Business success, especially e-commerce success, requires the collection of the right data from customers. This data is used for marketing purposes or simply to fulfill the customer’s purchase or request, an obviously large and important part of the customer and business relationship.
This data is used for marketing purposes or simply to fulfill the customer’s purchase or request, an obviously large and important part of the customer and business relationship.
Unfortunately, many businesses stumble when gathering information from customers. Although keeping things simple often works best, businesses still need to make sure they get all the information they need while avoiding the most common mistakes in collecting contact information from customers.
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Ambiguous Address Field Labels
For e-commerce businesses, entering street addresses and other specific information is vital to proper and prompt delivery. “Address Line 2” is a common field, but it can be vague for users who are not sure what specific information is being requested. Instead, label all fields with the information you need from customers:
- Street address
- Apartment number
- Floor number
- Business name
- C/O (care of)
- P.O. box number
With each field, it may be smart to offer examples of the data you need so users know exactly what to input. For “Address Line 2,” for example, retailers could simply add “Suite 123” next to it or a further explanation.
Refusing Alternative Formats
Some information, like phone numbers, can be entered in a variety of ways—hyphens, no hyphens, spaces, no spaces or parentheses. Don’t restrict customers to entering their phone numbers or other data in one specific way, or they may get frustrated after too many error messages and abandon the form completely.
Some businesses may believe that requiring a certain format helps with data collection later, but proper data verification software understands different formats and can easily and quickly sort through and arrange data uniformly.
Using the Wrong Field Types
Most input fields are text only, especially for shipping and billing address forms. However, some businesses try to make this easier by offering drop-down boxes or radio buttons. Most often these drop-down fields or radio buttons include information such as "job title” or “industry.”
Although this is done with the customers in mind, it can sometimes cause frustration, as the job title may not match or the industry doesn’t apply. If you prefer to use these field types, it is always helpful to include the option to select “Other” or “Not Applicable.”
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Omitting Error Notifications
When a customer inputs bad data—for example, an empty address field or too few numbers in a ZIP code—an error message should appear next to the field requiring attention. These error messages must be easy to spot: bold lettering and bright colors will draw attention.
Error messages must also adequately explain the problem and how to resolve it in just a few words. Always provide ample opportunity for users to review and revise data before allowing them to move on to the next step in the purchasing process.
Directing Customers Elsewhere
Making users jump around within a site can easily sidetrack them, leading to more incorrect information—or, worse yet, an abandoned shopping cart. Create easy-to-follow pages that make sense, eliminating unnecessary steps and structuring pages so that they logically follow customers’ thought processes.
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Requiring Too Much Information
Consumers are much more perceptive about privacy issues, especially in an age of identity fraud and a reliance on computers. Do not ask for too much data from customers, or do not make it mandatory.
When requesting certain types of information—like their job title or birthday—explain the purpose it will serve. Many individuals become far more likely to provide information if they understand why it is necessary for a business. To further ease worry, link to your clear and detailed privacy statement.
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Cater to Customers
Most online consumers are savvy—they can spot dated technology in a second, so websites that have not been updated in several years should be revamped. Better technology and more advanced data collection software works well for businesses in several ways: you can collect better data faster and more accurately, while proving to customers that your site deserves their trust.
Many consumers would prefer to remain anonymous on the Web, but businesses rely on data to operate. Make your customers feel comfortable with the data you’re collecting—and your businesses as a whole—by keeping your online forms easy to use, understandable and secure.