The email acquisition form is both your best friend and your worst enemy. The amount and nature of information you ask for will determine which one.
How the amount of required information impacts conversion
This is a test we performed with Hillsdale College. They have a free publication called Imprimis that’s almost 40 years old, and can be delivered in a hard or digital copy.
Below is the name acquisition offer for this publication. Historically, this form required both an email and home address so it could be delivered both ways.
Hillsdale College thought that the amount of required fields in the email acquisition form was contributing friction, and lowering the conversion rates on this page. For the treatment, the number of required form fields were reduced. Specifically, we removed the address information and removed an image of Imprimis issues.
The treatment produced a 136% increase in the number of email signups received! The conversion rate increased from 32% to 76%.
Truth be told, there is a downside to reducing the amount of information required on a form. When you ask for less information, the volume of names acquired typically increases, but the quality of the names is typically lower. If you have less fields, you typically have less friction which means that your traffic doesn’t have to be as highly motivated to convert.
When you ask for more information, the volume of names acquired may drop, but those who do convert will have a higher motivation – making them a higher quality lead.
It’s important to weigh the value of having both the email address and the postal address, and ask which is more important: having high quality names or high volume?
By asking for only email addresses right away, you may see a lift in conversion through the form. This means you won’t receive their postal address right away, so you’ll need to find a different avenue to obtain it. It creates multiple ways of engaging and communicating with the person on the other side of the screen.
For example, you could send a follow-up email saying, “You just received the digital copy of this. Do you want me to send it your home? Just fill out your postal address here!“
How breaking up the email acquisition form into two parts affects conversion
Another strategy is to break the form into steps. This allows you to get more names and emails initially, and then you can customize those names and emails in the secondary step. It reduces cognitive friction for the user.
Here’s an example. This is a signup page for the Heritage Foundation’s President’s Club Event hosted in Washington D.C.
As you can see, the form is designed as one long page. It requires all the information necessary to register for the event at once. Right away, the visitor is required to provide an enormous amount of information that takes time, energy, and immediate planning.
The visitor has to think through a lot of details to answer the questions on this form.
By requiring all this information up front, we were excluding a potential segment of the audience that planned to come, but hadn’t figured out all of the details of attending.
For the treatment, we broke the form into two separate pages. The first page acquired the commitment to attend the event and the relevant contact information. The second page captured the rest of the event details.
The treatment produced a 99.4% increase in signups for the events!
The strategies shown in these examples are the easiest places to begin optimizing your email acquisition form. Get rid of fields, change the types of fields required, and break the form into two steps. There are many more ideas that can be tested, such as combining the use required and non-required form fields. As you make changes to your forms, continue to test what works best for your target audience.