Fall is here. It’s that time of year when students are getting ready to start applying for college. Or is it? What if a student isn’t ready to click through?
Emails are more than just content. Compelling writing can get a student interested in a particular college, but when it comes to clicking through, there are several more factors. Why is it one college might get twice as many clicks as another? Or a triggered email might get 10 times as many clicks as an email highlighting opportunities at a college or university?
Here’s what we have found: There is a time-related variable.
We can measure the click-through rate, for example, by the weeks left before the target enrollment date. Click-through rates can depend as much on whether a sophomore is getting interested in college as when a senior is ready to click “Apply Now.”
More than any other time-related variable, the number of weeks from target enrollment gives us a picture of how click rates change over time.
Click-through rate by weeks from target enrollment date
This box-and-whiskers plot shows the click-through rate by weeks from target enrollment date for every email sent over the last year. On the left are sophomore campaigns, and it goes through time from there. Junior campaigns compose about the middle third and senior campaigns are on the right, ending in the target enrollment date. The boxes show the range between the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile, or what could be considered a normal variance. If an email performs in this range, there’s probably not any need to retool. This is just one way to look at the data.
Other methods confirm the same trends.
This also gives us insights into the Student Decision Journey. In their sophomore year, students are open-minded. They are willing to check out their options. By the time summer rolls around, they can’t be bothered with thinking about college.
However, their engagement ramps up through their junior year before dropping off in the summertime again. In their senior year, engagement increases up to about three and a half to five months out from their target enrollment date. It tapers off until about one and half months out from their target enrollment date.
This is crunch time, when they’re making final decisions about college. Then in the last five weeks, engagement drops off sharply. By that time, most students have made their decision.
Understanding the Student Decision Journey is the key. Measuring click-through rates based on when students are most willing to check out their options, and when they’re not (summer, anyone?) can help shape your strategy.
By John Foster, Data Analyst, Capture Higher Ed