February 15, 2010

Optimize Your Sign-Up Part 2: Finessing the Form

by Kristen Gregory, Manager of Strategic Services at Bronto Software

In part 1 of the sign-up optimization series, we covered how to make sure your sign-up stands out. This post will cover how to best gather the information you need in a form.

The Format

Most businesses typically create sign-up forms that follow one of three paths:

1) The simple email-only sign up. Examples: Harry and David, Zazzle (bottom, right corners) This format enables a quick and easy sign-up, but doesn't give you any additional information about the contact that you can use to better target your messages.

2) The separate page, multiple-field form. Example: Bloom's Today This page is usually led to by a text link or graphic banner. By asking for additional information, you can send more relevant messages to the recipient. Blooms Today's reminder sign-up will allow them to send specific, personalized emails in a very timely fashion, making it likely that they will see great conversions off those messages.

3) The two-part sign-up: the simple email request that leads to a fuller form. Examples: Carolina Biological, Uncommon Goods (page 2 after simple sign-up), Dale and Thomas Popcorn (sign up via short form on left-side bottom and experience the small browser pop-up) Clearly, this scenario allows for the best of both worlds. Want to just give us your email and move on? No problem. But giving subscribers the ability to let you know what kind of message they want to receive, how often, an opportunity to receive special birthday deals and so on, sends the message that you are listening as a brand and care about being relevant.

Gathering Critical Data

If you've decided you would like to gather more information on your subscribers, what should you request? Ask yourself what kind of data you can actually use to send more targeted and/or automated messages that will make an impact. Here are some ideas that may make sense for your business:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • Zip code or state - Do you have brick and mortar stores where you can drive traffic? Do you sell seasonal products that would vary depending on state?
  • Product interest - Providing checkbox fields can keep you on target with a subscriber's interests and keep them engaged. For example, if you are an outdoor sports retailer, you might break down interests by hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, fishing, etc.
  • Gender
  • Birthday(s) - Send special deals on their birthday or for those of loved ones, as Paw's Choice offer.
  • Desired frequency
  • Skill level - Are you selling products to pilots or scrapbookers? You could send product suggestions and informational content/videos that are more aligned with subscriber experience and skill level to make a bigger impact.

Ultimately, you know best what information could be used for segmentation and personalization. Asking for it at sign-up time helps you start your relationship on the right foot with the right focus.

Other Sign-up Suggestions

1. Be sure to reiterate expectations at the top of the form. Let subscribers know what they are signing up for, how often they should expect to receive email and even link to sample messages if possible.

2 . Keep all non-critical information (usually everything but email address) optional to share in order to create the least amount of sign-up friction. Also, be careful not to overwhelm your reader with way too many questions that make the sign-up process daunting.

3. Make it clear why you are asking for something if it seems odd or could make people hesitate. This Hot Topic sign-up does a great job providing an explanation for a birth date request via a "Why are we asking?" link.

4. Consider asking subscribers to enter their email address twice to avoid capturing bad addresses due to fat fingers. Examples: Gap (using the simple format), Shapefx

So what happens after you hit submit? Stay tuned for the last post of the sign-up series that will cover important considerations for your subscription landing page and the quintessential welcome message.

Kristen Gregory
Email Marketing Strategist at Bronto
@kristengreg

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Kristen Gregory, Manager of Strategic Services at Bronto Software

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