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Fashion E-commerce Registration Process Insight

Comparing the registration processes of leading fashion websites

Created by Al Mackin

Why study fashion registration processes?

Completing a registration process on a Fashion website is the least exciting part of buying something online, and in the world of Fast Fashion it's critical to get the user from their basket to order confirmation as quickly as possible. Every wasted second is an opportunity for the user to abandon the transaction.

Although registration forms are relatively short processes, especially when compared to insurance quotation forms, there's still an average of just under 8 fields that the user needs to complete. It takes customers an average of 34.35 seconds to complete, with a range of 12 seconds up to 78 seconds. There are optimisation opportunities in every form, and the impact of a shorter, faster registration process means there's a greater likelihood that the customer will register, and then become a paying customer.

Longer, more time consuming, registration process can put customers off. This leads to:
Higher CPA's Increased Abandonment Higher Marketing CPAs

Our Analysis

I carried out this analysis in October 2017. I created a persona that was used across all the fashion sites, meaning that the information I entered was standardised across all the registration processes.

In my analysis I counted only the required fields, so optional fields were noted but not included in my numbers.

Finally, when an average number is noted in this report it is a median average unless stated otherwise.

  • I analyzed and tested 60 fashion registration forms

    I reviewed the registration forms for almost every major UK fashion site

  • 52 metrics were used to measure performance

    My research is focused on every aspect of the form, from the form elements, to the timing and mobile usability.

  • I ranked and rated each registration form

    I scored each form based on critical factors that will increase user frustration and decrease conversions

Four Key Take-aways

The best performing sites cut the registration process down to the bone. Reducing the number fields means less effort, and less likelihood that a user will abandon the process and register with a competitor. The top five sites have an average of four fields, compared to an average of seven for the remaining sites.

The best registration forms don't ask for password to be re-entered. Passwords are important, but asking users to re-enter it means that your form has one extra field. If in doubt follow the leaders in the market, and not the market. 73% of fashion sites ask the user to re-enter their password, but only 40% of the top five sites ask for confirmation.

Inline validation is a significant optimisation opportunity. 33% of fashion sites I analysed have no inline validation, whilst 36.7% report just when a user has made an error. Telling the user when they have entered information correctly and incorrectly will allow users to move forwards to the next field (and then after that convert) with greater confidence.

A third of sites don't show mobile keyboards. Showing the right mobile keyboard can save users significant time, and is an easy change to deploy. If you have mobile keyboard functionality on your site then it's worth testing it, as the latest version of iOS changes the styling and UX of some keyboards. The obvious keyboard types to deploy are for telephone number, number and email entry, but there are more mobile keyboard types that can save the user time.

Fashion Registration forms are significantly different in length

The difference between the highest and lowest number of fields across all the registration forms is significant, with Lindex requiring 19 fields to be completed and Hollister needing just 2. 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 across all registration forms is 7.95. There is a strong relationship between the number of fields and the conversion rate of a form. A potential customer who sees a shorter form is more likely to start it, and complete it, and the time required to complete a shorter form is less. Aggressively reducing the size of the form, and reducing the effort required to complete it, will have a positive impact on conversion rates.

Read about my company. The rest of the research continues below.

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How long does it take to complete a Fashion registration form?

The longer it takes to complete a form then the greater the chance of abandonment. Potential customers will get bored of a long process, or they may have time restrictions.

On average it takes a potential customer 34.35 seconds to complete the registration form, with the best performer taking just 12.5 seconds and the worst taking 78.5 seconds.

Apart from the time it takes the user to input the information there are other factors in the total time to complete a form. They include the time to read and understand the questions, and when a form has more than one step, it will take additional time for that step to load, and then for the user to understand the mechanics of the next step.

The main factor in form completion time is the number of fields, with a general trend of a lower completion time when there are fewer fields. A secondary factor in time to complete 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 required entering data in 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 Debenhams and Missguided shows the importance of choosing the right field type. Missguided has eight fields (one more than Debenhams) with an average time in the field of 4.41 seconds, whereas Debenhams has an average time of 5.13 seconds per field. Missguided are using field types that are easier, and faster, to complete.

Why Radio Buttons save time

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.

Engagement examples: radio vs drop down

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.

Which field types are used the most?

The field types used in a form can make a significant difference to the frustration that a user feels, and the time that they take to complete it. There are three field types that should be considered when you want to swap field types: radio buttons, drop downs and tick boxes. In certain scenarios you can change the field type from one to another, with the aim of making it faster for the user to understand the question and all potential answers, and faster to select the right option.

You can see in the graph below that some companies (Bershka and ASOS) have a much lower percentage of text boxes, which will reduce the amount of time to complete. Bershka relies more on radio buttons and tick boxes than their competitors, and both are faster to complete than drop downs when the number of potential options is small.

How The Top Five Use Field Types (vs Bottom Five)

Comparing the top five registration forms (ranked using our scoring at the base of the page) and the bottom five forms you can see how the higher performing sites move away from drop downs and radio buttons, and use text boxes and tick boxes.

Radio buttons (where the user has a choice between two or more items, presented as items that are clickable) are much easier to complete than drop-downs, 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.

The top five sites have a mean average of 4 fields compared to the mean of the bottom which is 13 fields. The top sites simply don't ask questions that require multiple choice, choosing to ask just for the critical information (like name, and email address).

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.

If you see value in asking multiple choice questions then using radio buttons will help speed up the time for a user to complete.

Mobile Friendly Keyboards

The prevalence of mobile usage presents new user experience challenges for forms. Beyond the way that a registration 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.

Only 65% of fashion sites use the "email" keyboard type. Deploying the email keyboard type is one of the easiest optimisation opportunities.

Marking required fields makes it easier to complete forms

Marking which fields a user has to complete will save them time. It guides them to which fields you absolutely have to enter information into, and which fields you can ignore (there's a question over whether you should have any optional fields in your process). A simple asterisk or similar notation will help the user understand how they can fast track the process.

My research shows a split market with 46.7% of fashion sites not marking required fields, and 53.3% marking them. My suggestion is to mark required fields if you have optional fields.

Not Validating Inline Is A Missed Opportunity

Inline validation is a good way to highlight issues as a user moves through a form, and when you have a 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 presented with a list of all their mistakes.

66% of brands have inline validation of some type, but just 30% of fashion sites tell the user when they have entered data successfully (as well as when they have entered it incorrectly). Looking back at the last six industries that I have analysed, this is a relatively low uptake.

There is still an opportunity for the remaining 70% of providers to deploy inline validation that tells the user that they have successfully entered information. Although a marginal gain, it is a relatively light touch way to impact on conversion and form completion rates.

Passwords - hide it forever or allow it to be seen?

Entering passwords can be painful, especially on mobile devices. Sites sometimes require complex password combinations (with capital letters, numbers and even non-alpha-numeric characters). Allowing the user to see the password they have entered means that they don't have to delete the data they have entered and start again.

The functionality behind showing a password is simple. A button next to the field allows the user to click and see their password in plain text. It's usually disabled by default, hiding the password, but having that option will reduce the completion time for some users.

The volume of mobile traffic is increasing, so it's surprising to see that 85% of fashion sites have no functionality to show passwords. It's a fairly easy feature to add to a site.

Passwords - to confirm or not confirm?

The password a user sets on your site will allow them to access their account, and more importantly transact. However, asking the user to confirm the password adds another field to the registration process, making it longer. Should you ask the user to confirm their password?

Saving time is important, but making the user confirm their password will help reduce lost password requests. Looking at the market can give you guidance on which way to go. Of the top five sites 40% of them ask users to confirm their password, whilst 100% of the bottom five sites ask for confirmation. Reducing the registration process by one field is more important to the top five sites.

Explaining Fields to improve form completion speed

When you ask for personal information from a customer, such as address or telephone number, the user may question why you need it. Explaining why you need it will give them confidence during the registration process. Some fields may just need a short explanation so the user understands the formatting, with address fields being a good example of this.

The explanations don't need to be long, nor take over the UX. Zara is a good example of a site that uses messaging to increase conversions. Their messaging appears next to each field, with the message being shown as you enter the field, over-writing any validation messaging.

Let customers know they can contact you (if they really need to)

Adding customer service information to a registration form gives potential customers confidence that if they have an issue then they can contact you directly. They're unlikely to need to contact you to register, although some may have issues that you can help them with, but by displaying phone numbers, or a livechat link, boosts the confidence of the potential customer in your brand.

Validation - Gamifying Long Forms

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 most registration forms 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.

Example of Inline Validation

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.

Scoring All Fashion Websites

To score each fashion site I generated a ranking out of 73, which took into account the number of steps and fields (related to the median score for each) and scored companies based on the percentage they were above or below this. I also scored companies based on the removal of unnecessary obstacles, and the mobile friendliness of each form based on the usage of mobile keyboard attributes. Other form features that I considered to be critical to conversion rates, such as inline validation, were also part of the final score.

The aim of our scoring was to take into account attributes of the form rather than the look and feel. Some registration 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.

See a full league table of fashion websites with deeper scoring data and read about the methodology behind my scoring by entering your details:

ratings of all registration forms

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