Marketers will focus on mobile more than ever before in 2014

If the last couple of years witnessed the word “mobile” shoot up the ranks of marketing buzzwords, 2014 is the year every internationally oriented education institution will place “mobile” on its top priority list.

The latest mobile statistics make the case:

  • Almost half of Internet consumers across the world are now using mobile devices as their primary mechanism for surfing the Web, according to Marketing Land;
  • According to research firm Gartner, Inc., in 2013, mobile apps will generate revenues of US $26 billion, a 70% increase over 2012;
  • According to Ericsson, mobile subscriptions will reach 9.3 billion by 2019, and of these, 5.6 billion will be for smartphones;
  • Smartphone subscriptions will triple and smartphone traffic will increase 10 times between 2013 and 2019, also according to Ericsson;
  • Another study by Morgan Stanley found that 91% of all Americans keep their mobile devices within reach at all times (i.e., 24/7).

Some have gone so far as to say that for retail companies, not having a mobile-optimised website is as damaging, from a revenue standpoint, as closing one’s store for one day a week. And 61% of people have a better opinion of brands when they offer a good mobile experience, according to research firm Latitude.

For the education market specifically, a new research study shows just how important a mobile presence is for engaging potential students and for recruitment purposes in general. Noel-Levitz, OmniUpdate, CollegeWeekLive, and NRCCUA conducted a study in 2013 among 2,000 American high school juniors and seniors as they were checking out colleges online, focusing especially on their attitudes and behaviours regarding using their mobile devices. The study, entitled 2013 E-Expectations Report: The impact of mobile browsing on the college search process, found that:

  • 78% of students had regular access to a mobile device;
  • 43% reported using their mobile devices for all their web browsing;
  • 68% said they had viewed college websites on a mobile device;
  • 73% of students expressed interest in downloading campus-specific applications for schools on their target list;
  • 47% checked email on their mobile devices daily; 67% checked at least once per week.

It’s not just the US that is witnessing the huge surge in mobile activity: smartphone penetration has reached 91% in China, and in Korea, 83.7% of high school students own a smartphone.

There are hundreds more statistics we could present to underline the importance of reaching out to students via mobile devices and strategies, but more importantly, we want to explore some of the implications of the ascendance of mobile as a recruitment tool for educators.

Specifically, what do educators need to do to ensure their mobile marketing generates results? Part 1 of this series explores what consumers – including students – now expect from mobile marketing, while Part 2 looks at the ways educators can integrate mobile strategies into their overall marketing plans.

Make it easy

Since Day 1 of consumers using the Internet for shopping and shopping research, the first rule of thumb has been “Make it easy, and make it fast.” But with mobile, this is even truer.

Much has changed from a couple of years ago, when consumers were frustrated with most mobile experiences due to problems like the small screens, awkward “input” (e.g., ways of typing in needed information to progress with the experience), poor design (e.g., too cluttered screens that have been minimised rather than optimised for the mobile viewing experience), and often interminable download times.

Now, thanks to some brands’ pioneering mobile design work, consumers are discerning. They spend a lot of time shopping and researching on their smartphones, and they now expect their mobile screens to present them with quick and easy ways – easier even than how they shop on their desktops and laptops – to find the information they need right away. They also expect prominent – and easy to complete – calls to action.

But it works both ways: research shows that consumers are responding more immediately and dramatically to mobile marketing than to other forms of promotion. According to the wireless industry association CTIA:

“It takes 90 minutes for the average person to respond to an email. It takes 90 seconds for the average person to respond to a text message.”

Consider also these statistics, as compiled by Hubspot:

  • 70% of all mobile searches result in action within one hour, according to Mobile Marketer;
  • Mobile coupons get ten times the redemption rate of traditional coupons, according to Borrell Associates.

All to say: consumers are already conditioned to want to act fast on mobile marketing. Now it is up to marketers to make that possible for them.

Mobile optimisation: it’s not just about making information fit on a smaller screen

Yes, yes, the screen is smaller on a smartphone than on a laptop. Initially that did guide “responsive” design and other strategies for making information digestible and attractive on smartphones.

But as mentioned earlier, consumers are now demonstrating more aggressive, ends-oriented search and shopping behaviour on smartphones than they are on other devices. So that means that mobile design has to prioritise these things to work for them:

  • Fast: In terms of download time, and in terms of consumers finding exactly the information they want and the actions they want to perform (e.g., “Schedule a campus visit”).
  • Reward: In terms of a mobile session producing a desired result (e.g., “I downloaded the programme brochure”) or delivering an exclusive benefit (e.g., “Because I visited the mobile site, I got a free x or y.”)
  • Easy: Because mobile users are even more impatient when they search/want to accomplish tasks on their phones, it is incumbent upon the brand to make design and functionality as error-free as possible in order for the user’s session to be deemed a success.

Consumers’ demands of mobile dictate mobile design priorities

The key activities for education institutions to perform in 2014 when rolling out their mobile strategies are to research (from good, collected proprietary and other data if at all possible) the top searches, requests, courses/programmes, and conversion points for prospective, target students. Then, that “top” area of prospective student interest must be reflected on the mobile site or app.

Here’s what Bob Johnson, a higher education marketing consultant, has to say about typical “good tasks” to include on a mobile site for students:

  • Find programme information;
  • Register for a campus visit;
  • Inquire about enrolment, if simple;
  • Check application status;
  • Pay enrolment deposit

As Johnson says, “mobilise, don’t miniaturise.” Or, as he quotes the University of Minnesota’s Drew Stevenson, as saying:

“The mobile context is so different from the desktop one it requires direct consideration vs. just mangling down a full-size site.”

Once design is determined, the next step is to thoroughly test (and then test again) to make sure it holds up under a variety of circumstances, locations, and platforms.

Looking ahead

As important as mobile design and basic functionality remain – which is why we devoted a full article to them here – we are now at a stage where the best brands are maximising the reach and power of their mobile marketing with integrated and SEO strategies. They are experimenting with mobile as a way to offer the most personalised, compelling marketing yet – and so we’ve devoted a full article to this potential in our second half of this series. Go to Part 2 now!



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