In my blog entry a few weeks ago I wrote about
Abandonment Issues. The pun was too much for me to pass up. And so, too, is this one.
One of the first surprises I ever encountered during focus group testing was what we termed fear of commitment. It was an interview reviewing the benefits of an online club and our interest was in determining the right set of perks. We thought we’d ask if they prefer “double point promotions” as opposed to “discount offers”. We wanted to see if the branding was right and if it had the right connotation. Instead what we heard was – “I’d prefer not to join a club like that”.
We were floored. Not join? “But it’s free!” we countered.
Ok, we suggested, “How about we give you points AND discounts. Two, count them, TWO perks!”
Eventually, he acquiesced. But it was clear he was just feeling a pity for our desperation. We all laughed and made a note to ensure the phrase “It’s Free!” appeared in all banner advertising for the club.
I’ve never forgotten that interview and what might be behind it. Surely we didn’t find the only person in the world who didn’t want to join something.
Perhaps he was a fan of the old saying I learned from a Woody Allen movie (not sure which one) – “I don’t ever want to belong to a club that would have someone like me as a member”. The joke is self-deprecating – but the application to online membership is not.
As you are browsing through websites and come upon one that pushes you so hard to “Join NOW!!”, it is a normal human reaction to wonder “what’s in it for them”? When you think about it:
- They don’t know you from any other average user
- They seem to want your business – even though they don’t know if you have a bank account or not
- They only want to acknowledge why it’s good for you and never say outright how it’s good for them
I’ve come to the conclusion that the number one barricade to online membership is distrust. Overcoming that is not only the promise not to charge hidden fees, but also to give clear opt-out choices for the inevitable email that will come with it. Of course this is all predicated on having a good reputation or partnership.
Once you get past distrust, you have to ensure there is a clear benefit. In my original naïve offer of “points” and “discounts”, I’d neglected to understand the amount of effort for the user. It’s a bigger commitment than I had thought.
Now I consider it to be like I just met someone at a party. We both have similar interests (at least for the moment) and enjoyed a bit of time together. Now it’s time to ask for:
- Username - almost like asking your new friend “please make up a nickname that I can call you by from now on”
- Password – “lets establish a secret word that only the two of us know – and promise you’ll NEVER forget it”
- Gender – “well I just want to be sure I don’t call you Sir when I’m supposed to call you Ma’am later”
Just like meeting someone new, you’d only give these out if you were sure that they were needed and that you were going to get something out of the deal.
After it is all said and done, there will be many people who simply won’t join. The distrust will be too high, or the benefits will not be enough. The main goal is to ensure that you haven’t asked more than you need and that you will respect the users choice not to commit to your website.