Blog Educational apps in focus: Trends and st...

Educational apps in focus: Trends and strategies for success in 2023 and beyond

Learning new skills, mastering a foreign language, or seeking academic support has never been more accessible, thanks to the plethora of educational apps available today. In fact, education apps rank as the second most popular category on the Google Play Store and the third largest on the Apple App Store. In 2022 alone, educational apps generated $7 billion in revenue, and projections estimate the market size to reach an astounding $124.7 billion by 2027.

App-lying knowledge as digital learning booms

Education app usage grew significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic as schools and universities shifted to online learning. People eagerly embraced these apps out of necessity and for personal growth and exploration. Education app users skyrocketed from 185 million in 2019 to 270 million in 2020, marking a 46% increase. Since then, this upward trend has shown no signs of slowing down, with the user base expanding to 350 million in 2022.

The success of education apps can be attributed to their accessibility, flexibility, and interactivity. These apps offer personalized learning experiences tailored to individual needs and learning styles, empowering users to acquire knowledge and skills at their own pace. They also provide a gateway to lifelong learning, enabling users to expand their horizons beyond traditional educational settings. Notably, Gen Z has been at the forefront of embracing this shift, having grown up with smartphones and spending more time online. In the U.S., Gen Z is 107% more likely to use education apps compared to the average population.

This article explores the evolving trends of education apps over the past two years. Adjust data reveals a marked increase in the adoption of education apps in 2023. Discover the latest 2023 education app trends below.

Educational app installs surge in 2023

Educational apps have gone from being niche to necessity over the past few years, witnessing a 17% spike in global installs from 2020 to 2021 and a further 3% climb in 2022. The momentum has continued into 2023, as installs so far are well above the pre-pandemic and pandemic levels. Installs in 2023 so far are up by 123% compared to the 2019 average and 42% above the 2020 average. Additionally, installs have already surged by 18% compared to the previous year's average.

Seasonal peaks: Installs soar in January, March, and September

Educational app installs show a notable seasonal trend, with installs increasing most in January, March, and September. This pattern aligns with the start of academic years around the world, with school typically starting in August or September in the Northern Hemisphere and in February or March in the Southern Hemisphere. Additionally, the spike in January can be attributed to peoples’ New Year’s resolutions to learn new skills.

  • In January 2021, educational app installs were 16% higher than the yearly average. In March 2021, they were 6% higher than the annual average. In September 2021, they were 27% higher than the yearly average.
  • In January 2022, educational app installs were 5% higher than the yearly average. In March 2022, they were 6% higher than the annual average. In September 2022, they were 24% higher than the yearly average.
  • In January 2023, educational app installs were 6% higher than the yearly average.

With August already experiencing an impressive 14% increase in installs compared to the H1 2023 average, we can expect September installs to scale new heights.

Educational app sessions continue to climb in 2023

Educational app users are engaging in more app sessions than ever before. Like installs, app sessions have experienced remarkable year-over-year (YoY) growth over the past two years. In 2021, app sessions saw a 49% boost compared to the previous year, followed by a solid 20% growth in 2022. The upward trajectory has continued in 2023, with sessions already surpassing the 2022 average by an impressive 18%. Compared to the app usage levels of 2019 and 2020, sessions in 2023 so far have increased by a whopping 203% and 111%, respectively.

Session lengths revert to pre-pandemic levels

Although educational app users are logging in more sessions, the average session length has returned to pre-pandemic levels as schools have fully reopened. In 2019, the average session length was 14.68 minutes, and it remained similar (albeit slightly higher) at 14.7 minutes in the first half of 2023. Users spent the most time in educational apps in 2020, with an average session length of 16.31 minutes. This increase is likely due to the shift towards online education during the pandemic's peak.

Rise in sessions per user per day in 2023

Looking closer at the number of sessions per user per day in educational apps, 2023 continues to outperform 2022. In Q1 2023, on Day 1, users averaged 1.67 sessions, an increase from 1.61 in Q4 2022. On Day 3, the number of sessions increased from 1.55 in Q4 2022 to 1.6 in Q1 2023. On Day 7, there was another slight rise, from 1.54 to 1.55 sessions. The increase in the number of sessions on Days 1, 3, and 7 in Q1 2023 suggests that users are more engaged with educational apps immediately after downloading them, perhaps due to enhanced onboarding experiences, better app quality, and more engaging content.

However, despite the initial surge in engagement, there is a slight dip in sessions per user per day by Day 30 in Q1 2023. On this day, the number decreased from 1.51 in Q4 2022 to 1.46.

Opportunities to re-engage enthusiastic learners

Our data reveals that users show enthusiasm for educational apps when they first download them. However, their commitment to consistently use the app decreases over time. Retention rates remained at 18% on Day 1 for Q4 2022 and Q1 2023. On Day 3, however, they dropped from 12% to 11%. The decline continued on Day 7, with rates falling from 10% in Q4 2022 to 8% in Q1 2023. This downward trend in retention rates during the first week across quarters could be reflective of increased competition in the market. Users may explore multiple educational apps but ultimately stick to one or two that they find most valuable, resulting in a decline for other apps.

By Day 30, retention rates remained at 4% for Q4 2022 and Q1 2023, confirming that only a small portion of users continue to engage with educational apps a month after downloading them. This creates the challenge of maintaining long-term user engagement for educational apps, as users may lose interest or seek alternative educational resources over time. To sustain user engagement beyond the initial weeks, app marketers can introduce gamification elements to the learning experience or incorporate exciting new features to reignite the interest of existing users.

For more tips on increasing retention, check out our guide on How to successfully keep users and grow your app.

Lessons for success in 2023: Strategies for educational apps

If we follow the last two years’ educational app trends, then we can expect that usage for these apps is about to peak, making this the perfect time to ramp up your marketing efforts.

Think outside the box on social media

The most popular social media platforms among Gen Z are TikTok and Instagram, with nearly 40% of Gen Z preferring searching on TikTok and Instagram over Google Search and Maps. Gen Z also spends an average of 12.4 hours a week on TikTok alone. This presents unique opportunities for educational app marketers to raise brand awareness and acquire new users.

Duolingo, a language learning platform, for example, has been successfully creating viral videos on TikTok by embracing trends and memes, humanizing the brand. However, Duolingo’s social media strategy success is based on continuous testing and optimization as they take feedback from their audience. This also reflects their teaching methods, emphasizing standout content, continuous improvement, and many learning methods.  Duolingo’s social media strategy has had a tangible impact on their business. Duolingo has over 7.6 million followers on TikTok and is the most popular learning and education app globally, with 98 million downloads as of 2022.

Harness the power of CTV

Connected TV (CTV) penetration continues to rise, so if you haven’t already, you should consider publishing and advertising on this channel to reach broader and more diverse audiences. And CTV can be seamlessly integrated with your other marketing efforts. CTV allows you to create targeted ads based on user preferences, search histories, and viewing habits. Education app marketers can also utilize interactive ad formats like providing demos, quizzes, or even small lessons to engage the viewer and offer a taste of what the app is all about. For more tips on CTV advertising, check out our guide: Unlock connected TV as a powerful performance channel.

Utilize mobile app analytics

By tracking metrics such as user engagement, retention, and conversion rates, you can better understand how users interact with your app. This helps you identify popular features and time spent on specific modules and reveals when users will likely churn. You can implement timely strategies like push notifications and personalized recommendations by leveraging these insights. App analytics also allow you to identify trends in user learning behavior, enabling developers to customize content and learning paths to enhance user satisfaction and encourage re-engagement. Additionally, it illuminates the most effective marketing channels, which is crucial for optimizing marketing budgets and strategies. Here are a few examples of how app analytics can help your education app:

  • Using Adjust as the single source of truth, Duolingo could make data-driven decisions that improved campaign performance. Adjust's tools gave Duolingo deeper insights into effective channels and improved its partnerships with Google and Facebook.
  • Hocmai, a leading online learning platform in Vietnam, utilized Adjust solutions to gain visibility and accurately track the origins of its users. As a result, they achieved a 100% increase in install volume and a 20% decrease in cost per acquisition (CPA).
  • ABA English, an online school specializing in English language education, experienced a 143% increase in user acquisition and a 215% increase in revenue per user (RPU) with the help of Adjust.

Ready to turn your education app into a valedictorian? Schedule a personalized Adjust demo now and optimize your app and marketing campaigns for success.

Be the first to know. Subscribe for monthly app insights.