The Pros and Con of Using a Gated Website

Occasionally I stumble upon an ecommerce site that requires me to register or login to view their content, like Zulily, Huckberry, and Gilt. It can be kind of jarring, and typically causes me to pause to consider if I really want to fork over my email address. I usually weigh a few things when deciding.

The upside:

  • I’ll be able to view the site and satisfy my curiosity
  • I’ll be able to make a purchase, if I want to
  • I’ll (theoretically) have access to exclusive content

The downside:

  • My inbox is going to feel the effects
  • I’ll be subjected to (possibly) relentless retargeting

What it always comes down to is this: how badly do I want to view the site’s content? A lot of this has to do with A) whether there’s a specific reason I’m visiting the website, and B) what I actually can see.

Using a gated website adds friction to the shopping process, something ecommerce marketers are cautioned to avoid at all costs. So, why even consider it in the first place?

The answer is simple: you can generate more qualified leads.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using a gated website for your ecommerce business and, if you do decide to go with a gated site, how to do it correctly.

Pros

1. Collect Higher Quality Email Addresses
When it comes down to it, the people who are willing to give you their email address in exchange for access to your site are more likely to buy.

But beware: the number of leads you collect will decrease — maybe even drastically.

We conducted a week-long study comparing sites with similar daily traffic to see how gated sites performed against non-gated ones. We found that, on average, non-gated sites collect almost 14X more email addresses per day.

gated-vs-ungated-graphBut this is short term data, and things get more interesting over a longer period of time. I spoke with Evan Williams, the Head of Customer Retention at Huckberry, to learn the reasoning behind their gated site. Here’s what he had to say:

After running a long A/B test between the two, we found that revenue from a signup gate was outpaced by an open site initially, but users that joined through our email gate were much higher quality over time. Our landing page also gives us the opportunity to tailor creative to specific audiences and interests for customer acquisition efforts.”

So, if you’re considering using gated site, it’s 100% worth it to invest time in testing it out first — just make sure you run the test for a few months to see the long term effects.

2. Create an Air of Exclusivity
If you use language that implies your products are highly curated or for members only, it creates an air of exclusivity that can convince visitors to give you their email address. In general, people like being part of exclusive groups and want what they can’t have.gilt

To accomplish this, it’s important to generate PR around your brand and get your name out. If no one’s ever heard of you, any attempt at being exclusive will fall flat.

3. Collect Info on Everyone Who Visits Your Site
This is arguably the biggest pro of using a gated website. All activity on your site will be directly connected to an email address. When you collect email addresses upfront, you’ll be able to start collecting data immediately, making it easy to send personalized emails, including browse abandonments and abandoned carts.

Cons

1. Collect More Invalid Email Addresses
Using a gated site means you could be collecting a lot of invalid email addresses, like “jafio@iajoi.fjsi” or “imnotgivingumyemailaddress@fu.com” (this on the polite side of what we’ve seen before).

Invalid email address equal hard bounces. While ESPs like Klaviyo automatically suppress hard bounced addresses, collecting them can give you a false sense of growth when you look at your list. Luckily, there are ways to work around this.

The best way to avoid compromising the quality of your leads is by using a double opt-in. Requiring subscribers to confirm their email addresses will lower the number of junk addresses you get and ensure that those who are signing up actually want to receive your emails.

2. Some Visitors Might be Turned Off Altogether
There will always be some visitors who are turned off the minute they see a gated site. There’s not much you can do to win these people over, unless you make only part of your site gated or appeal to them personally in the signup form.

This is where the type of personalization Evan from Huckberry talks about comes into play. To combat this, create a relevant experience for the visitor and they’ll be more inclined to stick around. Specifically, this means tailoring the signup page to what you do know about them, like how they found you (via Google, Twitter, etc.).

3. Impede the Buying Process
Gated sites create a hurdle that visitors have to leap over in order to make a purchase, which isn’t ideal. To make this work, you absolutely must be able to provide content that visitors can’t easily find elsewhere. Otherwise, they’ll just hit the “back” button.

Even if you’re not selling your own products, you can accomplish this by offering a curated selection along with other content, like tips on how to use them. Huckberry sells a combination of their own products, along with a carefully curated selection of items from other retailers. To further develop their brand, they offer a “Journal” section of their site, and pepper related lifestyle tips in their product catalog.

4. Impact Your SEO
Based on research by Jumpshot, the more pages you gate off on your site, the more difficult it is for search engines to find you. This is why it’s important to build awareness for your site using tools like social media and industry influencers. While a gate might make it more difficult for people to stumble upon your site, traffic does not necessarily mean sales, and people who seek you out are highly qualified leads.

Takeaways

Gated sites allow you to market to visitors in a more personalized way and can help you drive revenue. Deciding whether or not to use a gated site depends on your business and should be thoroughly tested before executing. Those who decide to opt for a gated site should remember to focus on generating awareness and providing a relevant experience for each of your site visitors.

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Marissa Petteruti
Marissa started at Klaviyo on the Marketing team, and is now a technical writer on the Product Education team. She enjoys writing helpful content for our customers and training them on how to use the product.
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