A colleague recently told me about a frustrating experience visiting a website that was suggested to her on Facebook. She clicked on a picture of a dress she liked but instead of being taken to the site, a pop up appeared asking for an email address. Then the site asked her to create a password. Then it asked for her full name. At this point, she got frustrated and left the site without even browsing for a single item.
It’s common for potential customers to find sites via social media suggestions from others they know or trust. In fact, a social media suggestion is a powerful way to build a customer base because the customer feels like they are making the choice, much like they would in choosing to visit a physical store because of a friend’s suggestion.
And in my colleague’s case, it worked! She was interested in what she saw and the fact that her friend made the suggestion encouraged her to learn more.
The most important lesson in my friend’s story is that you can drive consumers away before they ever become your customer if you don’t manage the process correctly. Sites should allow consumers to browse before forcing them to create a profile. Even if the browsing experience is limited, the site should at least give customers a taste of what they can expect in order to entice them to become customers.
The currency of the new economy is information and asking for too much too soon can create an insurmountable barrier to attracting and ultimately converting new customers.
As PossibleNOW learned in our recent research, customers vary in the amount of information they’re willing to provide online. For some, it’s not a big deal to supply an email address to gain access to a site or even to provide a full name. Others are wary of providing anything until they have had ample time and opportunity to browse and view information on their own.
Not every consumer that stumbles upon your site is going to end up buying from you or will even be interested in receiving communications from your company. Collecting information from every visitor to your site without an understanding of what they are actually interested in or what they care about is a mistake. Doing so means that you can only send these customers marketing messages that won’t feel appropriate or personalized.
It would have been far better for the site my friend visited to have allowed her time to browse around. By using the data gathered during her visits, this site would have gained enough information to start establishing a relationship with her. Companies must learn to be patient by allowing the customer to take the lead in when and how they choose to provide information.