Data Post October 8, 2009 - Forced vs Unforced Registration Test
Website Data for October 1 - October 7, 2009
We are testing 2 nearly duplicate websites to find out whether we collect more leads by forcing users to register or not. For more information about our "Test," please visit our previous blog post here.
For this reporting period, we have posted our raw data first and our comments second. Please note: these numbers represent total unique visitors on each website for the Oct 1 - 7 timeframe, but the contact form submissions reported below only represent those that first registered on a website during this time. For example: IDX users who registered prior to October 1st, and requested a showing during this timeframe, were not counted in this data.
| Saint-Paul-Real-Estate.com (Unforced)||BarkerHedges.com (Forced) |
| Unique Visitors||752||1084|
| Avg Pages Viewed per Visitor||15.6||11.1|
| Avg Time on Site per Visitor||10 minutes 47.1 seconds||6 minutes 56.1 seconds|
| Bounce Rate||27%||40%|
|IDX Registrations||8||43 |
| Showing Request Forms||4||3 |
| Property Inquiry Forms||4||3 |
| Other Misc Forms||1||0 |
| Call In from Website||0||1 |
| Bad Information Given||0|
The first thing we did was compute the Conversion Rate for each website. This conversion rate is the percentage of Unique Visitors who convert to a Lead. For purposes of this computation, we don't care what the lead type is (IDX, Showing Request, Contact Form, etc.), we only care that the lead gave valid contact information. So we took the total number of leads, less the ones who gave bad information, to arrive at a net lead total for the week. For Saint-Paul-Real-Estate.com, the conversion rate was 2.26% (17 net leads ÷ 752 unique visitors). For BarkerHedges.com, the conversion rate was 4.52% (49 net leads ÷ 1084 unique visitors). If we only based our analysis on this ratio, we would conclude that a Forced Registration website is twice as likely to produce a lead as an Unforced site and the test could end this week. But, since we have some data, let's dig a little deeper.
The other numbers represent more specific information about what the website user did or didn't do while on our websites. First, let's look at the average pages viewed per visitor. Saint-Paul-Real-Estate.com did better by 4.5 pages per visitor. This is likely attributed to the fact that the user is able to view multiple properties without having to register - i.e. give us their email address. Second, users on Saint-Paul-Real-Estate.com spend nearly 11 minutes on the website, while BarkerHedges.com users spend about 7 minutes. This could be a result of the user leaving the site when he/she is asked to register. Third, it is no surprise that the bounce rate is higher for BarkerHedges.com than for Saint-Paul-Real-Estate.com...this makes sense in light of the lower page views and shorter time on the site for BarkerHedges.com.
Let's turn our attention to the type of leads generated by each website over the past 7 days. There are 2 ways of looking at leads: those that will purchase a home "someday" and those that will purchase a home "today." Showing requests and property inquiries are Leads most likely to purchase a home today. And IDX registrations are those Leads more likely to purchase "someday."
Saint-Paul-Real-Estate.com produced 8 property inquiry and showing request leads during the past 7 days. This means that Saint-Paul-Real-Estate.com has a 1.06% conversion rate (8 leads ÷ 752 unique visitors) for users who take action and request a showing or inquire about a property. BarkerHedges.com has a .55% conversion rate (6 leads ÷ 1084 unique visitors) for users who request a showing or inquire about a property during this same time. We are starting to see the beginning of a trend. BarkerHedges.com had an overall conversion rate for all lead types that was exactly double that of Saint-Paul-Real-Estate.com, BUT, the number reverse when we look only at the leads that will purchase "today." In this category, Saint-Paul-Real-Estate.com was better by almost exactly double!
Hmmm. We can't resist extrapolating the data. By doing so, we could conclude that if BarkerHedges.com performed as well as Saint-Paul-Real-Estate.com - at least for showing requests and property inquiries - we would have experienced roughly 11 showing requests or property inquiries over these 7 days (1084 unique visitors x 1.06%). I know, the converse is also true: if Saint-Paul-Real-Estate.com were to force users to register, we would have experienced about 22 additional IDX registrations (currently 1.06% of the unique visitors register as IDX users on Saint-Paul-Real-Estate.com and 3.97% of BarkerHedges.com users register as IDX users).Conclusion:
There are literally 100's of ways to interpret and analyze this data and many theories will be tested in the coming weeks and months. Our goal, when this test it finished, is to have a clearer understanding of where we are going and the best way to get there!
The proof in the pudding will be 6 months from now assuming that you have action plans in place (i.e. a good drip that touches systematically over an extended period of time and a new listing notification set up for each and every registrant).
You will find that the vast majority of buyers in the world are not impulsive and wanting to hop in the car and go look at property today. In fact, the vast majority are just beginning their search and will be six months or better before being ready to do something. The majority of our buyers in GA were out of towners and the same holds true here on the beach! Want to truly fail at this game, then ignore this paragraph.
Your drip and new listing notifications must thoughtfully extend beyond the 6 month period (mine goes out 2 years at six week intervals and consists mostly of a 2 sentence "just checking in" message). What you can look forward to is your return visitors increasing enormously and your chances of still being in the buyers mind as a helpful resource when the time comes to buy will be increased as well for they will start revisiting the site in short bursts perhaps to look at only a single property from the new listing notification and perhaps inquiring from that when the perfect property arrives at some point way beyond the registration date.
Your analytics will become somewhat skewed as well in that the % new vistors will begin a downward trend and the # of page views and time on site will begin downward declines as well both due to the large number of burst visits generated by the new listing notifications. The effect becomes that the notifications become relied upon to keep the buyer in the loop and they reduce their surfing (on your site as well as others).
If you aren't putting all visitors on a saved search / new listing notification and your drip does not extend far enough into the future, when the 6 to 12 months goes by and they are ready to perform, they may have forgotten about you and end up talking to a competitor. You will have kept them informed and excited until a period of months before they were "ready, willing, and able" only to loose them from thinking short term versus long term.
Using your statistics and assuming a long term touch plan, on the non-registration site at the end of one year you will be touching 416 persons. On the forced registration 2,236 will be on the touch plan. Given a 2% conversion rate, site one will bring in 8.3 transactions and site two will bring in 44 transactions.
As far as the hot to trot ready to go that filled out the inquiry or showing request, site 2 still had a full 75% of what site one did. These become high touch buyers and site two will not suffer that badly in regard to that percentage. However, you will see that the inquiries and showing requests will increase substantially over time for site two due to the increasing nummbers of return visitors.
For the prior seven days I have 111 registrations and 714 return visitors. On a typical day I have from 800 to 2000 new listing notifications go out. The unsubscribe rate is shockingly only 1 to 2 per week and the "We aren't ready yet, but thanks so much for sending us this information, we will let you know when we are ready" notes exceed the weekly unsubscribes by a factor of 2 or 3.
Makes me break into song with "you ain't nothing but a hound dog" when I pass along the inquiries and showing requests to the team every day. And yes, it is still a relationship game and team members that aren't timely and helpful won't win the business.
Thanks for tuning in and giving a great analysis of the data! I agree, without a proper follow up plan and hard working team members our efforts will fruit nothing. Building relationships and giving great customer service to the consumer will always be key in our business.
Wow guys, I'm really impressed by this (the experiment and both of your analyses of the data). Can't wait to see where it'll go, especially as of 1-2 years into the future. It may be tempting to lose steam by that point, but I hope you will persist.
I also hope other markets will be sampled, since it would be expected that user reactions to forced registration will differ amongst different population samples.
For instance, if I were a granny, I would probably be more inclined to register when prompted, whereas a more savvy user might expect to find another site without forced registration, with identical properties and a similar functionality. However, some markets will LACK such competition....
Is there a means/plan to track user who bounce (without registering), and who later return and register? Those numbers would be novel, though perhaps not useful?
Thanks for the amazingly detailed post! I'm intrigued, and look forward to following your progress.
I'm surprised that forced registration only yields about 5 times as many initial leads. From my testing (Years ago), it yielded more like 8 to 10 leads.
We saw similar numbers in the fact that non-forced registration produced more "now" leads, but felt that in the long run, building a relationship over time produced far more leads in total.
Again, thanks for sharing such fantastic information! I look forward to seeing how you do with more testing.
There are too many places to get info for free for any educated surfer. Forced reg is just hard sell. If they reg with your site, they will reg with a dozen more. Automated emails do not equal a "relationship" - it is s substitute for customer service. The proof is in the SERIOUS leads - showings and immediate requests. The "but somedays" are buy from SOMEONE but PROBABLY not you. The close rate will be much higher vs chasing cold leads.
@ Joe: Thanks for participating and posting your comments. I too thought that forced registration would produce low quality leads and create a situation where we would be chasing cold leads.
If you read the other blog posts on this topic, you will find that the unforced and forced sites actually produce nearly identical "Serious" leads. Even more shocking, we are starting to experience higher volume of "serious" leads on the forced site now that we are actually marketing to the registered leads and encouraging them to return to the site. Time will tell and I hope that you keep following the results of our test.
You might be correct that these same leads will likely register on various other websites. All this means is that we need to do a better job of following up with these people so when it comes time to make a purchase, they will contact us. If I was afraid that our clients might be talking to other agents to gather information for their home purchase or sale, I would have gone out of business about 9 years ago. People shop around, that is the way the world works. I am confident that if we have an opportunity to share our knowledge with them, a vast majority will feel comfortable with using our team.
Our goal in performing this test it to determine the best way to promote our websites to the public. We feel that our real estate team offers the best customer service in the industry and we want to share our experience and knowledge with the home buyers and sellers in our area. If we do the best job we can for our clients, our business will be successful. And the more people we are able to talk to about real estate, the more people we will find that will benefit from the exception service that we provide. It's a simple as that!
One last comment: If you really want to contribute on this topic, I encourage you to use your real name instead of hiding behind a fake identity. Blogs and forums are a great way to share your opinions and debate the questions of the day...BUT come on, you have to at least own up to your comments!
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