Alan Thorpe of Bray Leino Yucca, leading customer engagement Agency, talks about how Britain’s universities are stepping up to engage digital natives.

Alan Thorpe is Digital and Data Director at leading customer engagement Agency Bray Leino Yucca, part of the missiontm. Alan helps clients to understand customers and translate their brand goals into deliverable, effective marketing solutions. This means bringing together the Agency’s commercial insight, creative talent and technical expertise. Alan gives us an insight into how universities are keeping up with the digital age.

We have a fair few Higher Education institutions as clients so we wanted to find out how well universities are stepping up to engage digital natives – their core recruitment targets.

The removal of the student numbers cap and increased course fees are just two factors behind a more competitive university battleground. Winners can enjoy spectacular growth, while conversely, losers face income challenges.
As a result, levels of marketing expenditure are soaring in the HE sector, as undergraduate and postgraduate recruitment becomes even more important.

MOBILE ADDICTION

The eyes of the 16-24 age group are firmly fixed on their smart phones. This mobile addiction has caused 43% of young people to walk into something (ouch!) and 60% to drop a phone on their face while lying down according to National Awareness Accident Week.

According to our research, many universities are failing to engage with their audience through poor Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). They are simply not fully meeting the needs of search engines such as Google or Bing.

DIGITAL BRAND VALUES MATTER

Young people value their own ‘digital brand’ and what it says about them. They create their profile through likes, follows and shares. They value the opinion of their peers and will be likely to share the site of the universities they’re considering. So does website design and content matter? Hell yes.

And it’s not just about students.

Key influencers – such as parents and teachers – are also now ‘digital’ by default. Don’t believe this? Nissan have found that trips to dealers have fallen from an average of 7 to 1.5 according to their ‘Steering a path to the new digital consumer’ report. It backs up the belief that our research is complete, and decision made, before we engage with suppliers. So why should the HE sector be any different?

WHICH WEBSITES ARE WINNING?

Given how important websites are in all our decision making, we decided to find out just how well Britain’s universities are adapting to this new landscape. Just how well are they using the digital opportunity to rise up the HE rankings?


Our report, Universities Challenged, examines the search engine optimisation (SEO) performance of universities that have appeared in the Complete University Guide’s (CUG) rankings for 2016 and 2017. It compares our digital rankings against CUG rankings to explore which universities have gone ‘digital native’ and which have not.

The results are surprising. The digital top ten features only three universities ranked in CUG’s top ten. Of the other seven in the digital top ten, six universities have seen their CUG ranking rise. Three universities out of the bottom ranked five digital institutions have seen their CUG ranking decline. So this matters.

In addition to this report we have also prepared individual, more detailed, reports for each university. These also include a score for visual design based upon the initial impact that each university’s home page had on three 18-year-old students.

Download Universities Challenged report here.

October 2016