There's no great mystery here. An overlay is simply a way of presenting a personalised message to your customers to encourage a specific action, usually triggered by defined rules and on-site customer behaviour. 

Your overlays should offer value and encourage progression through the customer journey to help drive conversions. Get them right and they can be extremely effective in achieving your objectives - whether it's sign-ups, sales or social sharing. 

Ensuring your overlay enhances the customer experience is the first step to success. It's also important to think of your overlay as an 'extension of your web page' so they appear integral to the customer journey and your brand. 

With peak sale season fast approaching, we have asked our optimisation team to choose their 'best use of overlay' and why:

1. Going So Soon, Hang On

A furniture website overlay.

As 98% of customers leave a site without purchasing, a significant proportion of these will leave without a trace. All is not lost. One of the most effective ways to use an overlay is when a customer shows intent to leave your website. The content served in this kind of overlay depends on where a customer is within the customer journey. The Fitness Superstore example below is triggered as the customer goes to leave the site and offers a newsletter sign up for access to valuable content in exchange for the customer's email address. Whatever you offer, always test the message to understand what drives maximum conversions. 

2. Build your email list 

An newsletter sign up overlay.

You don't have to wait for a customer to leave your site before you trigger your overlay. You can configure your overlay to appear at a set amount of time after a customer lands on your site, presenting an offer that persuades your customers to part with their data. This is  an essential part of the customer journey if you want to build a targeted email list of customers to nurture through to purchase. As illustrated above, one of the most effective visit capture overlay messages is a newsletter sign up. Just list the key benefits of signing up -  special offers, new product launches, pre-sale announcements or best practise guides so customers can see what's in it for them. The Space.NK example below illustrates this. 

3. Make Me an Offer I Can't Refuse 

An image of an overlay offering a 10% discount.

Many of our clients see great results when using overlays to promote a special offer. An offer (discount or non-discount such as free delivery) can be extremely effective in improving conversions and capturing data. As the Fragrance Direct example below illustrates, offering a 5% discount in return for a customer's email address is pretty compelling. It's important to note here that offers aren't always favoured by ecommerce businesses keen not to eat into precious margin. Sophisticated overlay technology will be able to predict user purchase propensity. This means that a discount is only offered when the data implies a customer is unlikely to convert without an offer incentive, protecting your margins. 

4. Offer to Send a Customer Their Basket 

An overlay offering to save a cart for a later date.

Overlays can be extremely effective further down the purchase funnel. You can use an overlay to reduce cart abandonment and encourage purchases by offering to send your customer their cart. There are numerous reasons a customer abandons their purchase. They may plan to return and complete their purchase later or from another device. So an overlay offering to send their basket by email promotes a positive and helpful customer service. It also provides that nudge they might need to encourage that click back to complete their purchase at a more convenient time and without the hassle of re-filling their basket. Win-win. 

This article covers just a few ways that overlay technology can work to boost conversions on your site, and we've only scratched the surface of how this smart technology can be configured for maximum effect. As with any conversion rate optimisation campaign, it's essential that your strategy is informed by data and analytics on your customer and in line with your own business objectives. This will ensure the right message is delivered to the right person at the right time - therefore maximising conversions. 

As with any such technology, it's essential to test the various elements of your overlay campaign to optimise and see what works best to drive the results you're after. On that note, the most sophisticated overlay technology will become effortless as the entire process is automated based on customer data informed by machine learning to create a truly personalised experience. 

For more insight and best practise tips on how overlays can help drive your conversions, reach out to our conversion experts at