What’s the biggest conversion roadblock for every ecommerce firm? Time. At any moment during a visitor’s trip to your website, their attention can be stolen away by a ringing doorbell, crying child, or buzzing phone.

And if distractions put an end to a trip made by a new visitor, you very well might be back to square one with them—a real drag on your ROI. That’s why it’s smart to ask for new visitors’ email addresses early in the session, before any external (heck, even on-site) influences cause them to exit.

Earlier in the year, we showed how well a lightbox can work to improve email acquisition. Now, we have a new lightbox example and a slightly different approach to the challenge that was taken by a specialty products retailer.

To give new visitors more incentive to sign up for email updates AND place their first order, the retailer tested the offer of free shipping on initial orders for those who filled out its email sign-up form. The lightbox (shown at right) emphasizes the free shipping deal (free shipping, as we all know, is a key reason why consumers convert) and includes a clear call-to-action for clicking through to the sign-up form.

In an A/B test, the retailer served the lightbox promotion upon website entry to half of its new visitor traffic, and the other half received the control website (i.e., no lightbox).

The results were solid all around: Both conversion and the corresponding new customer acquisition rate increased by 21.75%; the add-to-cart rate saw a 5.43% lift; and cart abandons were reduced by 7.92%.

As with all email acquisition efforts, the retailer now benefits from the ability to stay in touch with the visitors who signed up but weren’t ready to convert during the initial session. Even better, its follow-up emails can leverage the free shipping offer to boost the open rate and keep working for those conversions.