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How Online Education Brands Can Navigate the Coronavirus

Angie Tran

Content Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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It goes without saying that teachers and professors weren’t prepared for a global crisis that would require a pivot toward virtual learning. “Surprised” is probably an understatement — schools and institutions around the world are shutting down at a rapid rate in an attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak. It’s no surprise, then, that MarketWatch has dubbed this time as “online education’s moment” — a time where this particular industry can help minimize educational disruption.  

This also sheds light on other education sectors that have been online for a while — Udemy, for example, offers online classes aimed at professional adults and students. Then there’s Duolingo, a language-learning platform, and Masterclass, which provides courses covering everything from cooking and writing to acting and photography. In a situation where most people are confined to their homes with nowhere to go but the web, now is prime time for any online education brand to make a positive impact. 

Think about it — you’re not bound to supply chain disruptions or manufacturing woes; the internet is already familiar territory. It’s time to use this advantage to provide an outlet for others to learn and blow steam through engaging in hobbies. 

The Ideal Time for Brand Awareness Campaigns 

It’s true that during times of economic uncertainty, people are more careful about spending money. Many brands are aware of this, so they’ve reduced their paid media spend. While it’s tempting to follow the same train of thought, consider thinking of it this way: As ad inventory increases (more people spending more time online) and competition and allocated marketing budgets potentially decrease, inventory becomes cheaper. 

What this means is that with more people online and more spaces to place ads, it’ll be less expensive to stand out. Now is the ideal time to reach new people with brand awareness campaigns — since the first coronavirus reports, we've seen cost per thousand impressions (CPM) decrease by 15% across our networks.

Don’t underestimate the power of first interactions with customers. By creating brand awareness and connecting with customers, you have the opportunity to increase customer lifetime value (CLV) and decrease customer acquisition costs (CAC). Essentially, you’ll be top-of-mind with consumers when they are ready to make a purchase. 

Shift Your Focus to Customer Retention 

In addition to people who aren’t familiar with your brand, you should also focus on building brand loyalty. Yes, it’s essential to plant new seeds, but you also have to take care of your existing garden. Your customers are your most valuable asset — it’s more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep one. Here are a few ways to maintain customer retention during hard-hitting times: 

  • If you haven’t already, build a customer loyalty program. Think about providing VIP support, free training sessions or webinars, and access to premium features for your most loyal customers. 
  • Increase your customer service resources. During these uncertain times, it’s natural for customers to reach out more than usual to ask questions around their subscriptions, etc. Provide additional avenues for them to reach out to your team, such as a live chat option via your website or social media channels. 
  • Practice gratitude and empathy. Your brand wouldn’t be where it is today without your customers. With that in mind, it’s essential to infuse gratitude and empathy into all of your business decisions. For example, if you’re seeing that customers are trying to cancel their memberships or subscriptions due to financial reasons, you can provide an option for them to press pause without any charges. Or, you could even extend their subscription an additional month for free or simply send a heartfelt note thanking them for their business. 

Align Your Strategy to Best Reach Potential Customers

When it comes to your retargeting strategy, it’s important to be smart with segmentation so that your marketing dollars are spent efficiently. For example, you could target specific site segments or upload CRM lists and have ads that focus on high-value courses to maximize cash flow in the short-term. 

It may also be worth it to look into lapsed signups — reach out to people who may have signed up a year or so ago to reengage them and remind them of new classes or package offerings. 

Ways to Pivot and Keep Customers Engaged

In the current state of the world, people have a lot on their minds. It’s vital to be mindful of this, and think of your marketing strategies in the context of, “How can I help my customers? How can I reduce their anxiety?” It can be difficult to straddle the line between being compassionate and keeping afloat, but you’ll find that sweet spot by being creative and taking note of other brands’ innovative approaches.

Offer a freemium version. As mentioned earlier, people are hesitant to spend. A freemium plan is an excellent strategy to consider because it’s a cross between “free” and “premium” — people are getting your core features at no cost and can choose to increase functionality by paying the subscription fee. 

Repackage useful content. Sharing free, helpful content builds great word of mouth and value during times of hardship. A great idea is repurposing online courses into helpful blog posts or social media tips. Or, if your primary audience is K-12 students, you can create downloadable worksheets to enhance their learning experience. 

Think outside the box with your messaging. People are cooped up indoors, and their regular lives are severely disrupted — they can’t go to their favorite restaurants, painting sessions, or hip hop classes, but they can take an online course for cooking, painting, or dancing. They can find alternative versions of their usual hobbies and end up falling in love with them. Children and teens may not have access to their tutoring classes anymore, but they can take supplementary online courses to fill this gap. The key when pivoting your message is to identify peoples’ current pain points and solving them. Ask yourself, again and again, like a mantra: “How can my brand help? How can it fill a need during these challenging times?” 

For additional reading around how your business can prepare for a new normal, download your copy of Tips for Acquiring and Retaining Customers Through Economic Change.

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