Personalisation is a much talked about topic in the student admissions sphere, with many universities taking a keen interest in how they can leverage the data they have to increase enrolment rates through personalised communications.
An Inside Higher Ed survey reveals that 51 percent of admissions directors felt very concerned about meeting their enrolment goals for the 2015-16 academic year, and 58 percent say they did not meet their goals.
These figures suggest that a number of universities are struggling to compete in a market where applications are in a general state of decline. So what measure can they put in place to begin to remedy this?
Some universities are evaluating course content, some are focusing on attracting a higher proportion of international students and others are even reducing the cost of their programmes.
While these are all sound strategies in one way or another, personalising communications to enhance the application process can be just as, if not more effective at getting students through the door.
There’s a lot of evidence out there that points to the fact that personalisation works.
According to Volt, 68% of marketers say personalisation based on behavioral data has a high impact on ROI. Personalisation is being used across a range of industries to nurture customer relationships and ultimately, drive revenue.
Understanding your students
To personalise communications effectively, its vital that you understand your target audience and their goals when choosing to study at your university. A good way to do this is to segment your audience based on ‘student personas’.
Historically, the temptation has been to segment students according to age but nowadays universities are segmenting in much more sophisticated ways. The Parthenon Group is one such organisation taking a fresh approach to segmentation.
Through their study, Parthenon was able to assign comprehensive profiles to different types of students: aspiring academics, coming of age, career starters, career accelerators, industry switchers and academic wanderers.
In taking a similar approach to student segmentation, universities can communicate with different groups in a more personalised way. And we’re not just talking about using first names in an email campaign - it’s about delivering the most relevant content to the individual.
Ways to personalise communications
With so much information at our fingertips, picking the right university is a time-consuming endeavour for most students. So, any steps a university can take to save time by providing relevant information makes a lot of sense from a recruitment perspective.
Digital personalisation makes it easier for institutions to deliver the right content to the right individuals - through the best channels. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that universities can leverage personalisation to improve the application journey.
To achieve behavioral personalisation, universities track an individual’s behaviour on their website or application portal and assign different points to their journey. When the visitor has ‘hit’ the required number of points, they are assigned to a predefined persona and presented with content that the university feels will be most useful to them.
Triggered personalisation is when a prospect interacts in a certain way with a university’s website or application portal and is subsequently offered more appropriate content. Having an application portal that adapts the content based on the candidate's state across the admissions lifecycle dramatically improves applicant engagement and conversion to enrolment.
Institutions can also give autonomy back to the visitor by getting them to determine what content they want to see.
The image above is from Bucknell University homepage where website visitors can customise the homepage based on the content that they find most relevant.
Email personalisation is one of the most popular and accessible marketing tactics for higher education. It’s a great way to engage - or reengage - prospective students and guide them through the application process more effectively.
By leveraging the information the institution has on individuals such as where they live or what stage of the application process they are at, admissions (or marketing) departments can schedule updates and reminders that are relevant to them.
5. Social media
Universities can use retargeting advertising on social media to send specific ads to individuals based or their behavioural data - how they interact on the website. These interactions can include anything from visiting a blog post to starting an application.
Technology to enable personalisation
One of the most important things to consider when approaching personalisation for the first time or when developing an existing strategy is the technology that is going to be used to facilitate it.
Instead of using disparate systems that complicate and slow down processes, you might choose to invest in an all-in-one higher education recruitment and admissions platform. This will enable you to personalise communications and enhance the application experience with a single, intuitive tool.
Is your higher ed institution experimenting with personalisation? Request a demo to see how we can help you streamline the process and drive up applications and enrolments.