UK Higher Education

How 10 years of the App Store has Evolved Higher Ed Recruitment

It was on this day in 2008 that Apple launched its App Store feature with 500, mainly big-brand, apps into the ecosphere.  In one fell swoop Apple had opened its doors to developers around the world, from powerhouse brands to one-man bands, levelling the mobile software ball park and enabling anyone with a great idea to build a quality app, distribute it globally and disrupt markets across every vertical from print publishing to music to transport.

Disruption to the Higher Ed sector too has been sizable, including that which has been realised by our own mobile app offering launched last year – Whatuni: University Degrees UK – which at the time of writing celebrates the App Store’s birthday with a number one spot on its ‘This Week’s Favourites’ App Store charts, alongside a Top 10 ranking for educational apps in the UK.

Over 200,000 education apps are currently served worldwide and whilst many institutions have written their own mobile applications to assist in everything from virtual open days to university timetables, the success of the App Store has bought with it far more wide-ranging implications for the sector as a whole and how we engage with our audiences.  Let’s take a nosedive at how the birth of the App Store changed HE recruitment marketing:

Phones became more than phones

Once pieces of tech designed to make phone calls and, later, send text messages, the launch of apps into App Stores saw smartphones evolve into an extension of our personal selves.  The haptic element of our engagement with our smartphones means that we are able to evoke far more emotional responses from the media we serve than that which can be achieved through more traditional means. What does it mean for us?  Mobile ad spend now accounts for almost half of all digital ad spend, with these figures set to continue to grow as students spend more and more time consuming content and decision-making on their mobile devices.

We started to communicate with video


Be it Snapchat, YouTube, Netflix or Instagram, video has become a vital way to communicate with our audiences.  Whilst video format may have historically enabled us to broadcast our products, the new wave of mobile apps has created incredible opportunities for two-way dialogues with our audiences through user generated content and social video. Not only have apps paved the way with more seamless mobile video experiences, they’ve also laid the foundations for a way kind of advertising altogether: that of the ‘influencer’.

We found chatbots a home

Chatbots have been around for a while (the first chatbot ever coded was invented in 1966 by Joseph Weizenbaum), but it was Facebook’s messenger app that really propelled them into the spotlight, making them accessible for developers who wished to create chatbots for their brands.  Fast forward to 2017 and Leeds Beckett University made headlines with their clearing chatbot, which advanced students through their Clearing and Adjustment services.

whatuni chatbot

Whatuni’s Higher Education research bot

Our own chatbot is focussed on matching students to prospective university courses based on factors such as predicted grades, favourite locations and preferred mode of study.

We learned the power of reviews

Whilst as consumers we’ve always had the power of word of mouth, the ability to amplify our voices through reviews has never been better due to the cacophony of mobile apps and means to communicate with brands through our smartphones. We are in this sense, all influencers.

The App Store was a pioneer on placing enormous importance on reviews, using them as trust signals to rate beautiful apps in its stores and curate its highlighted ‘app of the day’ applications.

Outside of the app store, reviews have become invaluable to students and providers alike.  Students want to listen to the experiences enjoyed by other alumni before committing to decisions regarding their own Higher Education.

As providers and marketers our job is to listen to these voices, to learn from the sounds and to develop and evolve according to the tune our users and students make.

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