← Customize 1200+ templates for your next newsletter

Design Inspiration

How to Drive Student Engagement Using Personalization in Email

How to Drive Student Engagement Using Personalization in Email

If you look close enough, you’ll find that most places serve you with a personalized experience. Like how Starbucks asks for your name when ordering, and Amazon recommends similar products you may like based on previous purchases. In recent years, even personalization in email has entered the marketing world with the development of dynamic email content and emojis.

Without even noticing it, personalization has become another thing we’ve grown accustomed to, making it harder for businesses to stand out. While digital needs have developed over time for many of us, Gen Z is different.

Gen Z spends more than eight hours a day and grew up with these “personalized experiences.” They expect digital delivery in everything—education, communication, and marketing. And not just digital communications but engaging, thought-provoking, human, and well… personalized-to-them, digital communications.

So the question is, how can universities use personalization in email by leveraging what they know about them to increase student engagement?

Universities need students to be engaged. Students support universities in every stage of the recruitment process. Students are the best marketing tool. Incoming students look at factors like student retention rates, job placement, and academic achievement, all of which suffer if students become disengaged. 

The future of the university relies on engaged students. 

Understanding Personalization in Email

Today’s consumers expect personalized email content, and 76% get frustrated if expectations aren’t met. Consumers know that their time is valuable and that you need them more than they need you. When content is not personalized for what suits their needs or anticipates their desires, they’ll probably feel disappointed or annoyed if they even open your email. The same can be said for students. 

Email personalization is essential for communicating with Gen Z and the college population because they are looking for convenience and ease above all. They want to have all the information they need at their fingertips.

Beyond that, they want to feel taken care of. It’s important to students that their university provides them with precisely what they need to succeed. And, of course, because not every student is the same — this is where personalization in email comes in.

More than 80% of Gen z say they’re more likely to choose a brand that personalizes content. The same can be said for whether or not they engage with their university. 

Here are some ways your university can benefit from increased online student engagement with personalization:

  • Improved open rates and response rates
  • Boosted enrollment
  • Streamlined online processes
  • Enhanced emotional connections with students
  • Better referrals and future giving

Knowing Your Audience for Effective Email Personalization

Segmenting an extensive email list into smaller groups is a best practice among email marketers that higher education professionals can easily apply to their marketing efforts. 

Segmentation enables you to provide a more customized message that will resonate better with each smaller group of students. 

In fact, brands that rely on email segmentation and personalization have seen revenue increase by up to 760%.

Now the question is, how can colleges collect this information?

A simple common practice is asking for it on your website’s basic interest form or sending an automated survey once students accept the university. Some examples of segments could be: 

  • Areas of study: Each area of study could receive personalized emails on networking opportunities, jobs, and internships. 
  • Special interests/activities: You could share upcoming events or clubs depending on the student’s interest.
  • Dorm: You wouldn’t want to send information about Dorm F to Students in Dorm A. Segmenting this group ensures that all the information you share applies to each student. 
  • Year in school: This helps deliver specific information about graduation, orientation, new-student activities, etc. 

Email Personalization Inspiration

We’re big fans of showing, not telling. Here are a few ways brands use personalization to inspire your next student body email.

In this email from United, they use personalization to remind travelers about their upcoming vacation. Along with providing a clear CTA to book their next vacation. This email helps travelers keep United top of mind next time they think about a vacation. 

You can follow a similar strategy in your higher education emails to inform students about specific classes or activities a student participated in or remind them to register for next semester’s classes. This email could provide all the details, like due dates, and links to the next steps. Like United, you want students to keep this email in mind when registering for events/classes.

United Airlines using personalization in email

In this email from PetSmart, they use personalization by including information about this specific customer. For instance, the use of their email in the top right corner. Couples with the display of how many points they have until their next reward and information about their “pet family.” They even take it one step further by asking for more information about the customer’s pets. Perhaps to even further segment their list and therefore create more personalized emails. 

A fun way to incorporate this into your higher education emails is by reminding students of how many credits they need until graduation and personalizing information about classes they’ve taken or professors they’ve had.

In this email from PetSmart, they use personalization to remind customers their points. They use personalization by including information about this specific customer. They even take it one step further by asking for more information about the customers “pet family.” Perhaps to even further segment their list and therefore create more personalized emails. A fun way to incorporate this into your higher education emails is by reminding students of how many credits they need until graduation and personalize information about classes they’ve taken or professors they’ve had.

Crafting Personalized Subject Lines and Greetings

The subject line is the most crucial part of the email—it persuades the reader to open it, so don’t forget to use personalization in the subject line when possible. Consider writing email communications as if you’re writing to a close friend. This comfort level will help the recipient feel more closely connected with your school.

Here are some ways to personalize a subject line to maximize email engagement:

  • Lead with their name: [John], we hope to see you at orientation!
  • Connect with their interests: 3 ways our [soccer players] rock
  • Notice their graduation date: Only [145] days left until graduation!

Using Dynamic Content to Personalize Emails

Rely on your marketing automation platform or CRM to deliver fully personalized email experiences using dynamic content. Systems offer a variety of ways to personalize email content. With these functions, you can replace entire paragraphs of text, images, etc., based on information stored in a recipient’s profile.

The email example above from PetSmart featured two dog icons with the names and birthdays of the pet family. Through dynamic content and segmentation, PetSmart creates a personalized email experience for this customer.  

Some technology-savvy schools have taken dynamic content further, including personalized videos in emails! Personalization puts the reader into the story—helping them to envision themselves at the university. Gen Z is a high consumer of video content, making them the perfect target demographic for this type of effort.

Personalizing Calls-to-Action for Increased Student Engagement

Another way to increase student engagement in communications is to personalize the call-to-action (CTA). The CTA is your invitation to the reader to take the next step, whether applying, contacting you to schedule a visit, or completing a survey.

To create a compelling, personalized CTA, keep the reader in mind. How can you connect with them emotionally using the information you have collected about them?

A great example if to use “I” or “My” in the copy to make the button more intuitive for the reader.

Here are some examples of personalized CTAs.

  • Start now, [John]
  • Apply for [Fall 2024 Classes]
  • I want to join!
  • Yes, I’ll share my insights.

BEE Pro Email Templates for Higher Education

Connecting with the students of Gen Z requires new, engaging means of communication. Email personalization provides them with an experience tailored to their unique needs and interests and allows them to feel cared for and connected with their university.

BEE Pro allows higher education professionals to design on-brand, customized emails quickly and easily. A great example of BEE Pro in action, Dwayne Rice, Senior Associate Director of CRM Engagement and Digital Marketing from USC Marshall School of Business.

Rice uses BEE Pro to create personalized emails for his 11 graduate programs to communicate with potential and current students and alumni.

Start from scratch or use one of our ready-to-use Higher Education templates. Either way, get started for free and happy designing! 

Our Reader Score:

Total: 0 - Average: 0

Emily Santos
Emily Santos

Emily Santos is a Content Specialist with experience as a Brand Strategist and Designer.