May 01, 2007
How To

Interview: 4 Tactics to Lift Product Registration Forms 20% or More

SUMMARY: If you don't use a product registration system or still rely on customers to mail back those pesky warranty postcards after they purchase a product, you’re missing out on a huge marketing and customer service asset.

Learn how to design an automated, online product registration system that can boost customer participation and make it easier for marketers to push special offers that drive incremental revenue. Includes tips on how to design a system, how many questions are too many and incentives to encourage customers so you get 20%+ participation.
If you’re a manufacturer who isn't using a product registration system, how do you know who’s buying your products? How do you know they’re satisfied with your company, and how can you reach out to those customers again?

It seems like a simple concept, but many companies overlook the value of product registration. “We’ve seen a major electronic manufacturer that sells 10,000 units a month, but who doesn't have any knowledge of who owns their systems. It seems like such a basic blocking and tackling maneuver,” says Eric Flynn, CEO Treehouse Interactive, a software company that designs product registration systems for clients ranging from Quantum Corp. to Mrs. Field’s cookies.

Forget about the old-school, mail-in postcard approach. Flynn has seen automated, online systems boost product registration rates from 10% to 80% (although rates around 20% are more common). And by feeding that data to the marketing team, vendors can use the systems to drive incremental revenue from add-on product sales and special offers.

We spoke to Flynn for tips on designing a product registration system, as well as ideas for boosting customer participation and choosing a vendor who has the skills to do the job:

-> Tactic #1. Know your goal from product registration

To design a system, start by determining what you want, such as the ability to make additional offers or make customer service more efficient. Because the best systems involve a combination of marketing and support functions, gather key members of your product marketing, corporate marketing and customer support teams to outline a strategy.

That team can help outline goals, such as:

- Incremental revenue. An online product registration system can be used to send automated bounce-back offers for customers, such as extended warranties or companion products. “It’s really easy to do the math. If you’re selling 10,000 units a month and could get 10% of those people to buy an extended warranty at $200 a pop, it becomes very interesting very quickly,” Flynn says.

- Upgrades. You can also use the product registration database for new product announcements and upgrade notices. If you have registered users of a particular software program, for example, you can alert those customers when a new version is available, or a companion program has been introduced that will add functionality to their existing system.

- Better customer service and support. Registered users can provide valuable feedback on your products and services and be an audience for special, loyalty-building offers. When users register a product, you can send out a survey three or six months later to determine whether they are happy with the purchase or need additional customer support. It’s a good way to discover potential issues before calls start coming in to your customer service team.

- Warranty expirations. Product registration also helps you track customer entitlements by recording a start date and end date for warranties. “We have a high-end enterprise hardware customer who’s estimated they’re losing $600,000 to $800,000 a year offering support to customers whose warranties are expired because they don’t have efficient system to track entitlements.”

- Customer data. Marketers can design better campaigns if they know more about their typical customers. Registration systems can gather information about customers’ industries, company size, household demographics, anticipated product use and other variables.

A system can also analyze that database and allow searches and reports based on specific categories or factors that would help the marketing team develop new approaches.

-> Tactic #2. Make the system easy to use

Once you know your goals for a product registration program, you have to design a system that collects the necessary information, but keeps the customer experience in mind. You don’t want to overload customers with so many questions that they'll abandon the registration process entirely.

To avoid making the registration unwieldy, think critically about the questions you really need to include. “Before you include something in a registration form, ask yourself how you’re going to use that information and how often. If the answer to those questions isn’t rational, you know you’re probably including something that doesn’t need to be there.”

Here are three tips on designing the registration form:

- Auto-fill as much information as possible. You can store data such as names and warranty length in the system database, so the customer only needs to type in a serial number and purchase date and have the system automatically fill in the blanks in the online form.

- Use drop-down lists or multiple-choice answers to help normalize data. Rather than letting users fill in blanks to answer questions, provide a range of choices for questions, such as industry sector or a company’s annual revenue, to keep answers in the same format.

- Ask 10 or fewer questions on top of basic contact information. Although Flynn hasn’t done a formal study of completion rates based on the number of questions, he says there is an inverse relationship between the length of a customer registration form and its completion rate.

-> Tactic #3. Provide incentives to encourage registration

For customers to fill out a product registration for, they need to know what’s in it for them. Here are five ways to provide an incentive:

o Warranty upgrades, such as an additional three months over the standard warranty length for registered customers
o Exclusive discounts and special offers for registered customers
o Early warning for new products or upgrades
o Gift certificates to online retailers
o Access to a complete customer contact page, where registered users can manage their opt-in email preferences and sign up for additional services

-> Tactic #4. Integrate product registration database with other systems

Your registration database system should tie in with your customer support and marketing or CRM databases so that both teams have access to the information to help them do their jobs. For example, marketers could mine the product registration database for customers who bought a specific product, then send an email offer for an upgrade or companion product. Likewise, customer service can track warranty information when responding to a customer’s problems.

A good system should track key metrics over time, such as registration rates, opt-outs and email contacts to each customer. It also should help marketers and customer support executives generate reports that break down the customer database on a number of factors, such as product, customer type, date of purchase, purchase channel and the like.

Four key questions when picking a vendor to build your product registration system:

#1. Can I see a demonstration? Flynn says to watch out for vendors who say the system to can a host of tasks, but can’t show you how they’re all performed.
#2. How will the system integrate with my existing customer service, marketing, CRM or other back-end databases?
#3. How long does it take for registered users to be entered into the database? The integration between the registration page and back-end systems should seamlessly populate other databases with registered user information.
#4. What kind of reporting does the system offer? You’ll need enough functionality to help support marketing and customer support projects.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples of product registration systems and report:

Quantum Corp.:

Treehouse Interactive:

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