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  • Writer's pictureJolie Radunich

How product marketing influences how educators pick apps and what tools raised me

Did you know education is the third most frequently downloaded category in the App Store?

I wish I could ask my elementary teachers how they decided to buy edtech apps for our class.

Now a recent study featured in EdWeek gives me an idea of how the digital tools I used made their way into my life.

If you want to know more about how teachers select edtech, and how product marketers can better appeal to their needs, keep reading.

About the 'how teachers choose apps' study

Here's what you should know about this study from McGill University: Why this app? How educators choose a good educational app.

  • The goal of the study: See what educational apps elementary teachers value

  • 57 participants: Pre-service and elementary teachers

  • Participants reviewed 10 simulated apps (not really available in App Stores)

  • Teacher engagement was measured with eye tracking, heat mapping, etc.

Each teacher app preference offers some fruitful product marketing takeaways.

Teachers are judging apps by their cover

When educators were browsing the simulated app store, an eye-tracker found that they examined app images more when they featured educational benchmarks.

Overall, heat maps (like in the header of this post) found that educators paid more attention to text descriptions than images at all.

Previous research shows apps that used more color and asymmetry in the app's design were downloaded more.

And developers include more visually complex images when targeting younger children.

What does this mean for product marketing?

*Example presentation of an app in the Apple App Store (not an actual app).

Buyers want to feel excited to make a purchase. The way a product packages its imagery signals this.

The more I think about it, most of the brands I remember using the most as a kid had brand palettes with bright oranges and greens.

They used cute avatars and mascots.

They embraced kiddie designs and muted blues or greys were rare.

Product marketers aren't designers, but aesthetics matter.

Just not more than the meat and potatoes of what you're selling.

Work the benchmarks, not the buzzwords

Save your buzzwords.

Educators see through the keyword stuffing of words like personalized, interactive, and hands-on. At least the 57 in this study did.

Cute messaging ploys can't stand on their own. Or can they?

See if you can spot the difference!

Read both of the following app descriptions and guess which one uses benchmark language and which one uses buzzword language.

Ready? Here's app description #1:

In our app, math has become an exciting and fun adventure! King of Math helps kids master math skills and develop their interest in mathematics. King of Math is a comprehensive program based on a formal math curriculum. **This app is aligned with the Common Core State Standards **Based on the Common Core State Standards, kids will learn math skills at their grade level **Includes a Report Card section where parents and teachers can see curriculum progress.

Now here's app description #2:

Give your kids a solid math foundation with Be a Math Star. This app makes it easy and fun for your kids to enter the wonderful world of math. Be a Math Star uses multi-media to bring math to life; turning numbers into colorful and real-life elements and representations. ** The app contains visual and audio activities to explore math ** Kids get star points as they progress and feel like a real star ** Kids acquire their ability to match numbers to what they see and hear

Educators want students to be engaged. More importantly, they want them to reap learning outcomes.

That's where the first app description shines.

The text spotlights how the app correlates to Common Core standards and offers data reporting functionalities for parents and teachers.

Messaging a program as simply fun, or having the latest and greatest doesn't work.

The vague language featured in the second text description says just that. It reads like an edutainment experience, where the fun of the game is prioritized over learning outcomes.

If you guessed the benchmark from the buzzword description correctly, nicely done!

If not, hopefully, you have a better understanding of the difference.

Supplemental solutions are in demand. So plug them

The educators wanted apps that reinforce what's taught in class.

The demand is a no-brainer. I know I needed more than a 60-minute lesson to understand a new concept in school.

My elementary teachers had this mindset too. We were swimming in supplemental solutions.

They may be vulnerable to exposed gaps, but there's also room for clever marketing plays that plug the value of a little learning going a long way.

Then there's the true long-term value of a kid incorporating microlearning into their learning routine.

Take it from someone who swears by it.

The demand for edtech efficacy continues to rise

The study included some recommendations that should make the ears of educators and product marketers perk up.

Educators need to understand the tech they're considering:

  1. Create standards that define what a quality app is. Measure prospective tech against this criteria

  2. Collaborate. Don't rely on a single person to do the buying

  3. Train. If buyers know what the educational app landscape is like, they can make informed purchasing decisions.

As educators become savvier about how to spend their edtech dollars, product marketers have to up their value add.

I think this includes bracing for the ever-increasing demand for product efficacy.


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