Personalizing Video to Drive Engagement and Improve ROI

Amy WeissVice President and Consultant, Enrollment ManagementMay 13, 2021

Brand powerhouses have changed our expectations for personalized, engaging content. Starbucks knows I love lattes and oatmeal and uses the app to tempt me if it’s been a while. Amazon happily serves up suggestions for skin care and iPhone accessories based on my past purchases. Even if my 17-year-old daughter had the self-restraint to resist buying cute jewelry, photos of that jewelry will follow me around my online life like a digital puppy begging me to take it home.

This is the world of personalized marketing we’ve all come to expect, and our students and families are no different. Findings from our most recent E-Expectations report confirm that students appreciate and expect personalization and validation of any interest they take in your institution.

The E-Expectations report also found that video is the number one preferred medium among students and the larger marketing industry confirms that video is a vital tool. Hubspot reported that this year 82 percent of businesses used video as a marketing tool; up significantly from 63 percent last year. And video works:

  • Hubspot also found that adding video to emails increases click-through rates by 300 percent.
  • Insivia research discovered that viewers retain 95 percent of the message when they watch it in video compared to only 5 percent when they read only text.
  • Campaign Monitor reported that some brands yielded 8 times the click-through rates with a personalized video compared to standard email campaigns.

Our E-Expectations research also found that students who watch a video are more engaged and yield is 40 percent higher. Furthermore, our research revealed that although content about tuition and financial aid was rated lower among all groups, those topics generated 31 percent more interest when conveyed through video.

Here’s where it gets complicated: prospective students love video, but they also like personalized content. How can your marketing team personalize web content at scale without going mad and making a Starbucks latte run just to cope with the crazy?

The magic of the merge: personalizing video at scale

We’re helping our campus partners solve that dilemma by folding personalized video into outreach marketing strategies. Here are some of the many potential uses of personalized video at the various stages of the enrollment funnel:

  • Prospect videos at scale (increase response rates)
  • On-demand inquiry response videos (increase app rate)
  • Applicant videos (increase completion rates)
  • Admitted student videos (increase conversion rates)
  • Financial aid awards (increase yield)
  • Deposited videos (limit melt)

Keep in mind that personalization means means much more than taking one overview video and slapping a student’s name into the intro. The process begins by looking very closely at the variable data segments you already have in your CRM to steer the development of a collection of variable video clips that are curated and merged to create a two-minute video that feels personalized to a single student. Imagine how you could create a highly personalized video with segments such as:

  • Student names
  • Majors (categorize academic interests into categories)
  • Internships (categorize based on academic interests)
  • Alumni (categorized by employment)
  • Residency Status (resident/commuter)
  • Athlete/non-athlete
  • First Year/transfer
  • In state/out of state
  • Domestic/international
  • Honors/non-honors
  • Financial need/No-need
  • Dual enrolled/Non-dual enrolled student’s name
  • Interest in activities or sports

The following is an example of how it works with three segments of customizable clips in the middle of a standard intro and conclusion.

The end result is that Devon, the out-of-state honor student interested in chemistry and soccer, would receive a qualitatively different video than Marie, the in-state student interested in nursing and student government, because their video segments will feel that their videos are tailored just for them—increasing their engagement and making them more likely to keep progressing toward enrollment.

Students who watch personalized videos are 12 times more likely to enroll

The following two videos are ones we produced for our campus partners. The first, from Neumann University, shows how personalized videos can vary depending on where they are used in the recruiting funnel.

Now compare the way Neumann’s admitted student video differs from this personalized video that Cabrini University made for its admitted students.

What was the impact? We followed up on the admitted student campaigns and found that students who watched personalized videos were 12 times more likely to enroll.

Personalizing video for specific objectives and topics

Personalized video campaigns have also been successful with comparatively trickier topics and audiences. For example, over the past several years, the test scores of students applying to the Villanova School of Business have gone up as the acceptance rates have gone down. The increasing selectivity has meant that Villanova is competing for a different type of student than it used to; now its applicants are being courted by Ivy Leagues and other nationally ranked universities. With the objective of improving its yield, Villanova began developing personalized videos for its undergraduate and graduate students. The undergraduate students were sent their videos immediately after they were accepted, and metrics indicated that 85 percent of them opened the email and more than 50 percent clicked through to watch their video.

Financial aid is another area where personalized video is a major breakthrough for students and families. It’s one of those emotionally fraught topics that is additionally burdened—for a variety of reasons—by being poorly understood. In fact, the research shows that only 32 percent of students understand the financial cost of their education prior to enrolling. George Mason University tackled this problem by using personalized video to explain to individual students exactly how much financial aid they were going to receive and how much of it had to be repaid versus undertaken as a loan.

In addition to providing a personalized, visually oriented explanation of how to fund one’s education, the financial aid videos provided the opportunity for families to pause and rewind the more confusing aspects of the presentation.

Although George Mason’s video is too new to fully ascertain the outcome, we assessed the results of a financial aid video we’d created in partnership with Florida Southern University in 2019 and found that 93 percent of the surveyed students said it had been a helpful tool. Additionally, the yield rate among video watchers was 15 points higher than non-watchers while the melt rate was 3 percent lower. (For more, see this post.)

Want to get started with delivering personalized videos to your students?

The results confirm that personalizing video works in higher education. We can make it workable for your institution with unlimited segments of student groups ranging from 100 to 250,000 or even on-demand using the data from any kind of CRM. We work with partners to manage the process from creative, to production, post-production, personalization, data management, and deployment and provide a dashboard to assess performance metrics and engagement analytics.

If you want to explore how to make personalized video work for you, get in touch with us to start the conversation.

Add personalized video to your recruitment strategies

Our enrollment experts can help you find the right combination of personalized video for recruitment and financial aid awarding. Reach out for a free consultation and we’ll discuss your best options.

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About the Author

Amy Weiss

Amy Weiss joined RNL in 2011 and currently serves as vice president and consultant for enrollment management. Amy is responsible for building comprehensive enrollment solutions for our campus partners in Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, New...

Read more about Amy's experience and expertise

Reach Amy by e-mail at amy.weiss@ruffalonl.com.

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