Capture the Click: Connect with Educators in a Changing Digital Market
12 January 2015
→ Derek Fairfield, Leader, E-Marketing Solutions, MDR
MDR’s annual Digital Trends report, Digital Marketing Trends in the Education Market 2014, provides education marketers a unique and in-depth perspective on what’s working best for digital integrated marketing. Through the healthy sample size of over 131 million educator-targeted emails, this year’s Digital Trends report was born. The full report is available here on schooldata.com. Keep reading on for exclusive highlights of our research!
Email: More + More = Less
The explosive growth of the inbox is a challenge…and not just for the education marketer. While the Digital Marketing Trends report shows that the number of campaigns remained flat, the average size of email campaigns has been increasing since 2011. It is this climb that may be contributing to a decline in Open and Click-Through rates.
- The average Open rate was 7.3%, a decrease from 8.2% in 2013.
- The average Click-Through rate was 1.3%, the lowest ever reported.
Since 2006, average Open rates have shown a declining trend, as shown in the chart below:
Time Is of the Essence: Email Doesn’t Keep Office Hours
The boom in use of mobile devices for email is also having an impact. The 10:00am – 11:00am period used to be the clear winner for the best time to deploy an email. Now the hours of the day are much flatter, although the 5:00pm – 12:00am period is rising in parallel with increased use of social media at these hours.
The Digital Trends report reveals that it is important to look at the population targeted.
- Higher Ed had the highest Open rates on Sundays, but the lowest Click-Through rates.
- K-12 audiences had higher Open rates earlier in the week versus Higher Ed that favored the end of the week.
The low Click-Through rates on Sundays suggest that this audience used time on weekends to clear their inbox. Regardless of day, however, emailing educators after 5:00pm averaged the greatest Open rate, which should certainly be taken into account for future campaign planning.
Just for You: Email Gets Personal
Personalization has proven to be another successful technique in lifting response rates.
- The overall Open rate of “To” or “From” personalized messaging was 8.2%; the Click-Through rate was 1.5%.
- Non-personalized messaging saw Open rates of 7.1%; the Click-Through rate was 1.2%.
Another trend we observed was that in K-12, personalization using the educator’s title worked well; whereas in Higher Ed, first and last name were more effective.
Mobile: An Apple for the Teacher
The story in mobile use by educators is the dominance of iPhone, iPad, and iOS devices; Android devices made up only 4% of the market versus 95% for iOS devices. This lopsided result has a clear impact on how we interpret the findings, however.
- The overall average Open rate on mobile was 18%, with a 1.1% Click-Through rate.
While the Click-Through rate for mobile stood lower than the average Click-Through rate on desktop devices (1.3%), the default setting on iOS devices is to display images, which may have caused inflation in the reported Open rate. If we look at Android, where the default setting is to NOT display images, the Click-Through rate is higher, indicating there was enough interest based on the viewable text to choose to see the images.
- 50% of client campaigns are being opened or clicked through on mobile devices.
- Comparatively, the average B2C mobile access rate was 60%.
The general pattern of Open rates climbing for deployments after 4:00pm was seen in all mobile device categories, echoing the email finding that after-hours mobile device time has become part of the business day.
Web Advertising: Making an Impression
Web ads have also proven to be an effective way to support an email campaign. Even without a direct click on the ad, the View-Through benefit can outweigh the value of a direct click as clearly demonstrated in a client case study we recently compiled.
From 1,143 standard web ads launched by MDR, we saw that:
- The total impressions served for education clients in 2013-2014 exceeded 27 million.
- The overall Click-Through rate was 0.16%, twice the industry average for standard web ads.
We attribute that performance to the effective targeting we are able to offer clients.
Retargeting campaigns achieved an even higher Click-Through rate of 0.23%. While many campaigns do not yet include a retargeting component, the data shows it is a much more effective way to reach and convert an education audience.
Email Follow-Up: One-and-Done Is Done
As educator behavior and preferences evolved in an increasingly digital world, marketers must adapt their strategies for connecting with them.Just as there was a time when dropping a print catalog annually was enough, soon we will look on single-email campaigns in the same light; it may have worked then, but integrated, multichannel marketing is now essential for success.
This year’s Digital Trends report shows that a single touch simply does not have the impact to cut through the noise. As a matter of fact, emails sent to prospects that have already shown interest enjoyed a 47% Open rate. Far from being just another buzzword, integrated marketing is a necessity to counteract the declining performance of email alone.
Outside the Inbox: How an Integrated Digital Campaign Doubles Response
MDR worked with American Book Company to design an integrated digital campaign that directly demonstrated the impact of multiple brand touches on increasing conversions. Two campaigns were run as a test in spring 2014—one was email only and the other was email supported with social media marketing, sponsored email blasts, and targeted web advertising. The results were remarkable.
- Multiple, integrated digital channels drove 155% more sign-ups than a single-channel approach for American Book Company.
- Email drove more than 70% of all sign-ups. Yet, it is also clear that the impressions and engagement generated by social and banner advertising, together with email, helped drive awareness and increase conversions significantly.
In fact, in one state, we tested supporting the emails with only banner ads. This resulted in a 5% lift in sign-ups versus the control group, an improvement we can attribute to the impressions from the banners, not a direct click on the ad. To review this study in detail, you can click here.
The changes that digital marketing is bringing to education are fast moving and profound. A thorough review of the research summarized in Digital Marketing Trends in the Education Market 2014 provides insight to what is working for K-12 and Higher Ed audiences, personalization versus not, mobile device marketing versus desktop, and much more. To learn more about the report, visit schooldata.com. To review the ways to optimize your digital marketing strategy in 2015, connect with your MDR Representative today.
Derek Fairfield leads E-Marketing Solutions and serves as a strategic consultant for integrated solutions, working directly with many MDR customers in their interactive program planning. Derek also directs MDR’s industry-leading e-marketing research and best practices efforts and serves as the author of the annual Digital Marketing Trends report. He currently leads e-marketing product development at MDR. Previously, Derek managed MDR’s Sales Solution product line as well as its Analytics product and is a regular presenter on MDR educational marketing webinars. Before joining MDR, Derek spent over ten years designing and developing B2C and B2B marketing strategies and programs for Direct and Interactive Agencies, as well as Fortune 500 companies.