Education marketing has been consistently evolving in an effort to adapt to the drastic shift to online learning. While in-classroom learning is bouncing back, the adoption of virtual learning environments has created new opportunities. Among them, digital marketing has taken center stage as a strategy for increasing enrollment and bringing prospective students into programs.
To find success in the upcoming school year and beyond, marketers should embrace recent changes to the education landscape. To help you earn that A, we’ve highlighted current education marketing trends, how education is evolving, and digital strategies that you can leverage for your education marketing campaigns.
Trends That Are Impacting Education Marketing
Over the last two years institutions have made quick changes to help them adjust to educating students during a pandemic. For many, this has meant shifting to online education. The adoption of digital in education has resulted in a couple notable trends that education marketers should keep top of mind.
Education is for everyone.
Education is being increasingly viewed as a lifelong activity rather than a time bound activity with set milestones, like graduating college. Students today are not just prospective school or college applicants. They are often professionals who are looking to upskill, retrain for a different career, or simply refresh their skills. According to eMarketer, people applying to online programs in 2020 identified two major objectives: A career change to secure a better paying job, or to pursue a career that better aligned with their interests.
Time spent with screens is rising.
Stay-at-home orders that were put in place during 2020 influenced a historic rise in screen time for students and teachers. Students’ screen time was more than 4 hours per day, while averaging an extra 1.5 hours daily of recreational screen time. This increase in e-learning was anticipated when schools and colleges simultaneously pivoted to remote or hybrid learning models. While many students are returning to the classroom, the increase in screen time is now an established habit that will likely persist.
Back to school shopping goes digital.
Retail saw a shift to digital in 2020, as did educational shopping. With education becoming digital-first, electronic products became the focus of back to school shopping lists for students and teachers. Forty percent of parents now expect to buy fewer traditional school supplies as technology has become more prevalent in class. Electronic products formed the bulk of back to school and college shopping lists for the year—technology spending up by 28%, offsetting a reduction in apparel and traditional back to school items.
How Education is Evolving
The above trends are a big part of the equation when it comes to how education is evolving. They are driving shifts in the education landscape that are important to note, because these shifts highlight the audiences that education marketers should be targeting, and how best to reach those audiences. Here are 4 key ways in which education is evolving.
E-learning is here to stay.
Although restrictions around the world are loosening, there hasn’t been a mass return to in-classroom learning. The pandemic accelerated the shift towards remote and hybrid learning. These trends are unlikely to reverse due to a confluence of factors, from safety concerns to the convenience and accessibility of remote learning. E-learning is expected to see a compound annual growth rate of 7.5% to 10.5% between 2018 and 2024. With the 5G rollout ramping up, wide access to high speed internet is expected to turbocharge applications that rely on streaming, with education being one of the beneficiaries.
Fewer students are interested in full-service degrees.
Students are increasingly opting for ‘nano-learning’ models such as micro-credentialing, competency-based education and nano-degrees as alternatives. In a KPMG survey conducted in 11 countries and territories which examined attitudes about higher education, 61% of respondents said a degree is less valuable than 10 years ago. Searches for ‘certificate programs’ and ‘online degree’ keywords were up 14% and 18% respectively.
Affordability is a top factor in decision making.
Affordability, reputation and academic credit for work or life experiences are the top 3 influencing factors for selecting a school. According to Statista, 51% of survey respondents chose affordability as the leading factor behind choosing an online program. This may have been fueled by economic uncertainty and the rise of educational costs. Reputation of the school or program (36%), academic credit for work or life experience (29%), and quickest path to a degree (28%) are some of the other factors that are high priority for students.
There’s a market for remedial learning.
As disparities grow and the pandemic leads to setbacks for some students in their education, many will be needing extra help. Assessment data shows that students in their sample learned only 67% of the math and 87% of the reading that grade-level peers would typically have learned by the fall of 2020. On average, that means students lost the equivalent of three months of learning in mathematics and one-and-a-half months of learning in reading. This gap is likely to continue growing as the pandemic continues, which means a growing market for remedial learning services like high intensity tutoring, and acceleration academies.
Earn an A With These Education Marketing Tips
Now that we’ve seen the full report card when it comes to trends and the education landscape, it’s time to dig into the best digital strategies for education marketers. Here are 4 tips that education marketers can leverage when building their digital strategy.
Be attentive to emerging formats.
Student habits are shifting, which means it’s more important than ever to pay attention to emerging formats. For example, usage of TikTok has been up 33% for Gen Z respondents and 27% for millennials. Over-the-top (OTT), live video, and audio podcasts have all seen a surge in the last year and continue to capture an ever-growing percentage of the digital media diet. To capture the attention of prospective students, it’s important to have a pulse on where they are spending their time, and then be sure to be present on those channels.
Adjust your strategy according to digital adoption.
In the past, the education sector has had a more traditional marketing approach to recruitment and the back to school season. Now is the time to embrace the digital signals students and educators have been adjusting to in the last year. For education marketers planning and strategizing for the school year ahead, it’s important to consider their prospective student’s perspective and habits so that you’re able to connect with them, and offer a personalized experience. The starting point for this is to ensure institutions are creating a strong brand presence online, and a coherent digital strategy. This will help them to stand out from the crowd while gathering data to make informed decisions.
Target your desired audiences with care.
Key life decisions such as a college selection, career change and high value purchases aren’t often made in isolation. Education marketers should leverage demographics and life event data to not only capture prospective students, but also parents, family members, and peer groups. You can narrow down your targeting by using tactics like contextual advertising to target professionals who are looking to upskill and keep pace with demands of this skills-based economy. Or, incorporate geo radius targeting as a strategy to reach prospective students, since 67% of online students live within 50 miles or less of the college campus.
Use a multi-channel strategy to capture attention.
Students today spend their time on a mixture of channels. They might scroll social platforms first thing in the morning, listen to a podcast on their commute, and then spend the afternoon browsing online. Education marketers should update your approach to reflect this consumer behaviour shift with a multi-channel strategy. With a multi-channel strategy, you can reach prospective students throughout the entire funnel, creating a cohesive story across channels like native, display, video, connected TV (CTV), and audio.
How Education Marketers Can School the Competition
In education marketing today, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. Education marketers should be on top of the rapidly changing trends and evolving education landscape so that they’re able to speak to changing concerns and expectations of prospective students.
Affordability, for example, ranks highest among factors that influence online program choice. Given this, education marketers should craft messaging that addresses pricing and highlights return on investment. It’s also key to cater the messaging depending on the type of student being targeted. For example, when reaching audiences who are evaluating a career change, emphasizing earning growth potential makes the most sense.
In 2022, earn an A in education marketing by being willing to experiment, and keeping your strategy fresh and nimble.
Tune into this episode of the How Agencies Thrive podcast to learn how education marketers have adopted new strategies to stay relevant and competitive in a rapidly changing education climate.