Switching or signing up to a new energy provider can be a frustrating and time-consuming chore.
It’s a competitive market and one which requires some complex information from customers such as previous and predicted energy use: facts which may not be easy to source or estimate.
Form UX, along with an irresistibly good deal and excellent customer service, need to encourage users to stick with your company. In the face of these challenges, your form needs staying power.
If you want them to choose you over a competitor, you need to ease cognitive load by optimising your UX. I guarantee it will do your form the power of good.
In November 2017, I analysed the online quotation and switching forms of 39 energy suppliers.
Measuring 52 different metrics from number of steps and fields to the use of mobile-friendly keyboards, each company has been ranked to create a UX league table.
They’ve been scored out of a total of 56 based on critical factors, such as total completion time, postcode look-up and inline validation, that can increase user frustration and decrease conversions – or do the opposite.
In the energy market, the user doesn’t necessarily need to complete your form: they might just be curious about what other deals are out there or be assessing their options.
To increase the chance of capturing their attention and getting them to sign up, make your form as straightforward as possible. This will reduce stress and frustration triggers to increase conversion rates.
My research reveals that:
- The best performers cut the number of fields down to a minimum
- Marking fields as required or optional improves UX
- Over a third aren’t using inline validation
- Explaining why information is necessary will help conversion rates
So which energy suppliers are firing on all cylinders when it comes to customer conversions and which ones need urgent repairs?
Here’s a preview of the top and bottom five in my UX league table:
TOP OF THE TABLE
- Octopus Energy
- Scottish Power
BOTTOM OF THE LEAGUE
- Co-operative Energy
- So Energy
- Utility Warehouse
- Robin Hood Energy
- First Utility
Read about my methodology and data compilation technique.
What are the likes of Glide and Bulb doing to burn so bright? And how can companies like Co-operative Energy and So Energy spark more conversions?
Here are my four key take-aways:
- The Best Performers Use Fewer Fields
Cutting down the number of fields within a form has a positive effect on conversion rates as it means less work, less time and less abandonment.
With energy suppliers, the top five in our table embrace this simple and predictable optimisation: they use an average of 15.75 fields, compared to 26.4 fields for the bottom five and an overall average of 27.
At the top of the table, Glide uses just 15 fields while at the bottom Co-operative Energy uses 43. This translates into 83.7 seconds to complete Glide’s form and 186.2 seconds to fill in similar details for the Co-operative. This is a noticeable difference for a process that is ultimately collecting the same information.
Gifting this extra 100 seconds to potential customers will be noticed. If they see a shorter form, they’ll be more likely to start and complete it. Faced with a field-heavy form, they could simply run out of energy and give up.
But how do you reduce the number of fields if you consider all the requested information to be important?
The first step is to reassess what data you actually need, compared to what you would ideally like to gather. Removing optional fields will have an immediate effect: missing out on less vital data to boost the chances of conversion is a sacrifice worth making.
You can also adapt the way you ask for information. For example, you can use a postcode look-up for address input which can reduce the number of fields required from six to just two.
Refining the number of fields should be an ongoing process as you A/B test what combinations work best. One thing’s for sure, you will soon see a correlation with conversion rates: some fields are simply just a waste of energy.
Mark Required and Optional Fields Clearly
Most energy suppliers aren’t optimising their form by marking which fields are required and which are optional: 84.6% choose not to use any type of highlighting, compared to just 15.4% who do.
They’re missing an easy trick here. Using an asterisk to differentiate between required and non-required fields helps users navigate their way through a form. It puts them in control and allows them to pick and choose what information they want to provide.
Without any guidance, they will feel obliged to fill in every field which can lead to frustration and long completion times. It may be that none of your fields are optional, in which case the asterisk technique will be redundant. If this is the case, remember to keep fields to an absolute minimum.
- Inline Validation Is Underused
The benefits of inline validation are overlooked by more than a third of energy suppliers: 38.4% of forms don’t use it at all. Just 30.8% of forms highlight both success and error in fields with the remaining 30.8% notifying just on errors.
Four of the top five highest-scoring companies – Glide, Bulb, Octopus Energy and Scottish Power – provide full feedback while none of the bottom five offer this user-friendly information.
Opting not to guide users through the form process can cause confusion and frustration. Getting to the end of a form and being asked to re-input data from previous steps is an unnecessary inconvenience when inline validation can so easily be integrated.
Users may be so annoyed that their time and effort has resulted in form completion failure, that they abandon it completely and turn to a more helpful competitor.
Friendly and encouraging success and error messages reassure customers that they’re cooking on gas: a green tick signals progress and achievement as they near the end of the form. Any errors can be corrected on the spot to keep the process moving.
A recent Formisimo survey showed that 90% of consumers want in-line error messaging and 76% want in-line validation when they enter information correctly.
They’ll be disappointed with 69.3% of providers when it comes to switching energy suppliers.
There is a significant optimisation opportunity for those that don’t tell the user when they have successfully completed a field. Although a marginal gain, it’s an easy way to impact on conversion and form completion rates.
Explain the Need For Personal Information
Knowledge is power: you want to gather as much information as possible from your potential customers.
But doing this without explaining why may alienate users who could be made to feel uncomfortable by your data demands. Will they be bombarded by calls if they provide their phone number? Why do they need to dig out old bills to record their previous energy usage?
A simple method to overcome this and offer reassurance is to add a short, friendly explanation within your form.
This turns a negative UX element into a positive one: we care enough to explain why we need this information. For example, we use your historic energy use to give you an accurate quote.
But in the energy market, 84.6% don’t use any type of explanation mechanic within their forms. This impersonal approach could leave users feeling uncomfortable and reluctant to complete fields.
12.8% provide explanations inline with a question or extra click and 2.6% use a zero-click pop-up while the field is being filled in. Both are conversion-boosting techniques based on creating a dialogue between your customer and your brand.
The explanations don’t need to be long or take over the UX. They’re a light touch way to reassure customers who are curious or concerned about why you need specific information from them.
If your energy quote and switch form can’t take the heat from the competition, incorporate these four simple UX improvements and your conversion rates will soon start to burn bright.