If you’re in higher ed and other education sectors, you’ve probably heard of–it may even keep you up at night–the dreaded Enrollment Cliff. When the economy crashed in 2008, so did the US birthrate. And in 2025 those kids (or lack thereof) will be primed and ready to go to college in smaller numbers than the US has seen in decades.
You know the fatalistic spiel–that this could not come at a more unstable time for higher education. In some ways that’s true. Higher education, two years before the cliff comes, is in a state of flux based on a few key factors:
Fortunately for higher education, despite the recent flak it’s taken, college is still an incredibly valuable product. The earnings gap between bachelor’s-degree holders and high school graduates continues to widen, and it remains the gateway to many marquee professions. However, whether it’s an enrollment cliff or more of a gentle slope, we’re about to see fewer students in an already volatile space–and universities need to prepare for the contingencies.
Personalization: Reaching Today’s (and Tomorrow’s) Student
It doesn’t take an in-depth exposé on the psyche of Gen Zers to know that they’re pretty comfortable online. Sure, they seek information, but they also crave community. 70% of Gen Zers who join online communities do so because they seek a sense of belonging. Their relationship to the internet is more personal than transactional, which is why personalization engages them in ways that nothing else can.
How Does Personalization Work?
There are a few main ways to get the information necessary to personalize your website experience. Usually they involve:
- Buying information on potential clients from a third party
- Using cookies to glean information passively from the visitor
- Inspiring visitors to share information about themselves
Inspiring visitors to share information about themselves tends to lead to the deepest connection between school and potential students. Young people are especially willing to share information about themselves in exchange for a more meaningful online experience. And creating that meaningful experience separates you from the status quo, where 87% of first-time visitors to higher ed websites bounce and never make a return visit.
Once you’ve got that information, you use it to nurture a relationship with each visitor that’s authentic to their interests and questions. This can take a number of forms, but at its core it involves serving them content that fits their interests, giving them offers that cater to their specific needs, and putting them in touch with people who can help them.
Of course, there are plenty of bells and whistles that help sweeten the personalization pie. The more content you have available, the more dynamic content you can serve in the form of videos, featured blogs, eBooks, etc. Bespoke landing pages and CTAs can also be molded to your specific audience and user to inspire interaction and, ultimately, action.
Why Does Personalization Work?
Catering your every touchpoint to the specific proclivities of each visitor may seem tedious, but it pays off in authentic connections. People visit university websites to shop for education, and their standards as shoppers have never been higher. 71% of modern online shoppers appreciate and expect personalization, while 76% of them are frustrated when they don’t receive recommendations that relate to them. Basically, today’s shopper wants a tailored experience, and appreciates when companies go through the effort to provide it.
Now one might suggest that shopping for higher ed isn’t like shopping for normal products. Colleges, after all, are not Amazon, and your local state university isn’t there to direct you to more swag for your shopping cart.
This might be true to a degree, but the seriousness of a decision regarding education actually makes personalization even more important. Consumers consistently lean on personalization when facing monumental decisions. The bigger the decision, the more consumers want to feel taken care of and connected to a company. When it comes to higher education, that need for a personal touch reaches a fever pitch.
Basically, personalization sells. Relevant content, authentic connection, and that extra mile for your clients gives personalization a significant edge in the marketplace. Companies that invest in personalization usually see around a 10%-40% bump in revenue. The question is, what’s the best way to personalize your university website?
How to Personalize Your Website Experience
99% of marketers know personalization is effective, but a lot less than 99% truly commit to it. In the past, personalization has been difficult to implement and scale. It often required lots of specific content and complex automations that deliver that content effectively. A lot of universities either didn’t have the manpower or resources to embrace personalization–and think those old rules still apply.
There are now AI-powered tools and platforms to make the personalization process easy and scalable. Data management platforms allow you to segment your population to deliver the most relevant content at scale. A good CRM will take account of all customer touchpoints and interactions, then email effective content to your potential students.
Some personalization tools, however, don’t just complement your website, they actually live there. 52% of potential students rated a school’s website as the most important factor in their decision to apply. Businesses, like Halda, make that website interaction as personalized as possible.
Halda’s AI-powered tools gather information from website visitors, then leverage that information to build personalized content experiences for each potential student. Students are even served a tailored content environment where they can choose between topics and visit high-value areas of your website. These tools routinely increase student inquiries by 300-500%. And the best part is, schools don’t have to create any new content because the tools pull from information that already lives on their site.
In-app AI-integrations also provide insight into personalization strategies and help build out meaningful interactions. To find out how Halda can help your personalization (and wrangle that stealth traffic that’s been flying under the radar), make contact with us or try our tools out right now in Try it Live, our personalized demo environment. Personalization, after all, is the best way to connect with prospective students–whether that enrollment cliff is coming or not.