My Kingdom for an Email Address

Once in a blue moon, this dragon does shop. I was reading an email newsletter yesterday when I saw an ad from an online retailer. Instead of continuing to read the article, I clicked through to learn more about the store and offerings. My expectations utterly changed when I got to the site. I wondered if this online tactic had been tested and then I saw it again.

Below is the newsletter ad I saw. Because I needed more storage solutions, I thought I would see what One Kings Lane had. The top images made me think the store carried items I would like. Like many e-commerce sites, I figured there was ample choice and I could find something that fit my style and budget.

One Kings Lane ad in newsletter


Setting Expectations

I was ready to start shopping until I saw the form below. Buggers!

One Kings Lane overlay

As I wanted to shop now, I looked for a [x] close control to dismiss the form. I didn’t see one. The site is more or less disabled until you give an email address. You can see their Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, but that’s about it.

What’s In It for the User?

For all I know, One Kings Lane did online testing or can discern from their analytics that I’m an outlier. Many people will gladly provide an email. And yes, I could have entered a secondary email address.

There is little information in the pop up that tells me what I get for joining. As for 70% off, it’s meaningless until I see the items and prices. It makes me think that the main objective is for the retailer to build their email list and my initial shopping experience is secondary. I doubt that is their intent.

This tactic of requiring my email before viewing this site didn’t work for me. There are too many options where I can shop without having to give that info as a prerequisite.

I’m not saying One Kings Lane is wrong. Clearly, they are executing well as their revenue is $200 million according to this Forbes article by Tomio Geron. (Note: if you go to the Forbes article, you do see a quote and ad first. But, you can click the Continue to Site link in top right.)

A Subtle Difference

And if flattery is the best compliment, I do see sites and Google Ads that look similar to One King’s Lane. Keep in mind that dragons don’t have 20/20 vision but when I went the Joss & Main site below, I thought they were another division that was geared to a different audience. I had to check domain registrations to rule that out.

Joss & Main pop up


Although the sites look similar to me on the surface, Joss & Main takes a slightly different approach. Their form anticipates my question about why they ask for an email address. The 30 second video goes into more detail. I also get the idea that they are a “members-only daily deals” type site, whereas I didn’t get that from my first look at One Kings Lane. This was probably because I was fixated on having to give an email without knowing the reason that I didn’t see other clues.

Joss & Main video about email request


Time Tested

As you might guess, I’m not familiar with these membership deal sites. I tried to see if I could find some studies where people had tested similar methods. The first place I checked was Anne Holland’s, This is a fantastic site that offers free info and an archive of case studies for premium members. I didn’t see any case studies that matched these brands. I also checked, which is another site that has an extensive research directory and videos.

My suggestion for folks is to think how your audience will view your forms. While things may be obvious to you, users come with different expectations and reference points. If you request information from your users, there needs to be something of value in return. It needs to be obvious why the info is needed. Test to make sure your assumptions are correct.