How to Pivot Your edTech Product Directly to Consumers

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

As an edTech firm, you’ve already seen the push for learning products that work in the home. Does that mean it’s time to adopt a new, business-to-consumer (B2C) strategy?

After all, you’re used to designing products that help teachers facilitate a learning experience in the classroom. And you’re used to marketing to administrators who want solutions their entire district can adopt.

The shift to a B2C strategy takes an entirely new mindset. In the direct-to-consumer model, you’ll make or redesign learning products for an entirely new buyer—parents—that work in an entirely new environment—the home. This scenario opens up a new set of design questions, challenges, and rewards.

We’re here to help you make the leap.

How COVID-19 Changed Traditional Classrooms and Classroom Technology

COVID-19 has underscored the importance of being able to learn anywhere—not just in a classroom setting. Thanks to remote learning, teachers have created greater continuity between technology used in the classroom and technology used in the home.

As a result, parents now understand they can have a more active role in their child’s education. They’ll take on that role as a more regular buyer and facilitator of edTech. Since students are now spending more time in front of screens, parents will want the hours their children devote to an app or a computer to be used for high-quality learning experiences.

With parents taking the lead in edTech consumption, the demand for highly engaging learning tools and digital experiences will only continue to grow. New digital experiences can even be student-led, or take place outside of a formal curriculum. While students won’t necessarily engage with products that look and feel like school in the home, they can still learn from fun or engaging products.

Even as life returns to normal, these industry-wide shifts won’t disappear any time soon. Traditional education publishers and edTech start-ups now have a good case for expanding their reach and putting high-quality content directly in front of consumers.

Here are three suggestions you can use to get started with your own pivot to the B2C market.

Lean on User Experience Research (UXR)

If teachers and students typically use your product in a school setting, you’ll have to re-think your approach to both UXR and testing as you pivot to the consumer market.

We tend to think about schools as controlled environments, but individual homes are more of a wild card. Preparing to address this new environment should help you generate an entirely different set of questions about functionality, accessibility, and user needs. For example:

  • Are parents the buyer persona for your product?
  • Do they need their own portal?
  • How much onboarding support will a student need outside of a school environment to use your product effectively?
  • Will parents be the ones who provide that onboarding support?

In addition to researching and testing your product with both parents and kids, you’ll have to cast a wider net in order to find the right number of subjects. Unlike testing products designed for a more formal educational environment, you won’t have to rely as heavily on subject matter or teaching experts for feedback.

UserTesting.com and other virtual learning platforms can help you recruit the new types of users you’re looking for. Use your company’s networks to find as many people as you can without narrowing your field too drastically. You’ll want to develop the right balance of both ethnic and geographic diversity to get the results that will be most helpful for your UXR process.

Address the Biggest edTech Concerns of Parents

Learning products have a completely different set of stakes in the home environment. Unlike teachers, parents aren’t under the same amount of pressure to push kids across a finish line or encourage them to stick with a tool that challenges them.

Parents do, however, have a different set of emotional concerns than educators. From screen time to physiological well-being, parents have a heightened awareness of their child’s relationship to technology in the home.

All parents hope their “student” user will stay engaged with a learning product for their own benefit. From a design standpoint, we encourage clients pivoting to the consumer market to embrace gameplay and problem-solving narratives. Consumer products can deliver rich gaming experiences that teachers wouldn’t necessarily be interested in—or have time to incorporate into their curriculum. Consumer learning products can also incorporate fun activities with game mechanics, like DuoLingo, to keep students engaged as they learn new concepts.

With the rise of remote learning, parents also want their child’s social-emotional learning (SEL) to stay on track. By placing a greater emphasis on the social aspect of your game or product, you can build community, even among young users. In school environments, the community component of edTech products is automatically safe and controlled. While this can be a challenge to address in consumer eTech products, building safe communities ultimately helps with SEL growth and addresses fundamental parent concerns about technology in the home.

Involve Marketing Stakeholders in edTech Product Design

From a marketing perspective, pivoting your edTech product from a B2B to B2C model could be a significant challenge. As an edTech company, you likely market directly to educators and administrators, which means you don’t already have strong consumer marketing channels in place.

That doesn’t mean your pivot won’t work—just that you need to develop a different strategy to ensure your pivot is a successful one!

If you’re considering marketing directly to consumers, it’s important to involve your marketing stakeholders from the beginning stages of product design. Strong UX designers can provide your marketing team with basic guidance about how to reach parents, rather than an educator or administrator, with the right values-based language.

Parents need reassurance that their child will enjoy and engage with your product. After all, even when you’re marketing edTech products directly to consumers, you’re still selling a learning tool designed for skill development, rather than pure entertainment. By participating in early design meetings, your marketing team can think through parent needs and expectations as your product’s features come to life.

Through competitive research and experience in the field, your designers might also suggest consumer companies that could make a good fit for distribution partnerships. You may want to bring in a consumer marketing company as a consultancy for even more rigorous support. Whatever route you take, the sooner you involve marketing stakeholders in the design process, the sooner your new B2C marketing and distribution strategy can take shape.

By embracing user experience research, cultivating a deeper understanding of your parent persona, and collaborating with your marketing team, you’ll be able to pivot your product from B2B to B2C with ease. Now that edTech has changed for good, your company will also be ready to address the ongoing challenges of remote and hybrid learning with engaging, high-quality learning content. Learning can happen anywhere—but only if you design the right tools to facilitate it.

Want to talk more about the UX solutions that can help your edTech product take off in the consumer market? Contact us!

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