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Question-led or Instruction-led copy?

WhichTestWon's Analysis: (Click back to see versions A & B)

– Case Study –

IG, a UK-based online trading company with over 152,600 clients worldwide, is looking for new ways to increase its client-base. One of the company’s primary lead gen tactics relies on capturing the email address of prospective clients on-site and nurturing relationships with them through email.

In order to optimize their email list growth, IG decided to test whether instruction-based copy, or question-based copy, resulted in a higher email capture rate.

They ran the test internally for one month using Adobe Target and split traffic across a small control group and 2 test-variations. The overlays were fired to abandoning visitors who met specified criteria via Exit Intent technology.

Traffic was split as follows:

  • Control Group: 9,267 users
  • Variation A:18,321 users
  • Variation B: 18,405 users

Based on previous experience and tests run by IG, the team suspected the instruction-led copy would outperform the question-led text.

They speculated that instruction-led copy is stronger because it provides the user with clear directions for next steps to take.

Winner: Version B – the instruction-led copy took the strong lead, driving a 41% lift in email capture rate over Variation A and a 1536% lift over the control group, at 99% confidence.

It’s called the Trend of Convenience.

Basically, humans are on a continual search for new ways to make their lives a little more convenient and a lot easier. Just think about all that’s happened since the invention of the internet: we’ve moved from dial-up to free wifi stations across cities; from giant desktops to all sorts of connected devices; from brick & mortar to eCommerce; from encyclopedias to Wikipedia and Google. The internet has essentially brought the world to our fingertips.

So, why has this digital shift made our lives so much easier? Because it allows us to think less. If we need new shoes, we don’t have to consider how we’ll get to the store, traffic or train conditions, the weather, etc. We simply navigate to a website or search Google. Sure, there are still decisions involved, but not nearly as many.

Steve Krug expands on the idea behind the Trend of Convenience within the context of website usability in his book, Don’t Make Me Think:

“It means that as far as humanly possible, when I look at a Web page, it should be self-evident. Obvious. Self-explanatory… I should be able to ‘get it’ — what it is and how to use it — without expending any effort thinking about it.”

Let’s bring this idea to this week’s copy test conducted by IG: the first variation posed a question to the user while the second question gave the user direct instructions. While we know that the instruction-led copy drove stronger email capture rates, the question remains why?

Put yourself in the users’ shoes. You’re trying to decide whether or not to trade shares with IG – a process already asking you to make several complex financial decisions. Perhaps you’re unable to make up your mind, or maybe you’re just not ready to take the next step, so you get ready to leave the site. But, before you exit, one of the two test overlays appear.

You see Variation A, and read the copy: “Do you trade shares? Take your portfolio to the next level with our free three-part guide.” You’re left considering a few items:

  1. Do you trade shares?
  2. If not, is this question relevant to you?
  3. Do you have a portfolio?
  4. Does your portfolio need to reach a new level? Or, are you happy with its current performance?

Now let’s imagine you saw Variation B, and read the following copy, instead: “Enter your email address to get our free three-part guide.” This time, there’s less to consider:

  1. Do you want a free guide?

Well, why not? All I have to do is enter my email address, after all.

Ultimately, it all boils down to the simple fact that humans are lazy creatures – they don’t want to “puzzle” over things if they don’t have to. Or, as Steve Krug puts it: “every question mark adds to our cognitive workload, distracting our attention from the task at hand. The distractions may be slight, but they add up, and sometimes it doesn’t take much to throw us.”

To sum up, don’t make your audience do unnecessary work. Drive your conversion rate higher by ensuring your audience understands exactly what you want them to do and how they should do it.

Actionable Takeaways:

Don’t make your audience think. At least not too much. Make sure your users know exactly what you want them to do across every step of the conversion funnel and state the benefits for doing so.

Test it. In this scenario, the question-led copy drove a lower conversion rate. But that doesn’t mean it will for your business. Test your copy approach to ensure you’re providing the highest converting, least puzzling experience for your traffic.

Tell us your thoughts:

Why do you think the instruction-led copy converted best?

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Winning Version


Reader Guesses:

Which Test Won?

  • Version A
  • Version B
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