Mobile: The Biggest Tech Change Facing Higher Education Marketing

NOTE: This is another in a series of posts dedicated to digital marketing for higher education.

There’s a sea of change happening in the digital world that will have large and far-reaching effects on how institutions of higher education reach prospective students. As with all things digital, the change is moving fast and furious.

Do you know what’s the biggest technological change facing higher education? Look no further than your smartphone (or tablet), because it will soon overtake desktops as the primary tool for researching colleges and universities.

What goes around, comes around, and just as the desktop overtook the phone as the primary means of communication, now so will mobile – a phone with benefits – overtake desktop.

Why higher ed needs mobile

In Noel-Levitz’ most recent e-Expectations Report: The Online Preferences of College-Bound High School Seniors and Their Parents, 90% of college-bound seniors reported having regular access to a mobile device – up 12% from 2013.

In addition, 71% reported having viewed a college site on their mobile. For their parents, 81% had regular access to a mobile device, and 45% had looked at a college site on one. Both students and parents overwhelmingly said they used smartphones for their mobile browsing.

Seniors want college web pages to adapt to mobile

The survey also reported that 51% of seniors wanted college web pages to adapt to their mobile screens. It’s an understandable request because conversion actions used today were largely developed in the age of desktops, and in some cases, are very inconvenient to use on mobile devices.

For example, just imagine what happens when a student using mobile wants to download a 40-page view-book. Needless to say, it’s not an optimal user experience, and as a result, the number of view-book downloads is in decline.

The signs are clear; colleges and universities need to adapt their web pages, forms, and emails to mobile displays – or run the risk of losing out on prospective students who receive a less than stellar user experience. Yet, only 43% of four-year institutions and 26% of two-year campuses said they’ve updated their site to work well on either tablets or smartphones.

Adapting to mobile means rethinking higher ed conversions

Adapting to mobile doesn’t just mean creating information that can be viewed on a variety of screens – it means rethinking how your institution markets across devices of varying sizes.

Think about the view-book example cited above; you can make it viewable on a mobile, but it loses its oomph. A more attractive option might mean setting up a chat function that allows the prospect to text their questions; provide an easy-dial ‘Phone a Friend’ button that rings through to the admissions office; or better yet, provide a view-book experience specifically designed for smartphones.

In short, adapting to mobile means learning to think outside the box created by the desktop.

Higher education should embrace the mobile change

Conversion rates are lower on mobile than on desktop – due to the physical constraints of mobile devices as well as the different usage patterns of mobile users. Still, the world is changing in that direction and what works best in mobile is still being explored. Embracing the change could pay dividends though – 59% of college-bound seniors reported they were more likely to consider schools that use email, text messages or social media to communicate with them. That number is up from 49% in 2013, and will only continue to grow. As we’ve seen time and time again in the digital world, signs like this point to change that will forever alter how higher education marketing and student recruitment is run. It’s time to embrace the change mobile offers and make it a part of your program.

About VONT Performance Digital Marketing

At VONT we believe that change is the only constant in the digital world – and that excites us. Over the years, digital marketing has played an ever-growing role in higher education recruitment. From lead generation for inquiries, campus visits, and applications to increasing brand awareness and student yield – digital marketing and ongoing optimizations can have a significant impact on the objectives that confront today’s higher ed marketer.

We believe in this idea of continual fine-tuning so much that we named our company VONT, which means to achieve exponential improvement in incremental steps. It is our core belief, and the reason why we are not simply a web design company or simply a digital advertising agency, but rather a long-term, single source partner providing a comprehensive array of web development and digital marketing capabilities for higher education clients.

In short, we’re here so that our clients achieve success in the ever-changing digital world. If you’d like to learn more about VONT and the work we’ve done with our higher education clients, visit our Work page. Or, if you have a question, contact us. We’ll get right back to you!

Heidi McInerney
Written By

Heidi McInerney

UX Writer | Digital Content