As 2014 begins to draw to a close, it’s again that the time of year when, between attempting to dodge the nog and aulding some lang syne, experts shake their Magic 8-Balls like a snow globe and attempt to plan what’s going to happen during the next year.
Look, it’s trendy to make predictions in December. It makes you seem like a smarty pants and no one ever goes back to read your past predictions to see if you were right. But sometimes people seem to display an eerie prescience – way back in the lang syne of 1987, then-up-and-comer Apple Inc released, in addition to the Macintosh II, a promotional video for a voice-controlled touchscreen tablet called the Knowledge Navigator, set on the future date of September 16, 2011. Twenty-four years later (and a little less than one month late, according to the original video), Apple debuted the iPhone 4S with Siri.
The Best Predictions are Based on Fact
Our team believes in the power of analytics to help us better understand the past and make intelligent decisions about the future. The predictions listed below, all from our team, are developed from the combined power of our vast data resources and performance marketing expertise.
Lower Cost for First-Party Inquiry Generation
First-party inquiry generation takes time to scale and effectively measure. As schools continue to be more efficient in this area, they’ll lower their cost per inquiries (CPI) and generate more first-party volume without having to invest substantially more marketing budget to do so.
Decreased Third-Party Inquiry Volume
Schools will pull back on third-party sources, especially third-party sub-affiliates as they continue to send more first-party traffic to their school pages to generate higher quality student prospect inquiries.
Less Volume Instability
As large school systems continue to undergo federal and state regulatory challenges, the competitive landscape will change in many markets to allow new schools to move in or begin to gain market share in certain areas. Capturing this unmet student demand will require schools to market more aggressively to boost name recognition and overall volume, stopping the successive quarters of inquiry volume decline. Programs that successfully meet gainful employment regulations will be at an advantage, looking to fill student demand that otherwise might have been more dispersed. Same-school inquiry volume will stabilize as well for those positioned to take advantage of market changes.
Higher Paid Search CPCs
As search volume increases and competition increases, cost per click (CPC) will increase as well. Mobile search growth will continue to grow at an alarming rate, with mobile ad spend likely to surpass that of desktop spend for the first time in 2015.
Increased Conversion Rates
Largely driven by reduced third-party share of inquiry volume, conversion rates have improved over the past several months. In September 2014, we measured a 6.22 percent average conversion rate across schools and channels, which is the highest point measured since prior to January 2012. If schools continue to make marketing decisions based on quality and not quantity, it’s likely conversion rates will stay strong or even improve in 2015.
Consumers want content that is relevant to their interests, and they want to know that companies and brands understand them, so personalization can make a big difference in your campaign performance. In fact, the personalization of emails can boost click rates by 14 percent and conversion rates by 10 percent. As schools realize the dramatic impact personalization can have, and as they adopt tools that allow for it, the use of personalization tactics will grow.
(Even) More Smartphones
It’s predicted that 1.25 billion (yes, with a “B”) smartphones were shipped worldwide in 2014 —23.8 percent more than in 2013, with more growth anticipated for 2015. What are people doing on their smartphones? A bit of everything. Email is the top activity on mobile devices and mobile devices are the top platform for social interactions. So everything you do needs to be optimized for the mobile environment.
Better Advertising Accuracy
The battle between digital giants means more options for advertisers. Facebook’s relaunch of Atlas promises to solve tracking issues by replacing the cooking with a persistent ID to track users across devices and let advertisers reach actual people versus profiles of people across the internet. Meanwhile, Google/DoubleClick has made some major enhancements, including an integration with Wildfire and a new campaign manager with enhanced measurement tools, to help advertisers be more efficient across campaigns that include social media.
More Channel Fragmentation
With 90 percent of people moving between devices and channels to accomplish a goal, cross-channel integrated media campaigns with consistent messaging and cross-device audience targeting will remain a main focus for marketers in 2015 as they try to follow their prospective consumer journeys from impression to customer. Related attribution tracking will continue to see enhancements as demand for it grows. The use of platforms that can integrate big data, decision engines, click data, inquiry data and enrollment data, will increase as a result.
Emphasized Native Advertising
As native advertising (the type that matches the style of the platform on which it appears) continues to deliver strong performance, demand for it will grow.
More Social Dollars
Social media will continue to grow by leaps and bounds, but the friction between marketers that expect it to be free will intensify as more of the big players follow Facebook’s lead and move into the pay-to-play format.
Google has already started moving staff away from their social media platform, as social network audiences continue to splinter. Google+ is being positioned as a social layer on top of Google applications, with “forced” posts in order to reap the benefits it provides for other services, like search, email marketing and business reviews. It’s not about being an alternative to Facebook – it’s about how people interact as part of a suite of connected products.
More Outsourcing of Compliance and More Call Center Tracking
With the purpose of achieving budgetary efficiency, marketing teams will move discovery, review and remediation to third-party compliance monitoring solutions while reducing their in-house quality assurance overhead. The robust technology of these outsourced solutions will allow for the monitoring of greater call volume, along with more live agent training opportunities.
And, of course, our fabulous team of subject matter experts:
- Kris Ariatabar – Email Strategist
- Clarissa Banting – Managing Director, Operations
- Jeff Berg – Social Media Strategist
- Ross Bucholc – Senior Paid Search Strategist
- Liz Dye – Director, Marketing Analytics
- Akeel Haider – Director, Marketing Services
- Megan Yuppa – Media Director
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