Digital strategy and analytics for the national leader in third-party study abroad for higher education

CEA Study Abroad provides end-to-end support for students who want to spend a semester studying in places from Barcelona to Shanghai. At $50M+ in revenue, it’s a mature and robust organization, with a complex set of stakeholders including university provosts, study abroad and financial aid offices, enrollment, and of course the students themselves.

Despite their size, a relatively new website, and a year-long agile development backlog, they lacked a coherent digital strategy to guide their marketing activities. Their C-Suite approached us with three key questions:

  1. Is our digital roadmap going to take us where we need to go to hit our enrollment goals?
  2. How can we know what marketing activities drive results online?
  3. Is our website performing the way it should regarding speed and usability?
Strategy versus tactics

To answer the team's question about the effectiveness of their roadmap, we evaluated the marketing plan and were surprised to find how tactical it was. They had good ideas but lacked a coherent purpose or direction that related to a broader intent.

We created a strategic brief for CEA that answered fundamental questions related to their "why". When the purposes of their web properties were clear, it became obvious which of their tactics were essential to meet their goals, and which needed to be dropped.

Digital analytics integration

Attribution modeling is one of the fundamental tasks of executing a coherent digital marketing strategy. We helped advise and document a sophisticated integration with their existing CRM that allows the financial team to pull meaningful data regarding lead sources. With this information, they can pivot around marketing spend, lead volume, conversion rate, and other data points to help answer what activities contribute deliver clear ROI.

We also performed a cleanup of their Google Analytics account, which had multiple unused properties and views, streamlining their reporting and data clarity.

Site optimization and usability testing

Our usability testing was built around two primary programs. First, we recorded unmoderated, remote sessions so we could watch real users interacting with the site. We reviewed these sessions, looking for patterns and pivotal inflection points that altered user progress. With those recorded sessions in mind, we performed a heuristic evaluation of the site, looking specifically for issues related to the application process and accessibility issues.

Our team performed website speed tests and made recommendations to their IT department and C-Suite on how to approach optimization for maximum performance.

These recommendations were integrated into the team's agile roadmap, to ensure that the findings were quickly integrated into the site to be tested and validated.