Not all autofills are created equal

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Filling out forms online is something that we all have to do (albeit often begrudgingly). Doing so on any device is frustrating; doing it on a mobile is excruciating. Cue autofill: a service that helps us kill the tedium and get on with the things we’d rather be doing with our lives.

How well, though, do the different autofill services available actually help achieve our form-filling goals? We did a quick review of the different autofills on the market, and found that not all autofills are created equal…

Why does it even matter?

The ability to easily and accurately fill out an online form is not just a mere convenience – it’s big business. In fact, globally, online retailers see more than $4 trillion dollars of merchandise abandoned in shopping carts every year. That $4 trillion opportunity cost is called the abandonment economy and inaccurate form-filling is a key driver of its size.

And as eCommerce continues its worldwide domination, online user experience is becoming more important than ever. Gone are the days where online retailers competed on brand, price or value – statistics show that 89% of online retailers compete on the basis of experience alone.

What’s more, while user experience might be important, mobile experience is paramount. We now browse on our mobiles more than our desktops or any other device. We also spend 2.8 hours a day on our smartphone, so that’s a lot of time to notice (and become frustrated by) online forms. And the consequences for online retailers are obvious – mobile conversion rates remain consistently low, hovering somewhere around 1.5%, compared to 4.14% for desktop.

It’s fair to say, then, that not just the overall experience of autofill, but specifically, the experience that said autofill provides on a mobile should really be the measuring stick by which its success is judged.

Autofill 1: Roboform

So how do the different autofill services compare? The first autofill we reviewed was Roboform.

First released in 1999, Roboform was arguably one of the original autofills. Available on most browsers, including Internet Explorer, iOS and Blackberry, Roboform provides a basic form-filling service, alongside password audits, unlimited logins and password generation.

From all initial impressions, it does seem like Roboform provides an effective autofill service (although its mobile performance specifically is not mentioned). However, for all intents and purposes, Roboform seems like a password manager first, and perhaps an autofill tool second.  When discussing its main features, Roboform lists items overwhelmingly associated with password management, for example password strength, storage and generation.

Indeed, password management is how Roboform has monetized its offerings – you’re only able to access additional benefits such as cloud back up and email and phone support through premium plans.

Autofill, it seems, is a service they offer but most certainly do not focus on.

Autofill 2: Last Pass

With a service offering not too dissimilar to Roboform, LastPass offers you secure password management in conjunction with autofill. And just like Roboform, LastPass seems to be a password management system first, and an autofill second.

Unlike Roboform, however, LastPass doesn’t require payment in order for you to access additional services, such as access to cloud back up. Interestingly, LastPass has instead opted to monetize the mobile element of their offering – perhaps with the knowledge that this is where the issues really lie.

Most of the basics of LastPass’s service are free on desktop; yet not on mobile. In order to use their service on a mobile, you have to sign up to a premium package. Still, this package is really all about password management as opposed to autofill.

LastPass’s services are also more targeted towards businesses and teams, again with a password focus in mind.

It seems like LastPass, just like Roboform, places less emphasis on autofill, but at least they do offer a mobile option.

Autofill 3: Firefox Add-On

If you’re a Firefox user, you’ll most likely know that Firefox offers an add-on ‘Autofill forms’ that you’re able to install and then use as an autofill.

Unlike Roboform and LastPass, Firefox’s add-on is more a purest autofill service that works by enabling you to input your information into an add-on screen, and then populates forms from therein on. 

Once you have installed the add-on, you’re able to access it from multiple places by setting up your global profile. The information entered for each value during the initial stage is what is automatically used, rather than information being remembered and saved from previous entries. This has some benefits – at least you’re in control of what goes where.

On the surface, the Firefox add-on does seem like a good service. Yet if you delve deeper, there are some issues. One problem that users have flagged in particular with this autofill is its inability to fill in forms on page load (you need to prompt it to fill in the forms you need). Doing this on a mobile seems like one hurdle that you just don’t need (or want) to do, so it seems like this service, largely, fails to address the mobile issue.

Also (obviously) if Firefox is not your browser of choice, this service is rendered rather useless.

Autofill 4: Chrome Add-On

If you’re a Chrome user instead, though, the good news is that you can download a similar autofill add-on. Chrome’s add-on works in a similar way to Firefox’s – you complete a master form, and the information contained in that form is used to fill subsequent forms.

Yet Chrome’s add on has a potential ugly side. As this service doesn’t seem to have cloud back up or sync, it appears as if your information is saved in the browser itself. This is widely touted as a security risk, and in fact not recommended by multiple online security publications.

The first major security risk of saving your information in your browser is that every piece of data you save can be synchronized with your Google account(s) without you necessarily noticing, which increases the risk that your information could be leaked to attackers if your Google account credentials are leaked.

The second risk is that the autofill can fill in all forms it picks up on a site, not just the ones you can see. In the situation where you’re filling out a form on a less-than-ideal site, you might think that your autofill has just left your name and email address, where really there might have been a ‘hidden’ form for credit card details that you’ve inadvertently released.

Unless you’re willing to take the risk, then, this autofill may not be the best option.

Autofill 5: Browser Autofills

Broswer autofills are the most basic of autofill services They’re available on all major browsers, including Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla, Apple Safari and Opera. You set them up simply by changing your autocomplete settings, and they then save your details from previous web visits to certain sites, and repopulate them when you visit again. 

This is problematic for a number of reasons. Firstly, if a site changes its forms, it means your autofill is no longer accurate (not that it’s that accurate already, anyway – research shows that a plethora of in-browser autofills are 53% accurate, at best).

And secondly, for the reasons above – security is a key issue, and one that should always be considered prior to using any type of browser autofill.

Autofill 6: Fillr

One of the newer players on the market, Fillr is revolutionising many elements of autofill-as-a-service – from accuracy, to security, to mobile compatibility.

Fillr’s niche is in-app browsers – a solution that is presently not offered by any other autofills. When Fillr is installed in an app (for example, a social media site or shopping aggregator), it captures your details and automatically populates them, whatever site you’re visiting.

Fillr is also kicking goals in the accuracy and security departments; another area in which many autofill options are lacking. Fillr is an intelligent autofill in that it uses Advanced Textual Heuristics™ to achieve 95% accuracy when populating forms; which is a significant improvement on what’s seen on most other autofills.  Unlike others, Fillr is supported by cutting-edge tech, which includes a powerful mapping engine, algorithms and machine learning that enables it to read forms like a human being. From a security perspective, Fillr also encrypts your data on each of your devices (outside of the cloud) using military-grade 256-bit AES encryption, so you can rest assured that your details are safe and sound.

Also, Fillr is the only autofill that is available as 'autofill as a service', which means partners can leverage Fillr's supreme form filling capability to enable their customers to transact faster and enhance conversions.

Final words

As the number of online transactions we complete every year continues to grow, the number of online forms we need to complete will grow exponentially. But which autofill will win the race? Given the importance of security, accuracy, and a mobile-first approach, it’s not hard to guess which option has the most potential for our collective autofilling future…

Fillr has built the world’s most intelligent and accurate autofill that will seamlessly integrate into your app.  Contact us today to find out how our technology can help your customers to transact faster and more effectively, boosting your conversions and revenue.