In today’s world, visitors expect a tailored experience not just from the retail sites they shop, but across the board. They expect the content they engage with to be relevant, timely, and helpful. In other words, they expect personalization. This demand has permeated all industries — including higher education, an industry not historically known for its advanced digital marketing techniques. However, personalization is no longer a “nice to have” for colleges and universities, but a requirement that prospective students now demand as they navigate the process of deciding which school is right for them.  

In this blog post, I’ll walk through six of the personalization use cases that higher education institutions can take advantage of to improve each prospective student’s website experience.

1. Continue the Conversation

When visitors first land on your site, you may not know much about them, but they’re already telling you a lot based on how they arrived to the site. Did they come in through a particular Facebook ad for your undergraduate business school? Or did they click through on an email you sent to students about military programs? From the moment potential students enter the site, they may already be dropping clues about what they’re looking for and what matters to them. Responding with a static site leaves the visitor to navigate on their own. But by using personalization, you can deliver relevant messaging that helps them find what they’re looking for.  

For example, if a visitor came in through a Facebook ad for your business school, you could display in the hero image that your institution was recently ranked as a top business school and provide a CTA for the visitor to explore the business school area of your site.

2. Deliver Progressive CTAs

It’s not typical for a prospective student to arrive on a site and complete an application right then and there. There is a research and discovery process that all visitors undergo to understand if the school is a good fit. By using personalization, you can assist visitors in navigating the process and guide them to the next stage.  

For example, first-time visitors could be shown a CTA geared toward driving them to high-level resources, like the program pages or student life resources. After they have taken that step, or if they have been to the site multiple times but haven’t yet requested additional information or scheduled an onsite visit, CTAs can suggest taking those steps to learn more.

personalization for higher education

CTAs for visitors in the early stages of their research can be geared toward high-level resources.

3. Respond with Relevant Information

For undergraduate students, researching potential majors is a vital part of the discovery process. Prospective students can fall anywhere between being dead-set on a specific major to completely undecided. What a specific prospective student is looking for on your website is heavily dependent on what major they are interested in and how strongly they feel about that major.

With a personalization solution, you can understand through a visitor’s behavior which programs, if any, are the most important to him based on how he interacts with the content of your site. Then, you can personalize content on the site to reflect his favorite program as he peruses the site, allowing you to guide prospective students to relevant information as they do further research.

personalization for higher education

When visitors demonstrate an interest in a particular major or subject area, such as paralegal studies, your site can recognize and respond to that interest.

4. Promote the Right Events

Local events offer a valuable opportunity for an education institution to engage prospective students. These events are often scheduled around the country, which means that not every event is relevant to every site visitor.  

It doesn’t make sense to recommend a generic event or make each visitor take action to filter events in their area. With personalization, you can identify a visitor’s geolocation in order to promote upcoming events in their area. With this type of messaging, you make the experience better for prospective students, increase your event registration numbers, and improve your chances of interacting with them in person.

personalization for higher education

Not every event is relevant to every site visitor. Promote the most relevant ones to increase your chances of engaging each individual.

5. Address Deciding Factors

Prospective students often have additional factors they need to consider in their decision-making process such as financial aid, credit transfers, or military assistance. When you understand these needs, you can deliver content that shows how your institution fulfills these requirements.  

For example, if you notice that a visitor has spent some time engaging with pages about transfer credit on your site, you can incorporate messaging about transferring schools on your homepage for that individual or prominently recommend an FAQ on that very topic. You could do the same when a prospect expresses interest in military assistance.

Display military assistance resources only when the content is relevant to the visitor.

6. Communicate Deadlines

Finally, you can create urgency to drive interested students to submit their applications by reminding them of important deadlines. For example, you could target visitors who have viewed the application page, but haven’t yet completed their application, with messaging reminding them that there are only X days left before the submission deadline.

Final Thoughts

As more and more higher education institutions make investments in digital marketing, it is important to think through the prospective student experience on your site. How does your experience compare to competitors? How does it compare with other sites your audience is familiar with (like Netflix)? How does it help prospective students with their research? Personalization can help colleges and universities create seamless, relevant experiences that cater to each visitor’s needs in the moment.

For more information about how your higher education organization can leverage personalization, check out the blog post “Using Personalization to Engage Prospects in the Complex Sale” and schedule a demo with one of our experts today.