Forms are probably the most important part of your customer journey. They are the final step where the user entrusts you with their precious personal information in exchange for the goods or services you’ve promised.
And yet, too many companies spend minimal time on making sure their form experience is a good one for their users. They don’t use data to establish where the UX problems are on their forms, and they don’t run form-specific experiments to determine how to improve their conversion rate. As a result, too many forms are unnecessarily driving potential customers away, burning potential revenue and leads that could have been converted if they had only spent a little time and effort on optimization. Two-thirds of people who start a form don’t go on to complete it, meaning that a lot of money is being left on the table.
This article contains some of our top tips to help optimize your forms + checkouts with the goal of improving their conversion rate and delivering more customers and leads.
Use data to identify your problem fields
While user testing and session replay tools are useful in identifying possible form issues, you should also be using a specialist form analytics tool, as this will allow you to quantify the scale of the problem – where are most people dropping out – and prioritize improvements accordingly. A good form analytics tool will have advanced insights that will help work out what the problem is as well, giving you a head start on creating hypotheses for testing.
A/B test your forms
We’ve already mentioned how important it is to nurture your forms like any other part of your website. This also applies to experimentation. Your A/B testing tool such as Optimizely should allow you to easily put together a test to see if your hypothesis will improve your conversion rate. If there is also an integration with your form analytics tool you should then be able to push the test variants into it for further analysis.
Your analytics data and user testing should guide your test hypothesis, but some aspects you may want to look at are:
Changing the error validation timing (to trigger upon input rather than submission)
Breaking the form into multiple steps rather than a single page
Removing or simplifying problem fields
Manage user expectations by adding a progress bar and telling them how long the form will take upfront
Removing links to external sites so they are not distracted
Re-wording your error messages to make them more helpful
Focus on user behavior after a failed submission
Potential customers who work their way through their form, inputting their personal information, before clicking on the final ‘Submit’ button are your most valuable. They’ve committed time and effort to your form; they want what you are offering. If they click that button but can’t successfully complete the form, something has gone wrong, and you will be losing conversions that you could have made.
Fortunately, there are ways to use your form data to determine what has gone wrong so you can improve the issue.
Firstly, you should look at your error message data for this particular audience. Which messages are shown when they click ‘Submit? What do they do then? Do they immediately abandon, or do they try to fix the issue?
If you don’t have error message tracking (or even if you do), it is worth looking at a Sankey behavior flow for your user’s path after a failed submission. This audience will click the button then generally jump back to the field they are having a problem with. They’ll try to fix it, unsuccessfully, then perhaps bounce back and forth between the problem field a couple of times before abandoning in frustration. By looking at the flow data, you can determine the most problematic fields and focus your attention there.
Microcopy can make the checkout experience less stressful
If a user is confused, it makes their form/checkout experience much less smooth than it otherwise could be. Using microcopy – small pieces of explanatory information – can help reduce anxiety and make it more likely that they will complete the form.
Some good uses of microcopy on your forms could be:
Managing user expectations. Explain what information they need to enter in the form so they can have it on hand. For example, if they are going to need their driver’s licence, then tell them so.
Explain fields. Checkouts often ask for multiple addresses. Think “Current Address”, “Home Address” and “Delivery Address”. It’s always useful to make it clear exactly what you mean by these so there is no confusion.
Field conditions. If you have strict stipulations on password creation, make sure you tell the user. Don’t wait until they have submitted to tell them you need special characters, capital letters, etc.
You can often nudge the user in a certain direction with a well-placed line of copy.
Users are reluctant to give you personal information, so explaining why you need it and what you are going to do with it is a good idea.
A good example of reassuring microcopy
Be careful with discount codes
What is the first thing a customer does if they are presented with a discount code box on an ecommerce checkout? That’s right, they open a new browser tab and go searching for vouchers. Some of them never come back. If you are using discount codes, you could be driving customers away instead of converting them. Some studies show that users without a code are put off purchasing when they see the discount code box.
Fortunately, there are ways that you can continue to offer discount codes while mitigating the FOMO that users without one feel:
Use pre-discounted links. If you are offering a user a specific discount, email a link rather than giving them a code, which will only end up on a discount aggregator site.
Hide the coupon field. Make the user actively open the coupon box rather than presenting them with it smack in the middle of the flow.
Host your own offers. Let every user see all the offers that are live so they can be sure that they are not missing out.
Change the language. Follow Amazon’s lead and combine the Gift Card & Promotional Codes together to make it less obvious.
An example from Amazon on how to make the discount code field less prominent
Get error messages right
Error messages don’t have to be bad UX. If done right, they can help guide users through your form and get them to commit.
How do you make your error messages useful?
Be clear that they are errors. Make the messages standout from the form – there is a reason they are always in red.
Be helpful. Explain exactly what the issue is and tell the user how to fix it. Don’t be ambiguous.
Don’t do this!
Display the error next to the offending field. Don’t make the user have to jump back to the top of the form to find out what is wrong.
Use microcopy. As noted before, if you explain what they need to do early, they users are less likely to make mistakes.
Segment your data by user groups
Once you’ve identified an issue, you’ll want to check whether it affects all your users or just a specific group. Use your analytics tools to break down the audience and analyze this. Some of the segmentations you might want to look at are:
Device type. Do desktop and mobile users behave differently?
Operating system. Is there a problem with how a particular OS renders your form?
New vs. returning. Are returning users more or less likely to convert than first timers?
Do different product buyers have contrasting expectations of the checkout?
Traffic source. Do organic sources deliver users with higher intent than paid ones?
About the author
Alun Lucas is the Managing Director of Zuko Analytics. Zuko is an Optimizely partner that provides form optimization software that can identify when, where and why users are abandoning webforms and help get more customers successfully completing your forms.
Salesforce has announced an integration between Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Google Merchant Center to help merchants highlight the availability of products in stores. The move builds on Salesforce data that suggests both the widespread use of online search in advance of brick and mortar store visits, and an increased likelihood of shopping trips when consumers can see that a store has an item in stock.
Using this new integration, merchants using Commerce Cloud will be able to turn local inventory data into local product listings on Google Search and Google Maps and in the Shopping tab.
Why we care. The distinction between digital and real-world commerce continues to collapse. Those online shopping behaviors that exploded during the pandemic will be with us for the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t mean store visits are a thing of the past.
Rather, consumers are looking for seamless connections between an online product discovery experience and in-person purchases. This integration seeks to support that aim at a granular local level.
The Salesforce data that supports the move can be found here.
Embedding commerce in discovery. The integration also braids together online discovery and the commerce experience. Just as many merchants now seek to provide a frictionless transition from finding a product online to making a digital purchase, this sees the opportunity to link discovery with in-person shopping.
This move pairs with the recent announcement of Salesforce’s Einstein GPT for Commerce that combines proprietary and generative AI models with real-time data such as customer demographic data and shopping history, to automate and tailor shopper recommendations in Commerce Cloud.
Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.
He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.
Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.
82% of marketers believe that AI will be the future of marketing—in fact, many of them already believe AI writes better than a human (Capterra study).
Well, with ChatGPT flying past 100 million users in just two months…we’re living in the future.
AI is revolutionizing the way we work, think, and create.
I joined Content at Scale as the VP of Marketing this January in a bold move of ‘adapting or die’ for my career in content—one month in, what I’m seeing, learning, and facilitating for marketers and teams is blowing my mind. Let’s talk about it.
Reduce Content Overhead Costs and Frustrations by 5x-25x With the AIO Model
It’s now the Stone Age to sit at your computer and drum up 2,500 words for an SEO post from a blank slate.
When you can generate long-form SEO content (2,500 words or more) that’s fully original and well-written inside of five minutes or less, you’ll never want to go back.
On average, I’m seeing a 5-25x reduction in associated content creation costs (which is mind-boggling!), and a time savings of 5-10x. (My full-time writer at Content Hacker went from 7 hours per post to one hour per post after we adapted this model.)
Here’s the AIO model I’ve built out reflecting the difference of what you can do in your business and marketing by replacing the human blank-slate writing with AI blank-slate writing, based on hundreds upon hundreds of use cases from Content at Scale clients:
Artificial Intelligence as the baseline writer (replacing the human writer and blank slate)
The human writer as an optimizer of the AI baseline content
With the time and money savings, it’s an absolute no-brainer to switch to AI as the baseline.
The Human Process Involved In AIO
While we see AI perfectly capable of writing an entire 2,500 word blog from scratch, with a single keyword and one-sentence prompt:
We also see the need for the human optimization process pre-publish more necessary than ever.
Without your unique story (or client case studies/testimonials) woven in, the human touch of adding statistics, double-checking facts and cutting the fluff; AI-written content simply won’t stand out. It won’t set you apart in the content sea; it won’t drive customers and loyal fans in droves to your email list. So, the human touch is necessary.
My C.R.A.F.T. framework within AIO defines the steps writers should take to make the AI content more human and personalized once you take it from AI and get it ready to publish (from AI to O):
1. Cut the fluff
2. Review, edit, optimize
3. Add images, visuals, media
5. Trust-build with personal story, tone, links
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Humans are needed for the optimization side, and for that human touch that must be applied to the content AI generates. Content itself will never be a fully automated, 100% AI process; but AI can remove hours and hours of painstaking work from the content creation pipeline, which will save countless amounts of energy and dollars in the coming months and years when marketers adapt in full force.
Predictions About the Future of Content & AI
This year, Capterra surveyed almost 200 marketers using AI in their marketing. 82% of them said that the content written by AI was just as good if not better than human-generated content.
One of the first Generative AI experts in the world, Nina Schick (founder of Tamang Ventures, and creator of Substack project ‘The Era of Generative AI’), has told Yahoo Finance Live that she believes ChatGPT will completely revamp how digital content is created, and by 2025, software built with ChatGPT will enable us to reach 90% of all online content now being generated by AI. She said: “ChatGPT has really captured the public imagination in an extremely compelling way, but I think in a few months’ time, ChatGPT is just going to be seen as another tool powered by this new form of AI, known as generative AI,” she said.
Google Trends shows a HUGE jump in interest and traffic around the term “ChatGPT:”
Search traffic shows that the interest in AI is the highest it has ever been. The previous peak was in January 2012:
375 million jobs obsolete in the next ten years. In the next three years, it’s predicted that 120 million workers around the globe will need to be retrained and re-skilled for this new world.
Newer and better-paying jobs in AI will come on the scene, but they won’t replace the amount of jobs lost; so without retraining and reskilling, and learning how to adapt, average people will have difficulty finding new work.
Are You Ready to Join the Future?
I’m excited to see just how much AI will revolutionize human efficiency and optimization.
We’re in new times.
Are you ready to join the future of marketing and learn about all things AI?
Each year, I look forward to Opticon, where our global community of customers, partners, industry experts, academia, media, and digital leaders come together to explore the latest in digital.
This year, we brought everyone together in San Diego, in person for the first time since 2019. Over three dynamic days, we enjoyed countless conversations envisioning a future of digital where experiences are created and optimized at the same time.
Plenty of valuable learnings were shared, but I’ve highlighted my top three takeaways below.
Change has become uncertain; we must be adaptive.
The world is moving faster than ever, and change is constant and chaotic. Today’s digital leaders must navigate uncertainty on nearly every level: economic upheaval, rapid cultural change, ever-escalating customer expectations, and a tight talent market. Digital leaders face challenges that make it difficult for consumers and brands to react and connect.
But another element of change has profoundly changed over the past three years: change has become unpredictable, dramatically increasing the difficulty of creating the end-user experience. To not only stay the course but to grow in this unpredictable environment, you must put your organization on “adaptive footing” to account for quick changes.
That’s why Optimizely is increasing digital team agility through automation and AI and building simpler, reliable systems of records. Think customizable AI workflow for content creation and approval processes, automation to sync updates across all destinations, and approved templates that can be integrated seamlessly for marketers to speed up production while maintaining governance.
Keeping pace with the digital elite requires frictionless collaboration across teams, and there is no time to waste on clunky, inefficient workflows.
A great customer experience requires a great practitioner experience.
Simplifying “work about work” helps teams not only ride the wave of change but prioritize their well-being.
So many marketers feel overwhelmed by complexity, which is a real problem for creativity. You wouldn’t want your sports team playing exhausted or demoralized before the big game; the same goes for your team at work.
When we surveyed global marketers, the top creative roadblocks included employee burnout and high turnover. Our research also revealed that 92% of global marketers believe dispersed teams caused by remote or hybrid work impacted their ability to develop ideas and execute campaigns, and 93% say their creative ideas were better before the pandemic.
If the practitioner experience is suffering, your can bet that the customer experience is also suffering. We must ensure our teams are up for the challenge of keeping pace.
Teams need a platform where they can effectively collaborate and communicate across internal silos inclusively, and where workflows are purpose-built to the needs across the content lifecycle. With this reality in mind, we built Optimizely’s Ddigital Eexperience Pplatform (DXP) — because inclusive, well-orchestrated collaboration leads to better outcomes for all.
Marketers, developers, and product leaders have become part of the same digital team.
Today’s customers are digitally adept and confident, and their brand expectations — and the stakes of meeting those expectations — are rising faster than ever before.
According to recent research on customer expectations, 80% of customers now consider the experience a company provides to be as important as its products and services, and 71% say they’ve made a purchase decision based on experience quality.
Being customer-centric is at the heart of any great digital experience. That’s why the digital team — comprised of marketers, developers, and product teams in our modern digital landscape — must work together to meet customer expectations and deliver optimized experiences.
Consider marketers. With access to a slew of customer touchpoints and experimentation data, the marketing team is a critical resource for understanding customers’ wants and needs. Developers, product teams, and beyond should absolutely utilize this data to remove the guesswork and inform strategies, priorities, roadmaps, and decisions.
By working together to inject data across silos, teams can have the insight needed to make the right decisions and create with confidence.
Thank you to all who kindly shared their wisdom during this year’s Opticon. Stay tuned for information about next’s year Opticon, taking place October 10-12, 2023 back in San Diego!