April 2, 2020

The Benefits of a Chatbot in Higher Ed Marketing

Chatbots are one of the fastest-growing ways for schools to engage prospective students on their website. These prospects are looking to do research or get questions answered quickly without directly speaking to someone. Chatbots provide an automated way to have a conversation immediately from any page on the site, providing answers quickly. And now, as coronavirus upends how colleges market themselves, we are seeing more evidence than ever that chatbots should be an integral part of your prospective student outreach strategy. Here, we’ll dive into a few key data and information points about why your school’s website should be using a chatbot to engage prospects.

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is an AI-based question and answer feature on your website. They allow visitors to get information and have a conversation without needing a live staff person from your school. Chances are you have encountered one on any number of websites. The chatbot typically lives in the corner of the site and pops up asking if you have questions. They engage by allowing a user to start a conversation without being so intrusive that it ruins the website experience.

Chatbot technology uses scripts and logic behind the scenes to guide the conversation. When Statwax creates them for our higher ed clients, we are actually writing and implementing lengthy “if-then” paths with questions and answers along the way. This is where the automation comes in. If a prospective student asks about financial aid, we can set a chatbot to recognize that question. It can then provide basic financial information and links to the appropriate pages. If the conversation becomes too complex, chatbots can then direct the user to a live person or inquiry form.

Increasing inquiries or applications with chatbots

Getting a prospective student to inquire or apply is a lengthy process. We already know the research path can be so complex it requires complex attribution and multiple touchpoints. Chatbots help close some gaps by providing quick answers to prospects right on the website. On the whole, having a chatbot integrated on a website has been shown to produce a 15% – 35% life in conversion rates! Many prospects, especially now during uncertain times surrounding COVID, don’t want to inquire or apply until specific pain points are addressed. Having a chatbot programmed to address these pain points shortens the research cycle and can lead to more conversions during fewer website visits from an interested prospect.

Will prospective students actually use the chatbot?

Many schools are hesitant to put a chatbot on their website, worrying it will impact the site’s usability for prospects. In reality, chatbots have become so ubiquitous that your prospective students are likely expecting them at this point. Recent studies on the biggest frustrations that users have with websites found that more than one-third can’t get answers to simple questions. And 18% of website users are frustrated by a lack of service outside of normal hours. Both of these issues can plague college websites, which often have thousands of pages covering every program and informational point.

Usages of chatbots is not limited to a single demographic. Whether your school is targeting millennial prospects or that all-important older nontraditional learners, there are benefits to chatbots. Studies have found that not only are more than half of millennials are using chatbots regularly, but baby boomers are actually using them to immediately solve problems even more frequently! 

Using chatbots to improve digital marketing

Chatbots aren’t just a great tool to engage prospects on your website. They also provide a boost to your digital enrollment generation efforts. Chatbots are developed to tie into your school’s CRM system. This way, you can use chatbot conversations to capture pieces of information, like a name or email, and begin creating a lead in the CRM. Or you can use your existing CRM data, such as attribution information from previous digital ads, to measure whether ad traffic is requiring more conversations before converting. The chatbot integration could actually help you better refine your prospective student journey and adjust digital touchpoints accordingly.

Finally, most chatbots allow you to create remarketing based on their usage. So if prospective students start a conversation, or ask about certain programs, you can bucket them into audiences for use across your digital channels. This allows you to deploy program-specific banners, for example, to website visitors who were asking about them previously. Just another great way to tie all your digital touchpoints together into one cohesive student acquisition strategy.

Implementing a chatbot on your school’s website is a great step toward further engaging and converting prospective students. Not sure where to start? Talk to us and we can help set it up and start bringing in more inquiries and applications.

Want more marketing insights? Subscribe for updates!