The coronavirus pandemic has been a watershed moment for India’s edtech sector. According to a recent report by RedSeer and Omidyar Network India, edtech users, both paid and free unit users, in K12 and post K12 segment have seen a phenomenal increase.

It is said that the user base has doubled from 45 million to 90 million, and there is a 40% increase in willingness to pay, and a massive 83% jump in the paid user base. The report further pointed out that the online education offerings across classes 1 to 12 are projected to increase 6.3 times by 2022 to create a 1.7 billion dollar market, and the post K12 market to grow 3.7 times to touch 1.8 billion. In total, edtech is expected to be a whopping 3.5 billion market by 2022. All this means that it will create meaningful opportunities for incumbent players and space for multiple new startups.

Here, we bring you some key insights from the speakers of Google’s EdTech Summit 2020 Series 2 on the rise of online education in India and its future. The speakers of the series were Miso Kwon, Measurement Lead, APAC, Google, Shweta Sivasankaran, Director Marketing at Unacademy, Nirmiti Narain, Growth Manager, Education Apps at Google India, and Harish Sivaramakrishnan, Chief Design Officer at CRED. The series also had a panel discussion participated by GV Ravishankar, Managing Director, Sequoia Capital, and Sajith Pai, Director, Blume Ventures.

While the summit talked about many things, including scaling, optimizing, engaging, design and others, we focus here mainly on how to make your education app stand out in the market, and how to optimize your digital marketing to acquire valuable users and stay relevant.

Leveraging digital marketing for growth and brand building

Speaking on how Unacademy scale through digital marketing, Shweta Sivasankaran, Director Marketing at Unacademy, shared many things ranging from key initiatives that they have taken, and how they’ve gone about approaching digital marketing, driving growth and building up brands in the evolving digital lab.


Some of the key initiatives that Unacademy has taken up as a brand that have helped the company stay relevant and connected with their learners.

  1. Opening its platform to educational institutes – When the lockdown was declared, Unacademy opened up its platform to educational institutes across the country. The company saw several institutes come forward to adopt and seriously conduct their classes online.
  2. 20,000 Free Live Classes per month – When schools were shut down over coronavirus, it urged all its educators to come together and take free live classes to ensure the continuity of learning of students. The company is on a mission to ensure that learning never stops. So that was the whole idea behind the 20,000 free live classes’ initiative, which it continues to do today.
  3. Legends on Unacademy – A one of a kind program aimed at motivating and inspiring learners. Through this initiative, Unacademy brings change makers, role models, celebrities, influencers, leaders, and stalwarts from different walks of life to its platform to take live classes to make its learners engage more on the platform and learn from those leaders. It’s a fairly popular initiative among the learner community today. The company saw about 20-30k live learners coming in for each of this class.
  4. Unacademy BRAINIAC – Recently launched, it is a weekly live quiz show on the Unacademy platform hosted by Harsha Bhogle. It leverages product features and the live class experience. It is a great format that is extremely engaging and interesting.

How Unacademy leverages digital marketing for growth and brand building

Shweta shared that while the traditional marketing funnel is relevant from a fundamental stand point, it is important to see digital funnel as extremely non-linear. She said that users are constantly moving between awareness and consideration stages. She also said that some users take two or three touch points, some more, some less, but as a brand in order to be a part of the user, it is important to be present across touch points.

Three key touch points that Unacademy uses particularly from a digital stand point:

  1. Strong social media presence – (1) Relevant and engaging content for the audience on the right platforms (2) Extension of the branding with a clear tone and image to drive recall (3) Measuring, listening, analyzing (4) Moment marketing. Shweta said Unacademy started working on their social media handles very early on, and that has played a crucial role in building their brand. Strong social media presence with content that is relevant and engaging to users on the right platforms is extremely crucial for brand building effort.
  2. Content marketing – Unacademy wants to build its brand based on content, as a learning platform. The three key principles around which Unacademy built its content marketing strategy: (a) Extremely learner centric – Learners are the centre of everything. So the content, whether it is long form blog article, or music video or web series, or any other educational videos, should be around the learner, so learners are able to resonate with the kind of content and relate to what the company does as a brand. (b) Consistency – Consistency, irrespective of the kind of content, is extremely important. What is it that you are communicating? How you are coming across? What is it that you want to say about your brand? It is consistency that drives recall. (c) Educators – Just like learners are important to them, so are educators. They are integral to the brand that they are. So they try to build content that also celebrates their educators. Two key content projects that Unacademy has worked and has been great from their brand building as well as growth and business perspective are Kota Factory Web Series (a web series project that has really connected with the target audience) and Let’s Crack it Student Anthem (With story and lyrics that are very relatable to learners who are preparing for various exams).
  3. Performance marketing – From the performance marketing standpoint, it is classified as top funnel (app awareness, the eventual goal of which is to drive the app install), mid funnel (in-app action or multiple in-app action), and bottom funnel (the last mile conversion). Shweta shared that people tend to largely focus on the last mile conversion, which is not the best idea. She said what really works for Unacademy has been the focus on the full funnel, working towards acquiring relevant users, moving them through the funnel, getting them to activate and perform the mid funnel action, and then convert. She said that performance marketing is an opportunity to also reinforce brand, drive consideration, and conversion, and one should work on building the full funnel. Unacademy uses a whole range of format like video and display. They also run a lot of app install campaigns and re-engagement campaigns for their users.

Some of the campaigns that have helped Unacademy scale as a company

Brand building and awareness – For brand building, Unacademy did first 360 marketing campaign – Let’s crack it. They did 3 YouTube mastheads in November 2019. Shweta said that during that period itself, the company saw 40% increase in branded search query, 20% increase in daily average app installs. Overall, she said the campaigns have helped them gain the visibility, very large relevant reach to introduce the Unacademy brand to the world, to the relevant audience.

Performance marketing: (a) UAC campaigns – Unacademy started the UAC (Universal App Campaign) campaign for install very early on, and today many of its UAC campaigns have been optimized for in-app actions. The company saw 100% increase in number of installs with more than 30% reduction in CPI (cost per install) in the last 6 months as compared to previous 6 month period. Because these campaigns are optimized for mid and bottom funnel of in-app action within their product, they witnessed the campaigns driving significant revenue for their brand and business. The company saw 200% increase in the revenue coming in from these campaigns during the same period. (b) Re-UAC campaigns – Another campaign they started very recently is app campaign for re-engagement or Re-UAC campaign. Shweta said it makes complete sense when you think of in terms of full funnel strategy point of view, to be retargeting those users. Because they have visibility into the users’ journey on the product, they are able to create and define what these in-app actions are and retarget users with the right kind of communication. The company saw 30% increase in revenue from these campaigns in a quarter and 500% increase in revenue between quarters.

While these are some of the campaigns that have helped Unacademy scale as a company, Shweta reiterated that it depends on what stage your company is at. She said that while at the early stage, it is important to drive that awareness, acquire new users, and start small, as you grow and move on to mature stage, it’s more important to acquire those users who will perform those certain actions within your product. She concluded by saying “if you focus on the brand and user, and the interaction between the two, authentic engagement most often does translates into results.”

How to make your education app stand out in the market

Presented by Nirmiti Narain, Growth Manager, Education Apps, Google, India, this session focuses on some of the most important questions that a lot of app developers ask such as how do I improve my app’s ranking on the Play Store, what are the little levers or hacks to improve my app’s discoverability, its usability, and lovability.

But before coming to the main theme, let’s take a look and understand how crowded the app market in India is. According to Google, every 4th Indian has a smartphone today. It is said that by the end of 2020, half of the Indian population will be online. It further said that of all the internet traffic, 70% of the traffic comes from mobile. Perhaps, this is the key factor which is building the digital economy in India. It is said that the amount of time people spend on the smartphone has drastically increased from somewhere 3.5 hours per day to 4.3 hours today. But do you know what most people are actually doing when they are on the smartphone? It is said that 88% of the time people spend on their smartphone is on apps. This tells volumes the heightened activity which is taking place in the app ecosystem. No wonder, developers continue to create new apps and people continue to download and use new apps every day. According to report, India has already surpassed the US and has now become the second largest country in the world in terms of app downloads, after China.

So how do you make your app stand out in such a cluttered market?

Nirmiti explained that at Google, they choose to believe that this is not a challenge but an opportunity. She said that if you do some basic fundamentals right, you can actually take care of a lot of things and make your apps more discoverable and usable. To help in this, she explained the two frequently asked questions – why is my app not in the top rankings? How do I manage my ratings and reviews?

Why is my app not in the top rankings?

It is said that 1 in 3 visitors make install decision within 3 seconds. Three seconds to decide whether he wants to install the app or the next app on the listing. So what did you see in those first 3 seconds? What are the top features that get captured in first 3 seconds? The four things that a user can possibly see in those first 3 seconds when he is making the life-changing decision: (1) Logo, app name and few keywords that you put into the title of your app name. (2) Ratings and total downloads. (3) Images, Videos, Portrait, and Landscape etc. (4) Reviews.

So how can you optimize the above 4 things.  

  1. Logo, app name – While logo and app name remained fixed, you can do a lot with keywords. It should be precise, with descriptive keywords. Eg. Vedantu has used LIVE Learning App, Class 1-12, JEE, NEET). This clearly tells you have live classes, caters K-12 and K13 at the max. So it’s very clear who the target segment is.
  2. Ratings and total downloads – This is a critically important factor because this is your equity. It speaks about the credibility, usage and popularity.
  3. Videos, Portrait images, Landscape images – As humans, our eyes are trained to always go towards movement, colours, graphics, images, etc. This is something you can really leverage. Put in screenshots which show your app features, main important attractions of your app. This is really important which actually helps in driving the install decision.
  4. Reviews – Your reviews become really important. You have to curate those experiences, the kind of support when the user comes and sees. What is the kind of response that you are giving to both happy and the disappointed customer?

Some statistics which move when you leverage the above things

25% increase in conversion rates by improving first two screenshots.

35% increase in install rates by switching app screenshots.

23% improvement in install rates by using an app video.

Nirmiti advised to feel free to experiment with various graphics, videos, screenshots, texts, titles, everything and choose how many people will see what and compare the install base, and then take the decision of keeping that specific one as your final app listing.

Localization on the landing page

It is said that if it is a great app, you will see every country has a different landing page. They will always customize and localize it to stand out for the country. For instance, if you go to the US, you will see that the Americans have the shortest attention span, so they will probably spend the least time making the decision. If you go to Brazil, you will see that they prefer English over Portuguese. And if you take a look at India, it has the highest response rate to localized photos, people, and landmarks, because they are very close to the country’s culture.

Understanding this, Nirmiti advised localizing your content towards that specific country, or region if it is catering to a particular community/area. She advised you to experiment with anything and take decisions based on that data.

So what are the basic fundamentals to get everything right on the app listing page and Play Store?

Nirmiti advised to never underestimate but to remember and do the following four things:

  1. Keyword research – Never underestimate the power of keyword research. Keep checking your brand, generic and competition search terms. This helps in building out the correct text for your store listing.
  2. Title optimization – Keywords in the title have the most weight on Search Engine Results Page (SERP). This determines how your app’s headline and display will come out when a user is searching for you. Feel free to experiment on this.
  3. Localization – Customize images, USPs, and use common landmarks. Use common things which are important to the people of that specific region.
  4. Screenshot optimization – Provide more than just a feature list and screenshot of the app. Design for attention, increase exploration, and provide clear call to action. Have auto play videos, portrait images, landscape images, and try to include as many images as possible to optimize the app store listing.

How do I get more user love and how do I manage my ratings and reviews?

Do you know how critical user opinion is for app installs? According to Google, the following are top 5 considerations that users take into account when installing an app:

53% on app’s rating

49% on reviews of the app

44% amount of memory left on their phone vs size of the app

43% the number of installs the app has

40% cost of the app   

This is the kind of impact the ratings and reviews can have on the install decision of the users. Nirmiti said even one or two bad reviews can create a harmful effect, and undo your hard work. One may have 100 or 200 great reviews, but she said that even one bad review is bad enough. Ratings and reviews not only impact on app install decisions, but also significantly on sales. It is said that highly rated apps generate significantly more sales. According to the research, when compared with the sales and business of an app which is rated at 2-2.9 stars vs an app which is rated at 4-5 stars, there is a 36X difference in sales in actual business. Understanding this impact, Nirmiti said that as marketers, advertisers, and app developers, it is always important to continuously monitor and see what is happening on the part of ratings and reviews.

Strategies to help achieve great ratings and reviews

Nirmiti suggested the following three basic strategies to help achieve great ratings and reviews:

  1. Personalize Response: (1) Quick and customized responses – You will always get both happy and bad responses from your customers. How and when you respond to both of them matters a lot. Nirmiti said any response more than two hours is actually a battle lost, as customers will not be there for so long. She said that the first response should come within 15 minutes, if not, it should come definitely within two hours. (2) Adding the ‘Human Element’ – It always matters the kind of empathy you’re showing to the customer. When you are responding to the customer, call out his name, not hi/dear customer/user. Call out that full name and ensure you spell it correctly. When you do that, you are showing empathy to the customer. You can convert unhappy customer to a happy one.
  2. “Always On” Ears: (1) Identify ‘happy’ moments to ask for reviews (2) Drive positive user sentiment at the identified moments of joy (3) Identify most engaged users and encourage for review. Train your AI algorithm within the app to find out those happy moments for the customers. Find out your most engaged customers and prompt them at the right time.
  3. Tell them “What to expect”: (1) Educate the user about your app offering right when they install (2) Integrate tutorials for better understanding (3) Incentivise staff for customer delight. As app developers, we create great apps and we think that these are intuitive apps and they will be very easy for anyone to use. But that’s not really the case. If somebody is new to your app, when they first open it, that moment is the first moment of truth. That is the time when they first interact with you as a brand and as an app. Do not leave them right away at that point of time, hand hold them for some time. Tell them what to expect in the app. Show them a tutorial, give them a tour of the app. All this creates a lot of positive sentiment around the brand. Because they know what to expect, which are the most important features, how they can access customer service, it will go a long in giving great ratings and reviews.

Nirmiti concluded her session by giving this advice: “Even when you get all the basics right, don’t be satisfied and stop! Experiment with data and improve each day – your app is getting new customers, every day; and they all matter.”

sajith gv ravishankar edtech panel

Sharing their insights on massive growth in Indian edtech during the last few months and how they see in future when things become normal in a panel discussion with Kiran Bapna, Head – VC Partnerships, Google, India, GV Ravishankar, Managing Director, Sequoia Capital, said it has pushed adoption of technology by consumers and schools by two or three years forward and the adoption is here to stay even in future. Sajith Pai, Director, Blume Ventures, predicts drop in numbers after physical learning comes back, and said retention has to be managed post COVID.

When asked some of the real opportunities that he sees in Indian edtech sector in future, GV said that while lot more action has been on the test prep and K-12, there are other aspects which have not been addressed well enough. He said that we are seeing newer models with focus on employability skills, vocational education, upskilling and reskilling and will continue to come up in future. With several opportunities opening up, he said we are still in early days in edtech and there will be lots of innovations ahead of us. Sajith seconded that and shared how he believes higher education B2B software space has a void that makes him excited; and also how he sees K-12 non-curricular (life as a CV model) & daycare as a big opportunity.

On being asked to share one piece of advice to the Indian edtech startups to manoeuvre the current times successfully, and the younger ones that are just beginning to explore the market, Sajith advised to intensely focus on consumer needs and not to get worried by existing models, what’s getting funded, etc. GV, emphasizing on the younger ones, advised to ask whether they have a reasonably differentiated solution to the problem. He asked them to focus on area or field that is less addressed today. He also advised them to focus on opportunities of tomorrow and not what is hot now, and to think of having the licence to win in a market, not just having the licence to play.

About the Author
Author: Stephen Soulunii
Stephen Soulunii No more a student, but love to learn. Not a teacher, but care about how students are taught. Not an educator, but want everyone to be educated. Not a social worker, but desire to see change. Not a reformer, but always want to see a better world. The author believes that only sound education can bring a better future, better world and technology can help achieve a lot in this field.

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