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Top 7 Student Retention Strategies for Email Marketing

Top 7 Student Retention Strategies for Email Marketing

Just when you thought you had Millennials figured out, here comes Gen Z. Being that Gen Z’s current age ranges from 11-26, it’s safe to say that they are now the majority of college attendees. This makes them your target demographic when it comes to thinking about your student retention strategies. The good news is that email is still the most effective way to communicate with this audience. According to a Campaign Monitor survey, 81% of Gen Z check their email daily and prefer it over other forms of communication.

Strategy #1: Personalize Emails to Students

One benefit email has over other marketing channels is the ability to personalize content for the recipient.

We talk about this one a lot, but it is one of the most effective ways to get students to engage. Email automation platforms have tools that allow customization of messaging from subject lines to whole paragraphs and even images. This personalization allows you to make students feel special and build personable connections build on their own unique college experiences.

Here are some ways to use personalization to improve your email student retention strategies 

  • Subject lines – Use their first name as a greeting to improve open rates.
  • Graduation dates – Let them know you are following their success.
  • Field of study – Show interest in topics they may be interested in.
  • Birthdate – Wish them well on their special day.

Read: How to Drive Student Engagement Using Personalization in Email

Strategy #2: Use Visuals

Gen Z is a very visual group, with studies showing high weekly engagement on visual social media: 89% use YouTube, 74% are on Instagram, and 68% use Snapchat. That’s why including visuals is a great way to boost engagement and retention in communications with your Gen Z students.

When choosing visuals, use high-quality images of the campus, events, or student life that get students excited for the next event or classes. It’s important when using visuals to consider best practices for diversity and inclusion to make sure everyone feels represented in your university. As always, keep in mind accessibility guidelines by including alt text and optimizing your images for email.

Strategy #3: Be Mobile-Friendly

Gen Z has been around technology their entire lives. Their expectations for tech-savvy communication are high, meaning emails and online forms should always be optimized for mobile use. By ignoring mobile design standards, your emails could end up in the virtual trashcan.

Tips for mobile-friendly email design

  • Use a responsive email design that adjusts to screen sizes. BEE Pro offers a mobile design mode to help you quickly optimize emails for mobile devices by hiding and stacking elements.
  • Highlight important information near the top of the email, and help the students avoid long-scrolling actions.
  • Use clear branding with your logo and colors for fast recognition.
  • Use large fonts and clear calls to action that are easy to read and select.

Examples of Best Practices for Mobile-Friendly Email Design

A great example of an optimized mobile experience is this email from Disney. The headline is engaging and immediately tells you what the email is about. The image is high quality, and there is a clear call to action. And, of course, the email is on brand throughout its entirety.

Disney mobile design email inspiration

Who says email communication has to be boring? Especially with Gen Z, a great way to get them to open an email is by using pop culture references or humor. This example from Topgolf uses humor in the subject line to pull in the reader. To add an additional human touch, the email has a testimonial for a customer. Incorporate this into your student retention email by asking for testimonials after campus events.

top gold mobile design email inspiration

Strategy #4: Use Social Proof

Gen Z’s affinity to social media and digital channels has influenced the level of value they place on social proof and the emotion they feel when they miss out. Share stories about activities, events, recognitions, etc., to leverage this generation’s FOMO (fear of missing out) and increase student participation.

How to incorporate social proof into emails

  • Use testimonials or quotes from current students, alums, or faculty
  • Feature awards or recognitions other students have received
  • Include videos of activities recorded by current or former students

Strategy #5: Provide Interactive Content

This goes beyond images and video content. Interactive content, such as surveys, quizzes, or polls, is a way to gather valuable information to improve your student retention strategies.

Examples of interactive content for emails

  • Generate a quiz to help students uncover their learning styles or career interests
  • Ask students to complete a survey for feedback on a recent program or event
  • Poll students on their opinions about current trends or issues

And don’t forget to take action! These surveys or polls are a great way to identify the changes and improvements your students desire and work toward improving student engagement and retention.

For instance, if you learn they would like more cereal options in the cafeteria, then provide more variety so students will be more likely to gather and socialize during meals. Taking action on feedback is a good way to engage students in a process and earn trust.

Strategy #6: Provide Valuable Content

To keep students engaged in reading email content, ensure the content you send provides value. Go beyond on-campus activities and position yourself as a trusted source for students to be able to excel beyond their college years.

Examples of valuable content for students

  • Career advice
  • Study tips
  • Personal development topics
  • Job/internship opportunities

Consider using segmentation to tailor content toward certain student groups, such as by field of study, activities, or geography if you have multiple campus locations. This option can increase the relevancy and value of the content being provided.

Strategy #7: Use Email Automation

To maintain consistent communication with students, email automation is a helpful tool. Automation can ensure messages are delivered timely. You can create a cadence of alerts and reminders for important events, such as semester registration, to alert students of upcoming responsibilities and deadlines. 

Examples of automated emails for higher education

  • Welcome email series introducing students to campus and resources
  • Schedule follow-ups for important reminders and announcements
  • Event or class reminders

By providing reminders and timely information to students, you will help them to stay engaged and participate, with fewer opportunities to forget.


An effective way to optimize your student retention strategies is to incorporate new and innovative tools that allow you to do your best work, fast. That’s why we recommend AI.

While AI is still new, it’s no secret that it is a great tool to help optimize your email content and improve overall performance, all while saving you time and effort.

Join us on May 3rd to learn how you can harness the power of AI and BEE Pro for A/B testing, language translations, and overall just creating more effective, engaging, and impactful emails and landing pages. Register HERE!

AI in email marketing with bee pro

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Emily Santos
Emily Santos

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