The upside and downside of email capture on the first page
More and more sites now try to capture visitors’ email addresses on the first page…whether it’s the home page or a landing page.
Why? So that if that visitor doesn’t complete a purchase or registration of some kind during that visit, you can then follow up with an email or send them a newsletter.
It’s an effective tactic and one we tested ourselves as part of our Shopping Cart Recovery brief.
However, there are times when asking for an email address is perceived as an unwelcome barrier by site users.
For instance, more and more online publishers are insisting on some kind of registration before allowing visitors to access the full content on their sites.
What is the downside?
Here is one point of view, published today by Marcia Yudkin in her Marketing Minute newsletter.
With her permission, here is the full text of what she wrote:
In stores, many of us cringe when asked, “May I help you?”
In many mail order ads, you can still see the wording traditionally used to reassure people requesting information: “No salesperson will call.”
Online, more than 89 percent in a July 2005 ThomasNet.com survey want anonymity when searching for information on the Internet. In a 2006 Marketing Sherpa survey, 53 percent don’t want to share personal information when shopping.
Clearly, most people strongly prefer privacy. When handing over personal data, they expect something valuable in return.
The increasingly popular technique of requesting a name and email address before providing a description of a product violates this expectation.
Proponents of the technique claim that by the numbers, it’s profitable. However, missed publicity opportunities don’t show up in numbers. I recently found myself intrigued by a product I’d normally want to tell people about, but all the product details were guarded by the need to sign up first.
I left instead.
By hiding products beyond a moat, you may forfeit the enthusiasm of journalists and opinion leaders who could spread your message at no cost.
She is right in saying that a requirement to register or hand over your email address can present a barrier to the people you most want to read your content.
I have experienced this myself when researching topics for this blog. I might come across a link to an interesting article, click through to the site and then find myself having to register before I can read the article.
In most cases, unless the article is on a must-read topic, I don’t bother to register, hit the back button and look for something else. As a result, that publisher loses a link in this blog and some additional, free publicity.
There is another issue here as well. I’m not presenting it as a reason not to capture email addresses, but rather to ensure that we are all aware of the consequences of everything we do online.
When I come across a request for my name and email address on the first page of a site, whether it be the home page or a landing page, a small piece of information about the site’s brand is tucked away in a corner of my mind.
I see the email address requirement and may think any one of more of these things…
“Can I trust these people? I only just arrived at their site for the first time and they are instantly asking me for personal information.”
“Hey, these guys are pushy.”
“No, I won’t give you my email address until I find out whether your site can give me what I’m looking for.”
“Hang on, I can’t find out whether this site can give me what I’m looking for without handing over my email address. I don’t feel comfortable. I’m going to try elsewhere.”
If people experience any of the feelings expressed in these questions, you will receive a small black mark against your brand. Visitors may not remember you for your great site, but instead remember you as the place that made them feel uncomfortable on the first page they saw.
As I mentioned above, this is not a rant against email capture. Our own testing has shown how effective this tactic can be in increasing revenues.
Just keep in mind that even though your revenues are increasing, that’s not the only thing that is happening.
You may also, at the same time, be losing free publicity through journalists and bloggers, and be making a bad impression on some of your visitors.