When it comes to creating engaging experiences with your students, personalization is key to your marketing strategy. However, marketers often get caught in a rut thinking they’re achieving it if they remember to include: ‘Hi First Name’ in their emails.
So how can your university leverage personalization? The reality is that personalization is far more vast and complex than addressing someone by name, and students expect much more when they are interacting with your site.
A great model for shaping your university’s online personalization strategy comes from Netflix. Often considered the king of personalization, the entire end-to-end experience of Netflix is personalized. We all read their emails and rely on their recommendations for what we should be watching next.
By implementing the four different types of personalization, your university can create experiences that are just as engaging as Netflix.
#1: User Set Personalization
Let the user tell you easily and explicitly who they are, so you can personalize based on those set responses. Think of when you log in to Netflix and they ask you, “Who’s Watching?” The benefit they provide to the user is the ability to directly make a choice about what they see.
How can your university do this? Start with a generic homepage with a call to action to transform the interface with personalized content, by asking the user to tell you exactly who they are and what they’re interested in. This lets users directly classify themselves as undergraduate, postgraduate, parent, or staff member.
Providing these options gives the user an overarching segmentation or persona that best fits their situation. It also gives you the chance to cleary personalize their web experience to provide the most relevant information. You just might find your bounce rates decreasing as a result.
#2: Profiled Personalization
Profiled personalization goes a step beyond user set, by using additional information the user has explicitly told you or that you have learned to customize their experience.
This is a more proactive approach to delivering the information you think your users will be the most interested in, but it requires more specific data points. Think of how your Netflix experiences change when you travel to different countries and they can see your international IP address.
Why is this important? As a university, it is key for your international student recruitment to use images and content tailored specifically to them. Similarly, for mature students, images and content focusing on younger students may be a deterrent, so automatically switching content to focus on the particular audience could keep them engaged for longer. If your prospective students fill in a form saying they’re interested in a short course vs a degree, you can tailor their experience to match.
#3: Behavioral Personalization
Where profiled personalization waits for a user to explicitly tell you something to use as a basis for personalization, behavioral personalization tracks how a user interacts with different content across a website and then implicitly infers their interests. This engagement is then used to effectively guess what will be the next best step.
How can you achieve this? This is often done using pre-defined personas. The way Netflix decides which content it recommends using behavioral personalization is more complex than people realize. Not only does the artwork used on the recommendation change based on what you’ve watched in the past, it also changes based on time of day.
Your university can suggest other courses that might interest students based on their past searches or pages viewed, or proactively recognize when a student is ready to sign up for an open day event. This type of personalization is ideal at reducing friction, helping users find the information they want faster; revealing information they didn’t know about.
#4: Triggered Personalization
Triggered personalization is one of the easier types to implement. This is where experiences are changed based on direct action taken by the user.
If a user has already filled in a form, don’t make them fill it in again. What to do instead? Have a download button or utilize progressive profiling to ask different questions. That way, each time they fill out a form, you’re able to build out your knowledge of them. Also remember: If they’ve already signed up to the newsletter, stop showing the pop up promoting this.
Think of Netflix’s ‘Continue Watching’ option, where they display content that the recipient has recently viewed but not completed. This aligns with their algorithm that predicts when subscribers will continue a show or start a new series – it triggers emails and app notifications to ensure that the user knows about them.
Where to next?
Whatever personalization you decide to use, remember that the core of your strategy is to create a meaningful, engaging experience for your students. While the possibilities of personalization are endless, there is a fine line between what users consider creepy and cool. Just because you can personalize everything doesn’t mean you should. Keeping the student experience at the heart of your personalization strategy is key to ensuring long-term engagement.
If you need any help mapping user journeys, segmenting your audience, or completing targeting grids, reach out to our friends at Squiz. Whether it’s workshop facilitation or a complete done-for-you package, we can help you take your engagement to the next level and provide personalized communication to your entire audience. For a how-to plan for marketers to reach peak personalization, check out this article – it will leave you with clear steps to step up your personalization game.
Let us know what are some of your favorite website personalization strategies below in the comment section!