June 18, 2020

How to Use Digital Marketing & Analytics for Student Retention

As higher education adapts to a new normal among the age of COVID-19, many schools’ are focusing on revising enrollment goals and student retention strategies. Retaining active students is becoming increasingly more important as many are questioning their post-pandemic future. A few studies suggest that student retention rates could decline in fall semesters due to several issues. These challenges include poor online e-learning experiences, financial issues resulting from coronavirus, and more.

Your current digital marketing campaigns likely aren’t focused on student retention. However, as your campus prepares to return in the fall, here are a few ways to integrate digital marketing into your student retention strategies to keep students enrolled and engaged next semester.

Custom audiences for various cohorts

Student retention marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Different higher education students will be weighing multiple factors when it comes to staying in school. Those experiencing their freshman year during COVID-19 may be more impacted by online learning. On the other hand, those one year from graduation may be more apt to finish college. But concerned about the financial impact as well as the post-graduation job market.

No matter your digital student retention strategy, you need to divide your existing students into various audiences. This strategy will help you provide the proper touchpoints and messaging. Create custom audiences based on the cohort, even down to the college or program level if large enough. Use those audiences individually in digital marketing platforms to serve social and display ads calling out specific messages. Highlight campus support services, financial aid opportunities, and changes being made in reaction to coronavirus. All of these points can help resonate with different groups of students and build trust and comfort in returning to school.

Host student support or Q&A sessions

It’s difficult to support students and offer advice when so much is still shut down on campus. However, there are digital marketing tactics that can help your staff engage with students who may be looking for information. 

Consider hosting live information sessions with advisors or offering “office hours” conducted through digital platforms. Chatbots are a great way to engage students on your website, and you can use digital advertising and email to market the concept to students. 

Creating a unique landing page where students can sign up for one-on-one video chats with advisors or professors is another great strategy to implement into your student retention plan. Use custom audience advertising to let students know the option exists. Especially during this age of online learning and empty campuses, providing direct communication and support to students will be key in keeping them excited for their next semester.

Predictive analytics

Being proactive is crucial to maintaining student retention rates But what if you could also identify specific cohorts of students who are most at risk of leaving your school? What if you could engage with them before they turn away for good? Predictive analytics is becoming a key piece to the student retention strategy used by many universities and higher education marketing agencies. 

Predictive analytics for higher education is a tool that models student behaviors, demographics, grades, and attendance. The data is used to predict whether students may fail, transfer, drop-out, or graduate. Like most data analytic tools, some platforms work better than others with varying costs across platforms. However, many schools are finding the predictive analytic tools successful at proactively identifying the students most in need of additional engagement. By using predictive student retention analytics to focus on these niche audiences, you can better adjust your digital outreach. You can also keep costs lower while serving up exactly the messaging needed to help students out.

Are you worried about the future of your student retention rates as the fall semester approaches? Reach out to our higher education marketing experts, and let’s talk about some digital strategies that can help.

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