Picture this: You’re a marketer tasked with increasing demand for your company’s product or service. You have relentlessly A/B tested your landing pages: you tested different headlines and value propositions, added an explainer video, experimented with short-form vs. long-form, etc.
And from this hard work, your conversion rate has more than doubled in the last 12 months.
But you still know there’s more you can do to fuel your company’s growth. So you launch an experiment and eliminate a few form fields from your landing page.
You check on the page a couple days later and your experiment seems to be going great. The variation with fewer form fields appears to be converting at a 40% higher rate.
Woah (*enter The Matrix Neo voice).
It’s at this moment the salesperson who sits a few desks down from you stares incredulously at her CRM. “What is wrong with these leads?!?”, she bursts out.
This happens all the time. With every form field you add, you give users one more reason to walk away.
Jakub Linowski found that reducing the number of form fields led to a 53% improvement in conversion in one of his experiments. And that’s just one example that support reducing form fields as a powerful tactic to improve conversion.
The simple fact is, when commitments require less effort, more people will comply with them.
The Problem with Reducing Form Fields
Knowing this, why wouldn’t we, as marketers, take every landing page that looks like this (borrowing an Instapage template here) ...
... and make it look a little more like this?
Without stating the obvious, the reason we don’t is because the information collected in each additional field is valuable.
In sales-driven organizations, the more information your sales team has, the deeper visibility they’ll have to accurately prioritize leads. They can qualify and prospect better, and help your business grow faster. That’s why cutting form fields can be incredibly disruptive to their process.
And, let’s face it. Salespeople are not exactly notorious for being open to change.
But even if your company isn’t sales-driven, the information collected on landing page is still of tremendous value. You can learn about what types of people are signing up, and analyze your revenue, usage, customers (or whatever metric is relevant to your business) based on user segments. Without this data, you may miss key insights that will help you refine and improve your business model over time.
And if you don’t get it when users sign up, when are you going to?
Gradually Engage Your Users to Improve Conversion and Lead Quality
So is there a way to improve conversions by reducing form fields while still collecting valuable information? Yes.
All you have to do is spread your conversion event out across multiple steps. Start by making your landing page conversion a smaller commitment with fewer form fields. But instead of ending the conversion event right there, you can gradually engage users to volunteer more information.
For example, here’s how a conversion would look on the landing page template from above:
And here’s how it would look when reducing form fields on the landing page and using Appcues to gradually collect more information:
Once a user makes a commitment on a landing page, they are much more likely to behave consistently and comply with subsequent commitments. At Appcues, we’ve found that completion rates of simple 3-step onboarding flows like this one are usually around 93% (depending upon what information you ask for, of course).
That means if you’re able to improve landing page conversion by 30%, you’ll end up with 30% more email addresses and 27.9% more leads with complete information. BOOM! Time to pop the bubbly — because your marketing and sales teams are both now ready to celebrate.
A Special Bonus
Take a close look at the third step of the flow in the second video above. You’ll notice that we added a question about the prospect’s monthly active user volume that was not on the original landing page. To a salesperson, this information could be tremendously helpful in qualifying this new prospect.
Gradual engagement allows you to collect higher friction information (phone number is one that always comes to mind) without having to sacrifice your conversion rate. You can decouple objections about one form field from the rest of the conversion event.
If the prospect drops off on step 3, no problem. You weren’t collecting that information on the landing page anyway. But many will comply.
Now It's Your Turn to Try
There will always be a delicate balance between the quality of information you collect and the conversion rate of your landing page. But if you look beyond the landing page and spread your entire conversion event among multiple steps, it’s possible to win the best of both worlds.
So browse through your current landing pages. If there are any that have 4 or more form fields or ask for high friction information, they could be great candidates to test gradual engagement.
Want to learn more about optimizing your signup flow and gradual engagement? Check out the User Onboarding Academy for more tidbits on how to craft a remarkable new user experience.
Jackson is the Founder of Appcues, a SaaS product that helps you to create in-product experiences like user onboarding flows or feature announcements without changing any code. You can find him on Twitter.