Outschool is a leading online education platform offering more than 100,000 live classes to kids ages 3-18. The company has over 900,000 learners globally taking classes ranging from tap dancing, to fractions, to coding, to Pokemon painting, and much more.
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused global school closures, Outschool saw an enormous increase in demand. To better serve parents, caregivers, educators, and learners on its platform, the company needed to get a better understanding of its users and accelerate adoption of its Customer Data Platform (CDP), Twilio Segment.
After evaluating whether to build or buy a CDP for its needs, the team decided to double down on its investment in Twilio Segment to optimize engineering resources and help them more quickly respond to the needs of the business. As a result, Outschool has created more relevant experiences for users, saved thousands of engineering hours, and become a more nimble organization.
Outschool needed to accelerate adoption of a CDP solution to stay competitive during unprecedented growth
Outschool’s business was abruptly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic when parents, careginers, teachers, caregivers, and students were forced to turn to online learning as schools were unexpectedly shut down. In fact, Outschool experienced a 2,000%+ increase in global class bookings between August 2019 to August 2020 as well as an enormous increase in classes taught on the platform. This unprecedented demand led to an influx of new customer data coming in from different sources and continents, requiring valuable engineering resources to make useful.
Outschool needed to better leverage its customer data to effectively respond to the rapidly changing needs of its users and the business. The team wanted to better understand customers’ needs and deliver more relevant and personalized experiences to keep up with demand. The company needed to accelerate adoption of a CDP solution – and the company needed to do so quickly to remain relevant and competitive.
Outschool selects Twilio Segment as its data infrastructure over building a CDP in-house
Outschool went through the decision to either build a CDP in-house or buy a CDP to fulfill its needs. The team used a framework centered around two key questions: 1) Is this a strategic priority for the company?, and 2) Do we need this now?
Based on this criteria, Outschool determined that building and maintaining a CDP in-house would require significant engineering resources, and therefore the team should further invest in Twilio Segment’s Customer Data Platform (CDP) instead. Erwin Alberto, Engineering Manager at Outschool, explains the decision in more detail:
“For Outschool, we came to the realization that although a CDP is a very valuable tool for us, building it ourselves is not something that will differentiate us from our customers. So we decided to “buy” it.” In other words, we wanted to make sure we are investing engineering resources in things that will create a significant advantage over our competitors.”
Outschool transforms the customer experience by delivering relevant classes
With Twilio Segment, the company has a centralized view of the customer and is able to better understand and personalize experiences for users. Outschool can now use customer data to deliver hyper-relevant digital experiences, marketing campaigns, and class recommendations to match the learner’s preferences and needs. Erwin explains:
“Our goal is to personalize the user experience and recommend classes that are relevant to each user to boost engagement and retention. When you have that many classes, it is critical that your parents and learners can easily explore the range of classes on the platform. So, we want to make sure that we are able to provide a great user experience by personalizing much of the information that we show them.”
To do this, Outschool combines learner interest data collected during the onboarding process with demographic and behavioral site data to recommend classes and provide more relevant search results. First party customer data in Twilio Segment is also sent to Outschool’s marketing and messaging platform, Iterable, and to advertising platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads.
Outschool can now communicate 1x1 with users and promote relevant classes. As a result, learners, caregivers, and teachers can more easily find relevant classes and Outscool has boosted engagement and retention.
Outschool is a more agile organization
Not only can Outschool personalize its customer experiences with unified customer data, its teams can more easily respond to changing needs of customers and quickly pivot the business to keep up with demand. Twilio Segment has made it faster to deploy solutions, test and implement new tools, launch personalized marketing campaigns, and keep customers happy and engaged. Product, marketing, and customer teams can activate and use data self-serve, without relying on technical teams or running into data bottlenecks.
Additionally, new strategies and technologies can be tested and implemented in a fraction of the time. When Outschool switched from a semi-in-house email marketing solution to Iterable, Twilio Segment saved months of time. Erwin estimates:
“What would have taken 3 months to switch, took us only a few weeks. All we had to do was set up that email marketing platform as a new destination and do a bit of customization and off we go.”
Twilio Segment’s centralized customer data infrastructure has also saved thousands of engineering hours on data pipeline work. Erwin explains:
“If we weren’t using Twilio Segment’s CDP we would need our engineering team to build ETL solutions. This means not only developing the ETL software but also building out the infrastructure needed to run and scale the software. Imagine having to deal with issues like rate limits, API format changing, etc. With Twilio Segment, we don’t have to worry about that. Our engineers can focus on more strategic initiatives.”
Free from tedious data work, engineers can focus on responding to marketing changes, strategic growth initiatives, and enhancing the company’s core differentiators.
Finally, Twilio Segment’s Developer Toolkit gives Outschool the flexibility to customize any part of its data infrastructure. Twilio Segment’s Developer Toolkit plugs into Twilio Segment’s CDP infrastructure so developers can easily build custom data capabilities. As a result, Outschool is able to automate tedious data engineering work while enabling technical teams to build unique functionality critical to staying ahead. Erwin describes the power of the Twilio Segment platform:
“Yes, we did buy Twilio Segment CDP. But, you can actually build things using Twilio Segment too. In our case, we were able to build an ecosystem of inter-connected systems and services that allowed us to quickly gather, centralize and analyze our customer data.”
Outschool saves ~3,000 engineering hours per year
Outschool’s decision to implement Twilio Segment instead of building an in-house CDP has saved an estimated 3,000 engineering hours per year, enabling technical resources to focus on building products that give the company a competitive edge. Twilio Segment has also enabled product, analytics and marketing teams with trusted data and a better understanding of the customer journey. As a result, the company can deliver more optimized user experiences and recommend more relevant classes.
What’s next? Now that Outschool is leveraging the power of its customer data to effectively respond to the rapidly changing needs of its users and the business, the team plans to implement even more sophisticated personalization. The team’s focus is to form stronger 1x1 relationships with its many different learners, parents, caregivers, and teachers to help them achieve their learning and teaching goals.
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Data instrumentation has been significantly simplified, dramatically reducing engineering costs on building and maintaining data pipelines.