Last Wednesday, I stopped into Rosetta Stone’s splashy event in a trendy nightclub in San Francisco’s SOMA district. Company officials were on hand to demonstrate Rosetta Stone Version 4 TOTALe. Chris Spiller, executive producer, demonstrated the Spanish version of the popular software for learning languages.
Chris and I discussed how immersing oneself in another culture is by far the best way to learn a language. And we shared stories about the overemphasis on grammar in high school foreign language classes. It turns out that cultural immersion is exactly what Rosetta Stone had in mind when developing Version 4 TOTALe. “We looked at what are the pieces of that experience we can recreate through technology,” Chris explained.
Rosetta Stone has recently transformed its offering into a hybrid product/collaborative service. This means that no longer must customers learn a language in a vacuum. They can now collaborate with other learners globally and can also learn from language coaches who interact with customers through one-way video and two-way audio. Adobe provides and hosts Rosetta Stone’s video and audio through its Adobe LiveCycle Collaboration Service Platform. Incidentally, today Adobe is releasing version 8 of a related web conferencing product called Adobe Connect.
Rosetta Stone Version 4 TOTALe includes Rosetta Studio, which involves live, interactive coaching. The bundle also features Rosetta World, which lets users collaborate with fellow learners. There are lots of activities and games that geographically-dispersed users can do together while talking with each other in the language they’re learning via voice over IP (VOIP) and text chat. Other activities pair learners with native speakers who are, in turn, learning their partner’s language. This collaboration among customers accelerates learning and creates value.
Getting customers to collaborate with each other can turn a maturing product into a virally-adopted habit. Smart companies realize that collaboration is more than customers participating in discussion forums. It’s about getting customers to create value using a product or service together in real time. Depending on the product, collaborating among customers may involve creating, learning or playing.
Besides enhancing learning, the collaborative service lets Rosetta Stone enhance its business model and presumably its revenue. The software includes three months of access to Rosetta Studio and Rosetta World, and customers can then buy more access. I suspect that this hybrid software-as-a-product/collaborative service model is a prelude to a pure software-as-a-service (SAAS) offering.
While Rosetta Stone officials say the company has no plans to expand offerings beyond language software and services, this collaborative approach to online learning could apply to subjects ranging from history and geography to algebra and physics. A user in India and a user in Germany could collaborate to learn the geography, history and culture of their respective countries.
The big picture is that companies in many industries can create value by encouraging customers to collaborate with each other. This produces greater stickiness by building interactive communities around products with the potential of generating new revenue streams. And this goes well beyond software. Take a product like a motorcycle. With a 3D model of the motorcycle plus interactive audio and video, enthusiasts can collaborate on maintenance, diagnosing problems, and doing repairs. Collaborating among customers could also apply to furniture. Using a 3D model of a home or office and choices of virtual furniture, customers could exchange ideas and collaboratively design spaces for living and working.
Collaboration among customers can build brands, increase marketplace stickiness, and create new revenue streams.