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Case study: Busy Bees

Boosting revenue through an interactive digital platform

How we defined, built and launched web native mobile applications to drive revenue, retention and growth for global childcare provider, Busy Bees

Busy Bees is one of the largest and most renowned global childcare providers, delivering learning to over 75,000 children worldwide, with a mission to give every child in their care the best start in life.

The team had a vision for a tool that could be used across the business to deliver a world-class learning and development experience for the children in their care, and came to 383 after struggling to find the right partner to bring the idea to life.

We were tasked with defining, building and launching web native mobile applications for parents and educators that would drive occupancy in Busy Bees centres, improve operational efficiency, and fuel revenue growth for the business.

Along the way, we achieved all that and more, from a five star app rating, to 1.2m content views, and even beating Peppa Pig in the app charts...!

Here's how we did it...


  • A bespoke web app, native app and API with a library of rich childcare resources, activities and content
  • A central CMS giving complete control of content and features
  • Roadmap to scale platform internationally
  • Immediate rollout for Busy Bees staff - no training required
  • 10,000 app downloads in the first two weeks and a five star rating in the app store 
  • Delivered revenue growth, customer retention and operational efficiency

The brief

Busy Bees arrived with a clear brief for the business outcomes they wanted to achieve.

Firstly, the platform should drive revenue growth and profitability by helping to improve occupancy at Busy Bees centres, whilst also increasing customer loyalty, retention and acquisition.

Secondly, the platform should help Busy Bees to drive operational efficiency and consistency across their 850+ centres worldwide, by staying connected to educators and centre managers more easily.

And finally, it was important that this was a bespoke build, so Busy Bees could retain intellectual property and create business value - they didn't just want an off-the-shelf solution with their logo stuck in the corner, as other suppliers had offered. They wanted a bespoke experience that would look and feel uniquely Busy Bees, upholding and enhancing their high standards of care, and growing with them as their needs evolved.

Our approach

Research & insight

To fulfil this brief, we knew we needed to develop a deep understanding of both the business and the end users. The project started with an immersion session, a series of interviews, and dedicated focus groups, where we spoke to stakeholders, nursery managers, practitioners and parents.

We used the Jobs to be Done framework to help us uncover user needs, frictions and anxieties, creating a clear picture of the problems that this platform could solve. From here, we designed a value proposition and a product roadmap for UP.

Prototyping & validation

We identified several feature considerations that needed to be front of mind during our ideation and prototyping.

  • The platform should be designed to enhance the face-to-face interactions between parents or practitioners and children, not replace them. 
  • Interactions needed to be as secure as possible, without slowing down or getting in the way of activities.
  • Visibility of content on the platform needed to be controlled centrally, at a granular level.

Low-fidelity prototypes were created to test features and functionality with users and stakeholders, in order to validate our ideas and mitigate product risk.

Product development

Features were divided into horizons, and developed through iterative design and product sprints, using an agile development framework.

Through innovative use of technology and agile methodologies, we significantly reduced time to market, eco-footprint and overheads.

Product launch

UP was launched at the Busy Bees annual manager celebration, where the team were immediately able to see it in action and start interacting with it on tablets around the room  - no setup or training required.

This was the first time Busy Bees had been able to launch a digital initiative without a standard 6-week training and roll out; instead, thanks to it's intuitive design, practitioners were able to instantly use the apps across all centres in the UK and Ireland.

Elements of the Busy Bees application design system

Words to describe 383: professional, friendly, knowledgeable, focussed, honest, trustworthy, committed to deliver what the customer wants and needs.

Marg Randles, Operations Director, Busy Bees

The platform

The  ‘Unleashing Potential’ (UP) platform consists of a web app, native app and API - the first platform of its kind in the childcare industry,

iOS and Android applications provide a rich library of content covering audio, video and interactive experiences, available for both parents and practitioners. Caregivers are able to create tailored, personalised learning experiences based on children's interests, age and abilities, enhancing their development at nursery and at home.

A bespoke, secure CMS allows the Busy Bees team to manage and add content and features centrally, consistently updating resources in line with the latest guidelines, curriculum and best-practices, and replacing outdated, inefficient paper-based systems.

The platform has provided Busy Bees with a future-proofed solution that can be scaled internationally. Since launch, UP has been released in multiple languages, with expansion into Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, in line with regional content and education requirements.

Screenshots of screen from the Busy Bees application on mobile devices

I can't recommend 383 highly enough. They understood us and our needs immediately, and adopted our language and terminology within our first meeting. Everyone at 383 is approachable and friendly, they do what they say they will do and often go the extra mile. Their ideas and creative approach to all aspects of their business sets them apart.

Yvonne Smillie, Scotland's Managing Director, Busy Bees


  • 10,000 app downloads in the first two weeks
  • 1.2 million content views in first 12 months
  • Five star rating in the app store 
  • 'Exceptional' 25% ratio of Daily Active Users to Monthly Active Users
  • ‘Highly Commended’ in DADI: Professional Services & Technical Innovation Award
  • A charting higher than Peppa Pig in the educational app charts

Since launching in June 2019, UP generated 1.2 million content views in its first year, with 10,000 parent downloads in just the first two weeks. It achieved a five star rating in the app store, and for a few glorious hours, was higher than Peppa Pig in the educational app charts!

UP has had a significant impact on business outcomes for Busy Bees, helping to drive 100% occupancy in top performing centres, with a roadmap to drive additional revenue through bookings within the app. The platform has also exceeded performance targets for referral traffic to enrolment pages, helping to fuel customer acquisition.

The platform has also contributed to Busy Bees achievement of 97% good or outstanding Ofsted ratings across their 390+ centres in the UK and Ireland, with inspectors highlighting that “parents receive a wealth of information to help support their children, the most recent being through an open day to introduce them to Busy Bees’ new ‘Unleashing Potential’ app.” 

A screenshot of the Busy Bees platform showing an educational activity called 'My family story' on a tablet

From day one 383 have understood our needs as a business. Their knowledge and expertise has been invaluable. For me a big factor is how they are able to explain complex systems really easily so we can understand what is required of us to bring the project to life.

Jenny Shaw, Lead Academic & Research Developer, Busy Bees

Competing through COVID-19

As the global COVID-19 pandemic hit, Busy Bees found themselves well-prepared to provide digitised services to their customers thanks to the UP platform.

As parents suddenly found themselves being home-educators, Busy Bees saw;

  • a ten-fold increase in UP resource views by parents, reaching over 68,000
  • over 3.5k parent app downloads, a +233% uplift from the previous two months
  • three times more parent users then average in the first three months of lockdown.

UP allowed Busy Bees parents to continue the nursery experience at home, supporting consistency of learning and development and providing essential resources for parents in a way no other childcare provider could.

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