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Higher Education Conversion Rates Vary Based on What You’re Selling and How Inquiries Are Generated

January 3, 2017 Kathy Bryan

Online Higher Education Conversion Rates Are Climbing

Although higher education conversion rates were flat across all program types between Q2 2016 and Q3 2016, the conversion rate for online programs spiked in Q3 2016 to 8.8% according to our Q3 2016 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Review. This conversion rate is the highest for online programs since before 2014, and the cohort is not even fully mature.

Campus-Based Higher Education Conversion Rates May Be Stabilizing

Conversion rates for campus-based programs peaked at 11.3% in Q4 2014 and declined every quarter since Q2 2015. The conversion rate slip from Q2 2016 to Q3 2016 was minor, potentially indicating the start of a stabilization period.

First-Party Channel Conversion Rates Are Slipping

After peaking at 17.1% in Q3 2014, the conversion rates of first-party channels have consistently fallen ― down every quarter since Q3 2015.

The conversion rate for Q1 2016 was 14.5%. Although this represents strong performance in comparison to all leads, it was down 4.8% YOY. Most likely, this can be attributed to the expansion of emerging first-party channels (like social advertising) that do not convert at the higher rates of paid search and organically driven leads. The conversion rate for Q2 2016 was 14.2%. Taking further maturation into account, we expect it will wrap up with a final conversion rate similar to the quarter prior. With much more maturing still to come, the conversion rate of Q3 2016 was 13.7%.

Third-Party Conversion Rates Remain Steady

Conversion rates for third-party inquiries steadily hang in the 3-4% region. The Q1 2016 conversion rate was 3.9%, the lowest conversion rate we’ve seen since the first quarter of 2015. Due to high inquiry volume rates, conversion rates are typically the lowest during the first quarter of each year. The 3.9% conversion rate during the first three months of this year surpassed the 3.7% first quarter conversion rate of 2015 and the 3.0% conversion rate from Q1 2014.

Expected to mature slightly more, the 4.0% conversion rate from Q2 2016 was on par with norms. At 4.02% in Q3 2016, continued maturation may bring this quarter’s conversion rate above the 4.4% peak from Q2 2015.

The Sparkroom Q3 2016 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Review covers overall trends in the inquiry and student acquisition activities of higher education institutions for the period of January-September 2016. The following topics are featured:

  • Inquiry volume
  • Conversion rates
  • Channel distribution
  • Inquiry costs
  • Program distribution
  • Degree-level distribution

Click here to get your free copy of the Sparkroom Q3 2016 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Review.

Note: The data within the Sparkroom Q3 2016 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Review is based on last-click attribution tracking. Many first-party channels log stronger performance when cross-channel attribution is measured.

About the Author

Kathy Bryan

Kathy Bryan is the Chief Marketing Officer at Digital Media Solutions (DMS). In this role, Kathy is responsible for all aspects of marketing and communications for DMS, the leading global martech company leveraging innovative, performance-driven brand and marketplace solutions to connect consumers and advertisers.

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