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"Our main brand purpose is 'learning together'": Busuu discusses how it is navigating COVID-19

Tyrone Stewart

The global pandemic has hit many industries hard, causing financial struggles for many. One sector that has gone the other way and benefitted from the COVID-19 outbreak is the education technology industry. One such business within that sector that has managed to grow during the pandemic is language learning platform Busuu.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Busuu has seen its lesson completion rate increase by 40 per cent, while its retention rate and conversion to its premium offering are both up 33 per cent.

“We’re a global business. We have users all over the world. We were able to see the impact of lockdown first in China. We saw a huge surge in activity in China and we didn’t really connect the dots yet. And then, as COVID became more widespread in Europe, we saw similar usage patterns,” says Collette Mosca, Lead CRM Manager at Busuu.

“We’re quite lucky that we’re in an industry which has been positively impacted by COVID – which isn’t a nice thing to say because it’s a terrible thing that’s going on. But we are fortunate that it has made the edtech space much more important than it previously was.”

With the number of active users growing significantly on the app in the world’s initial coronavirus lockdowns, Busuu had to think of a way to keep users around and as engaged with lockdowns being lifted (in most cases, temporarily). So, it decided to use a gamified approach to do just that.

In September – one of Busuu’s “biggest months of the year” – the platform launched a travel-inspired campaign, where users were able to collect stamps when they completed a round of challenges.

“I guess it’s the ‘back to school’ mentality: holidays are over and people decide to get back into their learning. But, this year, many people couldn’t go back to school at that time and couldn’t go on holiday before that, so we wanted to come up with something a little different,” says Mosca. “We came up with the idea which was ‘Travel the World with Busuu’ and, based on the users’ behaviour within the app, they could collect stamps along the way and these stamps were based on countries. So, it was a really nice way to encourage users to use the app but while acknowledging that we’re living in different times.”

The campaign, which Busuu worked on with customer engagement platform Braze, was a big success for the app. It saw more than 400,000 users actively take part and improved its month-on-month customer retention by 10 per cent. Email open rates also increased 33 per cent and push direct open rates increased by a massive 500 per cent.

Since the success of the campaign, Busuu has continued to use some of the gamification elements to keep users engaged and will look to embed part of the September campaign into its next big campaign month in January.

“January is another big campaign month for us because of the ‘new year, new start’ sort of thing – learning a language is normally one of those resolutions,” says Mosca.

In addition to looking forward to January, the platform has already launched a new feature in the form of ‘leagues’ on Android (with an introduction on iOS and Busuu’s web platform on the way). This gamification element gives users points for every activity they complete and places them in a league table depending on the number of points they have.

“Unlike other industries, learning a language does take time. It takes years to learn a language. So, from a CRM perspective, our job is to make language learning into a habit rather than a one-off,” says Mosca. “Whenever we build out campaigns, it’s always around how we can get users back into the app and engaging with the app and then making sure that they come back more regularly.”

Away from the strength of its gamified engagement campaigns, Busuu also places a lot of importance on the community-focused approach it takes to language learning – the platform’s “key differentiator”, according to Mosca.

Busuu boasts more than 100m users around the world, who are all able to connect with each other and engage in conversations. The app is also heavily focused on engaging this community through personalisation. One of its campaign elements delivers notifications based on the time of day and days a user has said they want to study, for example.

“It's something we’re constantly working on. Our biggest thing is around making a system that is personalised to the user,” says Mosca. “We have millions of different data points and we know how likely users to forget a certain word or how difficult a certain word will be to learn or the differences between learning different languages and different language pairs. So, it’s all about building a truly personalised experience.”

Looking ahead, Busuu will continue to focus on this personalisation and continue its community focus to differentiate itself from its competitors with its main brand purpose of ‘learning together’.