This study contributes to the stream of literature focused on the business education in the digital age. In particular, this research maps out the critical first stages of consumer journey (service pre-experience and pre-purchase stages) of mature-age online MBA prospective students in Australia and identifying relevant factors that may influence the conversion rates. This research embraced a deep consumer insight approach, enabling to understand why customers do or do not engage with businesses (Price et al., 2015) with student journey mapping steps followed in line with Rains (2017). In–depth interviews were conducted with 30 online MBA prospective students (35-65 years old) that have approached one of the largest online MBA providers in Australia. A traditional thematic analysis conducted by researchers and the text minding analysis (Leximancer) were used to further identify themes.
Two distinctive types of personas emerged. Although each persona seemed to progress along the decision-making timeline in a similar way, they varied substantially in how they engage with each touch point in their journey. In particular, one persona type spent a considerable amount of time following social media posts pertinent to the online provider and approached MBA recruitment team via email, seeking information on the website regarding the subjects’ content; while another predominately explored price and payment options preferring to call and speak with the recruitment team directly. For both personas the major motivation for their online MBA study consideration emerged as a career advancement/career grow with the second theme being learning and personal development. Both personas attributed value to online MBA for flexibility and mobility, subjects’ contemporary content, support of facilitators, reasonable price for value, and easy access to learning materials. Major reference points were work consultants, colleagues, friends and family members. ‘Positive word of mouth’ via MBA forum reviews and personal sources were important determinants prompting in–depth search. Touch points with the recruitment team generated the following themes: personal and professional characteristics of the advisor expected to be prompt, friendly, non-intrusive, offering follow up communication in a timely manner and having in–depth understanding of MBA offering. The emerged ‘pain-points’ revolved around a very generic and intrusive ‘sale pitch’ by the recruitment individuals without understanding the ‘why’ behind each student’s motives to engage into online MBA. Overall, this study revealed the importance of consumer journey mapping for mature-age online MBA prospective students in Australia, capturing service pre-experiences and pre-purchase stages that, when executed right, enable a transition of prospects into the next decision- making stage.
Keywords: Consumer Journey; On-line MBA, Mature-age Prospects