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Driving Student Retention for eLearning and MOOCs – Part 1

In this 2-part series, we address core common issues that marketers face in the eLearning/Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) market. Below is Part 1 of the series where we cover the issues with 1st-time enrollees and then repeat enrollment (taking more courses) at a high level. In Part 2 we will dive deeper into these, as well as a few more areas that are often forgotten (HINT: Do your students feel comfortable using your platform?) This is not an extensive list nor the full extent of our research, it is meant as a starting point.


 

Whether you call it student churn, student retention, student attrition, or a number of other terms, one of the primary issues for eLearning companies like Udacity, Coursera, EdX, and dozen of others is keeping students – more importantly, keeping students coming back. The stark reality is that up to 90% of students who enroll in an online course simply don’t complete the course, and that number only gets slightly better when students have actually paid for the course.

A University in Everyone’s Pocket

With today’s perpetually connected consumer, every person now walks around with an entire university in their pocket where an aspiring archaeologist can learn about the history of Egypt or a developer can now get a nano-degree in autonomous cars. But the beauty and the pain arises quickly when one is perpetually connected: there are so many choices, so many apps and emails and messages distracting us, and finally, an expectation of personalization and individual relevance within each choice and through every communication. The end result becomes not just an ADD-like attention span, at a more basic level, people just get busy and lose track of what they have signed up for. (And like mentioned earlier, just because someone has paid, doesn’t necessarily mean someone will stay committed.)

With this rise of a greater number Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and their evolution into delivering “for credit” or certificates of completion, potential students have more choices. Students must feel they are being respected as individuals with their own education needs. They expect personalize, relevant communications at all times throughout their user experience both on and off the platform.

NOTE: One of the issues for eLearning are people who just “kick the tires” to find out what the content, site, or app is all about. In Part 2 of this series we will highlight a key strategy to better identify who those students are.


So how does an eLearning organization keep the students coming back?

How do you convert the “one-and-done”/fleeting students to a more casual student and then to the “life-long learner” that makes a habit out of taking classes and paying for courses, degrees, and certificates?

PROBLEM #1: 1st COURSE COMPLETION

Getting students to complete their first course is half the battle. Often, these students are acquired with marketing spend. And, like mobile apps and games, the “novelty” or “excitement” of an online course and learning something new wains and that dreaded retention cliff proves time and time again less than 10% of students will complete their first course. And if they don’t complete their first course, they have a statistically low chance of enrolling in another, or paying for another course or certificate.

NOTE: While this problem primarily addresses getting students to complete the first course, the same strategy and engagement tactics can be used for every subsequent course.

SOLUTION:

Build a welcome/on-boarding series that leverages multiple channels. Simply relying on emails is a sure fire recipe for failure, especially when an eLearning destination has a mobile app. Be where your students are and where they engage. If they are in the App, trigger in-app messages based on their behavior, bring them back to the course. More importantly, when they are outside the app, leverage mobile push notifications that are tailored to the exact course they are taking. Make it personalized and relevant to them. (DO NOT simply blast them with a message that says “You’re course is waiting.”).

*  Send an onboard/welcome campaign

*  Use “reminders” to gently nudge them to complete the exact course and level they are in

*  Use multiple channels like mobile, email, in-app, even SMS

*  Personalize every communication to make it relevant and resonate with the student as an individual

 

PROBLEM #2: REPEAT ENROLLMENT:

Getting students to sign up for more courses must be an organization’s highest goal to get the highest LifeTime Value (LTV) from each student. This focus helps move students from the “one-and-done” learner to the more occasional or even life-long student. If an organization runs on the freemium model, then re-enrollment is paramount to generating revenue. If an organization is pure-play paid (either as a subscription or via certificates), then getting students to re-enroll and take more courses adds that additional revenue that drives higher LTV and helps identify behaviors and attributes that can feed into the acquisition strategy.

The feeling of accomplishment from completing a course is double edged. In one respect, they feel accomplished and satisfied. They completed a course. Either they feel empowered and, hopefully, want to learn more, or they feel satisfied, and, sadly, simply move on to another activity or interest outside of the learning environment. What would you do?

SOLUTION:

Capture that feeling of accomplishment and feed them more courses. IMMEDIATELY.

Build on the excitement with timely messages triggered on the completion or even near completion of that course. And don’t hesitate. Leveraging real-time triggers makes sure that messages are sent at the right time. At the bare minimum, prompt them to sign up for more courses, perhaps with incentives or discounts. BUT, if you really want to drive retention, the simple step is to offer them courses they may like, based on browsing behavior, the subject matter of the course they just completed, or use collaborative filtering to recommend courses that others have taken who have taken this course. Tracking real-time behavior is critical.

The advanced step: (HINT: you should be doing this to stay relevant and competitive) Leverage a full understanding of how they engaged with that course (length of course, timing, subject matter, test scores) coupled with a full history of ALL of their courses taken and browsed and engaged to deliver a truly personalized set of recommendations. Be student-centric by building out profiles of every student that not only tracks static attributes like geography, gender, email address, etc, but also keeps a full transaction and engagement history of courses and even the messages you’ve sent.

Then, use multiple communication channels to message them: emails, mobile push, SMS, In-App, On-Site, even leverage Facebook Re-targeting to get them to come back with very specific recommendations. (Yes, even your advertising should be personally relevant to re-engage your students.)

*  Timing is of the essence, act quickly to re-engage students.

*  Recommend courses that others like them have taken or that they have browsed.

*  Take it a step further and build out predictive recommendations based on their full engagement history.

*  Use every channel at your disposal to re-engage them personally, even Facebook.

NEXT STEPS:

Ask yourself:

  • What are you doing today to address these issues?
  • What data are you missing to start acting on these tactics?
  • Do you have control of the data?
  • Do you have real-time data that enables fast segmentation to engage students with up-to-the-moment messaging?

In Part 2, we will address HOW to get there and uncover a few more obstacles common with student retention for eLearning and MOOCs. In addition, we’ll show you how we help Udacity drive increased student retention through these very strategies.

 

Urban Ladder Largest Home Furnishings Furnitire Home Decor Online Shopping uses Blueshift to Engage Online Furniture shoppers

4x Conversion Lift: Urban Ladder Finds The Secret Sauce to Reach Online Furniture Shoppers

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Urban Ladder is a leading online furniture and home decor company that provides a curated shopping destination for your home. Their modern designs and uniquely styled products attract millions of customers and has propelled them to be the #1 source for furniture in India. With millions of customers coming to their site via multiple channels and interacting with their catalogue of over 4,000 products across 50 different categories, they found it hard to market to all their customers while staying true to their promise of a personalized experience.


“With Blueshift, we have launched very personalized triggered campaigns on email & mobile app push notifications. We are seeing significant improvements in conversion rates on these marketing campaigns which are highly targeted and relevant for the users.”

Ashish Goel, CEO of Urban Ladder

 

Urban Ladder turns to Blueshift to help address its issues

Urban Ladder’s unique design at the heart of every marketing message

Urban Ladder’s unique design at the heart of every marketing message

Urban Ladder has a distinctive brand and look which had to come across in every channel they market across. With a web based store and a mobile app, they had a hard time tying in multiple data sources into a unified customer profile in real-time. They needed a robust recommendation engine for their 4,000+ product catalogue consistent with each person’s browsing and purchase behavior. Handle personalization to varied sales cycles, like furniture which tends to have long consideration cycles rather than home decor, which can be impulsive.

 


Blueshift’s Solution

urban-ladder-out-of-stock-notification-with-recommendations-of-other-products

Blueshift provided the ability to unify each user’s behavior data across mobile and email for a complete 360-degree view of the customer. It enabled Urban Ladder to deliver a consistent user experience across all channels that represented their brand along with powerful recommendations and simplified paths to purchase.

After a quick integration Urban Ladder was able to launch cross-channel triggered campaigns for welcome series, abandonment, post purchase, complete-the-look cross sells, and product recommendations based on user behavior in just a few days.

 

 

 

Urban Ladder using the “back in stock” product alert in their newsletters powered by Blueshift.

Urban Ladder using the “back in stock” product alert in their newsletters powered by Blueshift.


 

Conclusion

Urban Ladder Realizes a 4x lift in conversions and a rapid time to value outperforming all other vendors
Urban Ladder now delivers a delightful user experience across mobile & email by combining their in-house creative team and Blueshift technology. Using the 360-degree customer profile powered by Blueshift as the foundation of their customer data and utilizing deep segmentation capabilities of Blueshift, Urban Ladder has seen 4x higher conversion rates over previous tactics.

download-the-urban-ladder-case-study-by-blueshift2

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Personalization Pitfall #4: Poor Historical View of the Customer

In this series, we cover the common pitfalls all marketers face at some point when scaling personalization in their triggered marketing. From emails to mobile push notifications to SMS to display retargeting, the common platforms used today to market across channels begin to lose efficacy when organizations try to personalize their communications to an ever more complex and growing customer base.

Poor Historical View of the Customer



Watch this video to learn more about this subject from Brian Monahan, former CMO of Walmart.com 


Lifecycle marketing is a highly engaging way companies can re-activate or re-engage old customers. Using past interaction and transactions online, companies surface relevant products and promotions through different channels to influence a purchase. Sounds simple enough right? On the contrary having a 360 degree view of your customers over a long period of time and in real-time is very tricky for most businesses and our pitfall number 4.

Out with the old…

An old approach to this strategy has been to remarket to customers based on each item they browsed without taking their historical behavior into consideration. If a customer is browsing patio chairs, hammocks, and outdoor umbrellas, they are probably looking to furnish their backyard. Offering them 5 options of patio chairs might not be the best way to influence a sale.

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Overcome Amnesia of Your Customers

Your product recommendation engine has to be smart enough to suggest “next best products” or “complete-the-look products” or a product in the same category or brand. Only personalized, smart product placement and recommendations can work to win back customers in the highly competitive market of today.

The key to re-marketing the right way is to connect every piece of user behavior and past purchase in real-time with a deep knowledge of the company’s catalog. Using a holistic customer view, marketers can provide a hyper-personalized story relevant to each user’s context.


Subscribe Now to this series
To learn more about all the common personalization pitfalls covered in this series, watch this VentureBeat Webinar that provides real world examples and fixes you can start using now.


  • Each update sent directly to you with extra tips NOT included in the blog posts
  • Access to the VentureBeat Webinar with former head of marketing at Walmart.com
  • Receive an audit of your current triggered activities with a marketing consultant

BLueshift solves the message overload problem for marketers. Monitor the frequency of all of your messages across all channels to avoid annoying your customers

Personalization Pitfall 3: Customer Message Overload

In this series, we cover the common pitfalls all marketers face at some point when scaling personalization in their triggered marketing. From emails to mobile push notifications to SMS to display retargeting, the common platforms used today to market across channels begin to lose efficacy when organizations try to personalize their communications to an ever more complex and growing customer base.

Overcoming the Message Overload Pitfall


Watch this video to learn more about this subject from Brian Monahan, former CMO of Walmart.com 


When you build out your company’s personalized marketing landscape you soon find your volume of messages increasing exponentially. As you set up re-engagement campaigns along the customer journey, the volume of messages across all channels can quickly add up to 10 or 15 different messages. Of course, that doesn’t mean you send them all 10 of these messages in one day or even a week. Customers feel overwhelmed if their inbox is flooded with one particular company emailing them again and again. Message overload is a sure way of ending up in your customer’s spam folder or worse, unsubscribing from all your communications. This rapid deluge of communications to your customers is our pitfall #3.

Don’t Be Annoying…

Message Overload across all channels is a personalization pitfall

Finding the balance between quality and quantity will save marketers from those dreaded mistakes of sending a customer too many messages in a day. But how do you make sure you aren’t sending to many messages across all your channels?

The way to achieve message zen is by smart segmentation of customers who fit a certain criteria based on their attributes and behavior on site. Behavior-based marketing resonates better than single trigger marketing because it tends to be more accurate rather than an in-the-moment action or even sloppy demographic focused bucketing. Grouping together customers who have shown similar behavior and sending a set of targeted messages that are personalized to their persona is a controlled way of using triggers on your site.

Think Beyond the Inbox…

“don’t simply focus on the amount of messages you send per channel, look at the aggregate of ALL of your messages sent through all of your channels”

Another way of working around the message overload problem is to build and monitor multi channel campaigns. Marketers constantly compete for inbox space along with numerous other brands. When’s the last time you looked at your inbox and didn’t feel like you were being yelled at by dozens of brands? A quick reminder to complete your purchase and checkout can easily be done via text message or push notification – abandoned cart campaigns are not simply just an email tactic. Dividing your messages across different channels can keep your brand name top of mind and limit annoying your customers. And remember, don’t simply focus on the amount of messages you send per channel, look at the aggregate of ALL of your messages sent through all of your channels. Otherwise, you still run the likely risk of annoying your customers with message overload.


Subscribe Now to this series
To learn more about all the common personalization pitfalls covered in this series, watch this VentureBeat Webinar that provides real world examples and fixes you can start using now.


  • Each update sent directly to you with extra tips NOT included in the blog posts
  • Access to the VentureBeat Webinar with former head of marketing at Walmart.com
  • Receive an audit of your current triggered activities with a marketing consultant

Personalization Will Make or Break Holiday Season Campaigns

Customers demand respect from retailers. They ask simply for organizations to remember who they are as an individual consumer from a transaction and a behavioral perspective — otherwise, they are likely to purchase less frequently, or, more than likely, churn to a competitor who does understand them and communicate with them better at that individual level.

Personalize, personalize, personalize!

This has been the mantra of marketers looking to communicate with their customers at a highly relevant and engaging way. According to the latest report by Accenture covered by MediaPost:

  • 56% of respondents acknowledged they were more likely to shop at a retailer that recognized them by name
  • 65% of consumers expressed a preference for retailers that remembered their purchase history
  • 58% of respondents were more likely to shop at stores that offered relevant recommendations based on past purchases or preferences

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The need for smarter cross-channel personalization…

It’s important to point out that marketers are being asked to personalize across all channels, not just one or two. In fact, as the Accenture report highlighted, less than 50% of consumers completed a purchased based on an on-site product recommendation. The perpetually connected consumer now enters the buying cycle from a number of channels and touch points: email, Facebook, SMS, mobile push notifications, in-app personalizations, and numerous others.

And forget about flooding a consumer with a higher number of product recommendations. The “Quantity over Quality” tactic is similar to annoying batch and blast techniques used within emails by out-of-touch marketers. Filling a page or a communication with a dizzying number of recommendations only annoys and splits the buyers attention away from products that they are more likely to purchase. According to the report, almost 40% of respondents admitted to abandoning an online shopping experience altogether because of an overwhelming choice of recommendations

The “Burden of Choice” is in the hands of the brand. Brands must serve only the best recommendations to the right person built through predictive algorithms that sift through the dozens or even hundreds of “best products” that could be delivered to the consumer and transform that into the best few.

Read the full article on MediaPost.

 

blueshift-holiday-season-message

What is Programmatic CRM? [Infographic]

Programmatic CRM is a technology that enables marketers to be customer-centric and leverage real-time behavioral data to reach every customer on an individual level throughout all of your marketing channels. Bringing Programmatic CRM into your marketing stack enables marketers to finally automate the delivery of consistent and delightful user experiences on every channel with true scalability and greater results.

Reach the perpetually connected consumer across all channels at the moment they are most inclined to engage with you brand.

The building blocks of Programmatic CRM

Programmatic CRM is built up a number of key components that work together to Engage with Segments-of-One:

  • Real-Time Triggers to engage customers based on their actions
  • Cross-Channel Reach to be customer-centric, not channel-centric
  • Personalized Recommendations to tailor recommendations to user behavior
  • Dynamic Audiences for segments that update with every customer interaction
  • Measurability to deliver end-to-end reporting on engagements and conversions

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Isn’t it time you stop marketing to stale databases built of attributes and demographics?

 

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Personalization Pitfall #2: Old-School Linear Customer Journey

Marketers rely on customer journey mapping to optimize what customers see every step of the way. But with the rise of multiple devices and the perpetually connected customer (a.k.a “perpetuals”), it is becoming harder for marketers to define the different ways a customer interacts with content or products. In today’s increasingly complex environment, marketers must change the way they conceptualize a path to purchase and adopt a new paradigm — real-time context.

Perpetual’s can’t be pigeonholed into old-school linear journeys. They carve their own path to purchase and the number of possible paths to purchase increase exponentially due to multiple devices and different intents. Perpetuals too often turn to their phones in search of information, whether they’re at the gym, commuting to work, or shopping for groceries. Google refers to these spontaneous instances of discovery as micro-moments, and they’re opportunities for brands to meet their customers at moments of intent.

An example is that Jack could be leaving the gym and thinking about buying another pair of gym shorts which he searches for on his phone and places in his cart. A few hours later, he remembers he has to go to a friend’s birthday in a week and starts looking at gift options for them on his laptop. Tech savvy marketers have to be able to react to the changing needs of customers like Jack as his intent changes, in real-time, across different channels, and with the right content.

Watch this video to learn more about this subject from Brian Monahan, former CMO of Walmart.com:

Personalization Pitfall 1: Outdated messages

Common Problems Faced when Scaling Personalization – Part 1

In this series, we cover the common pitfalls all marketers face at some point when scaling personalization in their triggered marketing. From emails to mobile push notifications to SMS to display retargeting, the common platforms used today to market across channels begin to lose efficacy when organizations try to personalize their communications to an ever more complex and growing customer base. The problems stem from generic/ out-of-the-box triggers, poor segmentation, outdated information, lack of real-time processing, and disconnected channels, to name a few.

If these pitfalls aren’t addressed in your marketing strategy, you risk pushing customers away, often to your competition. By building a better personalized customer experience across all channels, you build more loyal returning customers. Customers today demand 1:1 communication and a high degree of relevancy in any marketing message.

Subscribe Now to this series


  • Each update sent directly to you with extra tips NOT included in the blog posts
  • Access to the VentureBeat Webinar with former head of marketing at Walmart.com
  • Receive an audit of your current triggered activities with a marketing consultant

Personalization Pitfall #1: Outdated messages

According to Forrester Research, “Trigger based email marketing campaigns can generate 4x more revenue and 18x greater profits”. Triggered messages are known to be 5 times more responsive than batch and blast campaigns, which makes triggered marketing communication very attractive to marketers. As simple as it is to send out triggered messages, it is also that much easier to get them wrong. Triggered messages are personalized based on a user’s engagement with your website or mobile app. The timing and content has to be precise because any delay in the data or message can lead to outdated messages being sent to your customers who then in-turn will unsubscribe because they feel spammed, and will often take to social media to voice their opinions:

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One of the most common pitfalls we hear about from marketers using triggers is their customers getting outdated messages through retargeting. It’s very common for customers to receive a display ad or email about a product they have already bought; or a recommendation for a product that has nothing to do with their purchase history or recent interaction with the brand. “54% of consumers would consider ending their relationship with a retailer if they are not given tailor-made, relevant content and offers.” Retailers can no longer afford to run outdated triggered marketing through their legacy systems. It pushes customers away and shows a lack of respect for your customer’s buying habits.

Here is a small recording on this very issue from our webinar with VentureBeat, “How to become a personalization ninja and delight every customer“:



become_a_personalization_ninja_with_blueshiftTo learn more about all the common personalization pitfalls covered in this series, watch this VentureBeat Webinar that provides real world examples and fixes you can start using now.

Subscribe to this series for instant access to the full video.>>


Focus on Real-Time Data

Most retargeting campaigns are based on customer actions, browsed products and abandoned cart being some very common triggers. But if the systems of record (CRM) and systems of action (ESP, DSP, Facebook retargeting, etc) are not synced in real-time when a customer makes a purchase, this faulty cycle will keep repeating itself. Unless customer data is updated in real-time, there will always be outdated information being presented in display ads or emails going out to customers.

Personalization Pro Tips:

Blueshift has worked with several marketing leaders that have scaled their personalized marketing programs to deliver engaging personalized user experiences. Here are our top tips to get the most out of your personalization efforts:

  • Don’t settle for Near Real-Time: For the best customer experience, use systems that enable you to personalize with true real-time information.
  • Remain goal oriented: Understand your key performance indicators and how they affect the entire campaign, not a single send.
  • Personalize across channels: Use multiple marketing channels to scale your marketing program, instead of limiting it to email.