E-Learning Marketing: Parents The New Soft Target?

Like children were for toys, their parents may now be the soft target for e-learning marketing.

Ride-hailing, Mobile Wallets, Online shopping are great examples of trends that became the norm. E-learning is the latest addition to this list. While e-learning providers (EdTechs) have been around for more than a decade (e.g., Khan Academy in 2007, Byju's in 2011, Coursera in 2012, etc.), customer adoption growth was choppy. Education stakeholders (i.e., policymakers, providers, parents, teachers, and learners) have had varying degrees of reservations against e-learning, specifically around its efficacy. E-learning was considered supplementary to classroom teaching.

The nationwide lockdown, Janta Curfew, literally strong-armed all the stakeholders to adopt e-learning as the mainstream way of delivering education. The adoption skyrocketed across b2b, b2c and g2c segments. The lockdown convincingly proved that e-learning could be as effective as classroom teaching. Access to education is now literally at the fingertips as long as one has a smart device and a stable internet connection. 

The pandemic has made E-learning the "new normal" and opened up a viable and attractive market opportunity. More than 1000 EdTechs joined the gold rush in 2020 to capture a share of the $117 bn Indian education market with more than 360 mn learners. Investors pumped in $2.2 bn in 2020 across 92 players; 61 were in the seed stage.  90 per cent of funds went to the K12 and test preparation EdTechs. Byju's and Unacademy attracted a lion share of 70 per cent. [Source: PGA Labs]

While this is intriguing in itself, what is even more fascinating is the rise of the online STEAM and extra-curricular learning EdTechs. Unlike K12 Tuitions and test preparations, this sub-sector does not have an established market need, a standardized curriculum and, by definition, is extra-curricular. Further, for several courses on offer, the internet is flooded with free, open-source course content. In fact, not for profits like Khan Academy are offering high-quality K12 and test preparation courses for free.  

Irrespective of the focus area, the EdTechs are spending millions of dollars on advertising as growth in user acquisition and market share is a key metric to justify and attract funding. Parents have become the prime target of clever marketing algorithms that explain how certain courses will make their child excel and stand out. The campaigns focus on what and not how. They are prone to making tall claims and having feature-rich, technologically advanced learning setups. Their advertising brilliance builds insecurities in parents about their child's future. 

Take a deeper look, and one would realize that most of them have a common business model design:

  • They are either a self-paced or instructor-led value proposition; and in some cases AI-led
  • Most of them offer some level of gamification and certification
  • They offer a fee-based or subscription-based revenue model
  • They target the top 20 to 30% of school-goers
  • They have a standard digital marketing strategy. First, create an audience pool through engagement, and then acquire customers through aggressive digital marketing campaigns
  • All customers journeys start with a trial, following which there is a relentless customer acquisition pursuit
  • Most of them are struggling to acquire and retain the talent required to deliver on the proposition.

Parents need to avoid being soft-targets and understand that their child is not missing out by not joining a certain online course. Every child is unique emotionally and intellectually. No matter how streamlined the education system gets, every child is on a unique learning and self-discovery journey. Instead of letting clever marketing algorithms influence their decision making, parents need to think critically before enrolling their child on a new course. They need to consider how a certain course will enable their child to thrive in the future where everything is progressively becoming volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

Parents should ask themselves five questions before enrolling their child on any online course:

  1. How is the course pushing my child to embrace the unknown? 
  2. How is the course pushing my child to dig deep and understand themselves better? 
  3. How is the course pushing my child to become resilient?
  4. How is the course helping my child build versatility? 
  5. How is the course driving interactivity and conversations?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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Edutech parent e-learning

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