'Merchandising' Your Web Forms To Reduce Abandonment

Everyone knows the grocery store analogy in understanding merchandising; milk and core staples in the back and impulsive “extras” loaded at the front and just in reach. Grocers know they can up their line-item-value by moving product around so as to influence the consumer. However, what may be somewhat impervious to the consumer is the cost and “value” to each and every square inch of retail space. Your Web form should be constructed in a similar manner.

What is the single most important line of data you want the consumer to hold onto and chiefly “purchase” by means of clicking “submit?” You want them to convert and “buy” as much possible, right?

Let’s back up a little.

You have varying directions of governing your Web from the very explicit and detailed to the very simple. What we call the “doctor’s office” approach is to the greatest extreme. Stop and think about the data you are willing to give up when you visit the doctor: name, age, Social Security number, illnesses, surgeries, habits, private details, a question you may have and who is paying for all of this.

Suffice it to say the data request that we hand over at the sliding window is by far some of the most personal, detailed and invasive there is. Writing that up from the comforts of an uncomfortable chair surrounded by bad tabloids seems okay to most people, given that data up from the comforts of their own home pushed to an unknown “black hole” of Internet outer space seems daunting.

Then there’s the Business Card approach. Think about the innocent act of dropping a business card in a fishbowl to win a raffle or exchanging cards with a colleague. By that data submission, you are now crossing that imaginary line from anonymity to specificity. The fishbowl now holds your name, title, address, phone numbers, social media ID, Web site address and possibly more. In order to win a prize, you are willing to hand over a great deal of information physically without a moment’s hesitation, yet when that same request sits in front of you on a computer, suddenly you become reticent and demur, numb to the task.

So, looping back to the “merchandising” strategy of your Web form, deconstruct your data needs into the format of a grocery store. What data is truly the most “valuable?” Is it the phone number or email address? Is it the times available for a call? Is it geography? Type of policy or service needed? If you had to assign a price tag to each field of data, how would that look?

Merchandising is a skill set all its own that combines the discipline of knowing consumer patterns and supply and demand along with seasonality, price, inventory, placement and marketing efforts. Most importantly, having “value” of that item as front and center in the planning stages is paramount.

You need to know the “value” of the information as it sits on the Web form and constitutes its order and emphasis. We recommend breaking that data into three simple buckets:

Most Valuable: The data that if you were held to some squeezing standard of only having three or four fields, this would be it. What else is a must-have?

Moderately Valuable: Additional data that is important to fortify the Most Valuable data should be bucketed here.

Ancillary: The least valuable and “nice to have” data goes here. 

Your most valuable info should be at the top of the form, with moderate value just below that, and then ancillary data followed by a trend back up to the middle of the value, a higher value and then back down -- and then a push back to higher value and ending with ancillary. The goal in this flow is to “merchandise” your data values against what you need and the way a consumer will navigate the flow the of the form. Asking for key data up front is important, but assuming the user will be somewhat reluctant to complete a long form you need to combine a hybrid of “value-variance” so that less important info (possibly less invasive) appears toward the middle of the form.

What you also need to add are the varying degrees of “required data” that cover your form. It’s never a good practice to make everything required, but you need to consider what is truly required as you begin scoring the value of the data you need.

Looking at your Web form as a “value-based” operation may help simplify the overwhelming task of construction to prevent abandonment. By applying a merchandiser’s eye, your lead generation results will result in greater conversion and potentially a whole new philosophy on the measurement of personal data.

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