What 2023 Has In Store: Trends in Higher Education Marketing
Marketers Will Be Watching These Trends
Predicting the trends in higher education can feel like that game where people guess how many jellybeans are in the jar. Some people will throw out a random number, others will try to count the visible jellies and extrapolate an answer. A few might refuse to play at all because they don’t see the point.
But this game is actually pretty easy to win with the right information. Someone who knows the volume of a jar and the average size of a jellybean can make an educated prediction using a little math. At EDDY, we strive to be informed predictors. Based on data we’ve collected over the last few years, here are our educated predictions for the trends in higher education for 2023.
Higher Education Trends: Transition Accelerates
Change is inevitable, and the events of the past few years have pushed higher ed programs to change faster than ever before. More colleges and universities are adopting online programs, and more students seem to want these flexible options. Expect this trend to continue into 2023 and beyond.
Speaking of flexibility, more students will seek credentials and certificates rather than opting for traditional degree programs. The shorter time and financial commitment make these faster-payoff programs more attractive. Expect more students to demand standalone and stackable credentials, especially at the post-bachelors level, where learners tend to be older and more established in their careers.
Student demographics are in transition as well. Overall enrollment is down. Although long-term projections indicate a slight increase from 2023 to 2030, many student populations are declining. Even traditional-aged students are increasingly opting for a non-traditional higher ed experience. Most will start a job and pursue a degree while working.
All of this means that the only really viable way for a college or university to grow is by competing for a larger share of a shrinking population set. The question is, how?
The Higher Ed Landscape Faces Significant Headwinds
To find the answer, look beyond the higher education market for broader economic trends. Inflation and interest rates are on the rise. Some employers are struggling to find their post-pandemic footing in a world of hybrid work. All of this is encouraging consumers to become more budget-conscious. They’re seeking higher value at a lower cost.
Our research shows that students will follow the same trend. They want to know how higher education will help them improve job prospects, increase their earnings, or maximize their flexibility. They’re becoming more informed shoppers who conduct significant research before ever speaking to an enrollment advisor. In this environment, every touchpoint counts.
To make the most of every interaction, marketers will need to focus on the website experience. Potential students will expect accessibility and usability in every online experience. The programs that stand out will offer delightful user interfaces that are not only usable but also useful.
Keep in mind that user experience is a moving target. As users and technology evolve, marketers need to invest in research to understand audience behaviors, preferences, and pain points, then tailor experiences to those needs.
Personalized messaging, conversational language, and unique imagery will help optimize conversion rates. Aim for authenticity and personability. Modern students don’t want to be part of a program that speaks down to them, they want to be part of a community.
At the same time, marketers need to reassure students that the college respects their data privacy and understands their needs. Privacy-safe, first-party data is more valuable than ever.
Hidden within this challenging marketing environment is a new opportunity to serve those with some college but no credential. Messaging that addresses the unique needs and motivations of these students can help bring them back to higher ed.
High-Value Marketing Platforms for Higher Ed
The way marketers reach students is evolving, although social media will continue to play a major role. For example, Meta recently rolled out Reels advertising that works best with unique creatives. Meanwhile, newsfeed ads offer the best opportunity for direct conversions with a combination of single-image and video placements.
The amazing growth of TikTok over the last few years has led marketers to invest more in paid advertising, entering the space at varying budget levels. The quick video format of TikTok is ideal for brand building and increasing awareness across new and existing audiences.
LinkedIn continues to be the leading professionally-focused social media platform with exceptional reach and engagement opportunities. Recently announced updates to LinkedIn offer marketers the opportunity to reliably engage potential students through messaging.
In addition to optimizing for each platform, successful marketing campaigns will focus on multi-channel engagement for enrollment management. Search campaigns will evolve as Google continues to launch new products like Keyword Themes. Both ad and content strategies will need to shift to meet the changing search patterns of real users.
Trends in Higher Education Continue to Evolve
It doesn’t take fancy math skills to recognize that a tighter economy, plus more discerning consumers, plus an expanding array of social media platforms equals more challenges for marketers in the coming years. The good news is that all of these challenges can be turned into opportunities with the right approach.
Overall, higher ed marketers are facing greater competition for increasingly discerning students. Potential students are doing more research upfront and expect colleges and universities to tell them exactly where a degree will lead them. They’re not looking for any job, they’re looking for the right job. To get there, they don’t want just any credentials, they want the right credential for them.
EDDY understands students with data and research that allows us to build everything from marketing to experience around the student. We support their desire to self-serve with better UX, quality content, and easy conversion opportunities. Contact us today to start building a marketing plan for 2023 and beyond.