The current challenges with UK student recruitment are widely reported – increased tuition fees, demographical changes resulting in fewer 18 year olds in the population, visa issues, budget cuts, financial instability and Brexit…to name just a few! Universities are having to work harder than ever to communicate what makes them distinctive to as wide a range of prospective students as possible.
One way in which universities are meeting this challenge is by investing in digital content that engages with their audience on an emotional level and tells a story about what the student experience is really like. To this end, there has been an explosion in the amount of virtual tour, virtual open day, video and virtual reality content being produced by UK universities. Revolution Viewing’s primary research programme, solution analytics and client feedback have proved that such virtual experiences are a key recruitment tool.
Typically, universities using one of our virtual solutions will gain over 3,000 unique visitors to that solution each month – that’s over 36,000 visitors year – an extraordinary return on investment. We have found that, as well as having high engagement and high session durations, our solutions encourage prospective UK students to attend open days on campus and they inspire increased interest from prospective international students who can’t attend these events. They play a powerful part in key acquisition and conversion strategies.
A good example of this is Dundee University’s virtual tour which launched before Clearing last year as part of a planned campaign. On monitoring the engagement via Google Analytics during the month leading up to Clearing, Dundee found that the virtual tour was gaining 2,000-3,000 page views per day and, during Clearing, it was peaking at 8,000-12,000 page views. About 20% of their web traffic for open days was coming from the virtual tour and open day bookings increased by 500. This was a great result and a testament to the marketing and communications team for thinking carefully about how they could make the virtual tour work for them in advance as well as actively measuring engagement to help prove the virtual tour’s effectiveness and return on investment.”
Manchester Metropolitan University’s interactive video-based virtual tour also performs incredibly well with an average session time of five minutes – fives times more than what is considered to be a good session time for digital content – and monthly unique visitors exceeding 9,000.
And the University of Bradford (pictured above) had great success at UCAS fairs with their new VR 360s which were a great hook and enabled increased conversations with prospective students.
There are more examples like this from every type of university all over the UK – from Swansea to Liverpool to Anglia Ruskin and from Heriot-Watt to Leeds Beckett to Bournemouth. Most of these solutions contain immersive 360 virtual tours as well as engaging video content whichhas proven to be what prospective students really want to see when comparing facilities and offerings at universities they are shortlisting.
It feels like this is just the tip of the iceberg; however, and surely it won’t be long before you walk into a student recruitment fair and see that every university is using a virtual reality headset to show prospective students what they’ve got to offer!