A potential student can ‘Google’ university open day dates, book their travel, read the prospectus and review peers’ comments - all from the comfort of their own bed. Therefore, it’s safe to say technology helps students choose their university. But the question is, does it help keep them there?
A new dawn
We’re entering a new dawn where Generation Z (and soon Alpha) live differently, have different values and a much wider choice than any generation before. It’s a dawn that universities and the wider public sector have to wake up to…and soon. There is no longer online or offline – simply a single way of life for young people who use technology to live easier, faster and to achieve more. By ignoring the new dawn, you are asking your consumers to suspend the way they have grown up and live, for three years.
Only remarkable brands will retain loyalty
Working extensively across industry, the public sector and education, my experience is that many senior teams in FE/HE do not understand how their future consumers use technology to live a more connected and enabled lifestyle. This is not the case for brands like Nike, Instagram, Sky and Fitbit who understand and respond to their consumers’ changing lifestyle. They retain a loyalty not seen by many and they are lighting the path for other sectors to follow, including education. If you think universities are not brands, ask Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge and Google.
At a time when brand loyalty is dying, organisations following that path have the best chances of survival in the new dawn. When you can buy anything online and it’s delivered seamlessly across the world in 48 hours, why would students accept a fractured journey through university? Do students need to queue for stage two registration? Are they starting day one of a three-year journey with a poor experience? Is there a single app that delivers value across the entire academic year? There should be. Why are students still carrying cash on campus? Do you stay loyal to brands that make your life harder? Why should students?
Smart tech – time for something different
Smart technology must play a major part in improving the student’s life, be it a card, an app or a completely new approach. The sharpest, brightest universities are already grabbing this chance to improve their students’ lives and are using technology as a tool to show they understand their consumers’ lifestyles and priorities. It’s part of their offer and appeal.
So if we know technology is a key tool to encourage, entice and enable the new generation of students, why aren’t more universities utilising it and putting smart technology at the frontline of marketing and brand development.
So now is the time to adopt smart technology and put I.T. teams on the marketing frontline. The trouble is where do you start? Here’s a few suggestions to help kick-start your thinking:
Understand your consumer’s culture and what’s important.
Understand your consumers’ journeys and where the service can be improved.
Put I.T. teams front and centre to understand how technology can make a difference.
Make the most of your data and use technology smarter!
Finally, understand yourselves and what you stand for.
This article is built from over 25 years experience of working with young people, brands and campaigns. The afh. team and our partners care passionately about what we do, and importantly, who we do it with and are proud to have worked with clients across education, technology, health, sport and wellbeing. Focusing on work that delivers in the community has given us our unique insight that our clients value - whether it’s delivering a renewed strategic approach, a targeted campaign or creative project.