Chatbots vs webforms


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You land on a website. You like the service on offer, and want to find out more. Unfortunately, the page directs you to a lengthy contact form requiring your name, job title, email address, telephone number, organisation name, and a whole host of other fields. You fill it all out and hit ‘enter’, but there’s still no knowing when – or if – you’ll hear back.

Wouldn’t you rather a quick chat while you’re live onsite? Well, while that may be more convenient for you, it could well require a human resource that the company doesn’t have. Enter chatbots.

Chatbots are starting to take the place of traditional webforms, answering visitor questions smoothly and providing immediate assistance 24/7. But is it wise to replace a tried and tested method with a new technology?

In the red corner

In the red corner, we have the webform. The digital equivalent of a traditional pen and paper form, webforms are a staple method of collecting personal data online.

Many suggest that webforms ‘evolved’ from their analogue counterparts, but the only thing that changed about them was the location they could be found, and the use of a keyboard rather than a pen. (At least you know the ink isn’t going to run out.)

We all know what we’re getting with webforms. You’ll see elements such as form fields, checkboxes, and a big call to action button. The webform is the accepted method, and it comes with no surprises for customers, and no confusion about how to provide required information. So, what’s so wrong with that?

On the ropes

Unfortunately for the webform, we are in the ‘experience era’ of retail. Businesses wanting to stay ahead in crowded marketplaces must compete on user experience. And that’s precisely where webforms fall short.

For all their familiarity, webforms typically offer a painfully tedious user experience. Think about the time and effort required to complete a dull, static form. Then there’s the repetition of the format and the data itself. This isn’t to mention their inflexibility and annoying error issues. Unless a customer inputs data in exactly the format that the form wants, they end up with a refreshed page, forced to input all that data again.

So, webforms often breed slow, frustrating interactions that leave customers grumpy. In fact, Google found that disabling Chrome’s Autofill feature resulted in 25% fewer form submissions. The message is simple: customers don’t want to waste their time completing webforms. Forcing them to do so to continue their journey can lead to swift cart and site abandonment. With that in mind, webforms don’t seem like such a necessary evil, do they?

In the blue corner

In the blue corner, we have chatbots. Chatbots are starting to displace traditional webforms, sparking the chatbots vs webforms debate. But could – should – they replace them entirely?

Well, as you no doubt know by now, a chatbot is an increasingly popular tool that can handle routine web tasks in a friendly, conversational context. While they can’t offer a human level of support, they can certainly assist with simple queries and data collection.

This puts them in a prime position to supersede the webform. A chatbot can allow customer data to be gathered through a more interactional format than a webform. Instead of a uniform box that offers no answers, chatbots can talk back to your website visitors while taking their details. Even better for businesses, they can perform these basic tasks without the need for human intervention.

Chatbots vs webforms

So, chatbots vs webforms – the bout has begun. Which should you choose for your website? There are pros and cons to both options, and we recommend starting by assessing when, why and what data you’re collecting from your visitors.

For example, is a conversational interface suitable for formal or official data collection? To a customer, using a chatbot to input personal payment details might feel like physically telling someone all your card information. There’s room to argue that for all its shortcomings, the official feeling of a webform makes it more suitable for collecting personal data of this kind.

In other instances, a chatbot can do what a webform can do better, faster and slicker. In an instance where a visitor wants to enquire further about a service, a chatbot could take their details, answer their questions and get a demo booked in on the spot.

Chatbots also enable a less stressful environment for supplying data. With a webform, the customer just wants to get the necessary tasks done and out of the way. With a conversational interface, though, they’ll be more relaxed and thus more likely to answer extra questions, without inducing stress or annoyance.

Chatbots in practice

Is a formal form compulsory? The UK service JackInsurance doesn’t think so, having successfully deployed a chatbot in place of its webform. Likewise, many major ecommerce brands are using chatbots to get the conversation started and replace webform data collection.

This shows that chatbots can be successful in replacing the traditional forms – if deployed correctly and with thought. In fact, chatbots are significantly more cost-effective when it comes to lead generation. Some studies have found that they can increase conversion rates by up to 300% when used in place of webforms.

Split decision

Does this mean that in the battle of chatbots vs webforms, chatbots are superior? As to yet, the jury is still out. As cool as chatbots are, they haven’t yet been widely accepted. Plus, they remain a young technology with much progress to be made, meaning that they’re still prone to error.

This youth isn’t all bad, though. Chatbots are still developing, and they have room to improve. When paired with more advanced AI and the same technology that Chrome’s Autofill uses, there’s no reason that chatbots couldn’t grow to solve the repetitive data entry issue for good.

Another thing to consider in the chatbots vs webforms debate is that chatbots are just as time-consuming as webforms. They take a similar amount of time to collect the data that’s needed, and in a more roundabout way. But, by reducing the stress, frustration and repetitiveness of the interaction, the experience of this time is greatly improved. A two-minute conversation is better than two minutes of stress and boredom, after all.

So, despite their shortcomings, chatbots are more likely than webforms to improve. In the meantime, they promote a more friendly and stress-free interaction with your company.

Room for growth

In the battle of chatbots vs webforms, both methods of data collection have their faults. However, while webforms aren’t changing from the analogue forms of old, chatbots are evolving and advancing.

A chatbot offers a new way to collect data in a relaxed, conversational context. And they’re getting better at it as time goes on. So, step aside webforms, because here come the chatbots.

Originally published here:

Roxanne Abercrombie
I like sugary tea, Arnold Schwarzenegger and quality copywriting. (Not necessarily in that order). You can find me at Parker Software as Online Content Manager.


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