How To: Online Behavioral Targeting with Personalized Lightbox Popups

personalized popups

In our last blog on Behavioral Targeting with Email, we mentioned the various ways you can use customer behavior to trigger contextual emails that boost engagement. This time around, we want to talk about online behavioral targeting with lightboxes.

Lightbox popups have been around for close to a decade now, and some marketers swear by them to boost engagement. Others are not as easily convinced. Either way, lightbox popups make up a conversion channel that is here to stay. A lightbox popup done right can feel like opening up an awesome present. When done wrong, lightbox popups can be invasive and bring clutter to the user experience.


Abandoned Cart / Preemptive Discount Offer

Abandoned carts are the most popular scenario for online behavioral targeting. A user adds an item to their cart, and moves to other pages on your website or stops shopping. Brenthaven worked with Boomtrain to implement a personalized lightbox offer for customers who had abandoned their carts during a browsing session that soon began to account for close to 5% of their revenue.

online behavioral targetingImage: Brenthaven’s Newsletter Signup Motivation

Customers on their website received a lightbox offering a 10% discount when they were in their cart along with personalized messages reminding them about their purchase along with a coupon code for a discount. This prevented cart abandonment by removing the problem at the source: by offering an incentive before a customer could abandon the cart.


Relevant Resource Downloads

Online behavioral targeting is not about offering a resource to a customer without any context. Most customers are preconditioned to click on the ‘x’ button of your popup anyway. The more contextual the popup, higher the chances of a customer being interested in the sound of the content and parting with information to download it (unless they don’t have to part with any information at all)

online behavioral targeting

Gamerant and Boomtrain explored creating a contextual popup for customers who were interested in content about a particular game. For their hugely popular content on the Fallout 4 series, Game Rant created a downloadable freebie called “Fallout 4 Survival Guide.” They then offered this freebie to visitors who landed on any content about Fallout 4 and stayed/read the page for at least 30 seconds. Prior to using the personalized lightbox, Gamerant was getting about 30 sign-ups per day. Using this targeted method (which loaded on far fewer pages) they were able to increase sign-ups by 3-4x.


Location Based Targeting

Yes, sometimes it can be a little creepy when ads and popups on browsers know exactly where you are. Personalization is great most of the time, but when it gets to your location it can be a little ‘too personal.’ However, since on most computers you use today, location tracking is an inevitability, the least that websites can do is use this information wisely, to provide value to customers.


For online behavioral targeting on eCommerce stores in specific, this is a great way to filter your audience directly, informing them about the shipping options they have available before they move further into your conversion funnel only to be disappointed later. Gilt’s popup clearly clarifies that they deliver to the customer’s country and encourage them to move further along the funnel.


First Website Visit

Although personally, my least popular form of online behavioral targeting, the website entry popup continues to be an essential way for websites to pitch their offers to customers. The advantages of generating a lightbox as soon as the customer lands on the web page is that you have their entire attention then. The downside is that the customer may not be ready yet to interact with your brand and share information with them. Also, you can’t personalize much at this stage. But you do know that you have a brand new visitor. So what do you do in this situation?

online behavioral targeting

Glasses USA uses your first visit to their website to make a great, valuable first impression. The website calls out that it is your first visit, and uses the opportunity to make you an offer you can’t refuse. A 50% discount on a pair of frames. This way, as a customer you’ve just been given motivation to find an amazing pair of frames that you love, because you know you’re getting a 50% discount anyway.


The other awesome thing that Glasses USA does is to keep the popup ad persistent, at a reduced size once you close the popup (as many customers probably do) This persistence helps you in case you closed the popup in a hurry or without reading the entire content – and makes a lasting impression even if you did.


Content View + Aggregation + Saving

One of the least popular lightboxes I’ve ever seen, yet something that I believe has the potential to be useful across a plethora of websites – especially content aggregators or research tools – is the ability to save a particular page for its product or content. The offer by a website to save your content while you research resources is something that could be very useful if you are researching multiple options across the website.

online behavioral targeting

Image: ArchDaily uses online behavioral targeting to generate a popup when a user visits a particular architecture project. The popup offers to save this project on signup when the user shows signs of leaving the website or moving to the next project, offering a simple social sign-in to begin saving. Valuable? Yes. Original? Yes. Ten points to arch daily.


Guest Browsing

Not all customers want to sign up to your service, especially to eCommerce portals. If you offer a guest browsing option on your website, there will certainly be some takers. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use online behavioral targeting to reach out to guest browsers and convince them to sign in. Ideally, there should be a valuable offer as well.

screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-19-50-33 targets users browsing guest sessions with an appeal to them to share their information and sign in to the website. The popup is a bit invasive, asking for and sharing altogether too much information and offering little of value in return, but the behavior it targets is spot on.

Online Behavioral Targeting Lightbox Checklist

If you’re planning to set up online behavioral targeting using personalized lightboxes then here are a few parameters you should make sure your lightbox of choice has to offer.

Current Page URL.

This field determined the pages on which the Lightbox would show up. The most simple way to use this field is by choosing a particular term that the URL must contain, like say ‘mobile’ so that the lightbox popups anytime the term appears in a URL the customer visits.

Total Seconds on Page.

This is a good way to gauge the user’s interest level and contextuality before sending a piece of information or an offer across to a user. Most times, waiting until the user has spent a considerable amount of time on the page can be a better way to maintain context.

Display Until.

You can usually make a Lightbox to stop appearing in either of the following two cases: a) the visitor closed the Lightbox, or b) the visitor subscribed. This feature can save you from annoying any readers who had already subscribed or who weren’t interested.

Device Type. With a lightbox like Boomtrain Lightbox which allows device-level targeting, you could use online behavioal targeting to show a personalized lightbox pop-up only to the visitors who visited using their desktops or laptops, and display a more mobile-friendly design variation for mobile devices.

Max Displays Per Session. By using the maximum displays per session rule, you can restrict the displaying of the Lightbox to just once per user session. This prevents users from seeing a popup again and again or having to close the same content repeatedly, which is a definite no no for a good user experience.

A/B Testing

Unfortunately, not all lightboxes are created equal. Just like A/B testing emails allows you to use online behavioral targeting to show different design or subject line variations of the same email to your audiences and determine the best, lightbox tools too must have an A/B testing option so you can see which designs and layouts work best to convert users.



Any personalized lightbox solution must offer a good degree of analytics to end users. Being able to see the number of clicks, closes, submissions and conversions is essential. Device based analytics and geography based analytics can also help you improve how you use online behavioral targeting to personalize lightboxes.

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