Clunky sign-up forms come in for strong criticism on this blog – and rightly so. Designing effective registration pages is something of an art, balancing the perceived value of what the registrant receives with what they are prepared to hand over in the way of individual data. It’s most challenging when the site visitor isn’t buying anything and so has no vested interest in providing the correct contact data for payment and postal delivery.
Just as consumers reveal their email in return for updates on their favourite bands, this swapping of contact data for valued content is now a common feature of online b2b marketing. For example, basic information on customer management software might be free to all but a more in-depth white paper on selecting the right application, an ROI calculator or an RFP template will be “gated”; getting hold of it means filling out a registration form.
Less is More
At this point, landing page copy, layout and call-to-action all play their part in persuading the visitor to supply their contact details, but the main barrier is the length of the registration form itself. Here there’s a further compromise to be made between the extent and accuracy of the data, and completion rates. B2B marketing software vendor Marketo tested various form lengths, and found that moving to a short web registration form with five or fewer fields delivered a 34% boost in conversion rates while cutting cost per conversion by about 25%.
In one case study, HP reduced its confusing 15-field monster of a registration form to five essential fields. It also collected visitors’ IP addresses and email domain names to cross-reference them with third-party data. The new form yielded a 40% conversion rate – an increase of 186%.
But what if you really need those extra fifth, sixth and seventh fields? Sometimes name and email is enough to start with, with other data captured on subsequent visits as part of a “drip feed” data collection programme. When it comes to standard b2b or b2c demographics, in many cases it’s actually cheaper to buy in and tag extra fields than to ask for it during registration. Because site visitors lie on registration forms all the time (a 2011 study by Blue Research found 88% of consumers had given incorrect profile information), combining the higher completion rate of a short form to get the basic contact data and then tagging on inexpensive b2b or b2c demographics can be both cheaper and more accurate overall.
Short and Sweet
Rapid addressing obviously plays a vital part in short-and-sweet sign-up. In the UK at least, just asking for postcode plus company name (or house number for consumers) is sufficient to generate an accurate address – and if asking explicitly for a full address might be offputting, this can be done after form submission. But in the rest of the world where reference data is sparser or to check the accuracy of input data, letting the visitor validate their address from a drop-down list as they type in their details is the better solution. And using a visitor’s IP address to derive country of origin is a clever way to shorten the process by one more field.
Another fast-growing option is to permit social sign-on. By logging into their preferred social media service (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) via an icon on the landing page, visitors use information from their social profile to fill out the registration form. The same 2011 study found that 77% of consumers favoured social log-in over conventional registration, with 54% saying they might abandon a website if asked to fill out a form.
Whether aiming for consumers or business managers, good direct marketing practice dictates that coming up with creative ideas followed by rigorous testing of competing alternatives is the only way to optimise the critical sign-on process. Can you meet the registration challenge?