Today’s trailblazers in the higher education industry are facing trends and challenges that they have not had to before. Navigating a recent global pandemic, the rise of artificial intelligence, marketing to Gen Z, and shifting enrollment levels. 

Dreamforce 2023 – Out of the Home for Marketers Vault

To help trailblazers gain insights into how to deal with these modern-day higher education trends and challenges in the digital age, we held an event at the Home for Marketers during Dreamforce with industry thought leaders. The top takeaways from their panel discussion are below.

Panel: Modern Day Trends in Higher Education

Moderator: Adam Berry, Senior Account Director, Sercante

Panelists (from left to right in photo):

Clark Burk, Chief Client Officer, Red Van Workshop

Jordyn Jaffer, Senior Salesforce Solution Engineer, Serante

Michelle Bates, Assistant Vice President for IT, CRM and Data Analytics, Purdue for Life Foundation

Brent Wege, VP Sales, Engagement Solutions, Salesforce

Data Silos Are Still a Major Challenge for Higher Education Institutions

Across universities there are different owners of separate subsets of data making it difficult for teams to collaborate, share insights about their constituents, and have an overall view of the organization’s performance. 

Each panelist emphasized that if universities are going to provide that personalized 1:1 experience that so many of their diversified audience, in particular Gen Z, is desiring then they are going to have to make breaking down their data siloes a priority.

Centers of Excellence Are Being Leveraged to Increase Adoption

As more higher education teams are acquiring systems to their tech stack for a digital transformation many roles and responsibilities are changing. Team members are having to learn new platforms and think through their data in a different manner and getting them to adjust to the change can be difficult.

The panel shared how they have seen teams use Centers of Excellence where education and training on the technology systems are provided to empower users to be more efficient on the platforms

Assigning champions such as administrators or power users in each department can be helpful as they support and help team members in their day-to-day to navigate and leverage the technology to achieve their goals.

It was noted that some teams may not be able to form an organized Center of Excellence in their institution, but making sure training is provided and identifying the champions in each department can be a huge first step towards increasing adoption.

Personalization is a Must in Higher Education

As people are experiencing personalized engagements across their retail, entertainment and content consumption journeys, they expect the same out of their alma mater or the university they are attending or applying for. 

Now more than ever it is critical for higher education teams to have access to all the data touchpoints that happen throughout the prospect, student, and alumni journey. Without accurate data, personalizations will not seem as relevant or authentic. 

As digital natives, Gen Z can easily spot inauthentic marketing, and, according to 2021 Forrester Technographics data, “nearly a third of Gen Z say that they unfollow, hide, or block brands on social media — at least weekly.” This means that universities need to make sure the customized communication and engagements they are crafting accurately align to each stage of the individual’s journey to provide an authentic experience.

For example, if you are starting a fundraising campaign and want to target alumni, using the clubs and organizations they were a part of during their time as a student to share where they are now and where they hope to be is a great way to make your communication to that individual relevant. Having access to this data and managing it in a way that makes it easy to execute personalizations like this is key.

University Teams Are Navigating Their Journey With Artificial Intelligence

Some higher education organizations are already using AI in their day-to-day with chatbots and smart searching in their IT knowledgebase. The biggest concern here is trust and security. Like many, trailblazers in higher education want to ensure that constituent data is secure when leveraging AI-powered tools to ensure a high level of trust.

There are so many exciting new developments happening such as conversations around how AI could track student performance and predict when they are trending towards an at-risk status to alert advisors, so they can better guide students and be more proactive to battle against dropout rates. 

However, these developments will only truly be able to be taken advantage of if all departments are accurately capturing data and have it architected in a way to be centralized and easily accessible across the organization.

A Word of Advice for Your Digital Strategy

A lasting piece of advice from our panelists was don’t just throw technology at your challenges. Consider how you are going to use it to truly deepen relationships with your audience, how it will better help you to manage your data, and who will be the champion for that system. 

There may already be solutions that you have access to that can provide a solution, so have a strategy in place for how it will be used and managed before purchasing new technology.

Reach out to the team at Sercante for help making the right decisions when you’re ready to shake things up with your digital marketing strategy.

Original article: Top Takeaways from the Panel: Modern-Day Trends in Higher Education

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