Closing Childcare Gaps Nationwide Using Smart Data and Analytics

Looking for a scalable analytics platform, a childcare marketplace implemented Amplitude Analytics to better track and analyze usage patterns, allowing them to make feature improvements that connect with their users.

Customer Stories
August 15, 2023
Sara Mauskopf headshot
Sara Mauskopf
CEO and Co-Founder
winnie feature image

Insight/Action/Outcome: The team noticed that parents were finding many childcare options, but they either left the site or would only contact one provider. They dug into the data and discovered that parents who used search filters to get results that better matched their criteria created 3 times as many daycare inquiries on average as parents who didn’t. This understanding led the team to change their product to require certain filters for a search. That change resulted in a 40% increase in the number of users who opened an inquiry with a daycare on Winnie. They also saw the average number of daycare inquiries per user grow by 10%.

We founded Winnie in 2016 to create something to help parents—specifically working parents—find childcare. We didn’t know what that meant, and we initially started as a community-based app that people used to find activities and places to go with their kids. It took over a year to pivot away from that initial concept and turn into what it is today: a childcare marketplace focused on group licensed care across the United States.

When parents log in, they can find the childcare options best suited to meet their needs by filtering by important criteria, including where they live, the ages of their children, price, education type, and whether the schedule is full time or part time. Once they find providers who meet these criteria, they can take the next step by contacting them or scheduling a tour.

About half of our 20-person company focuses on product and engineering, and the marketing, sales, and customer success teams round out the staff.

We instrumented Winnie from the beginning, knowing metrics would tell the story about the usefulness of our product. The initial product’s usage data made us realize we had to change if we were going to realize our vision. While people told us they liked the initial app, they weren’t using it enough, and we could see that in the usage data.

Without an instrumented product, it’s hard to get an accurate picture of how people use and engage at scale.

When we pivoted to childcare, we saw a big difference. Parents and providers started using Winnie more, and usage patterns differed depending on whether the user was a parent or a provider. Without an instrumented product, it’s hard to get an accurate picture of how people use and engage at scale. And as our product grew, we knew we needed to find a platform with robust instrumentation that could offer us more detailed insights.

Seeing scalability in Amplitude Analytics

We started out with Mixpanel but as we realized that our survival as a company hinged on our metrics, we began researching a better long-term option. We knew Winnie would only be successful if we had a massive amount of traffic—millions of visitors—and there would be a lot of usage to track. We needed a platform that could easily scale with that growth.

We had the option at the time to try Amplitude Analytics for free, and their self-service model was a barrier-free way to try out the platform without having to go through a typical sales cycle. We immediately saw its potential for easy scalability, and another benefit was how easily Analytics integrates with other platforms, especially Segment. We send events to Segment and use those same events for billing purposes before they go into other systems. We can also send those events from Segment into Analytics, making it a seamless addition to our tech stack.

Right away, we saw how Analytics enables us to create and redefine custom events without re-instrumenting anything in the product. For example, our “leads” are parents who contact a provider, which could occur through their website, a phone call, or an online form. Since we want to understand how certain lead types perform over time, we can create custom events and track users who submit forms. Suppose I decide that I also want to track users who contact providers on the phone. In that case, I can update my custom event without losing any information or involving an engineer. This ability meant we could move faster—a significant benefit for a small team.

A feature change that increased user activation

Moving quickly can be the difference between parents using us to find childcare or looking elsewhere. So when we saw that some parents were leaving our site after performing a search, we used Analytics to take a closer look. Parents were finding childcare options and providers, but some would then bounce or only contact only one provider. We wanted to understand why—is it just that some parents weren’t as high intent in their childcare search as others? Is it that we didn't have good results? Were they searching in a childcare desert?

When we dug into the data, we discovered that parents who used search filters to get results that were better matched to their criteria had a lot more success on our platform. They were twice as likely to find at least one daycare they were interested in when they used a search filter, and these "search filter" users created three times as many daycare inquiries (on average) as non search filter users.

Based on this information, we made a change to our product to require filters for every search. That change led to a 40% increase in users who inquired with a daycare on Winnie. We also saw the average number of daycare inquiries per user grew by 10% across the platform.

By putting an insight into action we increased daycare inquiries by 40%.

These changes may have been met with resistance before, for fear that it would’ve increased drop-off if people didn’t want to input that data. But now we can definitively see that this has brought only positive change, allowing users to have more success and a more positive experience.

How data boosts acquisition and disproves assumptions

This example was just one way we used data to improve the user experience for parents, but our user acquisition strategy requires us to engage with providers, too. We want providers to create an account, complete our onboarding funnel, and log in repeatedly over time. Since they always need new families, they will continue to need us. We track provider characteristics to see who’s having the most success on our platform, and then use Analytics to spot trends and nuances that might not have otherwise been obvious. If we see an area with a lot of parent demand isn’t monetized well, we can reach out to providers and encourage them to claim their free profile page to gain more traction in the region. By prioritizing this type of outreach, we can better target our efforts.

We all make assumptions about behavior that aren’t supported by data. For example, a common belief is that parents use Winnie once to find their childcare solution and never return. That’s not the case. Parents visit us frequently after the initial burst of childcare-finding activity to review their options as their circumstances change. We proved this usage pattern through our data, which is especially useful when pitching to investors. We can show that childcare is a need that stays with families for many years, and we’re not a platform for one-time use.

The capabilities of Analytics have also informed our new marketplace. Many childcare providers shared a similar pain point: they couldn’t take any more families because they didn’t have enough staff. Using Winnie’s marketplace, childcare providers can post open jobs and reach people interested in working for them. Because this is a new area for Winnie, it’s been essential to understand how it’s received and whether we’re successfully delivering job applicants to providers. Analytics has been useful in ramping up that product and tracking metrics to ensure we’re delivering with our early customers while also reaching our new audience of job seekers.

Using Analytics to inform product-led growth

In addition to new features, we also rely on product-led growth to expand our user base. We often rely on email to engage providers in various ways, including updating their pages. We use Analytics to monitor the performance of those emails, and which messaging best drives providers to Winnie. We can see providers’ actions and which actions lead to engaged users and, ultimately, paying customers. We can also sort users into different life cycles depending on their behavior. For instance, when a provider receives a free lead, they may get a nudge that they can get more by promoting their page on Winnie. Analytics helped us discover these key actions that trigger providers to reach the next stage in the life cycle or identify which providers are good prospects for a long-term partnership.

Becoming and staying a customer is the most obvious sign of success. Still, it can be a big ask, especially when many childcare providers have never done paid marketing. They don’t have the budget or the expertise. Sometimes, our goal isn’t to convert these providers into paying customers; it’s just for them to be active users. When they use Winnie and keep their page up to date, it makes Winnie more valuable to parents.

I don’t want to be a gatekeeper. People need to be able to manage and monitor performance independently, and Analytics allows them to do that.

We use Analytics to inform every product launch or change we make, and establish a dashboard early in the launch process so we know exactly how we’re going to measure success. Even though our product and engineering teams use Analytics most often, the entire company has access to the metrics required for their individual tasks. I don’t want to be a gatekeeper. People need to be able to manage and monitor performance independently, and Analytics allows them to do that.

We know we’re on the right track with data we can trust

We didn’t monetize Winnie for a long time. Now, we have millions of dollars in revenue and are expanding into additional programs, such as camps and before- and after-school care. As expected, Amplitude scaled along with us, and we graduated to an enterprise plan.

Focusing on the right things is always important, and being a small team magnifies that need. Analytics informs many of our decisions, so we know we’re always working on what’s most important.

Our expansion means that my scope as CEO keeps getting bigger. I need to know how the business performs and whether anything we change has a negative impact on outcomes. I check certain dashboards every day—sometimes multiple times a day. Even if we’re dealing with a lot of bugs or things aren’t working as intended, I can monitor the health of the business at a glance, and see there’s no need to panic.

Focusing on the right things is always important, and being a small team magnifies that need. Analytics informs many of our decisions, so we know we’re always working on the things that promise the most significant impact on the business.

About the Author
Sara Mauskopf headshot
Sara Mauskopf
CEO and Co-Founder
Sara Mauskopf is the CEO and Co-Founder of Winnie, a marketplace for child care built on powerful data systems and backed by a trusted community of parents and providers. Prior to Winnie, Sara held product leadership roles at Postmates, Twitter, YouTube and Google.