Why higher education needs to adopt Progressive Web Apps

By: Jessica Krywosa

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There may be nothing scarier than working in a vertical with a shrinking market, high price tag, scrutinized value, and massive competition. Higher education in the US is a sector that has seen all of these challenges over the past five years, the hardest of which could be yet to come with the shortage of traditionally aged students and the recent changes to immigration policies.

When up against such odds, any business needs to ensure that they are fiercely competitive while taking advantage of every opportunity to connect with potential buyers. As an industry that caters primarily to the most tech savvy—and likely impatient—consumers, mobile optimization and adoption in the marketing of higher education is crucial.

If you’re like many in the higher ed sector (as I previously was), you’d be happy if your site was mobile friendly, let alone responsive. But being responsive is yesterday’s ‘nice to have.’ As we continue to see more and more of consumers’ buying cycle happen via their phones, technologies like Progressive Web Apps (PWA) that provide device specific functionality through one destination are now the new responsive.

Getting found

You can’t nurture a prospective student if they cannot find you. PWAs help in that they are lighter and faster, something that helps in boosting your search ranking, and that most higher ed sites lack. Because they are mobile focused, PWAs are also mobile search friendly. Unlike a native application, they are discoverable, linkable, and shareable.

Removing barriers

Once found, prospective students and their families can be prompted to add your site to their homescreen, perhaps after a certain number of visits or other predetermined triggers. They can also take advantage of other native functionality such as click to call, autocomplete, and offline mode. The latter is extremely helpful in completing forms or reading more about your offerings in areas with less than reliable cell service. (Offline mode can also be particularly handy if presenting in low or no connectivity areas like college fairs or admission events.)

Staying in touch

Progressive Web Apps take advantage of app-like functionality including push notifications. Implementing push notifications means minimal email campaigns and no need to collect cell numbers or pay for an SMS vendor. You’ll be able to centralize (and measure) communications and the school application and buying cycle much more easily.

Providing the right content

Maybe the most powerful for higher education would be geo-focused content based on the device location. Invite prospective students to admission events and target key recruitment locations with special information. And, because it's not a native app, content will always be fresh: no need to hope users have kept their app updated.

Cutting costs

One PWA takes the place of your desktop site, mobile site, iOS app, and Android app. This means promoting one site and no longer needing app re-engagement campaigns. You’ll also no longer need to maintain separate apps, vendors, or a large in-house technical staff. Money you can probably find a much better use for.

If at a crossroads on where to take your web and mobile presence, adopting a Progressive Web Application could allow any future focused organization a way to leapfrog over lacking a responsive design and/or a mobile app while also cutting costs in the long run. Wondering how this may be possible for your organization? Let’s talk.