How to Optimize Digital Marketing & Make Your Ed App Stand Out: Insights from Google EdTech Summit

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.

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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

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