Last Friday I was pleasantly surprised to receive my daily Groupon mail featuring Babbel, one of the startups that I have covered in posts and regular updates from almost the beginning of my blogging career. Babbel was one of the national deals in France over the weekend, which means that their deal was available for 48h instead of only 24h.
Back in October I already analyzed a similar deal of Livemocha over at KirstenWinkler.com. The difference back then compared with the Babbel deal was that Livemocha’s deal was available in one city only, in this case Seattle. It also lasted for 24h hours only and the price was significantly higher. Livemocha sold 534 courses back then.
Let’s start with some facts on Groupon France. According to Business Insider, Groupon France is the #1 market for Groupon in Europe and the #2 market for Groupon world wide.
That month [March 2011], the company announced 5 million members, and a quick calculation from our database reveals they generated revenues around $35 million in the top 10 French cities, up 80% from February.
By April, Groupon was ranked 7th ecommerce site in the country with 8.6M unique visitors.
Now, if we take the number of members from back in March and the 2118 subscriptions sold, we get down to 0.0004% of Groupon France members who bought the deal.
I think, we all agree that this is not really a run and rather disappointing. Taking into consideration that Groupon will take 50% of every subscription sold, Babbel would make 10.537,50 Euro IF every Groupon was traded in.
If we compare those numbers to Livemocha’s Seattle deal back in October it looks even worse. But does this mean that there is no interest in France to learn a foreign language?
Living in France for almost five years now and having worked as a language tutor in companies and with private students I would say that learning other languages is definitely not a priority for the French. But then is it elsewhere? However, in France there might still be a difference in parent’s minds compared with other countries. Whereas I see a rather high number of parents in the US and other European countries starting their children’s education early by giving them a competitive edge over their classmates, French parents only seem to intervene when there is really a problem and they need a private tutor to fix it. Up to university, education doesn’t seem to have high value and as long as students have their “moyenne” or a bit better (which means average or a bit above), there is no need to worry as this way you’ll be able to pass your “bac” (A levels) without big difficulties. Of course, if parents are planning to have their children to go to one of the “Grands Ecoles” it’s a whole different thing.
For the majority of French, focusing on additional skills starts at university or as young professionals. At this point, they become ambitious and invest in themselves and their career.
The other big part of my own French students describe learning a foreign language as a cultural experience. They want to learn about another culture and perfect social skills. I think, it becomes rather clear that having such an objective they are not likely to learn with software.
Another factor are of course the French summer holidays. Those magic two months in which the whole country is basically away and doing nothing. Launching a deal in that period is about the worst period to pick but the problem is that the companies don’t have any influence on the timing, at least from what I heard.
Nevertheless, I am pretty sure that if the deal had been timed for either “la rentrée” beginning of September – the period when everyone in France is coming back home and preparing for the new school year or even better in the last trimester of the school year which is considered the more important one, so before summer – I’m pretty sure we would have seen other (better) numbers.