How to Deal with Abandoned Online Registration Forms

Most people associate “abandoned carts” with e-commerce sites like Amazon or Walmart.com. But did you know that online conference registration sites often have their own “abandoned” cart issues? Since online registrations are usually not “carts” per se, it is best to think of the problem as an abandoned online registration form. But the results are the same – someone started the process of purchasing but stopped before the process was completed.

For a conference, the abandonment problem can be described as when a person started a registration form but left before the process was complete. While it is well known that shopping cart abandonment rates are very large in the e-commerce world (rates often in the 70% range), conference planners seldom think of their registration form as being subject to large scale abandonment.

How Bad is the Problem?

Is this problem bad enough to be even worth thinking about? An EventRebels study of conferences in 2019 leads to a strong response of YES! The study covered a range of conferences from 250 to 5,000 registrations. Calculating the abandoned rate by number of forms started with minimum information divided by the total number of registrations actually completed, the study came up with an average abandoned rate of 9.12%! The lowest rate was 4.42% while the highest rate was an astounding 15.10%.

What does this mean in raw numbers? Suppose you had a conference of 2,500 attendees paying an average of $400 per registration ($1,000,000 in registration revenue.) An abandon rate based on the 9.12% average would yield about 36.5 abandoned registrations, yielding a $91,200 hit to the bottom line. That’s a problem worthy of closer investigation!

Why do People Abandon Online Registration Forms?

So why do people desert an online registration form? The reasons vary greatly but here are some of the most common:
  • Form is too long. A common mistake planners make is ask too many questions on the registration form, especially those related to demographics.

  • Credit card problems. The card the registrant wants to use does not clear and they give up after multiple failures.

  • Security/privacy concerns. Customer does not feel like their credit card will be handled securely or that their data will not be handled in a way that protects their privacy.

  • Change their mind. At some point during the registration process the prospective attendee decides that the event really is not of interest.

  • Interrupted or distracted. We all live really busy lives and a simple interruption like an employee needs to chat or a package is delivered can distract and move us on to the next task.

  • Form is too complex. The form does not let the registrant “choose their own adventure” but rather interrupts the registration flow with “cannot select this” error messages.

  • Form malfunctions. The online form is written on unreliable software and it is not clear how to complete the process.

What Can You Do to Reduce Abandonment?

For most of the above problems, there are some clear things you can do to reduce the abandonment rate:
  • Keep survey questions to 5 or less. Five questions seems to be the magic number for surveys, above which people grow impatient and leave. Also make sure to use best practices when creating surveys.

  • Easy lookups of contact information. If you use an identifier like Email to pre-populate the form, you will have taken a big step to reduce the length of the process. For membership associations, there are a variety of techniques to pre-populate the form based on membership status.

  • Use PCI compliant online registration software. Make sure your online registration provider is PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) Compliant. PCI is the standard for how websites should protect your credit card. Also, if your online registration form URL does not start with https://, you are violating industry best practices and many customers will abandon before starting.

  • Post your privacy policy. With the 2018 European Union GDPR policies and the California consumer privacy act, consumers now have major government initiatives to protect the security of their data. By posting your privacy policy, you send a message to the consumer that you consider their privacy to be very important. (If you don’t have such a policy you need to talk to your privacy attorney ASAP!)

  • Ask consent questions. Directly related to privacy, somewhere on your online registration form you need to let the consumer know how you will be using their data and receive their consent to do so. Are you sending their information to their marketing department or, even more problematic, to a third-party marketing vendor? If so, you should let the registrant know and get their approval to do so.

  • Keep the FOMO going! Do you know many people suffer from FOMO or Fear of Missing Out? Your online registration form needs to continue to build on the excitement that your other event marketing has generated. For example, you may do this letting the attendee build the conference itinerary.

  • Use choose your own adventure online registration software. If your online registration software is limited in customization, you may drag the prospective registrant down the road of annoying “cannot select this” error messages and popups. Highly customizable registration software avoids this frustration by taking the attendee down the path that is applicable to him or her.

How Can You Re-Convert Someone Who Abandoned Your Online Form?

So you’ve tried all of the above but people still abandon your form (probably less though!) So what can you do now? Great online registration will collect the Emails of people as soon as that data is entered. If you are able to report on these Emails, then you can either Email blast or personally reach out to the people who desert. Email interactions would also be a great way of getting feedback on why the form was abandoned.

As mentioned before, many abandoned forms may be caused by credit card failures. Good reports will provide reasons for the failures, with declines probably topping the list. Cross tabulating credit card failures with the abandoned Email list gives you a chance to reach out to individuals armed with specific alternatives.

A more involved technique includes using paid re-targeting ads on Facebook and LinkedIn aimed at the deserted parties. Putting together a comprehensive plan to address the abandoned registration form issue is a simple way to boost your conference numbers.

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