E-Commerce Insights: Get to ‘Yes’
Do your site’s sign-up forms read like a bungled attempt at getting a date?
You: Hi, would you like to get coffee?
Visitor: Umm … sure. OK.
You: Great! LET’S GET MARRIED! I love kids! I want a big wedding, then a week in Hawaii. Two girls and a boy, (after I make partner). Now Wednesday is poker night; can we spend every other Christmas with my mom? I like to garden, cook and …
Visitor: You’re scaring me. Please go away now.
Of course, you’re not that clueless about relationships. But your site may be. The No. 1 mistake marketers make with their sign-up forms is asking for too much too soon. And when requested information is irrelevant to the task visitors seek to complete, they’ll typically abandon your form.
How well does your site handle these “marketing conversions”? Take a closer look at your primary sign-up processes:
● e-mail subscription form;
● catalog request page;
● wish list sign-up; and
● account creation form.
Does your site treat these processes with care, remembering that every completed form is a conversion? Or is it more like Mr. Eager Lonelyhearts, asking for too much too soon?
Many otherwise savvy marketers burden their sign-up pages with ill-timed and excessive requests for information, which result in abandonment and missed opportunity.
Take this example: An online retailer we encountered “teased” visitors with a simple, single-field e-mail sign-up form at the bottom of every page on its site. Standard stuff, except that on this site, entering an e-mail address and clicking “submit” didn’t yield the expected confirmation page. Instead, would-be subscribers were greeted with a second form, requesting 10 more pieces of information, including a complete physical mailing address.
The abandonment rate for this form was pushing 60 percent.
If you can’t get your prospects to say yes to coffee … err … e-mail, what are the chances you’ll persuade them to show you credit cards and place orders?
Your Web site users are real people. They know you don’t need their street addresses to send e-mail. They know you don’t need billing and shipping addresses to set up a wish list.
Your users decide when and what information they want to give you based on the relevance of your requests to their immediate goals and the value you’re offering in exchange. That’s why you don’t bring a diamond ring to that first date or ask for much more than an e-mail address to send someone an e-mail on a sign-up form.
Scoring on a Date
Success in online marketing is like dating. You get to move forward based on gaining assent to your series of well-timed yes/no questions.
In his classic text, “Permission Marketing,” Internet marketing guru Seth Godin writes, “permission is a process, not a moment.” In other words, “yes” to coffee leads to “yes” to dinner leads to … Before you know it, you’re cosigning the mortgage.
Embrace Godin’s notion of drip irrigation marketing. Online sign-up forms should be short, simple and ask only for truly relevant information. Get someone to say, “Yes!” Then calmly ask your next question.
Take another look at your site’s four key sign-up processes. Each ends with a confirmation page. How well are you using this valuable Web real estate? Use these pages to say thanks, and then gather more marketing information.
4 Thanks for your e-mail address! Would you like a catalog?
4 Thanks for the catalog sign-up! Would you like to create an account?
4 Thanks for the account sign-up! Here’s your first, relevant, special offer.
For some examples of successful sign-up and confirmation pages, see the sites of J. Crew, Lands' End and Anthropologie.
Test your way to that successful second date
Even if you’re the company’s permission marketing evangelist, convincing your colleagues to ask for less information on site forms may not be easy. After all, mailable physical addresses are precious to any cataloger. Each person on your team may have strong opinions about the best way to get what everyone wants.
That’s where site testing helps. Using tools like Google’s free Website Optimizer, it’s simple to test multiple versions of your site’s sign-up pages and the confirmation pages that follow.
Experiment with the amount of information your forms require, and test other factors that can affect your sign-up rates, including layout, copy and imagery. Treat your sign-up pages with care, and get ready for more prospects to say, “Yes.”
Filling in for Alan Rimm-Kaufman this issue, his partner Larry Becker is VP and principal, Web site effectiveness, at the Rimm-Kaufman Group, an online marketing agency offering Web site consulting and paid search services. You can reach him online at www.rimmkaufman.com.