Noam Fine, co-Founder and CEO of Widdit, providing app developers engagement solutions over the mobile and Web platforms.
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
We read every day about new startups that have raised capital and have just recently launched their app or platform. Of course, a creative idea and raising funds is only half the battle, as was recently pointed out by Zach Miller in a recent post on Forbes on Israel’s flourishing startup scene.
Miller argues that the real challenge is building “bigger, lasting firms.” He’s absolutely right.
The monetization challenge
Young developers can be easily caught up in the challenges associated with app monetization, like technology fragmentation and keeping up with innovation.
Without a doubt, revenue is essential for a tech company, even more so for small developers. This is completely understandable; many recent mobile apps are the product of a few people – perhaps just one person – with an idea. In this world, all great ideas need a bit of cash to make them a reality.
But there are risks with hyper-focusing on monetization early in the game. These products risk marketing too aggressively in their monetization setting the stage for bad reviews and discontented customers.
As every developer knows, it doesn’t take long for word of problems to spread and damage a company’s reputation.
Keep ’em coming back
Long-term vision from the start is also crucial. It’s great to have a concept and realize a first stage product, but how do you achieve the next step? How do you, as a developer, make the transition from short-term survival to a philosophy of continuous ‘scaling up’?
It becomes clear that in order to make that leap to the next stage, the developer must focus on user retention. With so much competition in the popular app stores, the key is improving engagement levels to ensure retention and promotion.
Put simply, create a product people want, and keep them (and their friends) coming back for more. It goes without saying that if you make a great first impression, users will want to return.
Likewise, turning them off at the start by being too complicated or not addressing problems or bugs and they’re probably gone forever.
Of course, user retention will also increase monetization. As the number of users increases, you can provide incentives for these users to share your app on social networks. User retention can also improve loyalty and cross-promotion between products within a brand.
Fortunately for developers, there are innovative ways to connect with audiences, for example, mobile app developers/brands can engage through a smartphone’s lockscreen, which users utilize dozens of times each day. Continual improvements and product upgrades will also ensure opportunities to interact with users.
Go where your users take you
Social media is now an indispensable factor. Developers can’t afford to sit back and hope for the best. Listen carefully and humbly to your users, using social media channels to provide real-time technical support. And don’t be afraid to really engage with users and listen to their needs and suggestions.
Perl language developer Larry Wall tells a great anecdote: “When they built the University of California at Irvine, they did not put in any sidewalks the first year. Next year they came back and looked at where all the cow trails were in the grass and put the sidewalks there.”
In other words, go where your users take you. Through this kind of exchange, you will improve your product, and transform end users into collaborators, giving them an emotional investment in what you’re doing. Clearly, this is a win/win for everyone.
Do you know where you’re going?
As Zach Miller notes, a number of Israeli startups are catching on. Wix, a popular website builder, for example, has reportedly passed on a number of generous buy-out offers in order to concentrate on future growth and hiring.
Indeed, my experience is that the developers who have prioritized long-term vision care less about the money than they are concerned with installs and engagement levels; their focus is on relentlessly improving the way their app engages with their audience, and upholding the app’s name and positive reputation.
Yours should be, too.