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Opening Edinburgh Business School up to the world

Update: Edinburgh Business School won the award for 'Professional Services Website, App or Campaign' at the DADI Awards 2016.

With over 600 entries into the DADI Awards in 2016, we're thrilled to announce that Edinburgh Business School has been shortlisted as a finalist for best website for 2016. Winners will be announced in October. Here is the story of the project and its results.

The background

Edinburgh Business School (EBS) is the graduate school of business of Heriot-Watt University, one of the world’s largest providers of international postgraduate business education. Offering their flagship MBA programme, five specialist MBAs, four MScs and a doctorate. EBS has achieved its status by offering incredible flexibility. Students can study without interrupting their career; at home, in a classroom locally or on one of three campuses.

However, innovation comes at a cost. They discovered that you couldn’t assume that people will appreciate how they are different from the usual Business School. Their previous website struggled to showcase their flexibility and study options, whist making the most relevant options clear. They needed a different type of online platform to tell their story and sell the big benefits of their learning philosophy.

We developed the web platform on Kentico 8.2.32. The aim: To communicate Edinburgh Business Schools’ vision, improve their reach, and turn their unique structure into a strength. Selling the proposition. Localising the experience. Simplifying the user journey. Creating a platform for growth. 

The objectives

EBS asked us to sort out their tangle. Their old site was trying to be everything to everyone and users found themselves sloshed around different bits of the site, bewildered by options, confused by choice.

Instead, they wanted a globally sensitive site that would sell them. They wanted the fees to be a selling point, tipping people over to applying, not – as in the previous site - the most popular exit page. So they set out their objectives:

  • To clarify and sell Edinburgh Business School’s proposition
  • To increase revenue, with a 10% increase in applications
  • To improve efficiency, with 25% decrease the volume of needless enquiries
  • To be globally accessible, irrespective of device or location
  • To be able to market selectively to different countries
  • To impact student retention by starting the students on a high

The plan of attack

We all know what a business school is like; sharp minds and swish buildings, dripping exclusivity. Except, EBS isn’t like that. Its thousands of students either study with learning partners around the world, at home in any of 166 countries or on campus. So we developed a seven-point strategy:

1. Clarify the EBS proposition
Central to the work is selling EBS’s point of difference: that you have almost unlimited options about how, where and what pace you study, and a wide choice of what you study. Not to mention the flexible fee payments.

2. Sell the Edinburgh Business School’s proposition
With the user journey straightened out we could focus back on selling EBS. Doing an MBA is a big commitment. You are going to look at other schools. You going to come back and take a second or third look. Therefore, we strove for a fresh modern look:

3. Increase revenue
The final element, to make sure the conversion isn’t an obstacle, was to make a straightforward “apply” process. Yes, it’s a form. Filling in forms is a bit like homework. We worked hard with EBS to make it less hard work.

4. Improve efficiency
We carefully shaped the drip-feed of information to visitors. We needed to decrease the volume of enquiries seeking clarification on simple questions – questions that were answered on the old site, if you could find them. We planned to seed information carefully, putting it at the point where it’s most relevant.

5. Globally accessible
We all take the idea of “worldwide” almost for granted, but EBS really is. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, EBS students come from anywhere: We needed a site that worked mobile-first – because that is usually the first point of contact. We needed a site that recognised where you were coming from. Say, you’re in the Caribbean, living on St Kitts & Nevis – nice, but limited in MBA choices - we wanted to reach out and give an experience that makes you feel welcome.

6. Market selectively
Being location aware and setting up landing pages for all countries has given EBS an option to market selectively and attract high levels of applicants in areas close to its campuses and learning partners.

7. Start on a high
Starting a Masters, usually after a gap from learning, is a big thing. We realised that if you start with a bit of a bounce, you are more likely to carry on studying. We wanted to make the connection between current students and alumni, to give a sense of community, that encourages their enthusiasm and helps generate a momentum needed to start and continue with their studies.

The results

We’ve delivered:

  • A brand new component-based website, built in Kentico 8, with Microsoft Dynamics CRM integration.
  • A design that allows you to see the real brand and hear the dependable voice of EBS
  • Location-specific content, presented depending on where the visitor is located.
  • Detailed analytics to collaborate with their SEO agency, Occupancy Marketing, and the powerful marketing tool, lead-score optimisation, which allows EBS to identify patterns and prospects earlier in the journey.

The results by objective

To clarify and sell Edinburgh Business School’s proposition

  • Overall visits up 40%, reversing a long-term decline in the old site.
  • Visitors view twice as many pages on average, as the old site.
  • Looking at visitor behaviour on the site, we see two very different styles: Mobile visitors primarily having a first look at EBS; Desktop visitors are exploring the position carefully.

To increase revenue, with a 10% increase in applications

  • New enquiries up 50%.
  • Conversion time 30% faster (i.e. students are signing-up for a course in two-thirds the time).

To improve efficiency, with 25% decrease the volume of needless enquiries

  • Decline by 50% in emails and phone calls to EBS, asking simple questions that should be answered by the website.

To be globally accessible, irrespective of device or location

  • Mobile visits up 473%
  • Mobile visits now equate to 70% of all visits.

To be able to market selectively to different countries

  • Facebook advertising campaign focused on 15 countries, lifted visits by 600% in those countries.
  • Display advertising is up 975.40%, from 2,943 to 31,649
  • Paid search up 229.75%, from 126,413 to 416,843 

To impact student retention by starting the students on a high

  • Anecdotal evidence from new students
  • Usability testing evidence