How did you hear about us?Posted January 5th, 2010 by David Hamill
It’s a question that many organisations ask on contact forms, registration forms and checkout processes – How did you hear about us?.
But asking this will cost you in lost conversions and the data you gather is probably inaccurate. In this post I explain why you should avoid asking people how they heard about you on your web forms.
It might seem like a harmless question. But there’s no such thing as a harmless question when you want people to complete your form.
The fewer questions you ask on a form, the greater the number of people will complete it. So each question you ask has a cost that it must justify. That cost is the number of people who drop out because of its inclusion.
This isn’t because your users say “Oh, I’m not answering that” and leave. Instead adding friction to a process increases the likelihood that users don’t get to the end of it.
We are are so often distracted by something else when using the internet. We’re also quite often limited by time, so it’s easy to decide to postpone the form until later when we think we don’t have time to complete it now.
By removing points of friction, you increase the likelihood that users will get through the form without interruption.
When people are completing your form, they’re happy to answer questions they feel are necessary to ask. When they’re buying something, they’ll tell you their address because you need to know it in order to make delivery. But when you ask a question that isn’t related to their request, you risk annoying them.
The accuracy of a customer’s response to this question has no impact on them personally. If they answer incorrectly, they still get what they came for. So if you’ve annoyed them, they may deliberately give you an incorrect response. Even if you haven’t, they’ll often just pick an option at random.
You’re relying on goodwill in order to get a correct response. But you’re also testing their patience by asking the question in the first place. This puts goodwill in short supply.
Sometimes it’s just a silly question
When you have a strong brand in your industry, it’s a bit silly to ask people where they heard of you. It’s like me asking you where you heard about Coca-Cola before you bought it.
People often engage with companies having never heard of them. But most of the time they buy from or contact companies they’ve heard of through multiple channels. This makes the question very difficult to answer. When the question is difficult to answer, you’re making them think. And what does Steve Krug tell us about making users think?
You’re adding potential complications that are avoidable.
What are you doing with the answers?
When you ask this question, what are you doing with the answers? How valuable is this data to your organisation? I know several companies who ask this question and do nothing with the data they collect. They don’t realise that this data comes at a cost. If they could truly see the cost, they’d probably stop asking the question at all.
Even if you are looking at the data. How is it driving your decision making? Are you just looking at it and saying “Oh that’s interesting”? Interesting is good, but remember this question is costing you money. Is the information so interesting that you’re willing to pay for it in lost sales?
It’s useful to know which of your marketing efforts are leading to conversions and there are ways of obtaining this information. But asking your users when they’re trying to get through a web form isn’t the way to do it.
You can’t rely on the accuracy of the data and it’s costing you in lost conversions.
What do you think?
Do you agree? Or am I talking nonsense? Tell me what you think by adding a comment below. You can also read other articles from my blog. Here are a few suggestions: