Finding the right savings nudge for a website pop-up

Website pop-ups
Experiment Type
Field Experiment
Save more
Increase short-term savings
Focus Areas
Marketing & messaging
Behavioral Concepts
Salience Mental models
Lake Trust Credit Union
Partner Type
Bank/Credit Union

What Happened

It didn't work. Savings was unaffected and there were no differences among pop-up conditions. A subsequent campaign may focus on changing the frequency of the message or trying another version of the messaging of the pop-up.

Lessons Learned

Based on the results, a one-shot pop-up that focuses on the type of goal (hedonic or serious) as well as the specificity (general or specific) was not effective in changing behaviors.


While the evidence suggests that setting up automatic transfers is an effective way to encourage people to build savings, there are times when automating savings is not feasible. In these cases, interventions to build savings instead must find ways to motivate people to actively and manually contribute to savings.

We partnered with Lake Trust Credit Union, a credit union based in Michigan, to explore ways we might help their members build short-term savings. Specifically, we were interested in whether incorporating a simple nudge when customers login to the website would encourage more people to save. Lake Trust already had the capability to present members with a pop-up message after they login; the only question was what kind of message would be the most motivating.

Key Insights

As we began designing the message to motivate members to save, there were two specific questions that we wanted to explore:

  • Is thinking of saving for a spontaneous, fun activity more motivating than thinking of saving for a serious emergency? On one hand, many people think of savings behavior as a serious domain. Therefore, encouraging savings in service of something serious may be more effective because it fits the way most people conceptualize savings. Alternatively, people experience greater motivation and goal success when pursuing tasks they “want-to” do rather than they “have-to” do. In this case, a hedonic frame may be more effective at encouraging people to save.

  • Is providing a specific example more motivating than a general reminder to save? We generally believe that concrete action plans can improve the likelihood of success in goal pursuit. On the other hand, a concrete example may only be effective when the individual feels like the goal is relevant and closely related to their circumstances. In this case, a general reminder to save may be more broadly applicable.


In order to answer these questions, we developed an experiment where members would be presented with multiple versions of the online pop-up. Lake Trust created a list of approximately 115,000 members with online accounts and randomly assigned them to 1 of 4 groups.

After the member saw the pop-up once, it was not shown again. Members could choose “Transfer now” or “No thanks” in the pop-up. We measured click behavior on the pop up as well as how many members made at least one transfer to a savings account after seeing the message.


We found that savings were not reliably affected by any of the pop up messages. There were no differences among the conditions and even the effect of any pop-up message on the day of transfers was not statistically significant. The savings pop-up campaign differed from other Lake Trust pop-up campaigns in that members only saw the savings pop-up one time. It’s possible that repeated exposure to the pop-up might have resulted in more click through and transfer activity.

A review of member deposit activity revealed that members are making frequent small deposits into savings accounts. This suggests that members are using outside programs and/or making manual transfers to increase their savings. Lake Trust is considering how to capitalize on this desire for small and automatic savings. A subsequent pop-up campaign might focus on suggesting small savings amounts, rather than potential reasons for savings.