Both digital retailers and brick & mortar stores are always on the hunt for new and innovative ways to capture more leads and convert them into paying customers. To say this is a big challenge would be an outrageous understatement, as the advent of the internet has made competition fiercer for every industry imaginable.
Throughout the years, retails would place “Contact Us” forms on their website with the hope that interested browsers would connect with them. These “Contact Us” forms are what us digital marketers call “Static Lead Forms;” and while they served a purpose about 10-15 years ago, they aren’t nearly as effective as they used to be. In fact, I would go as far as saying they’re pretty well dead.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, interactive media is becoming far more popular amongst retailers (both digital and brick & mortar), and it’s quickly replacing the need for lead forms. Still, you might be asking yourself “If retailers are still using static lead forms, why do you consider them dead?”
Here are 7 Reasons Why Lead Forms Are Dead:
1. No One Wants to Fill Out Static Forms Anymore
Over the last few years, static lead forms have become nothing more than a decoration. No one really pays attention to lead forms anymore; and frankly, those consumers aren’t receiving anything of value from submitting their information. After they submit their contact information, it’s as if it goes into a black hole… until a sales rep calls them up, of course.
After consumers submit their contact information, the hope is that someone from the company will reach back out with the information and resources they’re looking for. Now, if I’ve learned anything as a frequent online shopper, the true purpose of these forms is to to get their contact information and sell them something. Sometimes the leads are nurtured, and sometimes they aren’t. Either way, most of the consumers that willingly fill out a lead form are probably still at the top of the purchasing funnel (or in the research phase) — meaning they aren’t quite ready to make a purchase yet.
There was a point in time when filling out a static lead form was just something consumers did to get additional information. However, with the advent of the internet, consumers have become choosier about the products and services they invest in — and rightfully so! There are far more options for consumers to choose from, so they’re taking the time to do that research. If they’re still looking for additional information, they probably don’t want to be sold to immediately.
Interactive experiences (or interactive lead forms) are quickly overtaking static lead forms as the preferred method of lead capture among online businesses. The reason for this is because it allows consumers to have a 2-way participatory conversation with your website in order to get the answers they’re looking for.
Let’s say, for example, a consumer wants to know what financing options are best for their situation before purchasing furniture. A good example of a valuable interactive experience would be an assessment that evaluates a consumer on an individual basis (based on the unique information they provide) and provides them with a plausible solution. This, of course, leads to our next point….
2. Interactive Experiences Produce Higher Engagement Rates
Unlike static lead forms, interactive experiences literally allow consumers to have a conversation with your website. Instead of “filling in the blanks” (Name, e-mail, phone, comments), a conversation occurs through a series of questions and answers. Because of this, website engagement rates are usually much higher than that of websites with static lead forms.
One of the most common interactive experience types is assessments. In an assessment experience, brands ask consumers different questions to draw conclusions about them and provide them with a possible solution to their current problem. Let’s say, for example, a consumer visits an apartment complex’s website and is trying to figure out which floor plan they’re going to go with (and there are a lot to choose from). It turns out that this is a typical problem for many prospective renters. A good way to resolve this issue and boost consumer confidence is to create an assessment that offers floor plan suggestions. In the experience, the website would ask relevant multiple choice questions (Ex: “How many people are in your family? Do you have kids? Do you have large pets?, etc.”) and answers provided by the consumer would provide a conclusion.
Now, do you understand what I mean when I say “consumers can have conversations with your website?” The website asks questions and the consumer replies with answers to those questions. Because conversations typically take a little longer than simply filling out a form, that means engagement on your website is typically longer too. Additionally, after a consumer has been provided with a possible solution (let’s say, for the sake of explanation, it’s a 2-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom floor plan), chances are good that the consumer will want to stay on your website and do a little more research on that solution (or floor plan, rather). Static lead forms don’t provide an immediate solution; so what real reason would a consumer have to stay on your website until they’ve been called by the sales rep? This is why engagement is usually so much lower on websites with static lead forms.
3. With Higher Engagement Comes Higher Conversions
As I mentioned before, folks simply aren’t interested in filling out static lead forms. Again, their information goes into an unknown void (until they’re being badgered by a salesperson, which is often the case) and they aren’t immediately receiving anything of value after they’ve submitted their contact information. In many ways, consumers feel like they’re being swindled. They’re promised something of value, but don’t always get it. This is why consumers aren’t filling out static lead forms anymore.
One of the major reasons why interactive experiences work is so successful is because it allows brands to essentially make promises they can keep! Instead of having to wait for additional information from a sales rep, they can get a solution within a matter of minutes. If consumers are guaranteed immediate solutions, they’re not just gonna start the experience; they’re going to complete the experience and convert from a consumer into a full-fledged lead. Consumers don’t want to wait on another person to provide them with the trade-in value of their vehicle, and they don’t want to upsold to a needlessly expensive floor plan in an apartment complex. Consumers would rather put their eggs in one basket first before they even go into a purchase/leasing phase.
The solution to a consumer's problem is the ultimate incentive for them completing an experience. I mean, sure — interactive experiences might take a little longer (since consumers need to answer questions to get their results), but if it means immediately getting something of value that will help them with their purchasing decision, they’re going to take the extra time. And just so we’re clear, the incentives can be anything you want them to be. It can be a trade-in value, an assessment (or report), a coupon or discount, an e-book — whatever your heart desires.
4. Interactive Experiences Are Highly Customizable
No matter who visits your website, static lead forms will consistently look and function the same way. There’s a space to fill in your name, your phone number, your e-mail address, and sometimes there’s a space for questions or comments. That’s basically the full extent of static lead forms. Sometimes you can change out a question, and sometimes you can’t. Either way, it’s primarily a vessel to capture contact information — and nothing more than that.
Interactive experiences, however, possess nearly endless possibilities for customization. Interactive experiences not only cater to your business goals, but they cater to the needs of your consumers as well. The only stipulation to the experiences you create is that you promise something of value. It can be an assessment, a discount, a trade-in value, a sweepstakes entry — anything that will entice your consumer base enough to get them to complete an experience.
Besides being able to customize the actual experience type (and customize the questions), the other cool thing is that your brand has complete control over the look of an interactive experience. Everything from the color scheme, to the imagery, and more importantly, the branding, is completely up to the discretion of the creator. What better way to legitimize your brand than to associate it with your interactive lead forms? Not only will the consumer know that the information is going directly to you, but the brand will lend the idea that they’re getting exactly what they’re asking for.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that all of these experience types are interesting. It isn’t a plain form that only allows you to enter text. Consumers no longer have to “speak to a wall.” Your website can collect specific information from a consumer and produce something of value based on the information that it’s collected. A static lead form can’t do that.
5. It’s Easier to Differentiate Yourself From Your Competitors
Even though static lead forms aren't a popular way for consumers to inquire about more information, there are still tons of companies that choose to slap these forms on their websites. And while the number of brands leveraging interactive experiences is steadily increasing, your brand will very likely stand out amongst its competitors. Why? Well, let’s state the obvious — not everyone is utilizing interactive content for their lead capture needs. If you place any type of interactive experience on your website, it’s going to immediately stand out to your consumers. Instead of filling out the usual static form and waiting for a response, they answer questions and something of value. The experience alone is VERY different.
Secondly, we mustn’t forget about the customization aspect of interactive lead forms. Not only will the overall look of the interactive lead form stand out in a person’s mind, but the actual experience (the assessment, the trade-appraisal, the quiz, the game, etc.) is memorable and something that your competitors probably aren’t doing…. yet.
6. Static Lead Forms Can’t Capture the Amount of Data Digital Marketers Need
What are the most common fields you see in a static lead form? Name, phone, e-mail address, type of inquiry (often a drop down) and sometimes an area for comments and inquiries. That’s not a whole lot of information, is it? A consumer’s contact information doesn’t provide any insight into what makes that consumer unique. There’s no information regarding shopping preferences, shopping timeline, consumer interests — the list goes on. Because there’s little to no customization involved with static lead forms, you aren’t able to ask consumers questions about the things your brand wants to know more about.
Given how customizable interactive lead forms are, your brand has complete control over any and all questions asked. If you want to learn more about what a consumer is interested in purchasing or if they’re interested in learning about financing options, all you have to do is ask. It’s important to ask these specific questions of your consumers because it helps you (the digital marketer) to gain a better understanding of your consumer base and how to market to them in the future.
In addition to helping digital marketers like yourself, your sales team (if applicable) can filter the information received down to an individual level, build consumer profiles and customize their follow-up based on the unique information in their profile.
7. Consumers Retain More Information
Along with being able to ask unique questions, interactive experiences also provide brands with the opportunity to inform and remain top of mind. After a consumer has completed an interactive experience on your website (and has received their incentive in the form of an assessment, appraisal, discount, etc.), your brand can provide more valuable information — perhaps on how to really leverage the incentive they were provided. Let’s say, for example, you’re a consumer visiting a dealership’s website. You complete a trade appraisal and you’re then provided with the value of your trade.
So, now what? Well, that dealership might offer additional information on what they can do to ensure those captured auto leads getting the most value from their trade-in. It could be in the form of additional interactive experience options. One experience could be assessing whether they should buy “used or new,” and another could be about finding the best financing options. Whatever the experience chosen, that additional information allows consumers to really think about every decision they make with your brand. Also, let’s be completely honest — the more top-of-mind they are and the more your brand stands out, the more likely a consumer will be to simply remember your brand.