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Children’s apps should focus more on educational content

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Parents are placing a higher priority on educational content within mobile applications, pointing to the need for marketers and developers to highlight the ways in which it benefits learning.

According to a recent PBS Kids parent survey, 77 percent of parents said that educational content is most important when they are considering which apps to buy for their children. With a lot of competition in the space, marketers should cater to these parents and emphasize the educational benefits of their apps.

“As a marketer, you’re battling to break through the clutter of the app store front," said Gary Schwartz, CEO/president of Impact Mobile, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. "While little Johnny may sneak a few downloads through, mom and dad are the ultimate curators of app selection.

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"Parents looking for content for their kids (in the backseat of the car or in the dentist’s office) are searching for entertaining or educational content," he said. 

"For a marketer you either want to piggy back on the game environment or based on this insight stand out as an educational utility that would take the interest of the ultimate curator, which is the mom or dad.”

Educational focus
The PBS Kids survey questioned 1,000 parents of children ages 2-10 in November 2013. The study was carried out by ORCInternational.

Of the parents surveyed, almost seven in ten plan to purchase apps for their children.

Not only is educational content the top priority when looking for apps, but 90 percent of parents also said that they believe that educational apps will play an important role in children’s learning in the future.

As today’s children grow up learning to play smartphone games before learning how to speak, mobile is playing an increasingly important part in education. By appealing to the channel that children are used to, educators and parents can make learning fun.

It is then up to marketers and developers to fill this need and create the educational apps.

According to a recent study by Interactive Educational Systems Design, Inc. and STEM Market Impact, LLC, opportunity abounds for app developers in mobile device management for K-12 education (see story).

The PBS Kids study pointed to a few tips for parents choosing apps. These tips can also be useful for marketers when attempting to attract parents.

Developers and marketers need to make sure their educational apps are curriculum and research-based.

Sesame Workshop does a great job at basing its apps off of research. The company’s recent app “Big Bird’s Words” was not only create in conjunction with the research team but was also tested in classrooms before release (see story).

PBS Kids also believes that the apps need to engage and excite children to spark their interest about the world around them.

Tablet gifting
The survey also pointed to a growing popularity for tablets, with the devices at the top of parents’ planned gift lists. Twenty-eight percent of parents plan to buy tablets, and 18 percent plan to buy video game consoles.

Thirty-six percent of parents plan to buy either a tablet or a smartphone.

Fifty-four percent of parents said they were planning to buy a tech present this holiday season. For younger parents ages 18-34 that number is even higher at 59 percent.

The survey also found that six in ten parents collaborate with their children to select apps and when selecting apps, 56 percent of parents base decisions on age recommendations.

In addition to prioritizing educational content, 56 percent of parents looked to price, and 45 percent looked for the characters their kids love.

"Marketers need engagement," Mr. Schwartz said. "Application reach without repeat frequency is not enough. A brand that develops a gaming environment or sponsors a game allows for reach (and if well designed) considerable frequency.

"The same holds true with educational content," he said. "Built on lessons and rewards good educational content is gameable and sticky. Brands win big with the parents and users with an educational content strategy."

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York

Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer. Reach her at rebecca@mobilemarketer.com.

 
Related content: Research, mobile, mobile marketing, PBS Kids, education, Impact Mobile, Gary Schwartz

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