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I Reveal the Challenges With UK Car Finance Forms

Form Optimisation

Lengthy. Personal. Intrusive. These are some of the words that spring to mind when you consider in-depth car loan application forms. However, the number of new cars bought using finance increased by 4 percent to 1.05 million. And there was an eight percent increase in the number of used cars bought on credit taking sales to 1.27 million.

This makes the car loan industry a hotly contested area with significant rewards for those who make it easy for customers to apply.

That’s why I chose to kick 2018 off with the analysis of 45 UK car loan forms using a standard customer persona to complete every required field. I used 52 metrics to assess the performance of each form scoring and ranking providers to create a league table.

I assessed all aspects of the forms from number of fields and steps to completion time, mobile friendliness of keyboards and inline error messaging.

This article summarises the findings of my research or, alternatively, you can find the deep dive here.

How Long is a Car Loan Form?

My analysis found that the average car loan application form requires a user to complete 29 fields taking an average of 134.5 seconds. Which is a painfully long time in the world of online forms.

Confronted by a tediously long form, customers may be ambivalent about completing it despite the fact that they need to do so to achieve their goal of a new car. Add to this the fact that the finance isn’t even guaranteed at the end of the process and form designers have a lot to do to keep customers moving forwards.

To help address the form’s length, some providers chunk the form down into sections or steps to make it look less forbidding. My analysis found that the number of steps ranges from just one to as many as 22, reflecting the very different approaches taken.

In most cases, the customer’s progress was displayed at the top of the screen using a completion bar to encourage progression.

While steps can help prevent field overwhelm, the customer must spend more time and mental effort every time a new step is revealed as they:

  • Wait for the page to load
  • Allow their eyes to adjust to a slightly different on-page layout
  • Understand what each new step is about
  • Absorb the information on the page
  • Open the right drawer in their mental filing cabinet to retrieve the data required

And all this before they’ve even entered any information. While there is no magic number of steps for form perfection, A/B testing with form analytics will show you the way to the best combination of field number and steps.

One outlier, Get Care Finance Here, uses a typeform and so has 22 steps with each an individual question. For my take on this, read the full report here.

More Fields Are Never Greener

Research shows time and again that customers hate completing forms. And, with people spending more time in front of computers, there are plenty of other things your customers would prefer to be doing away from the screen or with their time online.

That’s why the fewer fields you can use to obtain the information you need, the more likely your customer is to complete the process. My research found car finance forms contain an average of 29 fields with a large range around this figure from as few as 14 fields to a massive 72.

The time taken to complete forms also varies significantly and is mainly contingent on the number of fields. The more fields, the longer the form takes and the less likely customers are to complete it. In fact, my research found that car loan form completion times vary hugely ranging from 64 seconds for Amigo’s 14 fields to 320 seconds for Clydesdale Bank’s 72 fields.

It’s possible to reduce form completion times by identifying which fields are optional so customers only need to give required information. 60% of providers do this, usually by simply inserting an asterisk next to non-compulsory fields.

Yet, with the high impact that number of fields has on form completion rates, it begs the question why optional fields are not removed entirely.

Finding fields that can be removed is an obvious quick win to reduce form length and completion time and customer pain into the bargain. But is there anything else that can be done to ease the completion of the remaining form?

Choose Your Input Type Carefully

How you ask users to complete fields is a secondary factor in lengthening completion times with text fields taking longest followed by drop downs, radio buttons and tick boxes. Choosing the right field type can save a lot of time and reduce frustration levels by making forms as frictionless as possible.

Take Zuto and CarFinance247. Zuto requires users to complete one more field than CarFinance247 yet Zuto’s form is 1.2 seconds quicker to complete thanks to their greater use of radio buttons and tick boxes. This reduces average time in each field to 4.1 seconds as opposed to 4.3 seconds for CarFinance247.

While a total of 1.2 seconds over the course of the form may not sound like a lot, replicating these margins by optimising fields throughout the form can lead to significant improvement in completion rates.

Comparing Field Type Usage By Rank

When we take a look at how the top five performers use field type in comparison to the bottom five, there is a key learning: higher performing sites use significantly more dropdowns and slightly more radio buttons.

However, radio buttons are far easier for users to complete as all the answers are visible without the need to click. They’re suitable in situations where there is a single choice between multiple options and it’s likely that some car loan form providers could be replacing some drop-down menus with radio buttons saving users un-required clicks.

Get Friendly With Mobile Keyboards

Smaller screens on mobile devices mean different data entry challenges that represent another challenge for form designers.

Providing mobile users with an easy way to enter data is particularly important for number-heavy car loan forms that always require an email and mobile phone number. Yet only 49% of car loan application forms use the mobile-friendly email keyboard with the ‘@’ symbol included and 44% use the telephone keyboard.

Form providers that require users to toggle between keyboards themselves are missing a trick and causing unnecessary frustration for their potential customers. Including these tools is fairly simple to do, will save time and hassle and ease the way to the end of the form.

Help Potential Customers With Inline Validation

No-one wants to be told they’ve done something wrong after they’ve invested time and effort doing it. But that’s exactly what almost 50% of car loan forms do by not letting the user know whether they’ve completed a field correctly or incorrectly.

28.9% of the forms I analysed informed users of errors and 24.4% reported on both errors and successes.

This represents a significant opportunity for form designers to help users as validating for both wins and losses reduces frustration. It also helps form fillers move more easily through the process.

Complex Forms Require Additional Customer Support

The more complex the form the more likely customers will need help completing it. Providing customer service details could be the difference between someone completing your form and not. Even if only 5% of users pick up the phone, that could provide a boost to form completion rates, increasing the number of potential customers ripe for conversion.

With two thirds of car loan providers including contact details on the page or live chat options, the third of providers who don’t support customers in these ways are being left behind.

Presenting your business as one that’s helpful and cares about its customers also has added benefits. Not only will users get to the end of your form feeling supported, but that support could make it more likely for any offer of finance to be taken up.

Ease Suspicion and Enhance Completion Rates With Explanations

Most people don’t mind providing their name and email address. But start asking for details about their earnings and other financial commitments and you could find your user takes longer to answer the questions. They’re trying to work out why you need the information or considering providing you with false data.

Or they might get cold feet and abandon the form completely.

Providing explanations for data requests is a simple way to prevent these issues. For example, letting people know that their mobile phone number will only be used to contact them about their application form will ease suspicion and speed up form completion.

According to my analysis, 56% of providers are lagging behind the rest of the field who offer clarification for non-standard data requests using inline explanations or pop-up fields.

Which of these approaches works best? The only way to know for sure is to implement one of these approaches and test to see how your customers respond.

Address Lookups Make Forms Faster

For the 20% of providers that ask customers to type in their full address, it’s easy to reduce the number of fields in your form by five. And, if you’re one of the providers still using a standard lookup (69%), there’s also an opportunity for additional optimisation.

Implementing advanced automatic address lookups reduces your address field to a single input as users can enter any part of their address into a text box. Their IP address brings up full address options for them to choose from with a single click.

Dropping from five fields to one is a great time saver and is an expected part of many forms due to the prevalence of this approach on a broad range of websites.

With the continuous improvement of online technology and as knowledge of UX develops, form designers cannot afford to be left behind.

Car loan forms offer plenty of opportunities to optimise. From reducing the number of fields to the use of mobile friendly keyboards, form analytics is the only way to identify which elements are causing your users most pain so you know which to tackle first.  Whatever steps you decide to take to make your forms frictionless and easy to complete, follow up your changes with in-depth testing and analysis to maximise your potential customer pool.

To find out where your company sits in the car loan form league table, visit the full report.

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