How Unicef UK took tips from retail to encourage more online donations

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How Unicef UK took tips from retail to encourage more online donations

How Unicef UK took tips from retail to encourage more online donations

Using insight from the retail sector, Unicef UK developed a strategy for abandonment technology that has delivered an extra £100k in donations so far. Here’s how they did it

 By Samantha Doe


Have you ever started shopping online but left the website before completing your purchase? Chances are the answer is yes. Think about why that might be, and lots of ideas come to mind:


“I was just browsing, comparing prices, and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to buy yet.”

“My phone rang and I got completely side-tracked.”

“I hated filling in the form – it was too long and asked for too much information.”

“The website wasn’t working properly on my mobile.”

“I didn’t have my card details to hand and it wouldn’t let me pay via PayPal.”


The list could go on and on, but you get the idea. We’re only human, and we get frustrated or distracted from day-to-day activities like online shopping. But the same also applies for online charity donations.


In fact, Unicef UK discovered that the majority of visitors to our main donation page left before completing their donation. That meant that we were losing out on potential income that could have been used to help vulnerable children around the world.


Not happy with this statistic, we knew we had to do something to encourage more supporters to finish their donation. These website visitors have actively shown an interest in donating by visiting the donation page, but were getting frustrated by or side-tracked from the process. We knew we had to make changes and test whether we could improve the user experience to help more visitors complete their donation.


Optimising the journey within the current infrastructure


Unicef UK took steps to optimise the journey through A/B testing on the landing page, but we were limited by our outdated and rigid technology. Tests included:


  • Webpage alignment: changing the position of elements on the page (where we could) to see if the layout affected people’s willingness to donate
  • Image choice: testing different types of images: photos showing the need for donations versus photos that show the solution a donation could make


Some had positive results that increased either conversion rate or average donation value and provided enough statistical significance to roll out as standard features, but others did not. We knew that we were unable to make too significant a change to the donation page or form, so we needed to look for an alternative way to help people complete their donation.


Understanding additional opportunities from the retail sector


At this point we turned to the retail sector to see what tactics online shops were implementing to keep their customers engaged. We identified a three-pronged approach to re-engaging supporters:


  • Overlays: if someone tries to close their browser on a donation page or while filling in the donation form, a pop-in appears to encourage them to stay and complete their donation
  • Retargeting via display: if they leave the site before making the donation, we retarget them while browsing other websites, using online display banners to encourage them to return and complete their donation
  • Retargeting via email: if a supporter reaches far enough through the form to fill in their email address, we’ll follow up with an email asking if they need any help to complete their donation


After a shortlisting and tendering process, we selected a third party supplier who could provide us with the mix of solutions. The main objective of this pilot would be to test whether we could increase conversion rate on the website.


The appointed provider, Ve Interactive, had lots of experience across retail and non-profit clients and understood the challenges that Unicef UK was facing.

Initial set-up from Unicef UK’s end was straightforward – adding Ve Interactive code into its Google Tag Manager profile so that the agency could grab the necessary information for tracking conversions. The agency managed the design and build of the technical elements, so Unicef UK provided brand guidelines and design briefs directly.


Challenges faced


Although the set-up was simple enough, the project has been challenging at times. The biggest blocker to success has been our very inflexible donation platform and old systems that don’t integrate effectively with Google Analytics and Tag Manager. We worked with the agency to find workarounds, which required some trial and error and a lot of test donations to check that the relevant information could be pulled for reporting on conversions.


Pilot results


This pilot was a way for us to enhance our ongoing testing and improvements programme, and to pick up on what we’d identified as a lost opportunity. We wanted to re-engage supporters who had actively shown an interest in donating. The pilot, which was run on a cost-per-acquisition model, has been low risk, cost and resource to implement and run.


In just a year, this technology has raised over £100k for Unicef UK. That’s £100k more unrestricted income that can be used to help provide life-saving support for children all over the world, wherever the need is greatest.


Approximately 18% of this income is in the form of monthly pledges, and will be recuperated over the course of 12 months, enabling us to raise sustainable unrestricted funds.


As a result of this, and our ongoing testing and optimisation programme, we have managed to double our conversion rate, so we’ve achieved our aim: to increase the percentage of people converting on our website when they consider making a donation.


Next steps


This pilot was managed by Unicef UK’s digital hub, as we focus on testing new innovations that have the potential to benefit teams across the organisation. However, as the pilot has been so successful and easy to manage, we will now upskill and hand over the day-to-day management to our direct marketing team and roll it into business-as-usual marketing activity.


The pilot helped us to identify which tracking and technical issues we needed to fix. Now we’ve fixed them, we can roll this programme out across all of our donation pages. We will be able to serve different content for each pop-in, email or display banner, which means we can make it relevant to a supporter’s chosen donation, whether that is for our long-term fundraising for children and families affected by crises in countries such as Syria, or during sudden onset emergencies like last year’s earthquakes in Nepal.


This technology has the potential to be rolled out much more widely across the organisation, and we will be focusing on how we can use it to optimise other ways people can support. In the future, we expect to be using this technology in areas such as our online shop, event registration forms, and petition sign-ups to further help people support our work to save children in danger.


Samantha Doe (@SamanthaDoe1) is digital marketing specialist at Unicef UK.


Samantha will be speaking at The Institute of Fundraising’s Innovative Fundraising in a Digital World Conference on Monday 3 October, at the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury, London. To find out more and/or to book tickets, visit the website.


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