The Journey of an Online Course Buyer: From The Perspective of a Student

As a recent graduate I can tell you that deciding which course to partake in can be a very long process for an online course buyer as there is so much choice in terms of courses and institutes which provide them. With that being said – you’d be doing yourself a favour by understanding this process and providing an online course buyer with a first class user flow for each step throughout their customer journey. Follow me on a complete journey from researching education options until a final decision. Will you relate more with the institute that’s succeeding, or the one that’s failing?

It is important to know that things have changed a lot in how education providers are found by course buyers – they now find them online as opposed to traditional brochures, flyers and school visits for example. So what does that mean? It means that if you’re not moving with the times you’re falling behind! An Australian study conducted last year found that a whopping 97% of course buyers researched their options online before making a concrete decision to buy.

With this in mind, we here at Pathmonk would like to enlighten you on the customer journey of an online course buyer and their user flow based on the research we have gathered and our own personal experience. We do this in hope that you can use this information to provide a level of support to online course buyers throughout their journey that is unmatched and in a league of its own with the goal of gaining more course buyers. Thus, there are 4 points we would like to cover with you:

  • Browsing
  • Narrowing the Selection
  • In-depth Research
  • Pre-Decision

With a better understanding of these topics you’ll be better prepared for the influx of course buyers coming to the internet to begin their customer journey and better preparation ultimately means better conversion rates!

The Customer Journey Starts With Browsing

Some may know exactly what they want while others may not, but either way – any online course buyer knows there final goal. Various studies into the path-to-purchase and the user journey have been done. This article demonstrates the customer journey of a buyer within the automotive market. The study conducted found that a number of searches and site comparisons will be performed online by a user which in time will all eventually lead to the final car providers website.

Let’s walk through the journey of a typical online course buyer. The customer journey begins with course research to determine what options are available to them and what value they can get out of each particular course. They will spend their time browsing many, many different courses hoping to find ‘the one’ that clicks with them, peaks their interest and leads them to say ‘this is the course for me!’

Data that we have gathered has shown that 72% of course buyers have an idea of what course they want during this first stage of browsing within their user flow so it would be wise to ensure that each individual page for each course has great levels of detail and information.

At this point of the customer journey there may be some course buyers who are confused and uncertain of which course they want to do because of all the options they have, so it would be in a course providers best interest to guide them through this confusion towards a course that relates to their interests.

From our own personal experience we can tell you that course buyers user flow will most certainly consist of browsing from website to website looking for something that catches their eye with highly relevant information. If an institute can convey there and then what the best option for a  course buyer is in terms of their interest, time, price and career opportunities at such an early stage of their customer journey then the following stages suddenly become less difficult because of the hugely positive first impression made on the course buyer!

The Course Buyer Begins to Narrow Down Their Selection

When a student chooses a course, it’s going to lead them to a career that will most likely be their career for a significant amount of time. Where will they go to find this information online though? To your website and your competitors, hoping to find a course provider that can answer their questions and get them motivated enough to sign up and buy! Through this evaluation process they begin to narrow down their selection by filtering out the places that cannot provide them with what they need.

This point of contact is where a lot of providers lose course buyers by offering a rigid user flow – they don’t accommodate their visitors and their stage in the user journey. As I said earlier, choosing a course is a huge decision for course buyers and they want to make sure that they’re getting the best of the best so that when they go looking for a career after they graduate they’re guaranteed employment.

There are a lot of factors that come into play at this stage of an online course buyers’ customer journey, namely:

  • Is this the right course for me?
  • How much does the course cost?
  • How long is the course?
  • What will I learn?
  • What career can I expect? 

Most universities answer some of these questions but overall fail to answer questions efficiently when they occur. The result of this is often a continued search to find a competitor that can provide them with the confidence and assurance they require for a feeling of security.
When this is provided to the course buyer then they can be comfortable and have enough trust in that particular provider to sign up and leave all its competitors behind and never look back.

Research is Done on Your Business

Whether you’ve made a fantastic first impression to stand out from the multiple course providers that course buyers have visited at the first stage of their customer journey or provided them with all the information they needed at the second stage – either way, the next thing that’s going to happen is research.

The course buyer is going to continue their user flow by seeing how your offer fares in all aspects in much more detail than they would have previously done. Aspects of your offer that will be looked might include – student life, accommodation and course structure because they’re coming that much closer to signing up so they want to leave all doubts at the door.

Course buyers will do their research on the internet to see what current students are saying, they may attend open days to visit and see what the environment is like, whether the class sizes for their preferred course are big or small with opportunities to make friends.

During this research reviews and testimonials will play a big part in a course buyers decision and if they find something they don’t like then that one thing could be enough to convince them to leave your University and sign up with another!

Bearing all that in mind – ensure that you constantly put your best forward and leading by example. Offer an incredible experience that compliments the customer journey and be there for each course buyer ready to answer their questions with ease and really demonstrate why your offer is the best out there and why signing up with you is the best decision they can make.

The Online Course Buyer’s Decision is Made

The Course buyer at this stage will have narrowed their choice down between, at the most, 3 providers including yours and will begin the final elimination. Our data has revealed to us that this overall process on average will span over several months! That is the amount of time that you have to do things right and create an amazing user flow and experience for course buyers. When this stage is reached there is nothing more that you can do to persuade course buyers as they will have their decisions set in stone ad there will be no changing their mind.

This is the final result and you’ll have either succeed or failed – either way there’s room to grow and learn from the habits of course buyers for the next potential student.

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