September 26, 2005
Blog Entry

Internet Users Increasingly Fed Up with Registration Forms: Data & Suggested Solutions

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President

It's not often that you find teens and their parents agreeing on nuances of Web surfing. But indicators I've been watching for a few years now reveal that everyone in all age groups and most industries are absolutely fed up with filling out forms online for complimentary offers (sweeps, white papers, etc.).

No, they do not want to give you their email. Or their phone. Or their name and address. No thank you not very much indeed!

breatheinteractive Media Director Erin Greenwald noticed this trend emerging in the teens and young adult category 18 months ago when she told me, "Younger people are very reluctant to give data. People are just frustrated with spam, and this is a demographic that's online a lot. They're constantly being bombarded with forms and profiles to fill out."

This summer open source software firm Red Hat tested removing the registration forms in front of its white papers. Director of Marketing Communications Chris Grams told me, "We found, in our estimation, it makes more sense to open it up in most cases. If we do not put a capture form in front of it, let's say we'll get 1,000 people to view it. If we put a capture form there, we'll get 50 people to view."

Some marketers wonder if they can beat the anti-form trend by "adding value" to the offer. Example: to entice email newsletter sign-ups, offer a complimentary eBook as a bonus. However, as The Motley Fool told me they discovered in tests earlier this year, the extra offer can actually depress responses. (With the bonus offer they got a 2.99% sign-up rate versus 4.50% sign-up without it.)

Fact #1. Typing contact info is a boring pain everyone can live without

We've done multiple case studies showing, if you pre-fill a form so prospects don't have to type their name and address, your conversion rates will double plus responders will be cool with answering a few more qualifying questions. (Of course this only works for prospects who will not be disconcerted by seeing their info pre-populating a form from you.)

Fact #2. It's about control

By registering, consumers are giving the marketer control over them again. They are no longer quite as in charge of what information they see, and when. With forms, the paradigm of Web surfing has switched so the marketer is in the driver's seat to some degree -- and consumers don't like it.

Typical data: ThomasNet's Industrial Purchasing Barometer study released in August revealed "industrial buyers are growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of privacy they are experiencing online."

Although 90% of industrial buyers shop online, they are increasing demanding "anonymity when they search for products online, and in many cases, that desire for anonymity is not being respected," ThomasNet noted.

- 77% of respondents have a “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” philosophy online

- 56% of respondents do not want vendors to contact them until they have made the initial contact

- 81% of respondents said they would not return, or would be unlikely to return, to a website that reveals their identities to suppliers

- 21% do not want to be contacted at all

Does this mean I'm saying that you should remove all registration forms and cease offering newsletters, etc.? No, that's silly. However, I am saying that perhaps marketers have to relax a little on the registration front.

Are, indeed, registrations so incredibly valuable to you that you are willing to forgo the brand-building power of simply placing high-quality content openly on the Web where it can be seen by prospects who want to see it?

We've all acknowledged an ad that's viewed but not clicked on still has power to influence the marketplace. Plus, we all know the evangelist impact of consumers and bloggers telling the world about great content they've discovered. (More than 60% of white paper downloaders pass copies to colleagues.)

Perhaps, for some campaigns, it's enough to have gotten the highest quality message out to a broad swath of your marketplace, instead of limiting yourself to the 3%-6% of people who are willing to fill out a form in response.

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