Jonny Harper21/07/2021

It’s safe to say Virtual Open Days are no longer “a nice to have”. When it comes to prospective student engagement, experience and conversion solutions, you’re more likely to find VODs on a marketer’s list of essentials. And it’s not because of COVID that we find ourselves in this position (although it did shine a light on just how important Virtual Open Days are); “always-on” and easily accessible content is crucial to showcasing your university 24/7.

Lockdown well spent

So how do we know this? Well, in September 2020 we ran focus groups with 64 prospective students – 70% of whom told us that they consider Virtual Open Days “extremely important” or “very important” when choosing a university. Perhaps not all that surprising. But what did surprise us was students’ expectations for what a VOD needs to include.

In terms of features, Course Information came joint first with Student Experience. These were closely followed by teaching staff content, campus exploration and – most surprisingly – opportunities for discussion and/or Q&A with academics, teaching staff and students.

A graph showing student experience joint first with course info

This was backed up in the responses to other questions too. When we asked students “what would be your ‘dream feature’ to include in a Virtual Open Day?”, the most common answer was “Live chat/Q&A”. When we asked students to select their top five VOD features from a list of 10, the top pick was “Live Q&A with university staff and students” at 71% of all students – and in second place was the ability to book one-to-one conversations with staff and/or students!

Two graphs showing students want to experience live Q&A as part of your VOD

To top it off, 100% of students said it was important to speak to staff and students one-to-one during a virtual open day.

Events was another important feature for prospective students with 78% of respondents saying that they would prefer to see live talks with staff and students

Our Virtual Open Days do very well at campus exploration – often using this as a navigational tool to house other content, such as course information and aspects of the student experience. But clearly, prospective students want more than that – specifically a chance to get a feel for your university’s teaching staff through live events and by speaking with them and with other students. 

This opened our eyes to the future of a VOD should be; to what students REALLY need from a Virtual Open Day.

The Virtual Experience is born

We’re not new to Virtual Open Days and Virtual Tour solutions. Our team has produced over 50 of them for HE institutions over the last 15 years. Around 10,000 visitors per month access the top performing of these. But as our primary research showed us, these proven solutions needed to be taken to the next level in order to respond to what students were telling us they needed and expected. A Virtual Experience rather than just a Virtual Open Day.

And for a while that was what we called it: The Virtual Experience Platform. A next-generation solution combining established, successful and expected features (such as Campus Exploration and Course Information) with all-new functionality designed to facilitate more experiential, interactive and personalised content.

But all babies need a name! And as with most baby naming we wanted to get it right (because who wants a Melvyn* following them around for the rest of their lives).

*Sorry Melvyns.

Introducing Vepple: The Virtual Experience Platform

Is it a girl? Is it a boy? No, it’s Vepple – our immersive Virtual Open Day experience actually.

Logo for Vepple: The Virtual Experience Platform

Naturally, we’re very proud parents because Vepple delivers our most advanced campus exploration features (integrating with 360 photography, videos, articles and photos) combined with live and pre-recorded events hosting as well as groundbreaking peer-to-peer Q&A functionality. 

Not only that, Vepple serves user-specific content based on the choices, preferences and behaviour of every prospective student that visits your new Virtual Experience. This optimised, always-on content boosts your engagement scores, sessions and pageviews, increasing overall conversion and ultimately your return-on-investment.

Access to rich data analytics also means you’ll receive regular, benchmarked reports on the performance of your Virtual Experience, proving ROI and providing opportunities for subsequent, behavioural marketing campaigns.

Show me the metrics

Our experience in the sector and dedication to getting things right for prospective students means that Vepple is a solution that generates results.

Already, Vepple has been met with delight from our clients. We think these three statistics from a recent (Saturday 19th June 2021) Vepple-based open day speak for themselves:

142% one-to-one chat engagement rate

From 743 visitors, there were 690 comments & 365 questions submitted during the live event sessions. That’s an engagement rate of 142%!

35 minute session average per user

In just one day visitors collectively spent 162 hours exploring and learning about the campus via campus videos, 360s, information and photography.

3 talks per user on average

On average, registered visitors attended three talks each – a huge investment of time on their part, proving high engagement with Vepple-powered content.

And if 93% of students are more likely to attend an open day after viewing an RV Virtual Experience (as our research in 2020 told us), you can see that by using Vepple as your Virtual Experience Platform, you’ll be providing your prospective students with what they actually need from a Virtual Open Day. What better way to ensure you exceed your conversion targets in 2021 and beyond?

If you’d like to know more about our primary research, or if you’re interested in Vepple and how this next-generation Virtual Experience Platform can help you, get in touch or book a Vepple demo with us today.

See what Vepple can do for you