Q&A: How to best utilise online forms

- December 14, 2016 4 MIN READ

Have you ever asked for a few too many questions on an online form for your small business? You aren’t alone.

However, one of the most common reasons why online forms don’t perform as well as small businesses might expect, is that the forms ask for too much information. The good news is it’s easy to remedy. Here’s what you need to know to get a better result.

Q. Why is it an issue to ask for too much customer information on online forms?
The first reason is that consumers’ time is valuable and their attention span online is limited. Makes sense, right? The longer a contact form or online registration is, the more likely a user is to stop the process halfway through unless they are 100% convinced that doing so will benefit them.

Secondly, in the age of information security where consumers’ data may be bought and sold to third parties, hacked or leaked, consumers are wary of providing too much information. If you ask questions which don’t seem relevant to the most basic information required to complete a transaction you risk alienating a customer’s trust or encouraging high bounce rates.

IS the sale or the information MORE IMPORTANT?

Q. What information is essential to ask for?
For every form field you are consider including, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Why does my business need this information?
2. Who will use this information, and for what purposes?
3. Do I need this piece of information about every customer or prospect or just some?
4. Is there a better way of obtaining this information?
5. If this field is on a current form, how often is it filled out? If it is seldom filled out then consider deleting it.

Often the information we think we need is more of a desire. It may help you track the results of an advertising campaign or provide better data to enhance recommendations for repeat purchases, but it’s often not needed to complete the transaction at hand. Ask yourself; what is more important the sale or the information?

customer conversion rates increase 50% when 1 less question was asked

For example, one question that commonly appears on online registration forms is “How did you hear about us?” This is an unnecessary question in the eyes of the consumer, one which slows them down. Furthermore, you should be able to get most of that information from your analytics. For example, if a customer clicked a link in an email or clicked on a banner ad, you should already know this from your analytics.

Another annoyance for consumers is having to provide their birthdate. If someone orders a book online, then the company does not really need to know their birthdate and asking for this information could be seen to be invasive. Of course, this does depend on your industry.

Some businesses like to collect birthdate information so they can reward customers with a special discount coupon on their birthday. If this is why you are requesting the information, then make sure to let them know about the incentive, but keep the field optional in case they would rather not share.

Another option is to ask for your customers birthday month so you can still offer this option and send out special offers for customers having a birthday each month. This allows you to get information you want for your customers but you have not asked quite such an invasive question.

Phone numbers are another sensitive piece of information that can discourage users to complete forms. Studies have shown that asking for a phone number can cause a 5 per cent dip in conversion rates. Unless the reason someone is filling in a form is to request a call back, then seriously consider dropping this field completely.

It’s a proven fact that fewer form fields equals greater conversions. According to research by HubSpot, which investigated over 40,000 contact forms, conversion rates increase by nearly 50 per cent when the number of forms reduce from four to three.

The word “Submit” reduceD conversions by 3%

Q. What other factors influence online forms’ conversion rates?
Almost as important as what information you ask for, is how easy you make it for users to provide you with that information.

User-friendliness is key: Opt-in forms should be easy to read and easy to fill out. Left aligned labels and headings significantly improve readability and should be used over right aligned labels.

Make it mobile-friendly: Certain factors that may work fine on forms on desktop devices can be annoying for mobile users. For example, scrolling through a drop down list of dozens countries is much more difficult on a mobile device. If people are filling out location information on a mobile device, why not allow them to do so easily by utilising the GPS information of their phone in a single click?

Be transparent: We all know that privacy is a very real concern for many users. Consider allaying users’ fears by being transparent about what the information they provide will be used for. Let prospects know that their information won’t be sold or shared with third parties.

Using descriptive copy for the submit button: Choose the wording for your submit button at the bottom of the form carefully, and consider A/B testing different wording variations. The word “Submit” has been shown to reduce conversions by three per cent. Consider other options such as “Complete” or “Go”.

The reality is, the text, layout, design and functionality of form fields are all important factors in conversion rates. At the end of the day, a form that provides a positive user experience will always outperform one that doesn’t. A simple way to gauge the user experience of your forms is to ask friends and family to test them and provide feedback. Make sure you choose people who can relied upon to give honest and constructive responses not just people who will tell you that it is perfect exactly as it is when you know there is room for improvement.

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