests can help you optimize your pop-ups for conversion. Experiment with timing, as well as design, to find out what configuration best grows your list.

Drive SMS List Growth with These Advanced Tactics

You’ve got a great pop-up. Your SMS list is taking off. Now, it’s time to take your conversion rates into high-gear. If your pop-up solution provides these advanced opt-in features, watch the video below, or keep reading for a few tactics to try.

Make it easier to opt in on mobile devices with frictionless, one-tap opt-ins.

The easier it is to opt into your messaging, the more likely interested users are to complete the opt-in process. Responsive, mobile-friendly forms are a good start, but you can make things even simpler. One-tap simple.

sms optin pop-up with a one-tap signup button

With one-tap opt-in buttons, visitors can opt into your SMS communication without having to fill out a form at all. When visitors tap the button on this pop-up, it automatically populates an opt-in text in their phone’s native text messaging app. All users have to do is hit “send” on that message, and they opt into your text messages.

Create progressive forms to maximize both email and SMS opt-ins.

If you already display pop-ups on your site to capture email addresses, adding SMS opt-ins into the mix raises a few questions. Should you ditch the email pop-ups? Should you prioritize SMS over email? How can you grow your SMS subscribers without sacrificing email list growth?

With progressive multi-step forms, you can collect both.

two-step signup form that uses progressive capture to collect emails and mobile numbers
This two-step pop-up captures the email on the first page, then asks for a mobile number on the second.

The first page of this pop-up collects and submits the email address, then a second page invites the visitor to sign up for SMS updates. Even if visitors don’t complete the second page, you still get the email address collected on the first page, giving you a connection to visitors after they leave your site.

Use progressive forms to connect with your visitors on multiple channels, or capture additional data that you can use to personalize your communication, such as location or product preferences.

Use dynamic pop-ups to increase the relevance of your offers.

Digioh customers find that personalized pop-ups can increase conversions by up to 7x!

One way to make your pop-ups more personal is by using dynamic content to tailor pop-up content to the page visitors are currently viewing.

dynamic content popup example
This image displays dynamic CTAs and images based on content the shopper is currently browsing.

For example, if a shopper is viewing women’s athletic shoes, you can display pop-ups with images of running shoes and copy that invites visitors to “sign up for the latest deals on women’s athletic shoes.”

For businesses with many in-person locations, such as retailers or restaurants, using dynamic content to show promotions specific to a visitor’s local store can also increase the relevance of the messaging, potentially making visitors more likely to convert.

Growing Your Text Marketing List with Good User Experiences

Remember: while list growth is important, you shouldn’t sacrifice usability for a few extra mobile numbers! Here are a few extra tips to maintain a good user experience for website visitors:

  • Suppress pop-ups for subscribers. When visitors come to your site from a link in your text message, you can anti-target the tracking parameters in your SMS URLs to prevent subscribers from seeing a pop-up promoting the list they’ve already joined.
  • Limit the number of times a pop-up appears in a browsing session. If visitors have to close the same pop-up multiple times in a session, it’s annoying at best. At worst, they may leave your site and shop elsewhere.
  • Don’t bombard visitors with pop-ups. SMS opt-ins. Email pop-ups. Free shipping notifications. Coupons. Timed offers. eCommerce sites have plenty to promote, but these promotions won’t convert if they trip over each other. Use your targeting options to promote the most relevant messages for each user, and test your targeting to ensure your user experience doesn’t miss the mark.

The TL;DR for Better Opt-In Forms

Too busy marketing to read this whole post? We get it. So if nothing else, here are the key takeaways you need to create high-converting pop-ups that grow your SMS list.

  1. Offer value in exchange for opting in, and clearly convey this value in your CTA.
  2. Design a mobile-friendly pop-up that matches your site’s branding.
  3. Don’t forget your compliance language!
  4. Use timing and targeting options to capture visitor attention at the moment they’re most likely to convert.
  5. A/B test your forms to see what works best.
  6. Increase opt-ins with progressive forms and dynamic content.
  7. Maintain a good user experience; your customers deserve it!

Digioh’s drag-and-drop pop-up builder allows text message marketers to create fully-custom, targeted SMS opt-in forms that maximize conversions while maintaining a great customer experience for your audience. To learn how you can grow your SMS and email lists with Digioh, talk to us!

Melanie Angel
Marketing Manager
Melanie is a marketing manager at Digioh. When she's not doing the B2B SaaS marketing thing, you can probably find her watching soccer, playing skeeball, or seeing a show. She lives in Austin, TX, with her 0 pets and 1 guitar.

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