Apps Are a Vital Tool for Reaching Today’s Prospective MBA Applicants
-by Graham Richmond and Alex Brown
Two weeks ago, we wrote about the continuing rise of smartphone usage among young people and what it means to business school admissions offices and the higher education industry in general. We suggested that the ‘Millennial’ generation might be better referred to as the ‘Mobile First’ generation – due to their reliance on mobile devices when it comes to accessing the internet and exploring target schools. The key message in that article was that most schools are ill-equipped to welcome smartphone users to their web sites – with less than a third of the top 25 business schools* offering a responsive web site that adapts to mobile devices and makes for easy browsing of site content.
This week, we’re here to tell you that the problems actually run deeper than merely building a responsive web site. Recent data shows that while today’s MBA applicants are certainly tuned into the internet via their smartphones, they aren’t browsing the web much on these devices. One study indicates that 86% of smartphone time is spent inside the ‘gated communities’ of apps (like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp) or checking email and texting. In short, while Millennials are connected all the time, they are only spending about 14% of their smartphone time browsing the web.
So what’s a business school to do? First, engaging with applicants where they live – inside apps – via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. clearly makes good sense. But beyond that, it would seem that business schools have an opportunity to take their viewbooks and web sites into the app universe, by offering apps targeted at prospective students. These kinds of apps would be must downloads for any prospective student and would provide users with access to program information, application status updates, scheduled events on- and off-campus, and more. In an ideal world, ‘viewbook apps’ would be active as opposed to static – pulling the latest news and notes from campus into the interface while still providing key information about program offerings and the admissions process itself.
As it now stands, only 5 of the top 25 business schools have any sort of app that targets prospective applicants and can be used as a tool in the program research and admissions process. And that figure is generous – since some of the schools with apps are offering a solution that is student built and not designed by the school itself. Further, only one of the five top-25 schools that possess an app actively integrate that app with their other web properties (via promotion of it on the web site, etc.). As such, a mobile-oriented applicant who browses a school web site may not even be made aware that the school also has an app that will better meet their needs in the smartphone environment.
In summary, business schools looking to maximize exposure to the Mobile First generation should do the following:
1) Ensure that the main school web site (and all admissions pages within it) features responsive design to adapt the display of content according to the device being used by the prospective student.
2) Build an app version of their web site or viewbook – ideally something interactive and ‘live’ wherein content isn’t entirely static but is instead updated from the web on a regular basis (to encourage prospective students to keep coming back). Note: Ultimately, such an app might also morph into a useful tool for applicants who are admitted and opt to matriculate, but that’s likely a discussion for another blog post.
3) Integrate any app into the regular web site, so that prospective students are quickly made aware of the app’s existence and encouraged to download and install it on their smartphones. This is done all the time in the corporate world – and one needs to only browse to a site like Yelp! on their mobile phone to be prompted to download the Yelp! app and see this sort of integration in action.
If your school is looking to get a better handle on reaching the Mobile First generation, contact Southwark to learn more about our services in this domain.
*Source: US News & World Report 2015 Full-time MBA Program Rankings