PCR looks at software designed to aid learning

Sector guide: Back to school software

The back to school period is upon us again. The frantic rush to ensure that the kids are ready and prepared for another year at school is an annual tradition for most families, and one that the smart retailer will be quick to take advantage of.

This period of the year offers an excellent sales opportunity for the IT sector. An awareness of technology is increasingly seen as an essential bulwark of a well-rounded education and many hardware and software products are seen as a useful tool for school children and students, with more education-focused items on the market than ever before.

“The back to school period offers retailers a fantastic opportunity to maximise sales of education software, and we’ve certainly seen more interest in BTS this year, on the back of some very strong PC sales in the first two quarters of 2010,” says Avanquest’s sales director Steve Powell.

“The overall category is huge, covering everything from essentials like pens, pencils and clothing to books, toys, games and software. With massive in-store promotional activity across multiple categories, store traffic increases dramatically along with a parent’s propensity to spend money on their children.”

Interactive Ideas’ PR and marketing executive Yen Tru has also observed the growth of the educational software market. “I anticipate sales to be as strong as always, especially as the back to school market no longer focuses on traditional core subjects, but an array of topics. Also, with growing ownership of home PCs, the variety of high-value software at cut prices remains a major attraction. This, coupled with economic concerns, may encourage parents to invest more in educational software.”

The increasingly diverse portfolio of learning and educational titles available has seen a proliferation in products, each tailored to a specific market. The beauty of the back to school period is that parents can purchase software without worrying about the content or that it will cut into homework time concerns that might arise if they are buying a game, for example.

“Curriculum-based learning always does well as parents see it as a great way to support their children’s classroom studies,” observes Powell. “For younger children, fun characterbased learning is increasingly popular and it’s the high-profile educational brands that seem to perform best, such as Sesame Street, Dorling Kindersley, Letts and so on. We’ve also seen an increase in the demand for quality language learning software and as a result will soon be launching new versions of our Berlitz products.”

As well as meeting a genuine need for educational and engaging software titles aimed at children, parents might often be tempted to purchase other software for themselves. Language and professional development packages can fill this niche perfectly, serving as a ‘guilt-free’ impulse buy.

“As e-learning and interactive media become an accepted part of the learning process, language learning software, training DVDs and media related software, such as movie-editing and music-making are performing well,” notes Tru.

Powell has also noticed an increase in sales for products covering noncurriculum subjects: “We’ve seen great success with our educational compendium packs the Letts GCSE companions, the Reader Rabbit and Learning Ladder Key Stage titles, and Sesame Street have delivered strong sales due to the quality of the educational content and the increased awareness of the brand in the UK. Driving Test has also performed consistently well, along with the Berlitz language learning series.”

As an evergreen category, the only real challenge for the retailer is to give the software enough emphasis to ensure it sells. Due to the low cost, such items can offer an invaluable source of add-on sales, as well as driving purchases on their own and making parents aware of the proximity of the school term.

“Consumers are always attracted to products that offer value for money, so bundling high-value software with PC hardware is a good way to entice customers,” says Tru. “For example, putting together an educational pack of software to go with a netbook. Retailers could even offer discounts for different age groups.”

Powell observes that placement can go a long way towards generating sales: “We find the most successful retailers are those that run back to school promotions as part of their key activity, particularly stores where their promotions cover several different product categories. Retailers can use higher priced compendium packs as revenue drivers and single products for impulse purchases.

“Multi-buy promotions also work well as they encourage customers to increase their spend. Many parents have more than one child at school so it’s a great way for them to buy a few items at a discount. We would also suggest dedicated in-store space using end caps or display stands to promote a broad range of titles that cover all the key stages and core subjects.”

SRP: £14.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas, Gem Distribution, Centresoft, Ideal Software

They say: Developed by trusted experts in childhood education, these educational Sesame Street titles help children learn fundamental skills essential for every preschooler’s growth and progress. Activities are specially designed for two to five-year-olds and automatically adjust to allow children to play at their own pace and appropriate skill level, providing individualised feedback and support

Features: Includes Learn, Play and Grow, Let’s Go To Preschool and Elmo’s World software; addresses fundamental skills, early learning, language development, social development and self-esteem

SRP: £19.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas, Gem Distribution, CentreSoft, Ideal Software

They say: Highly motivating and devised to support the teaching of literacy and numeracy in schools, Learning Ladder forms a complete learning system for your child. Each disc is a separate ‘rung’ on the ladder – starting at age seven, taking children through to age 11

Features: Teaches phonetics, spelling, writing words and building sentences, addition and subtraction, division and multiplication; monitors progress and assesses the child’s strengths and weaknesses

SRP: £16.99
Distributor: Koch Media

They say: Words Rock uses a carefully crafted progression of activities to develop word power, spelling skills and punctuation knowhow, and delves into the nitty-gritty of how to grow word-smart kids. New concepts are introduced gradually, extending students at their own pace

Features: 3,200 activities over 16 progressive levels, develops spelling skills, improves grammar and punctuation awareness, optimised for group work or individual learning

SRP: £16.99
Distributor: Koch Media

They say: Use rapid-fire tables and number facts to defend the planet from waves of invading maths problems. Get started straight out of the box, or take advantage of the powerful diagnostic and reporting capabilities to zero in on each child’s learning needs.

Features: Covers essential numeracy skills, rapid-fire questions, progress monitoring, varied speed of gameplay, identifies a child’s needs and develops a revision programme

SRP: £16.99
Distributor: Koch Media

They say: Give your child a positive and empowering language experience with Braintastic Word Skills. You can customise the work/play ratio to maximise your child’s learning.

Features: 1,100 sequenced learning activities, letter tracking, matching, sorting and recognition, spelling patterns and rules, vocabulary development, correlates with key stage one

SRP: £16.99
Distributor: Koch Media

They say: Integrated speech ensures reading success. Build essential reading skills to unlock life’s treasures. Reading Success uniquely combines sight and sound for maximum learning potential.

Features: 390 activities covering three years of schooling, integrated speech and sound support, phonetic and text based approach, expanded controlled vocabulary

SRP: £19.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas, Gem Distribution, CentreSoft, Ideal Software

They say: The Reader Rabbit programs are designed to cover and support the core subjects your child will learn at school. Skill levels can be adjusted manually and the Parent’s Report keeps track of your child’s progress.

Features: Covers and supports core subjects, adjustable skill levels, parental progress reports, activities cover maths, language, art, vocabulary and science.

SRP: £49.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas

They say: Whether at home, in the car or on your portable device, learn languages from the usual French, German and Spanish to Hebrew, Arabic and Latin

Features: Easy to use immersion course, covers 15,000 words and phrases, native speaker audio, interactive conversations and games, online proficiency tests and progress tracking

SRP: £99.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas

They say: The complete language learning solution, taking you from beginner level all the way to advanced

Features: Lessons covering 20,000 words and phrases, easy-to-use translation dictionary of over 65,000 words, rapidly builds a large vocabulary, four learning products in one package

SRP: £16.99
Distributor: Koch Media

They say: Master the world of numbers as you race against time and outwit your competitors. Get started straight out of the box, or take advantage of the powerful diagnostic and reporting capabilities to zero in on each child’s learning needs

Features: Ages five to 15+, 7,300 maths activities with 52 difficulty levels, covers over 90 per cent of maths curriculum, detailed printable progress reports, customisable content for revision and extension

SRP: £39.99
Distributor: Koch Media

They say: All four Braintastic Maths titles bundled on one disk. Build your child’s mathematical understanding and skills and go beyond number crunching

Features: 11,000 sequenced learning activities, covers 11 years of schooling, builds core skills, fully correlated with foundation to key stage three, bonus key stage four content, detailed user statistics

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