Amazon has simplified online shopping.
Consumers have more autonomy and can search for products across a wide range of categories. They review product details and customer feedback, compare costs, choose products, and pay for them using an online shopping cart in a few simple clicks.
This intuitive and customer-driven experience has set the tone for all internet purchases. Comfortable with the functionality provided by Amazon, non-traditional students expect the same shopping experience when they select, register and pay for continuing education programs online.
Belinda Elliott-Bielecki, Director of Marketing and Communications in the College of Extended Learning at the University of New Brunswick, emphasized that the ease and convenience offered by leading eCommerce companies like Amazon have shaped student expectations when it comes to administrative processes including registration.
“Amazon makes it easy to purchase whatever you are looking to buy. The best part is that with just one click, your item is on its way to your door. Amazon allows for the customization and tracking of the purchase process. Once your order is placed you can track where your package is and when it will arrive,” she said in her interview with The EvoLLLution.
“It would be wonderful if university registration and application processes worked similarly, so students can know exactly where they are in the process.”
The Value of a Smooth Registration Experience
It’s essential for you to make the registration process as easy and supportive as possible for your prospective students. This is the only way to ensure that your continuing or professional education unit maintains a continuous and a healthy flow of customers.
If the registration process is confusing and difficult to navigate, your prospective students may decide it’s not worth the hassle and abandon their registration.
This can have a ripple effect. A bad registration experience won’t just lose you the student who’s annoyed by the experience. Customers are very vocal about bad experiences, and sharing their annoyance might influence others to not consider you.
Simplifying processes like registration demonstrates that you value customer service, which will help you retain your students through the course of their educational career.
Streamlining Registrations Using Online Shopping Carts
A critical component of the online shopping experience is the shopping cart. This is an area where continuing education divisions can learn a lot from leading eCommerce players and apply it to the way they manage their student registrations and enrollments.
Here are some eCommerce industry shopping cart best practices to consider:
1. Visually appealing shopping cart to make purchasing easy
As consumers load their online shopping cart, they are presented with visual cues that simplify their shopping experience. They can see product images that helps them clearly distinguish one product from the other and makes it easy for them to see the number of items that have been loaded onto their carts.
Almost similarly, you should try and ensure that you provide your students with a visually appealing shopping cart experience. Making use of rich text and images, you should make it easier for your students to recognize the different offerings, and stay away from adding complicated course codes that can be tough to parse. Additionally, your customers don’t want to toggle between different pages to search for and apply the correct course codes at the time of registration. Your shopping cart experience should mirror the approach mastered by eCommerce leaders.
2. Simple and smooth checkout to convert prospects
Once consumers have loaded their shopping carts, they begin the checkout process. At this stage, they can clearly see a few key items:
- The items they’ve added to the shopping cart;
- The costs associated with each item, and the total cost;
- The field to apply discount coupons, if any;
- A button to edit the cart
A smooth checkout process is critical as you can potentially lose prospects at this stage. You need to ensure that your students understand the courses or programs they’ve selected and how much they are going to cost. They should be able to apply any discount codes and immediately see the total price, adjusted for them.
This may seem simple, but it matters to your students that they have upfront visibility into all the education costs.
3. Secure and safe payments to give students the confidence
The next step is choosing the preferred payment option and reviewing the order before making the payment. Leading eCommerce companies offer a variety of payment options, while ensuring compliance to stringent security standards. This is essential to making customers feel secure in sharing their personal information.
You need to do the same. With so many electronic payment options available today, you may need to give your students the flexibility of choosing the payment method. Also letting them review the final order will give them the assurance that everything is correct.
But you can’t compromise on information security. You will need to remain focused on security and site integrity so that your students can trust that their information will remain safe with you.
Even if marketing does its job and brings prospective students to your door, it’s the registration experience that matters and ensures that they enroll. And it comes as no surprise that eCommerce companies are showing the way to online registrations and how they should work.