Namely, Thinkific continually invests in improving the user experience.
Sure, most companies do this to at least some extent, but I’ve found that a lot of them aren’t making much progress. Some of the big ones seem to be resting on their laurels – and losing market share – while many of the smaller ones just don’t have the funds to do much more than maintenance.
Not Thinkific. The company has strong commitment to continually enhancing and improving its platform over the years and the Thinkific App store is the latest evidence of that commitment.
So, what exactly is this Thinkific App store I’m so enthusiastic about? In this post, I’ll address that question, take you on a tour of what the App Store currently offers, and provide a brief Thinkific App Store review.
What is the Thinkific App Store?
And, for that matter, what are Thinkific Apps?
Chances are you already have an idea of what an “app” tends to be. Usually, it’s a fairly focused piece of software that runs on or is integrated with a digital platform to make that platform more useful.
The star example, of course, is Apple’s App Store, which is all about giving you access to apps that make Apple devices an indispensable part of your everyday life. (The story for Android users is similar, but for simplicity, I’ll stick with Apple here.)
When you use an app on your Apple device, you aren’t really using Apple software – Apple didn’t make the app – but you are using software that automagically “plays well” in the Apple world. It helps you do more of what you need to be able to do and, frankly, it makes your Apple device a whole lot more valuable.
Thinkific Apps do pretty much the same thing. The Apps aren’t Thinkific software; rather, they are pre-made integrations with 3rd party tools that can help take your education business to new levels.
Need a Thinkific Shopify integration? The App store has it.
Thinkific Zoom integration? Got ya covered.
I highlight others a bit later in this article, but that gives you a taste.
The key here is integration, as in “plug-n-play.” As in, you don’t have to write no stinkin’ code or hire someone to do it.
Of course, Thinkific has always been strong on integrations, but my view is that the “app” approach has made integrations clearer, more streamlined, and just plain easier to manage. And the App Store interface makes the whole user experience a breeze. Just click “Install” on any app, and you’re on your way to adding powerful new capabilities to your Thinkific account.
What Can You Do with Thinkific Apps?
One way to think about what Thinkific Apps can do for you and your course business is to consider the problem they solve.
The worlds of learning technology and online business are both evolving rapidly. Realistically, it’s impossible for any single company to stay on top of all the possibilities much less be the best at all the capabilities an edupreneur might need.
Even if a company were to try to do that, every course creator is unique. Based on your learning and business strategies, your technology needs may be just a bit different from the next creator. Again, it’s impossible for a single company, a single piece of software to address the unique needs of every edupreneur.
The App Store approach gives you the best of two worlds.
One the one hand, Thinkific provides a best-of-breed core platform for creating and delivering courses and managing your learners. On the other hand, with access to a wide range of plug-n-play apps you have the ability to address your specific business needs and completely customize the experience you provide for your learners
From my perspective, what Thinkific Apps empower you to do falls into three main buckets:
- Learner Experience
- Data & Analytics
More Engaging and Impactful Learning Experiences
Thinkific has historically provided a number of ways to enhance the core learner experience through options like using Zoom for live sessions and Accredible for sophisticated certificate capabilities. Those options are part of what is available in the Thinkific App store, but there are also a bunch of new options for enhancing the learner experience. A few that jump out at me include:
Hello Audio: an interesting option to convert your digital content in Thinkific into a private podcast feed that your learners can listen to on the go. I’m a podcaster and big podcast fan myself and I’m thrilled that this essentially gives courses creators a way to start a podcast easily.
Motrain: A cool app that enables your learners to earn “virtual coins” for completing lessons and courses. They can then purchase items in your own personalized rewards store. You can use this both to attract learners to your courses and to motivate course completion.
Community Box: I believe that building a community is one of the real keys to long term success as an edupreneur, and this apps helps by providing a directory that enables students to find each other and network both among themselves and with visitors to your site.
Those are a few of the possibilities for creating more engaging and impactful learning experiences in Thinkific. Be sure to visit the App Store to see more.
More Powerful Marketing
As I’ve said before, marketing is at least half the battle when it comes to succeeding as a course creator. The App Store offers some great new options. Again, I’ll highlight just a few of the ones that jumped out at me.
DropInBlog: This app enables you to install a blog into your Thinkific site in just a few clicks. Once installed, your blog lives in a Thinkific page block – as opposed to, for example, a separate WordPress site. For me, this is huge. A blog is one of the most valuable assets an expertise-based business can have and is essential for effective content marketing.
Poptin: Pop-ups and forms are absolutely essential for capturing leads and building an audience for your courses and other offerings. Poptin provides a way to create them and add them to your Thinkific site in minutes.
eWebinar: With eWebinar, you can easily turn any video into an automated Webinar to sell your courses. I love that this app also comes with template created by Aaron Morin from Thinkific that teaches you how to put together a winning sales pitch
There are plenty more marketing-related apps to explore in the store, including the growing range of e-mail service providers Thinkific integrates with:
- Constant Contact
Personally, I’m most excited that the App Store includes ActiveCampaign. It’s a very powerful platform – and one I use – that many other online course platforms don’t support. And, of course, ConvertKit is pretty much the go-to platform for the many bloggers and solopreneurs who are drawn to creating online courses.
Finally, all this powerful marketing is meant to lead to sales. As I mentioned before, there is a Thinkific Shopify integration which enables to sell online courses on Shopify – a powerful option. And, of course, Thinkific plugs into the usual e-commerce gateway options like PayPal and Stripe.
Better Data and Insights
Finally, an area that is absolutely critical for course creators is having the data and insights you need to make good decisions about what products to create and to understand how your learners are using them (or not!). Once again, the Thinkific App Store has you covered. Some key options include:
Mixpanel: An advanced analytics platform for mobile and web. Instead of only bmeasuring page views, it helps you analyze the actions people take within your Thinkific site.
Segment.io: Enables you to send Thinkific data in real time to over 100 analytics, marketing, support systems and applications that you know and already use – for example, HubSpot, Salesforce, Optimizely, just to name a very few.
Google Analytics: Of course – you need your Thinkific site to connect with the number one most used analytics platform on the Web. Just add your Google Analytics Tracking ID to Thinkific you’ll be able to better understand learner behavior and make data-driven decisions to grow your online course business.
“Data-driven” really is a key to business success going forward and, again, no single platform can give you all of the data insights you need. The Thinkific App Store helps you take advantage of many different ways of collecting and analyzing data.
Are Thinkific Apps Free?
Okay, so that all sounds great, but you are probably wondering, “What’s it going to cost me? Are Thinkific Apps free?”
The answer is yes and no. The integrations are free. Thinkific and its partners have invested to build those and make them part of your Thinkific license. But the third party software the integrations connect to is not necessarily free – you have to pay the usual fees that are part of using that software.
Of course, in many cases, there are no fees for using the third party software. You can connect to and use Google Analytics for free, for example. And you can take advantage of Thinkific Zoom integration with a free Zoom account – though you will have to have a paid account for longer sessions or to make use of Zoom’s Webinar capabilities.
In other cases, you will have to have a paid account right off the bat to make use of the integrated third party software. That makes perfect sense – there’s no way that purchasing a Thinkific license could give you free access to a large list of other software platforms. So, just make sure you are aware of the fees associated with any apps you want to use. (Fortunately, Thinkific provides basic pricing information for apps in the App Store.)
The Future of the Thinkific App Store
As notable as the Thinkific App Store is right now, it’s really the future potential that I find most compelling. I think it could be a real game changer for the online course business.
At the time of initially publishing this review, there are just under 30 apps in the App Store. That’s already pretty compelling, but go back to the Apple App Store analogy at the beginning of this post: Apple has thousands of apps available, and that’s what makes it so incredibly valuable. You can find an app for just about any need you have. You know: “There’s an app for that.”
I don’t know if Thinkific will ever have thousands of apps, but I do know that major growth is part of the company’s plans for the App Store. As a company representative told me,
We’re looking to end 2021 with around 100 apps in the app store, representing a mix of inbound and outbound opportunities that are already in the works. We’re seeking to accelerate that substantially next year as our app developer community grows, envisioning that we might reach between 300 and 400 apps by the end of 2023.”
Of course, it not just about numbers. “We’re conscious of ensuring quality over quantity,” the rep said, “and we won’t only be focused on adding new apps. We want to ensure that the apps that we launch are the right ones for our customers and help them to achieve the results that they are looking for.”
In a nutshell, Thinkific aims to create an open ecosystem for innovation, one that will support focused product expansion by supporting the success of app developers.
This isn’t the kind of vision that just any company can pull off. You have to already have enough of a footprint in the market for third party software makers to see value in developing an app. Thinkific has that – along with a lot of momentum.
You also have to have enough of a culture of innovation and commitment to ongoing product development to ensure that the App Store concept isn’t just marketing hype. Thinkific clearly has that culture and that commitment, in my opinion.
Thinkific App Store Review: Bottom Line
Hopefully I’ve given you a good general idea of what the Thinkific App Store is and how it can contribute a great deal of value to Thinkific users and to the broader landscape of online learning.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that Thinkific is not the first online learning company to take this approach. In the open source world, for example, Moodle has done much the same thing for many years, even if the term “app” is not used there.
Still, among the newer, more modern breed of platforms that are a good fit for edupreneurs, this is a first. Apps for these platforms is an idea whose time has clearly come, and I’m not surprised to see Thinkific be the company leading the way on it. You can expect others to follow.
So, if you are already using Thinkific, be sure to take advantage of what the App Store has to offer. And if you aren’t using Thinkific yet, now is definitely the time to give it a try.