This week two members of the YouVisit Sale’s team ventured the tropical storm and headed down to New Orleans for TargetXSummit. This storm, throughout the summit, was used as an analogy. Weather like students can be unpredictable, but unlike storms, you have more control over a student’s path. In case you weren’t able to attend the conference (or go to every session), we wanted to share some of our key takeaways.
The application funnel is getting increasingly less predictable, but that doesn’t mean we stop doing what we’ve been doing during the recruitment process. It means we enhance it. 75% of interested students visit your website after seeing your digital ads. So now the question becomes, what are you doing to convert them?
You may be the right fit for a student, but if your website does not appeal to them, they won’t even consider you as an option. Reddit is an American social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website. Here are some examples of what high school students are saying about institutions’ websites on the “ApplyingToCollege” thread.
“It seriously makes me not want to apply when a school doesn’t care enough about something that is a main source of information for most applicants.” – High School Student via Reddit
Generation Z are digital natives. As such, functionality, information on, and appearance of your website matters more to students, then you may think.
While creating amazing unique content that drives engagement, it’s essential to not forget about accessibility. A question asked at TargetX was, “how are we making the content we are creating accessible to students all the time?”
“I do this all the time. If your website won’t load, is missing the most basic of information, is hard to navigate, or looks like it was built by a high schooler, I immediately close that window, and you will never see an application from me.” – H.S Student via Reddit
Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective student and examine your website from their perspective – is it mobile-friendly? Is it accessible? Does it meet their requirements? If your site isn’t loading or links aren’t working you aren’t making your content available. If your website is hard to navigate or information is hard to find, your content is not accessible. It’s easy to think about accessibility like, how do we make sure everyone can receive content. It’s much harder to think about this like is this information receivable.
As we touched on above, students find it challenging to find the information they need while navigating your website. Broken links, buried information, and a general feel of too little information can turn students off from your college altogether. However, it’s not always academic information students want.
The application funnel used to be a clear path, and the next step after getting a student on your website would be applying. However, it’s not a single set of stages anymore. It’s a party or a journey. When thinking about your website, ask yourself, what is the next goal I’m pushing the prospective student to, and keep in mind the answer is not always applying.
“I find it hard to research student culture and lifestyle, especially never visiting the college. I want to find the dynamics and stuff the website doesn’t talk about student life.” – H.S Student via Reddit
With the recruiting starting younger, many students coming to your site aren’t looking to apply. However, they do want to see student life and campus culture. Use embedded media and virtual tours to highlight the aspects of campus that are intangible.
When institutions align online engagement strategies with broader enrollment plans, they see better conversion at each phase of the funnel than their peers.
We have a saying around here: to differentiate, you have to be different. Similarly, one thing, said at TargetX, that resonated with our team was “what looks unique to you is repetitive to them.” It’s crucial to keep in mind students are looking through hundreds of institutions’ websites trying to find the right fit for them. Your site doesn’t just need to be different from how it looked in previous years; it needs to look different from everything else out there.
How do you break through the noise? The look and feel of your website matters to Gen Zers.
Here are some quotes:
- If the website is ugly then I’m not applying.
- Their website is clean…that’s pretty much why I’m applying.
It seems that having something that looks nice can be just as if not more impactful.
Another takeaway from TargetX was “send people to an experience they can actually do something with.” Recently, YouVisit has increased its offerings by adding the ability to take any single destination from a virtual tour and add it to a website or landing page. Embedding these experiences right on the webpage gives an interactive element to an otherwise stale page. Here is a sample landing page for what the dining experience is like at Hamilton. This example is an engaging experience. It’s something they’re drawn into and “want to do something with.”
There’s a lot of discussion about websites and how to make them better. Let’s not forget to keep students at the forefront of that discussion.