How Charles Sturt University More than Quadrupled Conversions with Web Personalization

The transition from high school to university can feel like a big leap as students explore their options and make decisions that can affect the rest of their lives. But what if a university could make it easier for prospective students—making the decision feel less like a leap and more like a bridge?

That vision has driven Charles Sturt University to launch a student-centric transformation, personalizing the prospective student journey all the way from decision through to acceptance, with plans to take this process to graduation and beyond.

With help from Adobe partner Accordant, Charles Sturt University has already seen outstanding results. Between April and September 2017, online applications rose 127% and website conversions were up by 346%, while cost per acquisition dropped by 32%.

We recently spoke with Meredith Miller, Optimization Manager at Accordant, about how her team helped Charles Sturt University start its transformation and build more targeted, personalized experiences for prospective students using Adobe Experience Cloud, including Adobe Advertising Cloud Search, Adobe Analytics, and Adobe Target.

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Why is personalization important in higher education?

There’s a lot of competition among universities today to attract and retain students. At the same time, choosing a university is a very personal decision, and cookie-cutter experiences don’t resonate with prospective students. Especially among younger people, there is an expectation for personalized experiences wherever they go – accessible on any device they use. Communicating with prospects in consistent, relevant ways across any platform is extremely important for universities if they want to stand out and get students’ attention.

What challenges did you see when you first started working with Charles Sturt University?

Data was a main concern for Charles Sturt University. The digital marketing team wasn’t sure how to most effectively use data stored across multiple platforms. It was difficult to understand and improve marketing performance—and really limited their ability to build personalized experiences across channels.

Our first recommendation was to use Adobe Analytics as a single source of truth, giving Charles Sturt University a full view of the student journey, especially with media tracking and attribution. This analytics foundation gave the digital teams much more control and confidence in the data.

Where is Charles Sturt University in its personalization journey now?

When we started working with Charles Sturt University, we wanted to put in place a technology foundation that would support them now and in the future. Our initial focus was on finding a place in the student journey where immediate benefits could be realized, and then expand our efforts from there.

The first step was to engage prospective students who started—but didn’t finish—an online application. We retargeted those people with search ads through Adobe Advertising Cloud Search and on the Charles Sturt University website using Adobe Target—telling them how quick and easy it is to finish the application process and then taking them straight to where they left off.

We also made the admission offer process more personal, which led to a lift in acceptance rates. Now Charles Sturt University sends an offer email that leads to a landing page with a personalized image, the name of the student, and the program to which they applied—students simply click a link to accept the offer.

How is technology changing paid media for Charles Sturt University?

The initial goal for Charles Sturt University was to double the number of applications while reducing costs by a third. It was ambitious, but we knew Adobe Advertising Cloud Search could help us get in front of the students most likely to apply—and, in fact, we more than doubled online applications.

A big part of this success is due to Adobe Sensei, Adobe’s artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. Instead of adjusting bids manually, we can rely on Performance Optimization, powered by Adobe Sensei to find the right balance of cost and performance based on Charles Sturt University priorities. Spend Recommendations, another feature powered by Adobe Sensei, helps us with yearly budgeting and performance forecasting, so we can keep ad spend aligned with the university’s goals.

What’s most exciting about the work you do at Accordant?

One thing that I love about working with Adobe solutions is that there’s always something new to learn. Everything is integrated with the data and experiences running through all the tools and platforms. I’m always excited to work with clients who are still operating in mostly siloed environments and just starting to personalize—there’s a whole world of opportunity for them, and I get to help them explore it.

Personalization is a journey that takes a lot of work. However, you can ultimately deliver the seamless, relevant experiences that have become so important to creating memorable experiences for people. For Charles Sturt University, we’ll continue to enhance those experiences, not just increasing applications and enrollment but also building a bridge to graduation and beyond.

As Adobe Experience Cloud Partner of the Year in 2018, Accordant uses Adobe Experience Cloud and its analytics, paid search, and personalization capabilities to help its clients deliver powerful customer experiences. Learn more about how Accordant worked with Charles Sturt University to personalize experiences for students.