12th February 2020

Individual content for individual students, please

Nick Buckingham
Head of Experience and Product Design
Close up of apple on top of books

Personalisation. It’s become a bit of a buzzword over the past few years - something organisations feel like they should be doing to tick a marketing box. And done well it’s a powerful tool, particularly for universities looking to attract prospective students.

In a US study of Gen Z, 50% of people said they would stop visiting a website if it didn’t anticipate what they need, like or want. That’s half of young people prepared to click away from your website without a second glance if what they see doesn’t reflect who they are.

So, why isn’t everybody knocking out fully personalised websites before breakfast?

Well, because actual, practical personalisation is pretty hard to get right. Knowing where to start, who to target, what to target them with - it takes expertise. So join us as we walkthrough the ins and outs of making your higher education website work its hardest, whoever happens to be browsing.

Best foot forward

It’s worth saying at this stage: all students are not the same. We may think of them as excitable 18 year-olds, but in actual fact, in 2018, 35.8% of higher education students in our universities came from outside the UK, and back in 2017 over 140,000 mature students applied for a university place.

It stands to reason that the first consideration of Hugh, 40, from Wigan is not going to be the same as Chelsea, 20, from Poole. And Anish, 28, from New Delhi will have a whole different set of tastes and requirements.

This is why we personalise: to ensure that the person viewing your website sees the content that most applies to them. It could be serving up a different homepage for different audiences, translating content for students overseas, or populating a page with images proven to resonate with a particular visitor.

It could even be as simple as switching up CTAs depending on who’s browsing. Because your website is at the centre of pretty much every prospective student’s journey.

Think of it as a virtual tour you get to take each individual on, showing them the bits they care about most.

How does it work?

There are two types of personalisation: implicit and explicit.

Using implicit, we’re able to predict our audience’s interests based on their previous behaviour, or on data matching their profile. Think recommending a fine art foundation course because they’ve just clicked to view more about the grades required for art degrees.

Whereas, explicit personalisation is a trade. Our audience give us their information, either through permissions or their online account, and in return we make their experience online better, helping them to easily find the courses and information they need.

So the starting point is always going to be data. What information do we already have about our students that can help us to tailor their journey?

It could be as simple as detecting which country they’re browsing in, or as detailed as identifying highly engaged users by time spent on-site or on a specific page. By understanding more about who is on our website at any given time, we can determine what they’d most like to see.

The Deeson way

You could have the most tailored personalisation system in the world, but the real value lies in knowing why you want it. It’s about making the data work for you, to meet your goals.

Maybe you want to attract more international students; maybe the design courses aren’t filling up as quickly as you’d like - whatever your desired outcome, we can use data to target it.

So we might start by setting up great foundations for data collection, encouraging visitors to let us know more about what they want. Then we might speak to the students themselves for empirical data about what works and doesn’t work, before creating audience segments and running small-batch testing to monitor the effect.

And while these are running, we’re able to adjust and optimise, learning as we go, helping to build a system with the sole purpose of driving towards your targets.

Smooth running

Like any good system, much of the legwork can be automated, so you don’t have to deploy a specialist team every time you want to attract a new student. Let’s take CRM, for example. When your website and email are part of the same personalised ecosystem, you can not only target people on your website but - with the right permissions - can reach them in their inbox too.

So, let’s say Anish from New Delhi has half-completed his application online and deadline day is fast approaching. With some nifty integration, the system can pick up on this and send him an email, prompting him to finish.

Or Hugh from Wigan who’s requested more information about the Fashion Design BA might be interested to know that there’s a Fashion Department open day coming up: when you have the data, you can not only tailor his communications, you can actively give him more of what will help him out.

A tool for good

When it comes to personalisation, it’s easy to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty before you’ve really understood why you’re doing it. But done right, it is more than worth doing.

In fact, with increased conversion, better sentiment and a more streamlined user journey on offer, I’d go so far as to say it’s a bit of a no-brainer.

Drop us a line if you’d like to find out more, and let us come and get nerdy about data mining and audience segments with you.