Social Proof: Why It Matters In EdTech

In 2011, £5.5m was invested into UK-based EdTechs. Fast-forward to 2020, and investment hit £209m – an astonishing 3700% growth. 

What was once a slow-moving sector has now grown into a booming industry, accelerated further by the pandemic and immediate need for remote learning solutions. 

Today’s schools have an overwhelming wealth of choice when it comes to EdTech, with more than 1000 companies currently listed and active in the UK alone. 

Demand is at an all-time high, but so too is the competition and this only appears to be the start. For EdTech suppliers, standing out from the crowd is a critical factor in remaining competitive in this rapidly expanding marketplace, and this is where social proof comes into play. 

What Is Social Proof?

Robert Cialdini, Professor of Business and Psychology at Stanford University, coined the term social proof in 1984 in his seminal book ‘Influence’, describing it as the psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behavior in a given situation.”  

Social proof is important in many sales processes as it builds trust, and products or services that are trusted sell better. This is why you’ll find social proof at the heart of many successful and memorable marketing campaigns. 

Campaigns such as “9 out of 10 dentists recommend Colgate” or George Clooney drinking Nespresso coffee are standout examples of companies leveraging social proof in advertising, and driving themselves to market-leading status as a result.

Online, social proof is ever present on eCommerce platforms in the form of the star classification rating system. Customers are asked to rate their product / experience out of 5, and individual responses are tallied up to produce an overall score. This score, plus the number of reviews and recency commonly make up the foundation of many ranking or recommendation-based algorithms.

Due to the growth and usage of platforms such as Amazon, JustEat and Deliveroo that place the star classification system at the heart of their services, many consumers relate the star rating to the quality or trustworthiness of the item they’re viewing. On Amazon, a product with a 5-star rating will achieve a 12% greater conversion rate than a comparative product with a 3-star rating.

Why Is Social Proof So Important In Education?

When it comes to EdTech, research conducted by Teacher Tapp (with over 10000 teachers) has shown that just 8% of teachers believe the claims made by suppliers, and 8 out of 10 teachers expect clear proof that the solution works.

To some, such pessimism towards EdTech may come as a surprise, but this shift in attitude has been in motion for a number of years – and when you dig a little deeper, you begin to see a series of converging factors that are turning schools into much more discerning buyers.

As these teachers rely on social proof to make personal buying decisions – whether it be on Amazon, JustEat or Deliveroo – it’s only natural that they would come to expect the same when buying on behalf of their school.

The first factor is often the most overlooked: the teachers themselves. The average age of a teacher in England is 39, the youngest of any OECD country. This makes them young enough to be a regular eCommerce user yet old enough to be in a decision-making position within their school. 

As these teachers rely on social proof to make personal buying decisions – whether it be on Amazon, JustEat or Deliveroo – it’s only natural that they would come to expect the same when buying on behalf of their school.

The second factor is the sheer level of choice that schools now have when it comes to choosing a solution. There are already well over 1000 active EdTechs listed within the UK alone, and this figure doesn’t include many of the most popular educational apps from the US and other parts of the world. 

For schools, greater choice is always a good outcome but it does present a challenge when it comes to picking between suppliers. Having spent many years in sales roles on the supplier side, it’s natural to believe that your solution is the best and only option the school should consider, but let’s consider the view from the school’s perspective. 

Below are a few examples drawing from the current suppliers listed on EdTech Impact.

If a school has a specific goal or need, related to a subject and age range:

If a school begins their buying journey earlier, or has a broader focus, it doesn’t get much easier: 

  • A school wishing to implement a new ‘Learning Platform’ can choose from 114 suppliers.

Curriculum focused suppliers will always be in fierce competition with one another, but we’re also seeing greater competition in historically niche back-office / operational solutions:

  • In “Finance & HR” there are 23 suppliers.
  • In “Careers Guidance” there are 19 suppliers. 

With so much choice, schools have had to find a way to differentiate between suppliers who provide similar features and benefits. The differentiating factor has become social proof and independent evidence.

This brings us to the third factor influencing school procurement: Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). Reading and anticipating the MAT market can be a tricky process as it’s such a fast-evolving space where many MATs are still undergoing the ‘forming’ stage of balancing centralisation priorities with school autonomy. However, there are some underlying trends that EdTech suppliers can benefit from understanding.

50% of MATs report they would look to undertake an evidence-based evaluation of any whole Trust technology procurement.

As MATs grow in size, the increased operational complexities create the need for roles such as CFOs, COOs and CIOs, all of which haven’t previously existed within education. In medium and large-sized Trusts, these roles are being increasingly filled by people from the private sector, bringing different operational expectations and best practice with them. 

As technology spend is one of the largest variable costs within a MAT, the level of due diligence is growing in this area. According to a BESA survey, 50% of MATs report they would look to undertake an evidence-based evaluation of any whole Trust technology procurement.

With education secretary Gavin Williamson recently stating “the Government is looking at how to get more schools into Multi-Academy Trusts” the growth and influence of MATs looks set to continue for some time. For EdTech suppliers, the ability to showcase social proof and evidence will become a highly significant competitive advantage. 

Going Beyond Star Ratings

While platforms like Trustpilot and Google are great at providing star ratings, context is king when it comes to schools. Buying a new assessment platform or finding the right teaching and learning platform is a much higher stakes decision than looking for a new coffee shop or hairdresser. 

We now know that teachers are skeptical of the claims made by EdTech suppliers (with just 8% believing the claims being made), which is why EdTech Impact’s reviews go deeper than star classification. EdTech Impact incorporates ‘Impact Metrics’ into the review process, enabling EdTech suppliers to select the educational outcomes they believe their product improves, and for their customers to provide both qualitative and quantitative feedback on whether this is, indeed, the case. 

Impact Metrics range from ‘Improving Student Outcomes’ through to ‘Reducing Teacher Workload’, with all reviewers asked to agree / disagree on a 5-point likert scale, as well as provide written feedback to justify their score.

Schools place trust in products that have been shown to work in schools that are demographically similar to their own, or that are local. However, for an EdTech supplier, keeping track of where all your schools are based, as well as being able to easily segment them by demographic factors, is no easy feat without a powerful (and often expensive) CRM system. On EdTech Impact, this functionality is built in.

EdTech Impact automatically wraps contextual data around every review – such as school size, number of pupils on free school meals, % of pupils with EAL, and other characteristics that differentiate school environments – enabling prospective customers to understand if the review was written by a school like theirs.

Schools like mine tool
EdTech Impact’s review data feeds into a first-of-a-kind Schools Like Mine database, designed to help school buyers that don’t know where to start when searching for EdTech products. More reviews on EdTech Impact means more entries into the schools like mine search results.

We’re witnessing an exciting period of growth within the EdTech industry. The demand for EdTech is growing, and so too is the competition among suppliers. As schools become increasingly discerning with their procurement processes, it’s now more important than ever to differentiate yourself from the competition. Social proof holds the key.

EdTech Impact is the #1 review platform built for EdTech solutions worldwide. Start building your trust by signing up free or speak to the team to discuss your review strategy.

Updated on: 22 April 2022

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