Decisions after investment

Ensure that people are hooked before you ask them to give you “valuable” information or perform hard tasks. Better to give something away free than lose the future value.

Examples

  •  Sites used to require up front registration before even letting users in to see or test out a service. Now, very few use that model and instead they are more likely to balance the need for up-front information with the need to show the product off through use.

Principles

This concept of delaying the request until it is in context has its roots in theories of reciprocity. Users feel obliged to respond (reciprocate) when given something. Even if the gift is small (such as free entry to a site), they will respond with valuable (to advertisers) personal information.

How to save big decisions until after investment

  • Gather the minimum of information necessary to furnish the service.
  • Prompt for additional information as and when visitors start using additional services. Justify the information request with reference to the additional value that users will get from the service.
  • Always try to tie the requests to a reciprocal agreement (give me X so that I can give you Y) to ensure that the data is accurate rather than fake.
  • If you’ve gathered information as part of a checkout or other process, offer to store it for later. That sounds like a time-saver rather than a burden or imposition.
  • If you can’t provide enough value to elicit reciprocity, try the door-in-the-face strategy: ask for a lot of information, and then settle for much less.

Blog posts about this pattern