How to create an omnichannel digital marketing experience for students

Students looking to enter higher education have an ever-increasing number of touchpoints with potential universities.

Could unifying them maximize brand recognition and enhance the online journey for prospective recruits?

The short answer is yes.

Read on for our top tips on successful omnichannel marketing and some of our favorite examples.

What is omnichannel marketing, and why is it important?

Omnichannel marketing doesn’t focus on one single channel but the user experience as a whole—from social media and the website to email communications and audio ads.

It can extend to in-person touchpoints, like mini-guides and open days/campus tours.

Omnichannel marketing is about consistency and integration: aligning brand messaging across platforms, devices, and channels that complement each other rather than sitting in silos.

Omnichannel marketing enhances the experience for students, creating a seamless journey between interactions and painting a universal image of your university that resonates with prospects and influencers.

Rarely will a student interested in your institution land on one channel only; the journey will likely span multiple touchpoints, and the experience of moving between these needs careful thought, research, and strategy.  

Alongside a unified, cross-platform brand image, this helps potential students to identify your university and stay engaged in a noisy recruitment marketplace.

Omnichannel marketing for higher education

But omnichannel marketing isn’t just about how different channels work together to amplify brand messaging.

It’s also about carefully planning the journeys at every touchpoint to maximize their individual potential as well as the combined impact.

How to implement an omnichannel marketing strategy

1. Data and research

Research your target audience to determine how and why they prefer to interact with your university, and on what devices so you can understand what to deliver on each platform.

Developing personas for the various types of users can refine this development work.

You can then create journey maps for the different audience segments and look into putting ideas out for user testing.

2. Understand how channels work together

Getting to grips with how channels complement each other rather than compete is vital to successful omnichannel digital marketing strategies.

While students might look to TikTok for video campus tours, they could turn to Instagram for authentic imagery.

Each platform should offer something unique but remain aligned with the overall brand messaging of the institution.

Integrating these social media channels within a university website, clearly directing visitors to relevant content efficiently, is one example of how omnichannel marketing can work effectively.

3. Brand guidelines

Most institutions have brand guidelines but don’t underestimate the importance of updating them to reflect your changing strategy and direction.

When successfully refined and applied, multichannel marketing can improve brand recognition and ensure all communications are built around a relevant core brand concept.

4. Strategize

Once you’ve established what prospective students want from which touchpoints and what you wish to reflect across them all, you can start actioning your strategy and get your platforms hitting their full potential and talking to one another. 
There will be many elements to this, but some examples include:

  • Well-thought-out social media reference pages, like Linktrees. This enables you to curate a page linking directly from a social platform to relevant areas of your website, like web forms, or other channels.
  • Integrate social media channels on your website to help prospective students navigate them easily.
  • Develop channel-specific content—informed by your research—that speaks to the audience on that specific platform. Content should offer something unique to each one, rather than posting the same video across Instagram and TikTok, for example.
  • Consider elements like personalized landing pages and emails to help students navigate online journeys with ease and form a more meaningful relationship with your brand.
  • Think about more niche touchpoints like integrated chatbots and how they can apply the brand voice to drive your users towards relevant content better, whether within your website or on other channels.

5. Measure and test

Never stop measuring and testing through your CRM systems and user testing tools.

Track analytics and test assumptions to inform ongoing iterations and optimization.

Your omnichannel marketing strategy shouldn’t be stagnant; it should grow, change and strengthen along the way based on audience preferences and testing.

One undeniable challenge of integrated channels and journeys is conversion attribution.

Siloed attribution tools can skew the overall picture and credit one platform with a conversion when it could have been another touchpoint that influenced this.

Unified marketing measurement tools—a holistic approach that combines various data and insights on interactions and conversions—can address this. They can aggregate data from different measurement methods like marketing mix modeling and multi-touch attribution.  

Great examples of omnichannel marketing in higher education

University of East Anglia

The University of East Anglia website is seamless to navigate. 
how to create multichannel marketing for higher ed - University of East Anglia 

From organic search, you immediately land on a homepage with search functionality and clear direction for relevant areas of interest, including an intuitive chatbot.

Links to all social media platforms are prominently signposted.

There are in-depth analyses and industry news on LinkedIn, bite-sized news on Twitter, campus tours and fun videos oozing personality on TikTok, tips and advice for prospective students on Facebook and YouTube, and captivating imagery, videos, and testimonials on Instagram.

The University offers a remarkably consistent message and brand expression and is a shining example of how all channels combined can amplify and unify the messaging.

University of Melbourne

Meanwhile, the University of Melbourne is a shining example of how to deliver seamless journeys from social media to other channels and drive conversions.

how to create multichannel marketing for higher ed - Uni of Melbourne

The University has a significant following on TikTok: some 75K followers, which leaves many higher education institutions in the dust.

The content on TikTok is relevant and meaningful, and the Linktree function enables students arriving at the University through social media to navigate a seamless journey to anything from applications to virtual campus tours on the university website.

It’s an example of when universities accept and embrace the fact that many prospective students will first discover or engage with them on social media rather than through organic search.

Cornell University

We also love Cornell University’s social media directory. It gives website visitors a choice on how and where they read or watch more about the institution.

how to create multichannel marketing for higher ed - Cornell University

The intuitive functionality is clearly promoted on the University’s homepage, and a search box enables visitors to find relevant information quickly.

In a world of ever-expanding touchpoints for students interacting with universities online, it’s impossible to ignore the power of omnichannel marketing strategies.

Savvy digital marketers will prioritize this approach this year if they’re to unify channels, maximize reach and, ultimately, boost recruitment.

Do you have any examples of omnichannel marketing that have caught your eye? Please do share them by posting a comment below or on our social media channels. 

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