Ci Engage

Embracing Mobile Transformation in Higher Education

Photo of Students on Mobile Devices

How Digital and Now Mobile Transformation is Impacting Student Search

Over the past 20 years the world has transformed tremendously with the advent of digital technologies such as the internet, email, digital advertising social media, and the adoption of mobile devices. Most dramatic is the dependence on our smart phones – now tethered to us 24/7. There isn’t an adult on the planet today that isn’t using their mobile phones in both business and personal life. There certainly isn’t a teen or pre-teen over the age of 10 who doesn’t have their phone in hand every waking moment of their life. The world and people are interconnected to mobile technology 24/7.

How has this impacted the way business conduct themselves? And have companies fully embraced this technological advancement? Yes and no. Internet access back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s meant we all needed a website and had to adopt email as a communication tool. But faster than you could blink, I think we can all agree that the world’s population now relies on and is tethered to their phones. between 2005 and 2015 the world went 100% (or close to it) MOBILE.

By 2011, only 4 years after the iPhone was unveiled, no one was yet forging the trail to allow colleges to make the leap to leveraging a mobile app instead of email, print and phone for recruitment. Apps began to be used in began in retail and consumer marketing. Today in just about all advertising, you always see “get our app” whether its banking, healthcare, insurance, transportation – you name it. We are accustomed to seeing those App Store and Google Play logos everywhere.

But when it comes to high education institutions, you just don’t see it. Believe it or as late as 2014, nearly 70% of colleges still lacked mobile responsive websites. Even today, 3 years later, student recruitment emails are regularly designed without taking into consideration that nearly every email is opened by student prospects on their mobile phones.

Keeping pace with evolving digital communications

Digital transformation isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. Technology evolved so quickly that every industry from large corporations to healthcare to government and everything in between must play catch up. Higher education, in my experience has not yet even started to address a true digital transformation, let alone a mobile transformation. Sure, every college has a website and many colleges offer online courses and classrooms, but they are still predominantly communicating with potential new students using email and print. Fill out an information request form on any college website and you will undoubtedly get an email response and a thank you letter and printed brochure in the mail.

Many colleges don’t have a digital transformation strategy or roadmap planned out. They are still stuck in the mud trying to figure out a way architect a digital strategy that incorporates the internet and email, let alone tackle the new opportunities a mobile communications channel brings to the table. Forward thinking colleges need to get strategic and plan for the inevitable – the day when posted mail and voice communications, and even email, will be a thing of the past. And if not completely abandoned, will be much less effective than they are today.

Adopting a mobile-first mindset to recruit Gen Z

So, what can colleges do to be more mobile forward? They need to start the conversation around adopting a mobile strategy to complement their existing digital strategy NOW. Those who want to be proactive need to plan a roadmap and invest in something that might be a 3-5 year game plan. No company or organization can make these types of digital transitions in a year or two.

The train has left the station with kids and mobile, and within 3-5 years there won’t be a teen (and probably not a young parent) that will be reachable through traditional channels. Colleges need to start by talking about mobile transformation from now and the tools available to take the search mobile, to succeed in making a transformation to mobile before.

As an industry we can’t just shut off the way we are recruiting students today. It’s not just about the technology, it’s also about a legacy culture that requires a mental and cultural change. We need enrollment managers to think about student search in a different way. Those who today ask the question, “Why would a prospective candidate download a mobile app?”, need the mind shift to: “We understand young teens and their parents increasingly communicate and consume content through mobile apps and need to start building this channel into our student search strategy.” Colleges need to make the transition slowly now, to be poised for success in the near future without having to play the catchup game.

Learn how the CiEngage platform allows you to easily adopt a mobile marketing strategy to keep pace with the next wave of digital transformation.