Ghost Busters: 3 Ways to Reengage Stealth “Shoppers” Before They Apply

Carnegie Higher Ed Jul 14, 2015 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Depending on who I talk to around the country, stealth shoppers make up anywhere from 20%–35% of your applicant pools. That’s a significant chunk of prospects flying under the radar until after they’ve applied. And these stealth applicants typically yield at a much lower rate than those students with whom you’ve been engaging throughout the recruitment cycle.

First, let’s define the stealth, or ghost, applicant. This is the student whose first recorded point of contact with you is the application. You don’t purchase their name. They don’t fill out an inquiry form. They don’t “officially” visit campus. They don’t exist in your data system before they apply. Frustrating, right?

What I wonder is if 20%–35% of your applicant pools are stealth, how many ghost shoppers are out there who never apply? It’s an opportunity lost.

Here we are in mid-summer, as rising seniors’ college searches are reaching a boil, and there are thousands of ghosts out there interested in your school, visiting your website, and visiting your campus, looking for information but unwilling to reveal their identity. Here are three easy things you can do right now to re-engage the stealth shopper and keep them moving through the funnel.

  1. Run a Retargeting campaign. To me, this is a no-brainer. Students don’t just apply to your school without visiting your website, and Retargeting captures your online visitors and then targets them with display advertising. It’s relatively inexpensive, and it’s a way to take control of the conversation and deliver your message to students you know are interested at a time you know they’re shopping.
  2. Design a simple Web form. Too many times we think we need to capture a student’s life story on an inquiry form. Make it simple and easy, and it will drive up the conversion rate and capture some of those ghost shoppers on your site. A simple Web form makes a great landing page for a Retargeting campaign and a very effective way to re-engage stealths who are frequenting your site. It’s also a good way to measure the ROI of a Retargeting campaign.
  3. Keep your Web content fresh. Even if you don’t capture the information of the stealth shoppers, it’s important to keep serving them up fresh, engaging content that will keep them coming back to your site. This can be video, quick-hitting lists (like this blog), or profiles of your students doing interesting things over the summer.

Whatever you do, don’t take this audience for granted and don’t wait until after they apply to try to target them with your message. The more you can engage them now, the more likely they are to convert later.

Follow Eric on Twitter @HigherEdEric

Never miss an update.