Recently, an article emerged stating that all optional fields should be eliminated from lead forms. This, according to the article, is a primary issue impacting conversion. That kind of information can be dangerous for dealers, so I’d like to provide a more holistic view of optional fields in lead forms.
To start with, you don’t have a problem with your lead forms as long as the completion rate is high. Completion rate is a function of how much the shopper wants the information and what they need to do to get it.
Lead Form Entry Rate X Lead Form Completion Rate = Email Lead Form Conversion
Dealerships need to balance their desire for more information with their need to maximize website conversion. Maximizing the creation of sales opportunities is the objective dealers are most focused on. This is why top-rated website providers, like Dealer eProcess, allow the dealer total control over their lead forms, both what is optional vs. required and which fields are shown or not shown.
Email Lead Forms X Appointment Rate X Appointment Show Rate = Sales Opportunities
Here are a few reasons you might opt for additional information fields:
- A dealer producing more leads than can be properly handled at the time may want to have the leads scrubbed and/or scored to know which leads should definitely not be overlooked. Of course, the long-term answer is more capacity to handle leads, but it’s hard to do that quickly. The short-term answer is to include the information needed to have these automated processes performed.
- The additional information may be improving lead handling. Before responding to the lead, it can be very helpful to know if the customer lives down the street or 100 miles away. Don’t just A/B test to maximize the immediate dependent variable (form completion rate or conversion rate). Test to be sure the impact on appointment set rates and appointment shown rates are also considered. You may obtain more sales opportunities asking for the additional information.
- Getting the customer to contribute more information may cause them to have a greater investment in the lead submission. An old sales trick was to ask the customer if you can borrow a pen or pencil. (There was a time when carrying one was normal.) It was a little thing that increased the customer’s investment in the relationship. Most people naturally avoid those they owe something to and stay close to those who owe them something in return. In an electronic world, asking for a few more fields of information may be the modern equivalent of asking for a pencil. You don’t need to guess at this. Test, as discussed in the previous bullet point.
- The additional information may later add to your ability to communicate carefully targeted messages based on information in your CRM. If you don’t ask for a mailing address, you can’t mail. That is not at all important to some stores in some communities, but it is very important to others.
Whatever your situation is today, reconsideration may be justified in the future. The most powerful variable is how badly the shopper wants the vehicle, the information, and the relationship. Our dealers with the Advanced VDP package can safely ask for more optional information than they could have before adding the package. Even our new customers without Advanced VDP find they can more safely ask for additional information than with their previous site. Giving the shopper more information, and better navigation to find that information, helps turbocharge their desire and their corresponding willingness to provide additional information.
Understand what works on your own site for your unique store in your unique community. Secondary research can be directional, but it is generally not proof of how you should run your store. When you do use secondary research, be sure you fully understand it and its implications. The article I mentioned in the beginning was based on secondary information. They mistakenly thought because Expedia’s A/B test showed a profit by eliminating the optional “company” field from one of their forms meant that auto dealers should eliminate all optional fields.
An article on the Expedia test shows why the “company” field was a problem:
- When visitors see the “Company” field, they were confused.
- Visitors thought Expedia meant they should put in their Bank name.
- Users then put their Bank’s address into the billing fields.
- This led to failed transactions, which led to abandons.
Clearly, we don’t have these problems with lead forms. We don’t ask for confusing things like “company”. This research cannot be applied to asking shoppers for their address or asking them if they’d like to include any comments.
Be sure you have control over your website and be sure you use that control based on sound research rather than rash predictions from desperate vendors. As a wise man once said, “Beware of false prophets.”