With so many options for how prospective students can find and gather information on colleges and universities today, it may seem overwhelming to try and determine exactly what practices admissions and marketing should implement.

To help today’s higher education admissions and marketing teams develop successful, efficient enrollment strategies, Jornaya (a sales insight data startup and formerly known as LeadiD) recently conducted a cross-industry analysis of over 40,000 consumers from a third-party generation channel, including those in the higher education market (prospective students), that converted to customers. Jornaya then traced those consumers back in time to understand their online behavior across several key factors leading up to their decision to convert.

The study dedicates a large amount of research on the enrollment journey, which could be helpful for institutions looking to maximize marketing ROI and meet enrollment goals; specifically, the research highlights six questions admissions and marketing should be asking today based on the study’s findings:

1. How much effort should you put into your school site’s mobile friendliness? Mobile use is common for consumer products purchases, but how does that translate for high consideration purchases like an education? How many prospective students use mobile exclusively when in the journey to find the right school to attend? What percent of prospects submit an inquiry from a mobile device?

According to Jornaya’s research, most prospective students begin their search for a suitable institution on mobile devices. Desktop devices were also used during later research on specific colleges and universities. Mobile device searches were also used toward the end of the decision-making process.

2. Do prospective students get most of their information from the school’s own web site? Or do they use third party education sites for information about school programs? Should you be investing any marketing spend with third party sites?

The study overwhelmingly showed that when looking at just third-party site visits—excluding any touch points directly on the brand’s own site—over 80 percent of consumers had more than one visit to a third-party site. Also, more than 50 percent had at least 4 third-party site visits, and 20 percent of consumers had more than 8 third-party site visits along their journey.

(Next page: Admissions and marketing question 3-6)

3. Does the typical prospective student comparison shop? How many websites does a student typically visit before submitting an inquiry?

Reviewing aggregated data for the higher education industry, the median number of site visits is five leading up to and including the submitted enrollment form. This high percentage of visits to unique sites is notable, says the report, because it indicates that prospective students are shopping around on several different lead generator sites before making the decision to submit their form.

4. If you knew that your school’s site was the fifth education-related site a prospect is visiting in their journey, what could or should you do differently to maximize the chance that the prospect asks for more information by submitting an inquiry?

5. How long should your admissions teams be nurturing prospective students? In other words, how many days is the typical prospective student journey from start of active online research to enrollment? Is giving up after a month giving up too early?

According to the research, for prospective students who executed at least two engagements with an institution, the median number of days between the first and second engagements was 28 days. For prospectives who had at least three engagements, the median number of days between the second and third engagements was 12 days. And, when examining prospectives who performed 8 to 10 engagements—20 percent of all consumers in the overall study—the typical number of days between those visits is just one or two. The report notes that this illustrated that as the prospective student gets closer to enrollment, the activities related to that decision occur closer together.

6. How can behavioral data improve your school’s marketing attribution model?

The report states that perhaps admissions and marketing can create a premium lead campaign with strategic partners that allow for charging more for high-intent student leads.

For much more information on the research, including methodology and how the different markets are broken down, read Jornaya’s “2016 Consumer Journey Analysis Research Paper: Dissecting the Path to Conversion.

About the Author:

Meris Stansbury

Meris Stansbury is the Editorial Director for both eSchool News and eCampus News, and was formerly the Managing Editor of eCampus News. Before working at eSchool Media, Meris worked as an assistant editor for The World and I, an online curriculum publication. She graduated from Kenyon College in 2006 with a BA in English, and enjoys spending way too much time either reading or cooking.

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