Filling in an insurance form is a time-consuming task. On average it takes a user 210 seconds and information has to be entered into 45 fields across 7 steps. The information asked for is varied, not always easily accessible or remembered by the user and it creates a high cognitive load for them.
The optimization opportunities for long forms are significant as there are a high number of elements that can be improved or removed. New optimization opportunities become available as technology changes or new UX learnings are created, leading to an optimization process that is continual rather than project based.
I carried out this analysis in September 2017. I created a persona that was used across all the insurers', meaning that the information I entered was standardized across all the quotation processes.
In our analysis I counted only the required fields, so optional fields were noted but not included in our numbers.
Finally, when an average number is noted in this report it is a median average unless stated otherwise.
I included almost every major US insurer that offers an auto insurance product
Our research is focused on every aspect of the form, from fields used, timing and mobile usability.
I scored each form based on critical factors that will increase user frustration and decrease conversions
Insurance forms could be half the length. The median number of fields across the 26 insurers was 45, with the difference between the shortest and the longest forms being over 100%. Reducing the number of fields has a direct impact on conversion rates.
There is a move to Radio Buttons: the highest scoring insurers' use fewer text boxes and drop downs. Radio buttons give customers immediate visibility on all the options and less interaction is required to select an answer, saving time and effort.
Mobile keyboards aren't being used effectively. 42% of insurers' aren't showing a mobile friendly keyboard. When a user on a mobile device has to enter a number or email address then it's significantly easier if the correct mobile keyboard is shown. This reduction in time to complete will lead to an increase in conversion rates .
There's a significant opportunity to improve in-line messaging. Almost half of all insurers' respond in-line to the user when they make a mistake or enter information correctly. A recent Formisimo survey showed that 90% of consumers want inline error messaging but 76% also want in-line validation when they enter information correctly.
Each step in a quotation process is a new page or new section for a potential customer to absorb. There's no magic number of steps that will lead to a higher conversion rate but there's likely to be drop off if the process gets too long.
There's a difference between a long process that has many steps, and one that is chunking down all of the questions so that each question is a step in itself. Farmer's have 23 steps, but after the first two steps the process has a new step for each question. Met Life has just two steps, but the second step contains 57 fields. The right solution is the one that is commercially strongest, and that may not be the one with the highest conversion rate.
The difference between the highest and lowest number of fields across all the insurers is significant, with Mercury requiring 80 fields to be completed and InsureMyCarNow needing just 21. That's a large difference in time and effort required to complete the form, for what is ultimately the same process.
The average number of fields in an auto insurance form is 45. Whereas the relationship between the number of steps (see graph above) and the conversion rate is not direct, there is a strong relationship between the number of fields and conversion rates. Reducing the number of fields will have a positive impact on the number of customers who get a quotation.
A direct insurer has the opportunity to adjust their quotation process from end-to-end, and whilst it may require work beyond the form, it means that they can reduce their form size significantly.
Aggressively reducing the number of fields will have a direct impact on conversion rates, quotes and revenue.
Some insurers top-load their questions, asking more from the user in the early steps, but the average percentage of fields in the first step (Median is 14%) is lower than other financial services forms that I've analyzed.
Wawanesa has the highest proportion of fields in the first step (33.9%) whilst Kemper has the lowest (2.4%).
The question over top-loading (or not) is an important one. Ask too many questions in the first step and the user will be put off, whilst having too many steps will make the user believe that they're engaging with a virtually endless process.
A sensible starting point is a median across all insurers: top-load in Steps 1 and 2, then trail off. The average number of fields, across all insurers, in Step 1 is 8, followed by 7 in Step 2, then 8.5 in Step 3. Step 4 has an average of 8 fields, then 2.5 in Step 5. If you're top-loading or back-loading, but doing so based on testing and analysis then that's positive. If you've stumbled into top or back-loading then a good optimization step would be to follow the industry medians and compare the results of changing the process.
On average an auto insurance form takes 210 seconds to complete. There is a significant difference between the best and worst performing, with InsureMyCarNow taking just 127 seconds and Mercury taking 325 seconds.
The main factor in form completion time is the number of fields, with a general trend of a lower completion time with fewer fields. A secondary factor is the type of fields used: text inputs take up the most time, followed by drop downs, then radio buttons and finally tick boxes. Radio buttons take an average of 2.8 seconds to complete (from absorbing the question, to selecting the answer) compared to 3.6 seconds for drop downs. Not only does a higher number of fields mean more time within the field, but also time between the fields, as the user completes one question and moves to the next one.
Comparing the average time per field for Mercury (The worst performer for the total time) to the AAA (third best performer) shows the importance of choosing the right field type. AAA has an average time in the field of 4.91 seconds, whereas Mercury has 4.07 seconds. Whilst Mercury has double the number of fields than AAA they're using field types that are easier to complete.
Another secondary factor is the number of steps in the process, which are usually separate pages. Each step takes time to load, increasing the total length of time to complete the form. An example of performance improvement is 21st Century, where 10.55% of the total time to complete the form is related to page loads, whereas just 6.78% of TheGeneral's total time is related to page load.
Radio buttons trump Drop Downs for two reasons. Firstly all of the potential options are visible and readable by the user on a radio button. A drop down requires the user to click and then read the options.
Secondly, the user has less total interaction with a radio button than a drop down, a drop down requires a minimum of two clicks versus the single click for a radio. With a form that has a significant number of fields then saving the user fractions of a second will add up to a good time saving, and a greater likelihood of conversion.
From our aggregated timing data on forms (Formisimo tracks engagement with fields with millisecond accuracy) I can see that the time spent on a radio button (taken from the time of the interaction with the last field to the first engagement with the next field) is 2.8 seconds, whereas a drop down is 3.6 seconds.
Comparing the top five insurers' (ranked using our scoring at the base of the page) and the bottom five insurers the higher performing sites move away from text boxes and drop-downs and use radio buttons. Radio buttons (where the user has a choice between two or more items, presented as items that are clickable) are much easier to complete, they're not ideal for when there's a lot of options but when a user has to make a choice between two to four options it allows them all to be presented to the user without them having to click.
Comparing the UX of a text box (open, requires typing), drop downs (closed list, requires clicking and reviewing) and radio buttons (closed, all options visible) the radio button wins on total interaction required. A radio button requires a single click on the right option, whereas a drop down requires a minimum of two clicks, with an unfurling of the options that will then need to be read and absorbed.
From our research on insurance forms the radio button is easy to restyle, to make it even easier to understand and also fit in with brand guidelines.
The prevalence of mobile usage presents new user experience challenges. Beyond the way that a quotation form is presented there's a second challenge of how the user enters data, and dealing with the complexity of data entry compared to entering information on a desktop.
The use of keyboard types on mobile devices makes it easier for potential customers to complete a form as it shows them the most relevant keyboard for the data input. As an example a number or telephone number field should show just the number keypad, rather than the full keyboard. A field that asks for an email address can show a keyboard that makes the "@" symbol visible without having to press the shift key. Adding this functionality to a field is relatively easy, and it generally has a positive impact on conversion rates.
Less than 60% of insurers use the "email" keyboard type, with the same number using the "telephone" keyboard type. There's a slightly lower take-up of the "number" keyboard type, at 50%. An insurer that isn't using keyboard types has a quick, easy to setup optimization opportunity.
Inline validation is a good way to highlight issues as a user moves through a form, and when you have a long form with complex questions it's a necessity. Showing errors whilst the user is engaging with a question is better than having the user click submit and then they're then presented with a list of all their mistakes.
The uptake on auto insurance forms is low, with less than half of brands using inline validation. Less than 10% of insurance companies use inline validation on successful field completion.
Website visitors have all experienced frustrating forms and when they start to engage with yours they are carrying baggage from the times when a form has been annoying. The length of an insurance form suggests that it will be a painful process for them.
A good way to keep users motivated, and to challenge their belief that the experience will be painful, is to use positive validation as they enter data. This is often in the form of a tick box next to a field, and is shown as they exit the field and move to the next one. This positive validation keeps the user happy, and helps them believe that when they click the "submit" or "next" button that they will be successful.
Showing errors in-line is equally important, as the user doesn't have to wait until the end of the step to see if they have made mistakes. A good inline validation process will not only show the user if they have entered incorrect information in a field (and so so as they move out of the field) but it will also explain what they need to do to correct it.
An example of insurer AXA using full inline validation. They highlight when information is correct and also when a user makes a mistake (along with a full explanation of what the mistake is). In the image above I have left the postcode field blank, and then moved to the next field.
To score each insurer I generated a ranking out of 72, which took into account the number of steps and fields (related to the median score for each) and scored insurers' based on the percentage they were above or below this. I also scored insurers' based on the removal of unnecessary obstacles, and the mobile friendliness of each form based on the usage of mobile keyboard attributes. Having a livechat and postcode lookup was also part of the scoring process, and using inline validation boosted scores further.
The aim of our scoring was to take into account attributes of the form rather than the look and feel. Some insurance forms were more attractive than others, but as design is subjective I chose not to apply any marks for forms that I felt looked better or worse.
"If you have forms, you need to analyze their performance. Formisimo does a very good job at providing in-depth information that really helps with optimization efforts. Useful data, simple interface. It is form analytics that actually works, especially when compared to some mouse tracking tools that have form analytics as one of the many features."ConversionXL Peep Laja