Admissions offices at the top 25 US MBA programs are falling short with ‘Mobile First’ generation.
-By Graham Richmond and Alex Brown
We’ve all seen the deluge of statistics about smartphones and the use of mobile devices in general. For instance, we know that the smartphone recently surpassed the television as the ‘first screen’ (e.g. the screen we look at the most each day). We also know that young people spend more time on iPhones and iPads than they do on desktops. In light of these facts, it might be appropriate to call today’s twenty-somethings the ‘Mobile First’ generation instead of ‘Millennials’.
So what does ‘Mobile First’ mean to the business school admissions universe – or to higher education recruiting in general? A lot. Let’s start with something simple: It is well documented that official school web sites play a vital role for prospective students traveling through the admissions process. Students use school web sites to conduct preliminary and secondary research, to peek at the application requirements, read about placement statistics, submit applications, schedule interviews, and more. And yet, the overwhelming majority of top business schools in the United States do not have web sites that display effectively on smartphones.
In short, if you are a leading MBA program trying to reach today’s prospects you might want to ensure that your web site functions well on a smartphone. The fancy term for this functionality is ‘responsive design’ – which essentially means two things: 1) that a web site responds to the device on which it’s being viewed; e.g. a nice three column layout on the desktop, two columns for a tablet and one for a smartphone, and 2) that content is carefully curated to ensure that users are getting the right information in light of the device they are using.
Southwark Consulting just completed a study of how the leading business schools are performing in the mobile world. We looked at the top 25* programs to see whether or not schools had responsive web sites, mobile sites or plain, non-responsive sites.
The data isn’t pretty. Less than a third of the top 25 business schools have responsive sites that display differently on desktops vs. tablets vs. smartphones. This means that MBA applicants using smartphones have to do a whole lot of pinching and magnifying to get at the information they are seeking. Only seven of the top 25 schools have responsive admissions sites. While a small number of additional schools (four to be exact) offer ‘mobile web sites’, these are really vestiges of a former era – where web sites were stripped down into a highly simplified mobile format – before the days of responsive design. No matter how you slice it, the overwhelming majority of top schools do not offer smartphone users an easy way to view their site.
How is this possible? Many may point to the fact that responsive design is relatively new – and that the higher ed domain typically lags the corporate domain where adapting new technology is concerned. With that said, schools like Stanford Graduate School of Business and UNC Kenan-Flager have well-executed responsive web sites – and those sites are providing them a competitive advantage with the ‘Mobile First’ generation as a result. Contact Southwark Consulting to learn more about how your school can use technology to more effectively reach today’s candidates.
Stay tuned for more on the ‘Mobile First’ generation. In an upcoming article we’ll explain why having a responsive web site is only half of the battle when it comes to reaching today’s applicants.
*Source: US News & World Report 2015 Full-time MBA Program Rankings