How does progressive profiling work and what are the benefits?

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Although progressive profiling isn't a new concept, it is a practice that seems to have been sidelined lately. This is evident with the number of otherwise great websites that bombard would-be subscribers with a 15-field registration form—all to receive a simple newsletter. Needless to say it can, and often does, hinder sign-up and conversion rates.

Registering for something or requesting a download should be quick and painless, and needn't require handing over too much private information. So when visitors are confronted with a stream of personal questions with no explanation behind them, they are likely to abandon the process, permanently.

Yes, you want to find out as much about your subscribers as you can; but you need to do it subtly. Enter progressive profiling. This clever little feature allows you to ask for information incrementally rather than all at once, thereby engaging with your subscribers slowly and steadily.

It works like this:

  1. Visitors signing up for the first time on your site need only provide their name and email address, which is all you need to start building a basic profile.
  2. When they return to the website, prompt a few more questions, such as their industry and job title. Subsequent questions could be the name of their company, city, country and interests; what type of content they'd like to receive from you; and how frequently they'd like to receive it. The key here is that, because you are only asking two or three questions at a time, your abandon rate is low.
Remember to reconfirm your privacy policy each time a subscriber converts; and reassure him or her that any data you gather is used to ensure your email campaigns remain relevant and interesting.

One of the great benefits of this tactic is that at each new interaction you find out valuable information about subscribers. At the same time, they don't feel uncomfortable with an intimidating sign-up form because the process is handled in a number of stages at their own pace. The result? Everyone's happy. You get the information you need and the subscriber gets the newsletter (or whatever it happens to be) they want.

Although the setup might require a little bit more effort, there is no doubt that progressive profiling allows you to develop a strong online relationship with your customer, even if it happens over a longer period of time.

Georgia Christian is the editor of Mail Blaze (, a provider of email marketing solutions.

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