Inc42 & WebEngage present — “Decoding Hypergrowth” — a series capturing stories of successful businesses, the importance of intelligent engagement, and their approach to creating the same.
With the brick-and-mortar educational institutions compelled to shut down to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, online learning platforms came to the forefront and the edtech market saw unprecedented growth in the past year. Edtech startups in India raised more than $1.43 Bn across 100 deals between Jan 1 and Dec 15, 2020, indicating investors’ confidence in them as the market continued to grow.
The rise of edtech might have been triggered by the pandemic, but that was not the sole factor. As the number of internet users is steadily rising across the country due to large-scale smartphone penetration and affordable data, more people are moving towards online learning. The reason: As opposed to traditional learning, the online format offers the convenience of learning from home and flexible schedules, making it a user-focussed alternative.
Understandably, online certification is an edtech sub-sector that has witnessed huge traction and quick success in recent times. As the job market tilts heavily towards specialised roles, multiple skill sets and frequent upskilling and reskilling for staying relevant and competitive in the new normal, it has become imperative to constantly learn new skills and stay up-to-date with the latest developments. However, traditional learning institutions rarely offer such training courses to working professionals.
As employees need to add relevant skills and technical knowledge to their repertoire, online certification startups like Simplilearn have come in to serve this growing market. With programmes designed for people who want to learn professional skills at their own pace and as per their convenience (non-working hours and learning from the comfort of their homes matter most in such cases), these platforms are addressing a critical pain point for a large number of people who cannot invest enough time for full-blown courses.
But there is a catch. One of the major challenges that this segment faces is the high number of dropouts who leave the course in-between and never complete it. According to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), these courses’ completion rate is less than 4% and the success rate is even lower.
“The main challenge for online training platforms is the missing element of live interaction and active engagement in the learning process, which impacts the entire learning experience,” said Mark Moran, chief marketing officer of Simplilearn.
From Blogging To Bootcamp Learning Model: How Simplilearn Evolved
Started as a blog in 2009 by Krishna Kumar, an alumnus of the National Institute of Technology-Karnataka (NIT-K), Simplilearn is a platform for people to upskill themselves in the new-age digital skills. In April 2010, the platform became a full-fledged startup and took off with a project management professional (PMP) certification. At present, the company offers more than 400 certification courses in various fields, ranging from product management and IT services to cybersecurity and digital marketing.
Aware of the high dropout issue, the edtech startup has introduced a live-learning bootcamp learning model to benefit its users. Unlike many of its genres, Simplilearn holds live classes conducted by subject matter experts or professors to make the learning process more interactive and engaging. Moving away from the culture of video tutorials as a substitute, the startup also encourages people to use its virtual labs to get the hands-on experience of a real classroom. Assisted by its customer engagement partner WebEngage in these initiatives, Simplilearn has seen a high success rate as a large number of its users are now completing their courses and getting certified.
The ‘bootcamp’ method of the startup also finds a mention in statistical studies. According to a study by William L. Sanders, an American statistician, the most important factor impacting a student’s learning is the teacher. So, it is not surprising that so many online platforms see a high number of dropouts as no one is guiding them throughout the course or interacting with them.
As of now, the company claims to have trained millions of professionals and has over 80 percent completion rate of the courses.
Watch Simplilearn’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mark Moran, Talk About The Startup’s Journey And Growth:
Another Success Secret: Helping Learners Make The Right Choice
Users opting for online learning face another key issue – they are not sure whether those courses will be right for them. An online programme calls for time, effort and money. So, selecting the right course is crucial for a user.
To resolve this dilemma, Simplilearn has expanded its offerings and come out with a free learning platform called SkillUp, giving access to thousands of hours of tech and skilling programmes. Talking about this initiative, Moran said, “Through SkillUp, we are helping working professionals and students identify the (right) upskilling options and work towards achieving specific career goals, especially in a post-pandemic world where tech skills will define the career graph.”
The free module has not affected the startup’s growth story. Using the bootcamp model, it has clocked a growth of 54% growth in Q4 of FY21.
Simplilearn has registered users in 150 countries, and more than 60% of its business comes from its international operations. With 1,400 trainers and 40 global accreditations, the startup has taken huge growth leaps and become one of the top edtech platforms globally.
How Marketing Automation, AI Are Driving Growth
The high retention rate is mainly driven by high user engagement on the platform. However, this was possible due to the startup’s shift from traditional marketing to marketing automation.
Talking about the need for marketing automation, Moran explains how automation tools are crucial in saving time when it comes to organising campaigns. “It (automation) has helped us gather insights from visitors, create targeted communications for each learner and get real-time analytics and reports for our campaigns,” he added.
Recognising that it would be the way ahead to ensure growth, the edtech firm decided to partner with WebEngage, a marketing automation solutions provider for enterprises targeting the B2C space. This has enabled Simplilearn to roll out targeted campaigns that yield better engagements, strengthen users’ interest in the platform and improve retention rates.
The efficiency of marketing automation is proving to be a better approach than traditional channels. According to a study by Invesp, a company specialising in conversion rate optimisation, marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overheads.
With the help of WebEngage, Simplilearn was able to seamlessly track each user’s journey and put the same under an appropriate category based on user behaviour. The curated analysis ensured better decisions when it came to targeted campaigns. The startup also saw its email influence collection improve to 29 percent of overall B2C revenue while almost $100K direct revenue is generated per month by creating leads through efficient account management.
“One of the key benefits of choosing WebEngage is that it provides the right content to the right customers at the right time, which in turn cultivates customer trust in the brand,” said Moran.
“AI is eating the world,” said Moran, updating Marc Andreessen’s famous quote. “But humans also need to learn from humans. Our approach is to blend the best of AI-driven personalisation with a highly immersive and collaborative learning experience.”