In the 2020 UK Schools Report, ToucanTech provided an analysis of 1 million database records of parents, students, alumni and staff from 124 independent and state schools across the UK, observing online communications and digital updates increasing in 2020 with more emails being sent and read, and more content being published and consumed. While COVID impacted digital engagement, the trends that are seen in this report have largely continued, and digital engagement does not appear to be declining despite easing of COVID restrictions in parts of the world. Reflecting on these trends now can help development teams to spot opportunities and optimise their communications going forwards.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at digital communications in 2020 via email, as schools reached out to their communities and were met with increased engagement.
Overall email activities logged in ToucanTech databases increased by 1.3 million, with schools sending a greater number of both mass emails (more than 100 recipients) and targeted emails (less than 100 recipients) to their communities. The volume of opens increased significantly in senior schools and co-ed schools, by an average of over 30%.
Schools sent emails to over 2 million recipients in 2020, an increase of 27%. They also increased their frequency of mass emails by 10%, but open rates stayed consistent, increasing by 0.22%.
The average email open rate during the first lockdown (April-June 2020) was 8% higher than the same time period in 2019, with April seeing the highest average open rate per email at 57.7%. As schools were closed with short notice in April, many shared updates with their community on how they were adapting to remote learning, or kept in touch with vulnerable members of their communities.
One of the most impactful parts of your email communications is your subject line: it’s the first thing people see and will have the greatest effect on your open rates. Using an unusual subject line, or one that cuts to the chase, is a good way to avoid ‘email fatigue’ and ensure that people click through to read your message. Tonbridge School promoted an opportunity to their upper sixth form students to earn £800 on their telethon team with a bold and simple subject line ‘Earn over £800’ that meant almost every recipient felt compelled to open! Other subject lines that achieved an open rate of over 90% included ‘A request from Mrs Davies’, ‘Welcome to the Tonbridge Society’ and ‘Joining the Virtual Prize Giving Ceremony’.
“I believe we’ve been successful in these activities because we target which group we send our mass emails to (i.e. industry groups, year groups, country of residence groups) this means the comms are specific and relevant to that group resulting in a higher open rate. We don’t get the feeling/we haven’t had feedback that we are sending too many emails.”
Laura Kingsley, Alumni Relations Manager, Concord College
Personalisation and target recipient segments is key to maintaining success with email engagement, as mentioned above. You can also use the insights you have on-hand to take a look at your best performing emails and compare the best times and days of the week to send.
Planning ahead is important to ensure that you can maintain a consistent volume of emails over time - you don’t want to stack too many emails in one week which might lead to unsubscribes, and you might have regularly scheduled emails such as a termly or monthly newsletter that you can plan in advance. Ensure that the content is engaging, relevant and creative to encourage your recipients to open your emails frequently, and use your emails as a way to drive traffic back to your site using buttons, for example to sign up to an event or read a new article.
If you’re looking to increase your email engagement and create efficiencies in your comms production, consider an all-in-one system that enables you to drag and drop website content into emails, send quick ‘Save & share’ emails with new content, share automatic birthday emails and link all email activity back to individual records. Speak to a member of the ToucanTech team today.
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