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A Comprehensive Guide to Form Analytics

Phil Haslehurst  |  April 21, 2016

Phil Haslehurst  |  April 21, 2016

        

Online forms are the sharp end of the conversion funnel – the make or break moment in a visitor’s journey when your hard work pays off, or goes up in smoke.

For the conversion-obsessed, forms are the real deal. You can tweak your homepage images and calls to action as much as you like; the form is where it all comes home to roost. They’re also the part of the website where a missed conversion hurts the most. Why? Because the visitor’s intention-to-convert will rarely be higher than it is when they’re at the start of a form. Theoretically a visitor who has reached the start of a form should convert every single time. And yet, of course, they do not. Even at this late stage in the funnel things can go wrong – often with alarming and painful regularity.

Form analytics is an essential component in the digital marketing toolkit. Getting definitive metrics on the way that visitors interact with online forms is the first step in a process that involves benchmarking performance, understanding the problems, and making them better.

So what are the metrics in form analytics, what do they mean, and what should you do if they're not moving in the right direction?

Form metrics

Form Views

views.jpgA count of the number of visitors who viewed the form in a given period. Taken as a proportion of total visitors, this is a useful benchmark of the effectiveness of your website at driving visitors to the point of conversion.

Low / decreasing?
Bad news – something is going wrong in the pathway to conversion. It would be smart to review site calls to action. Ditto, review exit rates per page. Something is making visitors drop out before they get where you want them to go. So you’ll also want to review conversion funnels to see where visitors are exiting before they reach the form, and review your website copy and information architecture to make sure visitors get the information they need at the moments they need it.

Engagement rate

The number of visitors who, having viewed the form, begin to fill it in (expressed as a percentage). A well-optimized website will have high form start rates – visitors arrive at forms with all the information they need, with high intention-to-convert, and start to fill the form in. Where this rate is low, visitors may be arriving at the form before they’re fully qualified.

Low / decreasing?
Visitors who should have a high intention-to-convert are choking at the last moment. That’s bad. Check the paths to the form that visitors take and ask yourself: do they have all the information they need to convert? Test different copy at the start of your form – are you maintaining clear and positive calls to action at this crucial moment? Are instructions clear? And are visitor’s expectations set about what is happening now and what will happen next?

Error rate

error_rate.jpgThe number of visitors who, during their interaction with the form, experienced an error (expressed as a percentage). In this instance an error means incorrect or missing inputs by the visitor in the form that lead to an error message. High error rate can indicate badly written or confusing prompts within the form.

High / increasing?
In-form errors can occur for a whole host of reasons – but the bottom line is that they negatively impact form completion. If your error rate is high, investigate field-specific error rates to isolate the problem.

Abandonment rate

abandonment_rate.jpgThe number of visitors who, having started to fill in the form, subsequently abandon the form before completion (expressed as a percentage). This is the ultimate success / failure indicator for a form. Low abandonment means visitors are well-qualified and find little friction in the form. High abandonment, the opposite.

High / increasing?
This is bad, clearly. But you need to know more. Is a high abandonment rate combined with other noteworthy metrics that might be causing the abandonment? Errors, delay time, etc. Abandonment rate is a symptom, but the problem is explained elsewhere.

Completion rate

The inverse of abandonment rate – the number of visitors who, having started to fill in the form, subsequently complete the form (expressed as a percentage).

Low / decreasing?
As for a high abandonment rate, a low completion rate is bad.

Time taken

time_taken.jpgThe amount of time, on average, taken to complete the form. This figure can also be further broken down to show the impact of errors on time taken. Forms should be quick and easy to complete, but it’s all relative. Complicated transactions or exchanges of information will naturally take longer. Time taken is a useful benchmark of the effort required by visitors to complete a form – but is even more useful when compared across segments or date ranges.

High / increasing?
Is the form suitably simple and well-signposted? Or does it ask for obscure, irrelevant or high-value information that might cause friction for visitors? Are the form fields well described, with appropriate tooltips and prompts?

Low / decreasing?
If you have a low completion time, and a high completion rate, then maybe you could be asking for a little bit more from your visitors? Time for an A/B test…

 

Field metrics

Delay

The amount of time, on average, that elapses between a visitor clicking into a given field and starting to type. This metric is a useful indicator of how intuitive a field is to complete – the friction created by each field, as it were. High delay could mean that the field prompts or descriptions are not well-expressed, that the information required is not immediately available to the visitor, or that they are resistant to providing the information requested.

High / increasing?
Test alternative (or all-new) prompts, tooltips and descriptions for the field to make it more obvious to the visitor what information you’re looking for and why.

form_elements.jpg

Completion time

The amount of time, on average, taken to complete the field.

High / increasing?
This is a clear indication of friction in the field – so if you have a field that takes a long time to complete, it’s likely that it’s harming your conversion rate. Have a look at the field in question and consider alternatives or simpler options.

Change rate

The number of visitors who, having completed the field and moved on, subsequently return to the field and amend their entry (expressed as a percentage). Another indicator of friction and confusion on the visitor’s part. A high change rate could indicate that the field requests obscure information, or that the descriptions or prompts leave ambiguity about exactly what information is required – for example, does “phone number” mean mobile number or landline?

High / increasing?
Visitors are struggling with this field, so you need to review the copy, and the information being requested. Does it make sense to be asking for it, in general or at this moment? Are you describing the information you need, and explaining why if appropriate?

Error rate

The number of errors created within the given field (expressed as a percentage). Errors means incorrect of missing inputs, as per whole-form error rates. This metric is a great indicator of the specific fields which regularly create problems for visitors – and combined with abandonment rate is a red-flag if high.

High / increasing?
Are you being specific enough about the information that you need in the field? And the format that information needs to be presented in? Do you provide examples, or lists of prohibited terms or formats? Is it clear if a field is mandatory?

Abandonment rate

The number of visitors who, while interacting with a given field, abandon the form as their next action (expressed as a percentage). Fields with high abandonment rates are creating sufficient friction for the visitor to give up – a serious problem that requires immediate attention.

High / increasing?
Fields with high abandonment rate are your problem fields – so once you’ve spotted them, look at their other metrics and determine the problem.

Turn your website into a conversion machine

Phil Haslehurst

Written on April 21, 2016 by:

Phil Haslehurst

Phil is Head of Marketing at Decibel Insight.

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