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Guideline 15

Assist form dropouts by saving information

Let's say I'm in the middle of filling out a lengthy registration form and my browser crashes. Or maybe I'm completing a gift purchase but realize I don't have the recipient's address on me. Or perhaps I'm late for dinner and don't have time to complete an account profile.

In any of these situations, I'll be forced to bail out and return to the site in question. When I come back, will I have to start from scratch or will my information be saved? The answer may be the difference between a lost customer and a satisfied one.

Just because a visitor abandons a form, it doesn't necessarily mean he or she won't come back to complete it later. Your site can help visitors like this get back in the saddle by saving data as it is entered. It's a great way to make an application, registration, or checkout process easier to complete. Customers will appreciate your proactive efforts and conversion rates will increase if you follow these measures:

  1. Save customer data. Automatically save in-progress forms (or let visitors choose to save this data).

  2. Tell form-fillers the data is saved. Use your site or email to remind visitors that they can easily jump back into an abandoned form process.

  3. Provide easy access. Enable people to quickly access and complete abandoned forms.

What are the real-world applications of this technique? You can hold items in a customer's shopping cart so that they can be purchased later. Or store sign-up information so a customer doesn't need to start over from scratch. Or save a mortgage application when the applicant doesn't have all the required information at that moment.

Discover

It's Now or Never http://www.discoverhomeloans.com

While filling out a home equity loan application at Discover, I realized that I did not have all the information I needed (that is, I didn't know the total square footage of my property).

Unfortunately, Discover doesn't let me save the other information I've entered successfully, meaning I'll have to re-enter it all again. Discover should allow me to save this application so that later I can pick up where I left off.

Figure 4.32Figure 4.32

Bank One

Saving for Later http://www.bankone.com

Bank One realizes lengthy loan applications can be difficult to complete in one sitting. That's why the site lets student loan applicants save applications and retrieve them later.

Figure 4.33Figure 4.33

Netflix

Finish Up http://www.netflix.com

I abandoned the Netflix free-trial sign-up process at the final stage because I wanted to browse the video selection library more. The site wisely offers a persistent "Finish Sign-Up" link at the top of each page as I browse the rest of the site. This way I'm never more than one click away from returning to where I left off in the sign-up process.

Figure 4.34Figure 4.34

After I leave the site, Netflix even goes a step further by sending an email to let me know my information is saved. The message also notifies me of the information that's still needed to complete the process. The email closes with a helpful link to "Finish signing up for your free trial." Tactics such as this are part of the reason Netflix recently doubled its subscription base in less than a year.

As if...

My computer crashes, but the application I'm working in autosaves the open documents so that I don't have to start from the beginning again.

Forms are a hassle. "Invalid" responses, confusing choices, and unacceptable entries constantly gum up the works. It's no wonder that many busy surfers simply give up when faced with forms. Here's what you can do to help.

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