Colleges and universities are constantly trying to reach prospective students at the right time with the right message in order to thoroughly engage them. Traditionally, this outreach strategy includes a variety of touchpoints, such as direct mail campaigns, email marketing, community events, and even targeted digital advertisements on the web and social media. These touchpoints act as reminders about your school and all that you offer, showcasing benefits and differentiators that encourage your prospective students to apply and attend. By using various channels to reach your new class with a cohesive vision, you are already implementing an omni-channel outreach strategy. Congrats!

Now onto the fun stuff… Here are 3 steps to optimize your enrollment strategy using AI.

Step 1: Evaluate and optimize your current strategy.

What are the current channels you use to reach prospective students? How well is each one working? Are you targeting specific messages to different groups based on interests? Are you personalizing communications beyond just first name? Are you tracking engagement rates? Consider all of these questions and do the research to make sure your current omni-channel strategy is performing at its best.

In addition to looking at each channel’s effectiveness, the overall goal and messaging should be reviewed for cohesiveness. The experience on the receiving end of all these messages needs to be seamless, so your prospective students recognize your institution’s brand and have a positive feeling with each interaction.

Omni-Channel Marketing
Slides used with permission.

Once you’ve determined that all communications are cohesive across channels and playing an effective part in the enrollment funnel, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Step 2: Add a new channel for increased ROI.

The next step to a more effective omni-channel enrollment strategy involves adding a new channel to the mix. Increasing the number of channels can dramatically increase your return on investment. According to Olsen Metrix, a five-channel campaign will outperform a single-channel campaign by 35%!

Many colleges and universities have begun to truly embrace new technology, and these institutions have seen real results. The channel you need to consider next is AI-powered chatbots via mobile messaging. Students nowadays prefer to receive relevant information via text rather than email or a phone call, because it’s what they’re most familiar with.

Did you know that 98% of text messages are read within 15 minutes, and yet only 20% of emails sent to today’s students of Generation Z are ever even opened?

At the 2019 Common Application Member Summit, Suzanne Sharp, Executive Director of Enrollment Management Consulting at Liaison International presented a session on “omni-channel marketing to increase applications and yield your best class.” She identified four keys to success with omni-channel messaging: 1. Immediate, 2. Relevant, 3. Automated, and 4. Trackable. Sharp repeated throughout her presentation the importance of making sure your prospective students feel wanted.

Keys to Success
Slides used with permission.

Text messaging on its own is indeed beneficial because you’re reaching students where they are, on their mobile device. However, if you’re using a one-to-one texting platform, you still have to take the time to answer every single question your students ask via text. The problem here lies not only in delayed response time, but also in staff time to manage it.

With a chatbot, students always receive an immediate, automatic response, whether it’s an exact answer, a link to the most helpful related resource, or a “Let me find out for you”, which escalates the question to staff via email. AdmitHub builds a custom knowledge base for each chatbot so that it can provide relevant answers to repetitive FAQs such as “when is freshman orientation” or “how do I submit the FAFSA”, which frees up staff time to make more meaningful connections with students who need it most. In its first year, Ocean County College’s chatbot “Reggie” saved over 200 hours of staff time.

Artificial intelligence allows a chatbot to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed, resembling what we consider human intelligence. It can even understand fragmented sentences, misspellings, bad grammar, and missing punctuation. (You can learn much more about the AI landscape and specific terminology with our AI Glossary.) This means the bot will get smarter as time goes on. For example, if a student asks a novel question, and the bot is taught the right answer, then it will be able to supply that answer the next time a student asks it. Again, saving more and more hours over time so staff can be more effective in their roles and exceed expectations for student success.

It’s about giving them a better experience, more recognition in the process, a stronger sense of loyalty, and then having better analytics to serve these students in the most effective ways. All of this is accomplished by using an AI-powered chatbot to communicate with students.

Step 3: Use proactive nudges to build deeper relationships

We all need a little push sometimes. Incoming college students are no exception, especially because applying to, enrolling in, and starting college is so new and foreign, it can be overwhelming. Consider first-generation students who are breaking the mold and want to attend college, but their parents haven’t been through the process — how do they know what to do?

While we can’t give you a human advisor for every student, we can create a friendly, knowledgeable bot to extend your team. Giving students this virtual assistant allows them not only to ask questions and receive answers 24/7 but also to receive proactive, encouraging nudges, making them feel proud to accomplish each step along their journey.

Higher Ed Chatbot Communications

There’s a phenomenon called “summer melt” where upwards of 19% of committed students, depending on the institution, don’t show up to campus for the first day of classes. To combat this, AdmitHub helps institutions design campaigns and proactive nudges to remove unintended micro barriers and help students find their way to campus and completion.

In Fall 2018, with the help of a new Mascot Bot named “W the Warrior”, Wayne State University welcomed a record-breaking incoming class: the largest in WSU’s 150-year history, with an 18% increase in first-generation students. Click here to read the full Case Study.

Chatbot Capabilities Chart

Not only do you want to send nudges, you also want to make sure they’re the right nudges. Campaigns can be personalized based on students’ majors or where they are in the orientation process. Students don’t want to be bombarded with to-do’s, so it’s good to send a variety of campaigns, all aligned with your omni-channel messaging. Fun campaigns, such as culture-based questions or surveys, are just as important as transactional reminders. Students build a relationship of trust with the bot and, in turn, the school. Sending these campaigns throughout the summer keeps students engaged and excited to get to campus.

Ready to get started?
Request a demo with our team and we’ll reach out to learn more about your specific needs, concerns, and overall goals.

Liaison slides used with permission.