What are online forms usually used for?
Online forms enable organizations to collect and store information about customers, suppliers, and employees efficiently and safely. Because they are hosted online, they eliminate many of the issues associated with processing traditional “pen and ink” forms.
Online forms are used to achieve the following:
- Collect customer data as part of sales and marketing processes.
- Process financial details during checkout, especially on ecommerce stores.
- Respond to customer support tickets.
- Request information and signatures in contracts and proposals.
Switching to online forms in your business can help you save significant amounts of time and resources. Let’s look at the most common ways that organizations use online forms.
What is an online form?
The term “online form” is often used interchangeably with “web form,”“HTML form,” and “digital form.” Online forms resemble traditional paper forms and fulfill largely the same purpose when it comes to gathering data but are hosted online.
Online forms are web pages that include fields for data entry. A common example is a payment form that is filled out as part of the online checkout process.
These forms typically ask for a buyer’s name, address, and credit card details. You may also be familiar with Google Forms, a popular form builder that allows users to create, host, and share simple online forms.
Once an individual has entered data into a form, it is usually sent for secure storage on a company’s servers, where it can be retrieved when needed.
What are online forms usually used for?
Let’s take a look at some specific examples of how online forms are used.
1. Gathering information from new customers and applicants
Some organizations, especially academic and government institutions, require new customers and applicants to submit large amounts of personal information.
In many cases, supporting documents are also needed. Confirmation that all the data provided is accurate, typically in the form of an electronic signature, may also be necessary.
Customer enrollment and application forms tend to have multiple sections and a large number of entry fields. They are hosted securely by a third-party provider (such as a document management solution) or on an organization’s website.
2. Collecting financial information from customers
Websites that sell products and services ask for financial information from buyers as part of the checkout process. If you’ve ever purchased an item from an ecommerce store, you’ll be familiar with this process.
Although they look straightforward on the surface, forms designed to process financial data rely on a complex infrastructure that works behind the scenes. Forms must integrate with a payment service and guarantee a secure connection.
If you want to integrate a payment form on your own website or within digital documents, using a third-party tool is the easiest route to take.
3. Processing customer support requests
Customer support requests are usually made via online customer service forms, either on a dedicated area of an organization’s website or through a specialized customer support portal.
Specialist software that provides backend infrastructure for prioritizing and responding to requests made through these online forms is commonly used by large organizations.
4. Providing legally-required information to government organizations
Government organizations have increasingly turned to online forms in recent years. Many individuals and businesses now submit tax information to relevant government departments online. TD1 forms issued by the Canadian government are one example.
Organizations operating in industries that carry heavy legal burdens, especially medical companies, also use multi-field forms like these to gather client information and obtain consent.
Government forms may span several connected web pages. Legislation often specifies how information must be stored.
5. Requesting electronic signatures (in-document forms)
It’s common practice for organizations to create, share and store documents digitally rather than in a paper format.
These contracts, proposals, invoices, and so on usually include a short form where relevant parties can enter their names and affix electronic signatures.
Modern contract management solutions enable businesses to host documents securely online, and they are typically accessed by an email link.
Specialized software that runs in the background is responsible for hosting forms within a document and allows recipients to create legally-binding e-signatures in seconds (as opposed to uploading a signature from their hard drive).
Create and host online forms with PandaDoc
PandaDoc offers an extensive library of pre-written form templates. They can be used for everything from organizing a political petition to gathering payroll data from employees. Even better, they’re available for free on all paid plans.