The New Chasm — Flawed First User Experience

Photo by Faizur Rehman on Unsplash

The first chasm most startup marketers face is not the well-known chasm originally described way back in 1991 (jumping from early adopter to mainstream users). Instead, it’s the chasm from “click” to “gratification” experienced by website visitors. In my direct experience with six startups and indirect experience with several others, it has become clear that the majority of new people that visit a website receive zero gratification. In other words, they do not experience any benefit from the product or service being offered. Without gratification, it is very unlikely they will generate transactions or positive word of mouth/virality. In fact, I generally assign a negative value to these people because any brand awareness created is saddled by the memory of wasted time and effort.

Most companies concentrate resources on the two sides of this chasm. The product team focuses on creating a fantastic product experience for those who make it to the other side of the chasm, while the marketers are busy trying to stuff as many people into the top of the acquisition funnel as possible — often at a large expense. The negative experience and wasted money happen in this no-man’s-land between the click and a gratifying experience with the product. It is into this chasm that the majority of online marketing dollars are lost.

Of course not all products/services can engage users like a game site does. Still, there are important lessons that can be applied about surfacing your primary benefit early in the acquisition process and drawing users into the core experience. LinkedIn and other websites have done a fantastic job with the “% completed” box that appears next to your profile. Rather than having the barrier of asking for all the information up front, they ask for it gradually.

Free trials are another way companies have offered a gratifying experience before asking users to commit. But with a software product, there are still several costly steps required before the trial begins. These include the challenge/risk of downloading software and the time it takes to learn how to use the product. If a company can sprinkle in a gratifying experience through this process, people will remain engaged.

At LogMeIn they took it a step further and rewarded prospects for their effort with a completely free version of the software. Prospective customers knew they would be rewarded for their effort downloading/learning the software even if they didn’t upgrade to the premium version. This helped get LogMeIn eventually installed on over 50 million devices.

P.S > I’m going to keep posting this on Medium — in aeternum — for free. If you want to pay* for these posts to continue, you can do so here, here or here.

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