Patrick Larsson

Thursday 9th June 2016

The Educational App Market Is No Longer a Toddler

A lot of the makers of apps for kids are also parents with young children. Thus it is not without irony that it came as a bit of a surprise for many of us last year that our Precious (read the app market) is no longer a toddler.

In 2015, the Learning app space started Kindergarten and this year it is only a short summer hiatus (revenue speaking) away from 1st Grade. What this means is that it is no longer swayed by everything shiny (free). Instead it wants substance or at least what its peers are enjoying at the time.

Turning off the metaphors for a while, this means that for app makers setting our apps to free or, even better, getting featured by Apple, is no longer the same as getting downloads and thereby traction and, ultimately, revenue. No, we have now, unfortunately, reached a point where checking out new apps has lost its appeal and teachers' and parents' devices are filled to the brim with apps already.

How do we know this? Well for starters because co.lab hints at it here, Aaron Watkins of Tap2Teach write about it here and the always excellent Carisa Kluver talks about it here. In addition to these educational app market authorities we at Happi Papi have our own empirical data…

For three years we ran the Happi Teacher program where children's app developers signed up to offer their apps for free to 3000+ teachers world wide in exchange for honest feedback (and a chance at educational sales). This program worked very well up until the end of 2014 at which point we could clearly see that giving away quality learning apps for free no longer floated teachers' boats.

Our research into the matter further showed that teachers were getting increasingly fed up with having to teach with many different apps, all with their own unique look, feel and quirks. Their tablets were also both getting very cluttered and running low on disk space. It was clear to us that what was once a toddler, easily impressed by any sparkly new toy (app), had now grown up and required of the app market what it had come to expect from the educational industry in general: One Stop Shopping.

When asked, the teachers in our program said they no longer wanted to:
– evaluate tons of apps even if they were free
– switch between a myriad of different apps in order to teach with tablets
– choose between a great UX and pedagogically sound content (hint: they want both)
– relinquish control over their lesson plans to app developers

In an attempt to adapt to the above mentioned shift (maturity) in the Learning apps market, we at Happi Papi stopped making new apps over a year ago. Revenue wise, this has certainly taken its toll as you normally need to release about 3 new apps per year just to keep revenue at the previous year's level. Instead of developing new apps we have poured all our efforts and earnings into developing Happi Create – a learning content platform that answers all of the teacher objections mentioned above (and a few others thrown in for good measure).

We believe that in order for us Learning app developers (and also other devs) to make it going forward, we need to take charge of our customer relationships. We can no longer rely on the App Stores to funnel users to our apps (if we ever could). Instead, we need to make sure that we have a way to contact all our customers. And by all, we mean that you need lot of them. From now on, making money in the app space will be even more of a numbers game than it was before. Even Apple has now acknowledged this in the following article were it opens up the possibility for all app types to use a subscription based model and even reward developers for doing so (by letting us retain a higher percentage of the revenue split).

Returning to our upcoming platform Happi Create, we think that a good way to earn the trust for a relationship with of a lot of customers, is by offering a great product for free. Down the road, you will be able to monetize your user base in a way that is beneficial to both you and your customers, for example using a subscription model where you charge your power users for pro features.

Happi Create is built on this premise by offering teachers and engaged parents a quick, simple and free way to, in essence, create their own stylish apps. The platform uses a series of App DesignersTM to create engaging learning content in just a few minutes. The content is easily shared (one click) with students, student parents, colleagues etc. either as mini-websites, printable worksheets or app levels in homogenic looking Happi Create powered iOS and Android apps.

The aim is to give back control over content to teachers by letting them create their own or subscribe to content by others they trust. Teachers can now provide their students with a multitude of different exercises using the same app, thus, removing home screen clutter, cut back on the number of apps they need to be familiar with and, most importantly, control the learning material and experience from start to finish.

For those who are interested in a deeper look at the platform, we have already written a few blog posts about Happi Create and how it works here.

Any teacher who wants to take back control over what learning content he or she uses to teach with can also sign up now to be one of the first to be invited when the service launches this Fall.

Patrick Larsson Patrick is co-founder of Happi Papi.
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