Student and Staff user experience

Your students and (most of) your academic staff already live their lives in the digital (social, mobile) world, so that is where you must engage them – where you teach them, advise them, speak to them, listen to them and recruit them. This digital world is also where your student recruitment teams will (or should…) look for talented students to raise interest into your ‘products’ and attract them to choose your institution. University marketing teams and student recruitment teams need to be ‘digitally’ equipped to be able to communicate with and talk-the-social & mobile-talk of your ‘customers’: (prospective) students!

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Being fully submerged in this digital life and experience working online 24h with their mobile as ‘normal’ your (prospective) students, academic staff, and knowledge workers on campus demand simple, seamless, personalized experiences across any channel, anytime, anywhere, and on any device, managing their student life and interact with the university accross all phases of the student life (from early prospect to alumni).


Today we see four key trends reshaping this user experience where universities can adopt a user-centric approach, resulting in “customer-quality” applications and experiences:


  • Consumer grade user experience

    As work & academic life intersects with personal life, students, faculty, and knowledge workers expect ‘business’ applications, work and collaboration tools to be equal to or better than their personal social or shopping applications.

  • Role-based simplification

    A personalized experience presents information needed at the right time to complete the business process, thus removing complexity and allowing  automated background processes to simplify the business.


  • Mobile

    Complex transactions are provisioned as simplified experiences. Business systems are not replaced but are decoupled from the streamlined user experience for example,the way a simple travel app for staff and researchers interacts with a complex scheduling, global booking, and payment system.

  • Value of orchestration

    Professors and advisors can leverage student & learning data to engage students in a more intimate way, thus improving the learner experience and outcomes. Faculty can easily collaborate and share results with the research community or faster outcomes, which contribute to the university’s mission and success.

How can SAP help to drive digitization and a better student experience?

A single customer engagement & commerce platform brings together university marketing, student recruitment, student services and commerce to ensure seamless digitization of the entire “customer” experience. Here below an example of one journey from one individual student: certain touch points which made him or her made the choice for a certain ‘product’: can be a sweater of the university, a book, a course a program, anything. The below is just one example of one individual student, obviously each (prospective) student journey is unique. Multiple patterns of engagement exist because everey journey is unique and every point of engagement along the way (e.g. from first touchpoint to actual enrollment) matters, particularly when you want to engage the individual in a 1-1 fashion.

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SAP solutions for customer (i.e. student!) engagement and commerce powered by the SAP HANA platform enable a 360-degree view of your prospective students, real-time interaction and engagement, and sophisticated, predictive analytics, with potential integration to core key transactional systems on campus (e.g. S/4 HANA with SAP Student Lifecycle Management). Key components of our customer engagement & commerce platform:

  • Orchestrate business processes across university marketing, commerce, service, and student recruitment


  • Deliver personalized experiences in context with each interaction with your (prospective) students

  • Centralize the ‘product’ offering (courses, programs, ‘shop’ items etc) of your institution in a one-stop-shop experience for all key stakeholders

  • Create a single, harmonized experience for your “customers” while reducing the burden on staff helped with predictive analytics

  • Engage your “customers” on the channels they choose at any moment in their journey supported with social communities


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Examples of Customer Engagement & Commerce for Higher Ed

Example 1 – Hybris yCommerce

The below screenshots taken from a demo environment of Hybris yCommerce is not just a website, there is powerful platform driving the ‘product’ management, orchestration of these university products and provide a single (mobilized/responsive) and harmonized user experience for your “customers”. This is just the tip-of-the-iceberg’. Hybris’ omni-channel yCommerce solution helps you target and engage with your customers better, wherever they are. As the world of commerce (or student engagement) continues to change, you need to provide you ‘customers’ a consistent and meaningful experience – across every channel, every time. Hybris is omni-channel at its core. This commerce software helps integrate all digital and physical ‘customer’ touch points onto a single platform – including online, mobile, point-of-sale, call center, social media and print. With Hybris yCommerce for Higher Education you are able to create contextual, personalized and relevant ‘customer’ experiences that boost recruitment and increase (prospective) student engagement.

Beside the core Hybris yCommerce components you can enable your platform with the below options to maximize the (prospective) student engagement:

  • Jam Communities: socially enable your university ‘products’ to keep prospective engaged and informed
  • yForms: create online forms to capture prospective student’s question, interest, registrations (e.g. forms for open campus day registrations)
  • Live Chat: drive engagement by supporting prospective students with live chats if they burning questions during visiting your ‘products’
  • Assisted Service Module: drive engagement with options to take over shopping carts during a student shop-experience.

You can learn more on Hybris yCommerce here.

Landing page of your university setup in the look&feel you want, running on any-device, any-browser:

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Prospective students searching accross the entire academic offering via a ‘shopping’ experience:

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Presenting your ‘products’  in a unified manner, socially enabled with capabilities to ensure imported SIS data with more ‘marketing’ and ‘commercial’ information, pictures, maps, videos, etc etc:

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Link products via the platform to drive cross and upselling as well as keep prospective student engaged with social selling capabilities with the social-community component (blogs, reviews, discussion and Q&A):

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Example 2 – Hybris yMarketing

The below video  on Hybris yMarketing shows you a small selection and example of available processes you can setup, manage and execute with this solution to build a stronger, better university brand and to engage with key stakeholders like for example prospective students. Hybris yMarketing for universities enables you with real-time contextual marketing, engage with your (prospective) students, delight them, and cultivate brand relationships by marketing to an audience of one. Hybris Marketing enables university marketing and recruiting teams to develop a deeper understanding of their customers/students/prospect students/etc to know what they have done, what they may do, and most importantly what they are doing now. It enables you to gain real-time insights into the context of each individual student, and leverage these insights to deliver highly individualized customer experiences across all channels.

Higher Education customer example adopting Hybris yCommerce

Early 2016 Saxion Applied University from the Netherlands decided to go for an e-Commerce solution driving and supporting a new business model. They made the choice for SAP Hybris yCommerce Edge which they are currently implementing (by our partner itelligence Benelux). They specifically made the choice for the SAP/Hybris e-Commerce solution to re-imagine and drive a new busines model called ‘part-time school’ as well as delivering  students for this school a ‘consumer’ and ‘shopping’ like experience.


Saxion jointly with itelligence are currently implementing yCommerce Edge and have the first draft/test versions live accessible via Saxion Parttime School Shop .


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You can learn more on the above project via this link to the itelligence websites.  


How to start with Customer Engagement & Commerce for Higher Education

Not only customers like Saxion University are recognizing that it is time to engage with (prospective) students on their terms: mobilized, social and with a consumer-like experience, also the key higher ed analyst out there like Gartner, Ovum see ‘constituent relationship management’ as one of the top priorities for higher ed. SAP can help you on the journey to become a digitized university and even go-beyond CRM with the SAP Customer Engagement & Commerce Platform. Such a journey requires involvement of your customers and consumers and a systematic approach to identify and capture opportunities and innovation areas for example in the space of student recruitment and university marketing.


For true innovation, a new level of collaboration is required. As a result, SAP has developed a framework that will provide a continuous and holistic partnership model to drive collaboration and engagement. Outlined below are the five steps of SAP’s collaborative value and innovation framework:


  1. Strategy alignment: Understand the university’s and SAP‘s strategic direction and identify initiatives
  2. Opportunity assessment: Opportunity deep-dive based on strategic initiatives and prioritization based on value
  3. Solution roadmap and return on investment: Document end-state solution and business case including benefits, total cost of ownership, return on investment, and strategic roadmap
  4. Value realization: Deliver transformation on time ,on budget, and on value
  5. Governance: Maximize investments and accelerate value creation with governance based on executive engagement, value delivery,

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Learn more

During the last HERUG 2016 organized by Duke University (Durham, USA) I have presented on the topic of Student Engagement and Commerce, via the following link you can find my presentation and get more insights.

Other Interesting links to discover how SAP can drive the ‘digitized university’:



Best regards – Rob

SAP Solution Management Higher Education & Research


Follow me on Twitter: Rob Jonkers (@jonkersrob) | Twitter

SAP for Higher Education: SAP for Higher Ed (@SAPforHigherEd) | Twitter


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2 Comments

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  1. Malcolm Woodfield

    This is a great explanation of how to implement “customer” strategies in Higher Education.  SAP’s Hybris platform is perfect as an enabler of this new way of engaging with the next generation of students who are looking for an overall “experience” of education not just an education “product” or diploma.

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