Ask Rosetta Stone.
The Arlington company was a pioneer in turning foreign language lessons into bits and bytes, initially as discs. The courses were sold as a mainstream consumer product, hawked from kiosks in shopping malls.
Business boomed until customers tired of CDs, forcing Rosetta Stone to invest in a new online platform.
Chief executive Stephen M. Swad offered a peek into the shift recently when he updated analysts on the company’s quarterly results. He said Rosetta’s online learners now total 57,000, up 115 percent since the beginning of the year.
The company is phasing out kiosks in favor of marketing through the likes of Facebook and Groupon, Swad said, which “represent new distribution channels that are allowing us to reach more consumers.”
For instance, some 70 percent of the people who responded to a Facebook campaign did so through a mobile device, he said.
The next step is to introduce new tiers of subscription offerings, from online courses only to a full suite that includes private studio sessions. The online offering allows the company to “touch” the customer more often, presenting new opportunities for additional sales.
Ultimately, the venture’s success will depend on whether people find the product useful. Swad said online engagement appears to mirror that of earlier versions of Rosetta software.
“You have, on one end of the spectrum, those that never use it at all, much like a gym membership, and on the other hand of the spectrum, you have those that can’t get enough of our products, go to every coaching session and change their life forever,” Swad said.
Even in a digital world, some things never change.