Even though it feels unusual in higher education, analytics and performance measurement are gaining ground in many institutions. Whether it’s with learning analytics or institutional analytics, more and more higher ed presidents and executives recognize the difference data can make for universities and colleges.
That’s why I asked the 12 higher ed professionals (including myself ;-) of the 2017 Higher Ed Analytics Conference to play the prediction game and tell us what will make a big difference for higher ed digital analytics and measurement in 2017.
Personalized web experiences based on data – Joshua Dodson, Director of Digital Marketing – Bentley University
New and better tools are emerging that enable marketers to provide completely personalized web experiences for website users. We are already used to a customized experience in other areas such as Amazon and Netflix. Amazon knows what others have bought who have also bought items you have purchased. Netflix uses its recommendation engine to recommend movies based on past movies you have watched and enjoyed. Both of these companies are able to do this because it has a vast amount of data on web traffic and user patterns.
We have only begun to scratch the surface of this kind of sophistication in higher ed, but it could make all of our lives much easier if we began implementing effective solutions like this. We must continue to go beyond clickstream data and perform deeper analyses that will enable us to provide 1:1 user experiences. This will become increasingly more important for recruiting prospective student. It is what they have grown up with and it is what they expect.
Personalization and real-time – Ed Garabedian, Manager of Digital Analytics – Johnson & Wales University
I think personalization and real-time digital marketing experiences will become more mainstream in Higher Ed. As our industry becomes more competitive, and the college bound population decreases, it will be imperative for digital marketing teams to personalize messaging, where possible, down to an individual level to maximize the digital conversation and build brand engagement.
Everyone is bombarded with information and ads, our challenge is to somehow break through the clutter and get our brand message heard. I think by leveraging all this data we have collected from analytics and CRM systems, digital marketing is hoping to build better conversations and engagement with real-time with personalization. To see if this experiment does in fact work, fine grain analytic measurement with A/B testing will be key. Leveraging Googles Tag Manager data layer framework for example could be a very helpful tool for us in measuring specific reactions to personalized content.
Google Data Studio – Laura Turner, Interactive Multimedia Manager – Lehigh University
Google Data Studio is going to help many people create interesting, dynamic dashboards and allow them to use data to tell a story or answer questions about their website. It capitalizes on the popularity of infographics and makes it easy for non-designers to create something very professional-looking to share with colleagues. Not only is the tool itself great, it helps people start to think about what they can do with Google Analytics beyond reporting pageviews.
Easier optimization experiments – Aaron Baker, Digital Analytics Lead – Harvard University
I think the changes and new additions that Google is making to its suite of analytics tools (360º) is something to watch.
They are making it much easier to setup page optimization experiments via Tag Manager which we in higher education should use to constantly improve our evergreen content.
Enhanced ecommerce tracking – Alan Etkin, Senior Analyst – British Columbia Institute of Technology
Whatever level you’re at, the more you work with Google Analytics, the better you’ll understand it, and the more you’ll get out of it. I’d recommend focusing on a feature you’re currently not using, whether it’s goal values, custom segments, custom reports or whatever. I try to tackle something new at BCIT every year.
Next up we’re exploring the capabilities of enhanced ecommerce for detailed tracking of course registrations, and for better tracking of behaviour on site.
Marketing tech – Bryan Fendley, Director of Instruction Technology and Web Services – University of Arkansas
It’s getting hard to be a generalist. Digital marketing is a very crowded hunting ground. We are all interested in progressing our careers. The key is, you have to be willing to leave behind what you’re good at today and venture into uncertain waters.
I think for most of us, those waters are going to involve a lot of math, and old school marketing and sales. The whole world is becoming more data aware. Being on top of that food chain will be hard, but necessary. I think marketing tech in general, will be lucrative. Niche specializations will probably pay the biggest dividends.
ROI measurement – Sara Kisseberth, Web Content Manager – Bluffton University
Analytics and measurement of ROI will become even more important as the higher ed landscape becomes more competitive and faculty/staff are continually asked to do more with less. The challenge will be to break down silos across campus in order to make actionable meaning out of the data.
Data curators – Robert Perry, Head of Research – Pickle Jar Communications
There’s so much information we can gather for ourselves, but we’re not the only ones. Data and analytics are available to everyone, whatever their role, and that can be overwhelming. I think we’ll start to see more and more examples of data curators – people within an organisation who are able to decide what the useful information is and present it to others in a meaningful way.
In turn, I think this gives those of us responsible for data the chance to be open and honest about what we find. We can’t just gloss over the negatives – we need to be able to give the context behind a supposedly poor performance. That make the successes even more meaningful.
Analysis – Colin McGinnis, Graduate Research Assistant – University of Nebraska–Lincoln
In 2017 we need to stop reporting metrics for the sake of reporting. We are working in a time where data is abundant, and if you look hard enough, you can probably find a way to measure anything. However, it is not useful to pull data “just because.” Know what is important to you, your organization, and what is going to help you make smart, informed decisions.
Consider investing in tools that aggregate data for you so you can spend less time collecting analytics and more time using that information to inform the content development and campaign execution. Nearly everyone is online now, to remain competitive you need to know your audience! Don’t get out in the noise in 2017.
Dark social and disappearing content – Michelle Leslie, Interactive Marketing Specialist – Chapman University
I think “dark social” and disappearing content will have the biggest effect on social media managers when measuring efforts. “Dark social” occurs when someone shares content in a way that cannot be measured by analytics programs and we are unable to accurately attribute traffic sources. Analytics of disappearing content like Snapchat and Instagram Stories can be captured manually but only within the 24 hour window, which could result in missing analytics over time.
Data clutter – Jens Larson, Manager of Student Communication Strategies – Eastern Washington University
If last year was the year more institutions started to realize that they need to make data-informed decisions, this is the year of data glut. More people keep asking for reports—which is good, because asking for help is the first step on the road to recovery—but sometimes they’re just asking without clear decision paths or clear goals.
Helping people cut through some of the clutter and buzzwords is going to be key to being successful.
The analytics ecosystem is also getting more complicated for institutions and their analytics experts. Most institutions use Google Analytics, but institutions are doing a lot of supplementation, too. From scroll tracking to A/B testing to heat mapping to Tag Manager to API integrations to all the various services offered by CRM and advertising vendors, higher education is adopting a lot more add-on technologies and tools for their analytics environments. Getting value out of them is going to be tricky for a lot of institutions, especially if they’re asking unfocused questions or just throwing things at the digital wall to see what sticks.
Knowledgeable digital analytics pros – Karine Joly, Executive Director – Higher Ed Experts
I know what I don’t and can’t know. So, I always find it tricky to make any kind of predictions even though I’m often asked to look in a crystal ball and see the future.
Data is now everywhere – even in areas where I’m not sure we need it. As a result, I think higher ed leaders – the ones making decisions at the institutional level – have realized that they can’t rely on opinions, hunches or guesses anymore to make decisions. Things are going to become more and more competitive between higher ed institutions with a shrinking college-age students’ pool.
Digital is now at the core of any marketing or communication strategy. Since digital and data are a match made in heaven (compared to other more traditional channels), measurement and analytics can now take their rightful place as strategic tools to inform decisions. The introduction of powerful and smart (not just pretty) visualization tools like Google Data Studio will help make analytics more accessible and popular.
Tools can’t do all the work though (at least not until artificial intelligence goes a bit further). The need for knowledgeable data/analytics professionals will rise in higher education in 2017. If you work in higher education, it’s definitely time to get up-to-speed with digital analytics as measurement expertise is going to be a key differentiator for higher ed digital professionals in the future.
What do YOU think will make a big difference for higher ed analytics in 2017?
Tell us by posting a comment below!
And, if you want to learn more from these higher ed analytics professionals, get a 12-month on-demand team pass for the 2017 Higher Ed Analytics Conference.