Chelsea Samantha

Implementing an omni-channels strategy to better engage with students


As students’ expectations continue to evolve, it is no longer enough for universities to have a website. Students today expect not just personalised communication but also a seamless end-to-end omni-channel journey. Implementing such strategy will help towards building a strong digital presence that can help institutions reach their marketing goals. By breaking the boundaries that are sometimes created when different touchpoints are organised in silos, universities can reduce inefficiencies and begin to truly place students and their needs at the centre. 

Understand how channels work together  

The student journey is a lengthy and complex process, and engaging prospective students in every step of the way is important. The more channels a university has, the more likely students will connect with them. However, an omni-channel strategy does not simply require having more than a single channel. Employing a wide range of marketing and recruitment activities is only half of the process. The other half is making sure that those channels are integrated with one another. This means that every touchpoint in the student journey – whether website, email, or social media – needs to be connected and needs to have its own communication plan that delivers consistent messaging uniquely adapted to different audiences the university is reaching.   

Having a CRM system, such as Salesforce, Marketo, and Hubspot, where all information can be centralised and managed by different stakholders can also help in creating a unified student experience. Implementing such solutions will not only create a more streamlined experience for students but also allow teams to integrate into their workflow. When touchpoints aren’t designed to integrate with one another, students are much more likely to abandon their journey. It can also lead to poor data on the students’ behavior which prevents the university to elaborate a strategic outreach plan.   

There’s no one size fits all 

When it comes to choosing which channels to use, universities must understand that what works for one university might not work for another. As students increasingly spend time searching for options online and switching to different devices, it is key for universities to evaluate if all touchpoints are being valuable in supporting the student to make their decision and taking them to the next step in their journey. Revisiting the student persona can be helpful in making this decision by observing which platforms the different students groups use the most. By tracking down performance data, universities can also experiment to see which channel drives the most traffic and engagement.  

“The combination of good tracking and CRM gives you a lot of freedom to experiment with different channels such as social media, google ads, remarketing and see the ROI of each of them. As long as the targeting groups and strategy behind the markets to reach is clear it’s only about seeing what works and measure the results.”  said Claudia Zambrano, Campaign & Partnerships Manager at Studyportals.  

For example, Georgia Tech University launched a successful student focused YouTube channel with guide videos, student profiles and ‘Day in the life of’ videos. Perfect to reach audiences between 18 and 34 who spend a lot of time on video platforms.  

Centennial College’s 24/7 on-demand open house is another great example of good practices in creating an integrated omni-channel digital presence — A change that is worth keeping even after the pandemic is over. Not only is it an indispensable solution in light of the COVID-19 precautions, but it also allows universities to reach more families earlier on their journey. Prospective students do not usually visit campuses until they are far down their consideration stage, but a virtual tour that can be accessed at any time with a click of a button allows universities to own the relationship with students much earlier on in the funnel. 

The University of Arizona immediately asks visitors whether they are a future student, parent, alumni member, etc. and directs them to the landing page based on their persona. This seemingly simple feature is another example of a usable omnichannel approach that keeps the student experience seamless and straightforward.  

Prioritise mobile usability 

No matter which channel a university decides to use, mobile usability should not be overlooked. Studyportals data shows that over 50% of our student visitors use their mobile devices to search through programmes on our website. Without ease of navigation, a good display, and fast download speed, students are highly likely to bounce from the site. Additionally, mobile-friendliness also matters for SEO – this means that if a piece of  content on mobile is not equivalent to its desktop version in terms of its usability, it will rank lower in search results.

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