How Swinburne University of Technology reimagined the Open Day experience

The global pandemic has impacted educational institutions in countless ways. From remote learning to cancelled graduation ceremonies, students and families have had to adjust and make sacrifices. For universities throughout Australia, this has also meant rethinking how they conduct their Open Day events, which are a primary method of attracting prospective students.

Students in Australia have many options for undergraduate, postgraduate, or vocational education. Open Day has traditionally been a way for students to visit a campus, learn about programs, and get a sense for which university is the best fit for them. Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne is committed to sharing targeted, relevant content with these students to help them make their decisions. When COVID-19 derailed the university’s traditional approach to Open Day, the marketing team had to quickly come up with a plan.

Having already embarked on a digital transformation working with agency partner Isobar, the university was well positioned to create an experience that was both memorable and effective. What it came up with was Swintopia, a gamified experience that lets prospective students explore everything the university has to offer.

“Swintopia wouldn’t have happened without the digital transformation that we did in partnership with Isobar and Adobe,” says Jordan Capp, Swinburne’s head of digital marketing. “There’s been a lot of learning along the way to get us to the right level of maturity to even consider doing something as ambitious as this event.”

Swinburne’s digital transformation included building a digital marketing foundation based on Adobe Experience Cloud. In addition to using data-driven personalization to connect with both prospective and existing students, Swinburne now has a dynamic, personalized website and microsites that enable departments to reach audiences with consistent experiences.

“With Isobar’s design framework for Adobe Experience Manager Sites, we get reusable components that make publishing very simple and scalable,” Capp says. “Isobar plays a critical role in making sure we have the right technology in place – and that we can use it effectively.”

Of course, the university had no way of knowing that all of its hard work would provide much-needed building blocks for its first-ever digital Open Day.

“We had to change our plans because of the COVID-19 pandemic and we knew we wanted to create something that took advantage of our existing investment in Adobe Experience Cloud. We wanted to create an experience that was largely experience based, just like our university.”

Jordan Capp

head of digital marketing, Swinburne University of Technology

A staged approach to engaging students

Swinburne’s marketing and IT teams worked closely with Isobar to build the Swintopia experience in just 12 weeks. From courses and clubs to visiting state-of-the-art labs and facilities, the virtual experience let prospective students build their own itineraries and explore everything Swinburne University has to offer. It even included student life highlights and neighbourly hangouts that they would have experienced attending an in-person event.

The first stage of the experience focused on using prospect data from Adobe Analytics that was passed through Adobe Audience Manager to target prospects using paid media and direct email campaigns. With programmatic ad buying with Adobe Advertising Cloud and email campaigns run through Adobe Campaign, the university effectively reached both national and international students and led them to the Swintopia landing page created using Adobe Experience Manager.

Next, Swinburne tracked game interactions, gathering data using Analytics and connecting anonymous activity with known customer data. All data was fed back into Audience Manager, which segmented users based on key personas. Swinburne also captured data in its CRM, including game interactions to enrich downstream marketing activity.

The final stages of the Open Day experience focused on using the wealth of data gathered to retarget users with Adobe Target when they returned to the website, sharing even more information related to their interests. As game participants moved through Swintopia, they collected items, just as they would at the in-person event. Following the event, marketing teams used the event trigger in Campaign to send them their virtual tote bags via email. Teams also used Campaign to follow up with prospects, adding them to ongoing nurture campaigns based on personas from Audience Manager.

Image source: Swinburne University of Technology

Image source: Swinburne University of Technology

Benefits beyond Open Day

Historically, Open Day has been the one time of year when Swinburne goes all out to show prospective students and the community what the university has to offer. With Swintopia, the benefits of Open Day extend beyond a two-day event, and can reach a broader audience, including international students. In fact, the university saw a 240 percent increase in Open Day registrations in 2020 over the previous year.

Swintopia enabled Swinburne University of Technology to learn specific details about prospective students and created valuable retargeting opportunities based on the data gathered during the virtual event. While university staff missed meeting prospective students in person, Swintopia successfully recreated the essence of Swinburne in a fun and interactive way.

Read more about Swinburne University’s digital transformation here.