In terms of timing, the impact of COVID-19 on the higher education industry could not have come at a worse time. Heading into spring, nearly every college was gearing up for the deadline for accepted students to make their final choices and deposits and commit to the fall semester when the pandemic hit the U.S.
The global pandemic has, obviously, completely changed the landscape of higher education. A lot of changes have focused on future efforts, like how to continue enrollment-generation strategies in an age of closed campuses and distance learning. But as we get further into spring, the issue of ensuring a strong fall yield remains. So here are three ways you can leverage digital strategies to convince accepted students to commit to your school during such uncertain times.
Dedicated landing page or informational portal
This coronavirus pandemic isn’t just a time of uncertainty for your school. It’s just as unprecedented for the students who are now wondering what their higher education future holds. The last thing any accepted students want is to have to wade through your school’s huge website looking for specific COVID-19-related updates that pertain to their fall semester start. Every instance that creates user friction or information obstacles during this time will lead to more anxiety, distrust, and uneasiness in their thoughts toward your school.
To combat this, provide a dedicated landing page or microsite specifically for incoming students. Since you know who has been accepted, it will be easy to communicate this page to them via email blasts or other outreach. Use the landing page to highlight the key elements an admitted student needs to know, like:
- Address financial aid concerns and options
- Be clear about changing deadlines (such as a shift in the deadline to deposit for the semester)
- Offer links to resources such as live chats or virtual advisors
Chatbots on-site and on social
Even in calmer times, chatbots are one of the best ways for colleges to engage prospective students. When trying to hit your upcoming yield goals, this automated platform can be invaluable. And it doesn’t have to live only on your website.
AI-based question and answer features are now common across websites as well as social media channels. Facebook’s Messenger app allows schools to build chatbots that engage users right in Facebook itself. That means they never even have to navigate your website.
There are numerous platforms that help you build and integrate these chatbots. When working to improve your fall yield you should explore these platforms for both your website and your social channels. With high schoolers now home for the foreseeable future, social media is an even better way to reach them throughout the day. Configure your chatbot platform to ask whether the user is an accepted student, then tailor the conversation specifically to helping them commit to your school. Hitting yield rate goals means addressing every potential worry or pain point an accepted prospect has about your school, and chatbots can help do this without the student ever leaving the webpage.
Paid search remarketing
Adding your accepted students to custom audiences on various ad platforms is a great way to proactively reach out to this group. Paid search touchpoints are especially helpful, as they can help provide updates and key information. In addition, instituting paid search remarketing lets you answer student concerns based on how they are searching.
For example, Statwax has found searches with the “online” modifier sharply rising in all higher ed search accounts. This includes branded terms. As the industry comes to terms with what is likely a long-term shift to online learning, even accepted students are searching for whether their school of choice is equipped with an e-learning platform and resources. The story is the same for searches from students involving financial aid changes and adjustments to transcripts or testing requirements.
You can use paid search remarketing to position your school’s brand and information specifically in front of admitted students. This is an easy way to reach a prospect in their time of research and need. Being the first to provide answers can instill trust and comfort in your school above others. Because you are using a custom audience of just accepted students, your pool of potential search impressions is low. This will allow you to target normally high-competition keywords like “online college” or “financial aid” while mitigating costs. If an already-accepted student is searching for things like this, it is likely they are still trying to make a decision and every bit of extra information counts.
Wondering how to hit your fall yield goals during this unpredictable time of COVID-19? Let our higher education marketing experts help – get in touch today.