The last thing fashionistas want is a lengthy form standing between them and their new purchase. Which means fashion website registration forms need to be as quick and frictionless to complete as possible.
In October 2017, I analysed 60 fashion brand sign-up forms to assess the degree of optimisation and to see where form designers could enhance performance. To ensure a consistent approach, I completed only the required fields using a standard customer persona. Each form was scored and ranked and the results were used to create a league table of the best and worst-performing fashion registration forms.
Here, I summarise the key findings from my research.
A Real Difference In The Long and The Short of It
Compared to many of the other forms I’ve analysed, fashion registration forms are relatively short. But with an 800% difference in the time it takes to complete the longest (78.5 seconds) and shortest forms (12.5 seconds), there’s a chasm between completion times.
Why does this matter? Because research repeatedly shows that when confronted with long forms, users are less likely to complete them. Multiple steps and numerous fields look too onerous and people decide they would rather do something else instead. And so dropout rates soar as a result.
My analysis shows that form completion times are closely related to the number of fields. In the case of fashion website registrations, the difference in field number ranges from 19 fields to just two.
In a competitive industry like fashion, putting off customers with a long form is a risk retailers can’t afford to run. Particularly when people are used to completing competitors’ forms that take just 12.5 seconds. Suddenly, an average completion time of 35 seconds seems extensive. And 78.5 seconds feels like an unexpected – and unwanted – marathon.
Which begs the question, how much information do businesses actually need and why are some providers asking for so much more than others?
Only Ask Questions of Real Value
A simple way to reduce form length is to mark optional fields allowing users to zip through the form more quickly. Just over 50% of the forms I analysed do this revealing a significant opportunity for the remaining half.
Deciding which fields to mark as optional will depend on your business processes and the value you place on obtaining the additional information. It may be that securing extra data is as valuable to your organisation as securing the sale; in which case there could be an argument to retain a larger number of compulsory fields.
A different approach would be to identify any fields that are particularly problematic. Form analytics can be used to reveal the questions that slow your customers down and give you the opportunity to re-word them. This way you can continue to gather the information you want while easing your customer’s journey to the checkout.
If Field Reduction Isn’t An Option Try Changing Field Type
If removing questions won’t work for your business, you could look to reduce form completion time and friction using different field types.
Due to the nature of the information being asked for, fashion e-commerce forms demonstrate a strong preference for text boxes. This suits the data being captured as the bare minimum required is a name and email address, both of which are text responses.
My research reveals that the bottom five fashion registration forms have found the opportunity to exploit fast-to-fill field types, like radio buttons and tick boxes because they’re longer.
In the same way that the fashion industry will seek tiny cost savings to improve the bottom line, so fashion registration forms can benefit from incremental gains in field type selection. If the bottom five websites really cannot reduce field number, they could still benefit from greater use of radio buttons and tick boxes.
My research has shown that drop-downs take longer to complete and are more physically and cognitively demanding than radio buttons. That’s because radio buttons lay out the answers users can choose on the page. Users can scan and select in a single click because the responses are set out in a sensible order, like smallest to largest or alphabetical order.
Compared to drop-down menus – which require user intervention to reveal the answers, scroll and select – radio buttons are much quicker. They are also less mentally and physically demanding to complete. For those fashion businesses with large numbers of fields, there’s an opportunity to enhance form design and user experience with quicker field types.
See my full research paper to find out which fashion retailers are leading and lagging in the table.
Constructive Criticism Aids Form Completion
No-one likes to have their mistakes pointed out to them. But that’s what 37% of fashion registration forms do through inline validation that tells users only when they have made a mistake.
Many form designers have adopted gamification tactics to provide positive reinforcement as customers complete the form. A series of green ticks are far more encouraging than simply seeing red crosses. And either of those approaches is preferable to the approach taken by 33% of fashion forms that provide no inline validation at all.
Being hauled back up the page to correct information is annoying at the best of times. It’s even more frustrating when you’re ready to complete your purchase. Not only does it take the shine off the user’s experience but it casts the business in an unhelpful light.
Compared to the last six industries I’ve analysed, the level of inline validation is remarkably low. Which means fashion form fillers will come to expect design that guides them through the form with helpful pointers along the way.
Showing Passwords Supports Form Success
Passwords are a standard feature of the vast majority of online forms we complete today. But they can provide another hurdle for users to overcome.
Typing letters, numbers and sometimes symbols that people don’t often use can be difficult, particularly when the password isn’t shown and keystroke confirmation is lacking. Leave your customer seeing stars (******) and they might feel uncertain whether they’ve provided the right code. Which can lead people to delete and re-type their password taking time and increasing frustration levels.
The solution is to show passwords. This saves the user time because they can spot any mistakes as they type and correct as they go. And it also means another error isn’t being pointed out which, although well-intended, can still be annoying. With only a handful of fashion forms giving consumers the option to show their password, there’s a significant opportunity for form designers to help their customers.
Another design element to be considered is how often to ask the user to enter their password.
While asking for it twice adds another field and increases the time taken to complete the form it does reduce lost password requests. And ensuring passwords have been entered correctly may help customers to login and shop more easily in the future securing repeat business.
A possible indication of the helpfulness (or otherwise) of showing passwords may be determined by the market. Of the top five fashion sites we reviewed, only two asked for passwords to be confirmed whereas the bottom five sites all ask for it to be confirmed. Alternatively, A/B testing could be used to identify what works for your specific audience.
The best practise solution is to ask users to provide their password once but give them the option for visibility as they enter it. This keeps field number down but eases completion.
Sometimes More is Best
While reducing friction often means removing fields, sometimes adding extra information is helpful, particularly when asking for personal data.
Providing reasons why the information is required or simply giving guidance about the format (think the greyed out text in address fields that let users know what to enter where) will give your customers confidence.
People are also far more likely to provide detail if they know why it’s required, how to provide it and what it will be used for. For example, letting users know their phone number will only be used to aid their delivery driver is more likely to encourage people to provide it without a second thought.
As the graph below shows, two thirds of fashion registration forms fail to do this so there’s significant advantage that could be obtained.
Customer Service Contact Details Boost Consumer Confidence
Another way to enhance customer confidence is to provide customer service contact details alongside the form. Should the form filler need any help or support they have the details on-hand.
For short registration forms that ask for standard information, it’s unlikely the details will be used. But this is more about providing confidence than service. However, if the user experiences a problem later in the purchasing process, they will know exactly where to look for help.
Fashion is exciting. Form filling, not so much. Which is why, in the ultra-competitive world of fashion e-commerce, slick registration forms are a must. Help your customers make their purchase with short, frictionless forms that won’t dilute their shopping high.
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