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What Can US and UK Auto Insurance Companies Learn From Each Other?

Conversion Rate Optimisation

Whether users complete a car insurance form in the UK or an auto insurance form in the US, it’s a tiresome process.

Besides the difference in language, I wanted to know if there are any inter-country variances in form design. To find out, I analysed 31 car insurance application forms from leading UK providers and 26 from the principle US insurers.

By completing each form with a standard customer profile, I was able to allocate each form a score based on critical factors that increase user frustration and decrease form conversions. This score was used to rank each insurer to create an in-country league table. Here’s what I learnt.

Don’t be Mobile Unfriendly

71% of US internet time and 61% in the UK is spent on mobile devices. Which means making your forms mobile-friendly is critical to good UX.

Despite the prevalence of mobile device usage, auto insurance forms in both countries are not as mobile-friendly as you would think.  In the US, 48% of forms fail to show a mobile-friendly keyboard; in the UK this falls to 42%.

Dig into these stats and there are some differences in mobile keyboard provision: 65% of UK forms include telephone keyboards to speed and ease input; only 58% do the same in the US.  

In both countries, email keyboard use is tied at 58%.  However, for number keypads, US forms beat UK forms hands down with 50% of forms easing input burden in the US compared to just 38% in the UK.

Both countries could learn something from one another here as there’s plenty of room to include mobile-friendly keyboards across all three data entry types.

As the graph above shows, UK aggregators are closest to providing the best keyboard UX although there’s still room for improvements, particularly where number keyboards are concerned.

Consider adding the relevant keyboard attributes to capture email, numeric and telephone data in your forms.  Not only does it save the user significant time, which boosts completion rates, but it also makes form completion on-the-go a less frustrating experience.

Remove Drop-Downs and Tick Boxes – Replace with Radio Buttons

My research shows that radio buttons are 0.8 seconds quicker to complete than drop down menus.  They also come with a range of other benefits:

  • users can scan the available answers reducing cognitive load
  • their appearance can be changed to fit brand guidelines
  • their size can be amended to make them more mobile friendly>

That’s why we recommend replacing drop-down menus and tiny tick boxes that are fiddly to complete with radio buttons wherever possible.  

In this area, the US slightly leads the UK with 31% of fields containing radio buttons in comparison to 28% in the UK.  While the use of text boxes is relatively similar across both nations, the UK relies on drop-down menus to a greater degree: 36% of forms versus 31% in the US.  However, tick boxes are slightly more popular in the US than the UK (by 2%) providing US insurers with an area to tighten up on.

While these margins of difference may be small, over the course of a long form more difficult fields cause user frustration and fatigue.  Easing the way by using the least complex and quickest-to-complete response mechanisms should result in higher form completion.  

The only way to see what truly works for your customers is to test different approaches supported by in-depth form analytics.

Front Loaded, Back Loaded – The Jury’s Out

Forms in both the US and UK vary significantly in length.

The longest UK form comprises 76 steps split across just four lengthy steps; the shortest contains 39 fields across six steps.  In the US, the longest form is 80 fields across 6 or more steps and the shortest just 21 steps split into six or more steps.

It’s clear there’s significant opportunity in both countries for long insurance forms to be reduced. After all, each form is capturing essentially the same information.

Moving away from the outliers, analysis reveals that UK car insurance providers average 45 fields and seven steps.  In comparison, US forms average 57 fields over seven steps.

And the differences don’t end there.  US insurers spread the number of fields more consistently across each step whereas UK car insurers tend to front load the application.  The graph below shows the difference in average number of fields per step.

While the UK approach can get consumers into the buying process more quickly, it also runs the risk of high form abandonment rates due to overwhelm caused by the large number of questions up front.

Psychologically, the US approach of multiple steps with a more even question spread helps people to feel motivated as they move through the steps faster.  It’s likely that as users get further through the steps, they feel more committed to the process and are less likely to drop out.

Given that we are comparing two different cultures, it’s possible that the difference in form design is valid.  But only if the approach taken is based on the results of user testing.  If form structure has been decided on gut feel alone, it’s worth A/B testing different approaches to apply scientific rigour to your design.

Optimising your forms will improve completion rates, decrease the cost to generate each quote and reduce marketing CPAs.  While there are definitely lessons both the UK and US car insurance market can learn from one another, improving form UX should not be based on copying others.  Make time in your schedule to conduct in-depth form analysis and identify what works for your customers.