It’s like watching a train wreck. Everything rolls along nicely, then you sense something is wrong and suddenly it’s off the rails.
I’m talking about online sign-up forms and processes. If it seems harsh that I describe some as ‘train wrecks’, think about it this way: digital marketing and conversion optimization are about calling on your customers to join you in a voyage of discovery. And any bump along the way can derail your customers from the path.
The journey begins the moment customers become aware of your value proposition and it continues at least until they convert, but it really should never end.
As we all learn more about how to make our customers’ experience better, there’s a refreshing ‘smoothness’ in ad copy, landing pages, calls-to-action and other conversion milestones, versus even just a few years ago.
But if there is one conversion point that continues be a bump in the road, it’s the sign-up form.
Like every other conversion point, no one can tell you what will be the most effective form for you, your products or your customers. You must test to find that out.
But the things that conspire to make your form ineffective are crystal clear because the success of your sign-up form, like everything else along the path to conversion, depends on your customers’ experience of it. Anything that makes the customer uncomfortable, uncertain or that seems wasteful will make the form less effective at capturing data.
A Quick Example of a Sign-Up Form Train Wreck
The following sign-up process follows so many commonly accepted best practices that it’s not the best example of a train wreck. But it shows that the wheels can come off on even a well-planned journey.
Everything Rolls Along Nicely: After clicking on the CTA in the ‘70% Off’ promotional email, the following brilliant sign-up form is presented. With just a single field to fill out, the shopper thinks: “no problem, just my email address and I get to take advantage of 70% off. I’m willing to give that much personal information in return for that value.”
And there’s more:.
- The copy is well written and laid out. The ‘70% Of Every Day’ value proposition is clear
- The call-to-action is the most obvious element on the page
- And there are lot of big, colorful and bright images showing me how I can use my 70% savings
Then You Sense Something is Wrong: After choosing an item to buy, the customer is presented with the following screen on the way to the checkout.
So what’s wrong with that screen? Again, the only thing that’s required at this point is an email address. Not a difficult request, but didn’t the customer already give her email address? Why does she need to enter it again? Not to worry, there’s a good chance the customer still perceives it as a fair exchange for value and is not perturbed enough to become one of your shopping cart abandonment statistics.
Suddenly It’s Off the Rails: In one simple step, the customer goes from having to enter her email address just twice, to being forced to submit it a fourth time.
This sign-up process has gone off track.
The Most Effective Sign-Up Form? You Don’t Even Know It’s There
OK, before we begin this section, I understand the following example only works for an online service like Babbel’s. And when I say ‘most effective’, it is so only in my humble, subjective opinion and in comparison to the other forms I reviewed for this post.
But rarely have I been hooked so well.
I live in a country that has two official languages: French and English. I’ve always felt guilty about my lack of understanding of French. Except for ‘bonjour’, ‘au revoir’ and ‘ou est la salle de bain’, I’m hopeless. So when a call-to-action to learn French came from Babbel, I took it.
The journey began with a simple first step, two choices, easy, painless, no worries.
Even when the subsequent screen asked for my age group, it raised no flags. If I was concerned about privacy, I could choose any age group I wanted.
Then, suddenly, I’m learning. And, considering it’s part of my French vocabulary as outlined above, I knew the answer. Cool.
After answering a series of similar questions, I was given a phrase-matching exercise, which I also aced. And I now have a score (gamification). And a gauge of where I am in the process. And all I’ve told them so far is that I’m a beginner and the age group I belong to.
Look at this: I’ve completed the first round. And they say I’m ‘very good!’ My first name? Yes, sure, let’s go! (Notice that Babel doesn’t actually ask for your name.)
Now, is the following bit where it gets difficult? But they only ask that I ‘Please answer these simple questions.’ No sweat.
Android, Just right. Online advertising.
Password? Yes, I want to get in on this action again. Email? Well, everyone asks for that and I give my junk mail address anyway. And my score is down to zero, so I’m anxious to start racking up the points.
After I confirm my email address, look what happens: I’m already into a French course.
See what happened there? To make sure I had the best customer experience possible, Babbel made their conversion path a game of learning and made me feel that I was going where I wanted to go, not where Babbel wanted me to be.
On the way, and with me hardly even noticing their effort, Babbel managed to find out the following from me:
- First name, which they used to personalize the rest of the path.
- Age group
- Mobile OS and device type
- Immediate feedback of the effectiveness of their product
- Which of their marketing channels worked to get my attention
- Email address
Not a bad haul of data.
Again, the Babbel example may not apply to very many situations. But hopefully it at least shows that the focus of the most effective sign-up forms is not only on what information you need from the customer, but also on how you can remove the bumps on the customer’s conversion path experience and turn it into one that makes her willing to give you that information and more.