In this, my penultimate post on the topic of analyzing Forms and Conversion Processes, I’m going to tackle the issues and measurement surrounding processes that are abandoned and then resumed in subsequent sessions. Multi-session form behavior greatly complicates the task of analysis – not least because most web analytic tools do a very poor job with any form of multi-session analysis. In the next installment I’m going to wrap up with a discussion of Form KPIs and reporting.
Not every form or process exhibits much multi-session behavior. It’s rare to see multi-session behavior on short, simple forms. These may be abandoned immediately and then tried again, but I generally think of multi-session behavior as belonging to the set of cases where a visitor fills out part of the form, abandons the session, and then resumes later on.
Understanding multi-session form/process behavior can help answer quite a few different questions including:
- What is the real conversion rate on the process?
- Does a Form require “Save and Return” functionality?
- Are there information requirements on the Form driving drop-off?
- Does a Form adequately inform users of key requirements?
- Are there information requests causing high-friction that can be eliminated?
- Can a Funnel be used to track the Form?
The right place to start is figuring out if – for a form/process – multi-session behavior actually matters. Intuitively, you can expect that any long form will exhibit a fair amount of multi-session behavior. But the extent is quite variable and often driven by the type of information required of the user. If a process requires a user to provide things like bank routing numbers, license numbers, tax-id numbers, etc. then a significant amount of multi-session behavior is almost inevitable.
I remarked that most tools make it quite difficult to understand multi-session Forms behavior. But the one thing you can usually get quite easily is the extent to which such behavior exists.
The easiest way is to simply generate a report for each page of the process that includes the views, visits and unique visitors. The visits to visitors ratio here will provide you with an immediate read on the extent to which multi-session behavior actually exists. Make sure (of course) that you aren't looking at a number like Daily Uniques or an addition of Daily Uniques.
If significant multi-session behavior does exist, you’ll want to focus on the VISITOR abandonment rate as the true measure of form/process conversion. For the entire Form, that rate is again, quite trivial. It is simply the Unique Visitor Count for Form Complete divided by the Unique Visitor Count for Form Start. This rate may be significantly better than a visit-based measure of form conversion whenever multi-session behavior exists.
This will also implicitly answer the question of whether funnels or fall-out tools can be used to track form processes. These tools are almost all visit-based. So if you have significant multi-session behavior, they will present a very misleading view of actual form performance. In addition, many such tools simply will not work correctly if your Form contains Save-and-Continue functionality.
Save-and-Continue functionality can be a big boon to usability. Chances are, good usability testing will have already shown whether or not it is important. But if you have significant multi-session behavior and can see that abandonment is occurring well into the Form (particularly by time spent), then a strong case for Save-and-Continue functionality can almost always be made.
At this point, however, we have left the realm of easily accessible KPIs. To understand when/where Form Abandoners who later-returned left the process is a non-trivial endeavor. You can’t simply look at Exit Rates by Page because you don’t know whether the exits are for returnees. Instead, you have to be able to segment your Form visitors based on the number of visits that contain the Form. Depending on your segmentation tools, you might also choose to look at a simple segment like "Form Completers."
If you have a segment of Form Completers, you can assume that any Form/Process Page Exit (other than complete) was followed by a return visit. Using this, you can pinpoint which pages in the process caused visitors to abandon and how long they spent on the process (on average) before they abandoned.
With these two pieces of information, you can probably make a better decision about the utility of a Save-and-Continue capability (or, possibly, a reorganization of the Form).
It’s also interesting to consider directional abandonment for multi-session Form Completers. Using that same Form Completer segment, you can look at Next Pages for each step of the Form. When those pages are outside the Form Process, you can see what types of information or re-assurance visitors who ended up completing might have been looking for.
This ability to pinpoint where multi-session completers abandoned the process is the best behavioral tool for deciding whether or not there are special informational requirements driving abandonment and whether or not the Form is adequately conveying those requirements. By testing up-front Form guidance, you can measure the impact on multi-session abandonment points and see if you’ve made a difference.
It’s a lot easier to see if you’ve made a difference with this functional approach than if you need to move the needle significantly on end-point conversion. Many changes that make a Form better, faster and easier for the user will have only a very small impact on final conversion. That doesn’t make them worthless.
One final piece of learning from multi-session behavior involves 2nd time abandonment points. If you find that Form users are abandoning in the same place on return visits (attempts to define user names on popular sites can have this issue), then you’ve certainly identified a high-friction area of a process. If you’re losing significant numbers of visitors committed enough to return for a second try, then you need to re-think your approach to the Form.
Multi-Session behavior – like nearly all of my other Form/Process topics – has a real impact on the reporting you do. Ignore it, and you can significantly misread the real conversion rate of your Forms and the true potential for improvement. In my last post on Form/Process measurement, I’ll tackle reporting on processes with a systems approach (analytic reporting) and how the various points raised in the previous posts surface new metrics that are rarely used in reporting on Forms and make it clear how others (like Form Conversion Rate) can be easily misinterpreted.