The number of higher education students across the UK continues to rise year on year, with over 2.5 million students at higher education institutions in the academic year 2019/2020. The industry has been becoming more and more competitive since the 2012 coalition government, when the tuition fees Universities could charge increased to £9000. In 2014, the cap on student numbers was lifted, meaning that students didn’t have to compete for a limited number of spaces and Universities could enrol as many students as they could. This growth in competition makes the student journey even more important. Facing a vast array of competing institutions means retaining them within this journey is increasingly more difficult.
Attraction is the first stage of the student journey and can sometimes take place years before the application process. For some Universities, attraction comes easily due to a great reputation. However, for the vast majority of institutions, attraction is one of the toughest stages thanks to the high level of competition.
Technology now has an impact on nearly everything we do, so it is clear to many Universities that during the current fourth industrial revolution that technology is the answer to delivering exceptional experiences. As technology has developed, the methods and quality of personalisation has drastically improved. It’s no longer about simply including the recipient’s name in an email; personalisation can make people feel special by creating bespoke content based on gathered information. Students want to feel valued and cared for by their University, but with thousands, or even tens of thousands of students, how can Universities maintain personal aspects of the attraction process?
Personalisation not only makes the prospective student feel important, it also helps the University stand out technologically against the sea of competitors. The first step to create personalised content is to gather rich contact information, plus the ability to track their behaviour. Dynamics 365 Marketing includes the ability to create webforms, manage events, collect information from virtual agents (both web and social media based) and offline sources. All of the information collected through prospectus downloads, open day registrations, and chat bot messages helps to build a better picture of the prospective student making the following stages of communication more effective.
Once you have access to the prospective student’s information, you can create segments to streamline the personalisation process. Whether you’re segmenting students based on hobbies, demographics, behaviour, or offline interactions, it is easy to create static or dynamic customer segments. You can also use Natural Language to segment your audience, which is powered by AI. For example, create a segment entitled ‘prospective students living in Wales who are interested in sport’, and a new contact list will be formed based on contact information and behaviour.
Dynamic content can then be produced, distributed and directed to, based on the student segments. Dynamic content changes based on the recipient, and can be personalised with names, ages, subject, gender and many more aspects. This is something used frequently in email marketing, and it helps to avoid showing your audience any content that may not be relevant to them. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing makes creating dynamic content easier, whether you want to address the recipient by the first name, or tailor the email image to the age. Dynamics 365 Marketing is capable of distributing graphically rich, personalised content to a large number of recipients, analysing their behaviour, driving automation based on the behaviour, and presenting the data. This same premise can then extend onto personalised landing pages or webpages for the prospective students, which can then be personalised with their name, chosen course and many more options.
Personalised content can often seal the deal for prospective students. It adds a human aspect to communication and improves marketing engagement by providing relevant content for the recipient. When done correctly, personalisation can help students to feel at home with a University they haven’t even applied to yet, just by sharing content based on their interests, location or behaviour.
While personalisation can transform the attraction process, it can also continue along other aspects of the student journey. It can help maintain student wellbeing, retain current students, and encourage interactions with alumni, all while improving the University’s reputation through National Student Survey scores.