In the online retail world, cart abandonment — where a user places an item into their virtual shopping cart and never checks out — is a closely monitored statistic that businesses work hard to reduce. It's incredibly important that businesses try to catch users before they abandon their websites.

Imagine if you worked in a brick-and-mortar store and a client wandered around holding an item, comparing prices, and then finally put it down and walked out of the front door. It's going to be much more difficult to convince that customer to come back, pick up the item again and buy it. The better solution is to convert them while they're still wandering around your store.

Schools encounter a similar scenario. Prospective parents land on their website, visit a few pages — maybe they even begin completing an online enrollment form — and then they leave your website. School "cart abandonments" are a big missed opportunity for many schools, resulting in hundreds of lost enrollment applications every year. So how do you stop this from happening?

Find out your conversion rate

Your conversion rate (or CVR) is one of the most important statistics that your school should be using. It's the metric that determines what percentage of visitors to your website are taking a desired action (completing a form, watching a video, purchasing a product, etc.). Understanding your historical CVR will help you to set targets for reducing the number of visitors who came to your site, but left without completing the desired action.

To find out your conversion rate, you need to first ensure that tracking is set up on your school website. The most popular (and free) website tracking platform is Google Analytics. Your website provider will usually ask for your Google Analytics tracking code when they are building your website. Once the code is applied, you will be able to see basic metrics such as sessions and average session duration. Getting conversion rate tracking set up, however, requires some custom configuration. You can either do this yourself (here's a great guide) or you can hire a marketing agency to do the work on your behalf.

Your bounce rate and your average session duration statistics (which can also be found in Google Analytics) will also help you identify behaviour on your registration or enrollment pages. These statistics will indicate how many users left immediately after reaching the page, and the average amount of time that users spent viewing the page.

Improve the user experience

Now that you've found out what your average CVR is, you can put in place some steps to improve it. The best thing you can do to stop people from abandoning your website early is to improve their experience when they visit your website.

Make sure the form is responsive

It's now a non-negotiable to have a website that natively resizes to fit any screen. Mobile use continues to grow, making it one of the most important considerations for any website. Ensure that your form renders correctly across a range of mobile devices, tablets and websites and is easy to use across various devices and screen sizes.

Make it easy to find and complete the form

Streamlining the process is an effective way to reduce abandonment. If you want users to complete a form, ensure that only required questions are included and that they are written in a way that users can easily understand. You can also set expectations with the user by providing an indication of how long the process might take and the types of information that will be required. This will prevent users from leaving the process as a result of being surprised about the effort required.

If all else fails...

If the prospective has well and truly abandoned your website, it's time to use the information that you have available to bring them back. There are two main ways that you can do this: retargeting your website visitors with paid ads or reminding them to come back through email communications.

Retarget your website visitors

Some social media and digital marketing channels offer services that retarget users that have visited and left your website. Have you ever looked at a piece of clothing on a fashion website, and then been followed around by ads featuring that clothing for the next few weeks? That's retargeting at work. 

Retargeting works by giving your site visitors a cookie (a piece of code that tracks them as they navigate your website). You can then set up ads that follow users around as they browse social media or various third-party websites. You can set the number of times your ad appears in front of the client or the length of time for the ad to follow them. The downside to retargeting is that it will not work for any site visitors who use an ad blocker when browsing your website. Nearly half of millennials use an ad blocker on one or more of their devices, so you will be missing out on advertising to a large segment of your site visitors.

Remind your form abandoners

Another solution is to send a series of 'nudge' emails to remind prospective parents to finish completing their online enrollment. Some customer relationship managers, along with email marketing platforms and online enrollments solutions offer this functionality. These emails remind parents what they are missing out on and offer an easy way back to complete their enrollment. 

For example, our very own online enrollment system offers automated reminder emails to applicants who have launched the enrollment form and begun their online enrollment (and then subsequently left before completion). The form works by capturing the applicant's email address and sends an introduction email after they begin with a direct link back to their saved application. It also sends a reminder email to return to the application when the applicant has abandoned the form (after a certain number of days nominated by the school).

Ready to reduce your 'cart abandonments' with Funnel?

Published October 7 2021