Stanford published the definitive study on conversion rates and CAPTCHA, the hard to read verification forms used to prevent spam, a few years ago. Their study fairly well ended the discussion about CAPTCHA’s effect on conversion rates. CAPTCHA significantly lowers conversions.
Despite superior technology and ways to trap spam without hassling the consumer, major sites, the most notable being Facebook, continue to use CAPTCHA. The question is why? This article suggests a few creative uses for CAPTCHA that seem to be in use: they appear to have little to do with catching spam or security.
CAPTCHA: A Barometer to Measure Desire
CAPTCHA, and particularly double CAPTCHA (two words) is hard for a human to get through. On average it takes someone several seconds to correctly get past a CAPTCHA form. Faced with double CAPTCHA a customer or viewer must really want something to get through the form. Comparing and analyzing the data in lost conversion rates provides an additional analytical tool for measuring desire. How badly does the customer really want the product? How far are they willing to go? How important is it to them to share or like an article? These stats collected over time and analyzed using A/B testing will reflect market sentiments and trends. The image of the Netbase love pillow girl might as well be above every CAPTCHA box.
CAPTCHA: A Way to Collect Information
When a new Facebook account is first established if a user tries to like something on their smart phone without registering the device Facebook presents a barrage of CAPTCHA forms. Facebook prompts the user to register their phone number with Facebook to “verify” their account. It’s ingenious really. Facebook looks like a white knight and gets very valuable mobile data in one fell swoop.
CAPTCHA: A Way to Best the Competition
Facebook just added a CAPTCHA check for any post shared from Blogger. According to Peter Pachal’s article on Mashable this is really just a veiled swipe at Google to get back at them for Google+. He correctly points out that this is not a small-unknown site that should need a CAPTCHA form for security reasons. Blogspot has some spammy sites but there is value over there as well.
Conversely, one of the new changes within Facebook has removed the clunky + button to like things within Facebook. Facebook’s interface is arguably designed to keep viewers on the site as long as possible. The loss of this extra step means significantly less time on site per viewer and this will translate into less ad revenue once this portion of the site is optimized and in demand. Why make this change? “To improve the experience for our users.” Hmmm. Rather, new competitive models including Google+ and Pinterest use a one step process rather than two. Harried users today want fast and easy Social Media and now they have a choice.
Similarly, the transfer of photos out to Pinterest via Facebook isn’t allowed. Security is again the excuse. In addition, if you sign up for Pinterest using Facebook, by default that becomes the easiest way to access Pinterest. Without using the Facebook connection it isn’t possible to like pins on Pinterest. Pinterest’s splendid interface is a serious threat in many ways. Perhaps a few security barriers to make Pinterest less appealing seemed wise from Facebook’s perspective.
Creatively using CAPTCHA to control and test conversions and market trends has almost limitless applications. For example, maybe a site needs to slow down conversions to prevent crashing or to deal with supply issues related to a particular product. Despite the latest cracking of video and audio CAPTCHAs at Stanford, it looks like CAPTCHA may be here to stay. Additional creative CAPTCHA uses out there? Do tell!
Craig Calvin is brand manager for http://www.sixsigmaonline.org, a leading online six sigma certification provider.