Launch of Robinhood Gold Reveals Important Lesson
You do not have to monetize a mobile app immediately. In December of 2014 Robinhood, a stock trading app, launched on the market promising to never charge commissions. Nearly two years after their successful foray into the app world, and around 1 million users, they have announced a new premium feature called Robinhood Gold, which charges users $10/month for additional features. This expansion into the monetary branch of mobile apps is an excellent case study for anyone looking at launching their own app.
Robinhood gained their impressive network of users through a lot of knowledge and hard work. It was founded by two Stanford grads who had built high tech trading alternatives for big hedge funds. The basis of the app was that it should appeal to people just getting their feet wet in the stock market, because it allows users to trade stocks without paying any fees. Other companies with similar applications charge anywhere from $7-$70 per trade, depending on various charges and commission.
The sleek design and amazing user experience was also an important factor to reel in users. Having a great concept and bettering their competitors was a way to get people to download the app, but the user experience kept them there, creating loyal followers. After assessing nearly 2 years of data Robinhood discovered that anywhere between 10%-20% of their user base was more experienced traders, and they saw an opening to monetize without compromising on their founding promise of never charging commission on trades.
This past week Robinhood Gold launched. For $10/month users who upgrade to this paid subscription will get a plethora of features. Gold users have better trading hours, which include before the stock market opens and after it closes. They also get access to an additional $2000 of credit (if there is $2000 already in the account), and they get to skip the 3 day waiting period for deposits and reinvestments. This Gold membership provides more experienced traders with features they really want, for a fee that they can afford. Also, with the name being ‘Gold’, it gives the people who invest in the subscription a level of prestige, which after all, is what most stock traders are chasing.
The massive takeaway for new developers and anyone with a great app idea is that you don’t have to monetize immediately. Get it all right first. Grow a user base first. Make sure you have all the working components functioning seamlessly first. Once you have the app working and people loving it, you can then make changes. In fact, as with the Robinhood app, you may even be praised for this change as it could offer your user base something they actually want. The side effect is simply that you can get paid handsomely for that upgrade.
How Mobile Apps Benefit the Restaurant Industry
Food. It is shared, photographed, raved and ranted about, and searched endlessly online. But the internet is shifting into our hands more and more every day. In North America over 89% of mobile internet usage is through apps, and 90% of a mobile user’s time in general is spent in apps! This is staggering, and a key insight as companies develop mobile marketing strategies.
So how can mobile apps benefit the restaurant industry? An obvious answer is by creating tablet applications for customers. Tablet menu applications are highly adaptable and easy to alter for fresh menu items and features, look super slick to the customer, and provide a portable interface for servers to place orders and requests. Forget clunky POS ordering, tablet apps are capable of providing an all encompassing system for your customers and staff that sends a signal to the integrated device.
Outside of the restaurant, customers are always looking for information. Think about how many times you have viewed a menu online, and it was a picture someone had took and uploaded to a third party site. With an app you can be in control of the menu your customers see – and it can be dynamic. No need to update your website every time you have a new dinner feature. Updating your app can be easy and interesting, giving customers a reason to see what your specials are for the evening.
Hours of operation, directions, reservations… there are many other reasons customers search for restaurant information. Having a dedicated space on their smartphone gives your business a leg up, because there is no searching involved. It is all at their fingertips. And with the recent expansion of Apple Pay in Canada, payment integration means customers don’t even need to bring their wallet to dinner.
Many companies utilize mobile apps for customer loyalty. Gone are the days of punch-cards for every coffee you buy. Now giving customer rewards is as easy as a bar-code scan. This makes the process easier for staff and managers as well, eliminating lengthy discount codes.
Mobile apps save time for back-end operations, eliminating duplication of tasks by having everything on one interface. Instead of having to update menus, internal systems, and your website, it can all be done with one adjustment. This saves time, confusion, and countless errors. What it all boils down to, is it saves you money.
Mobile websites are yesterday’s news. The wave of the future is mobile apps, and the restaurant industry can benefit from staying ahead of the curve and developing a mobile app now. There are many options available with a variety of prices and intricacies. If you have a restaurant and want to discuss your options, please contact Terraform today for a free consultation.
Warning Signs Your App Development Is Headed For Trouble
App development is a new field for many businesses and entrepreneurs, and the process can be complicated with the wrong developer. Clients need to understand their project inside out and backwards. Sometimes along the way there are warning signs that the app development is going off the rails, and often times clients and developers alike ignore these red flags until it it too late, and the project ends in disaster.
Here is a list of warning signs your app development is headed for trouble. This list looks at everything from the hiring process to the client’s role in the development process. We hope these warnings will give you peace of mind during your development, or help you get out of a bad situation if you recognize any of these red flags!
Is your developer a ‘Yes Man’?
One of the biggest signs you are dealing with someone with little knowledge about app development is when they agree to everything you want. While it might feel good to you at the start, app developers with experience will know the limitations of their skills, as well as the industry’s requirements. Of course you don’t want to be arguing with your app developer all the time, but if you get no push back at all, this could be a warning sign. Questions and concerns from your developer show true commitment and a desire to truly understand your project.
Is your developer an established business?
Many freelance developers can talk the talk, but when it comes down to the app design, development, and follow through, they can’t deliver. It’s tempting to hire a freelancer because they are more budget-friendly, but what you may not realize is you are likely paying them to learn the ropes. One person alone is very unlikely to be skilled in all aspects of app development which include design, coding, analytics, project management, content writing… the list goes on and on. Hiring a full team at an established business gives you a range of people and skills all contributing to your project.
Can the client make a decision?
The client needs to have a clear vision of what they want, down to the finest detail. Without this, the project is destined to go over budget. If the client is a group of people, all the parties need to be on the same page for all aspects of the app. These internal discussions should be done on the client’s own time, so they are not paying to hash things out during development meetings. Internal conflict is a huge warning sign, as it will drag a project on for eternity, and increase costs and time expectations drastically.
Does your developer have references?
If you ask your developer for references they should be able to provide you with a document detailing past/current projects with the ability for you to contact a few customers. No references is a huge warning sign.
Does your developer have published apps?
Ask for a list of published apps, or actually take the time to explore their portfolio. Download these apps. Test them out. Do you like the look and feel of them? If your developer has no published apps to review you may be in for trouble.
How detailed is your quote?
A huge red flag is a developer who gives you a cost and time quote without knowing the full scope of the project. How many modules or pages does your app require? What features are important to you, and what does the design look like? Your quote should include every aspect of your app, or it won’t be correct! No matter how experienced the app developer is they can not give you an accurate quote without knowing your vision for every aspect of your mobile app.
Does your developer outsource design?
If a company doesn’t do app design in house, but rather outsources this part of the development process, get your spidey senses going. This is a warning sign that your app development may be headed for trouble because the amount of control the company has over the project is limited.
Does the client constantly change their mind?
Planning and developing one thing and then asking for something new is a big red flag that your project is headed for trouble. Often during the development process clients will start looking at other apps as a comparison, and then want a feature that app has. The issue with this is your quote will be based on the information your developer had at the time of your project. Once work has started on one thing, asking for something new could mean your developer needs to start from scratch. This is fine if you weigh out the hit you will take for cost and time setbacks, but if you are on a tight timeline and budget, these kinds of changes could lead to serious trouble.
If you feel like you are getting the runaround from your developer, and any of these red flags ring true, there are options. You can move your project over to another developer, or you can hire someone to look at your project and consult with your current developer. Don’t feel like you have to stay in a bad situation when you are unhappy and not getting the results you want.
10 Questions to Answer Before Developing a Mobile App
1) What Is the Purpose of My App?
Can you explain your app in 30 seconds? If the premise is too complicated, try to narrow the focus. You can always expand your mobile app, or develop a new one, once the main aspect takes off and you gain a user base.
2) Do I Need A Custom App?
Some app development companies have affordable app templates that may fit your needs. The cost will be significantly less, however a subscription fee is likely and you will not own the source code. If you business requires something simple a turnkey app may be the way to go.
3) What Platform Should I Choose?
The platform you choose for your app really comes down to a business decision. iPhone, Android or Universal? Native apps cost more but provide an amazing user experience. Universal apps reach a broader range of people, but will likely need to be re-developed once a large user base is established.
4) How Do I Choose a Developer?
Narrow your choices and interview a few mobile app developers. Ask them to provide you with a breakdown for all modules incorporated into your app. Get a cost and time quote. Review their portfolio and go with your gut!
BE WARY OF A DEVELOPER WITH NO PUBLISHED APPS!
5) What is the Potential Competition for the App?
Have you done extensive research for mobile applications with a similar premise? Ensure you find out how many users they have, and what the likes and dislikes about the current apps on the market are.
6) What is your USP?
Your app doesn’t need to be a completely unique idea, but it should have a unique selling point. What sets your mobile app apart from the competition? What will make people want to use your app over the others?
7) What is My Budget?
Quality does come with a cost. Ensure you know what your budget is for your mobile app, and talk with your developer about what to realistically expect within your app in return for your set budget. Have a bit of a slush fund for unexpected changes as you begin to see the app take shape..
8) What is the Visual Design of My App?
Do you have logos and a color scheme designed already? What is your taste when it comes to graphic or simple design? Where do you envision the placement of the buttons and menus on your app? It is a good idea to have all the visual aspects of your app thought out before development begins.
9) Do I Need a Wireframe?
Are you presenting your mobile app idea to investors or partners? Wireframes are visual representations of how a user will interact with your platform. Beyond the visual, wireframes are a resource to have the feasibility of your design and function tested before development begins. It is a good idea to have your developer draw up a wireframe to ensure your idea is technically sound.
10) What is My Marketing Plan?
Developing the app is just the start. Without a marketing and media plan, your app may not be seen by your target market. Start your mobile app marketing plan when you are still in development. This way you have a game plan when the app is complete, and you can hit the ground running.
8 Ways to Acquire App Users
With thousands of mobile apps competing for a user’s attention, how does yours stand out from the crowd?
Acquiring app users can be tricky, but if you set yourself up for success, and make a game plan, you will be prepared for the business of marketing, and feature your app to a very captive audience.
Beta Launch and Pre-Launch Users
Do not expect things to be perfect at the start. Once you are ready to launch your mobile app, do so on a beta platform, and get feedback from your users. This is some of the most important knowledge you can gather, so pay attention and transfer that information for future app users. Have a large mailing list of possible app users ready, so at launch time you have eyeballs on your product. Create social channels ahead of time, and invest in growing your following.
If your platform requires interaction, and a user downloads your app and finds nothing going on, they will not invest their time. Creating the in-app activity to begin with is not uncommon, in fact some very big names in the online world, including Reddit, did just that. Spend the time making that interaction interesting and valuable to the user, and you will not only acquire more app downloads, but user loyalty.
Narrow Down Your Target
Start your marketing campaign on a micro audience. Many successful apps or platforms began with a niche market or area. Don’t feel like you need to be worldwide from the get go. Focus on acquiring app users in a very specific section, respond to that growth when needed, and adapt your strategy from there.
Blogging increases your visibility online and brings people closer to your product. It creates awareness of your brand and can make you be seen as an active resource. Don’t get lost in only writing about your product. Target your market and give content they would be interested in. You never know what possible new user you will draw to your app with interesting relevant posts.
App Design and Performance
You can not underestimate the importance of the user experience within your app. The look and feel must be seamless. Acquiring app users with a buggy or counter-intuitive interface is almost impossible. Invest time in finding the right developer, and plan all aspects of your app before starting development.
Social Media and Organic Marketing
Word of mouth and a natural excitement in your user base is imperative to an app. Make it easy for people to share your product by adding an easy rating feature and share option within your app.
Acquiring app users requires paid advertising. Extend your marketing over a wide variety of networks, not just one or two areas. Think about not only paying for adverts on social media, but also creating a feature video, or acquiring an endorsement. Be broad at first, because different networks are going to speak to different people.
App Analytics & Tracking
It is imperative to track and follow your user’s habits. Get to know your users likes and dislikes. Adjust your strategy based on this data. Improving your platform will not only help you acquire more app users, but keep them engaged.
The Benefit of Gathering User Data
Developing an app has many benefits to your company, clients, and customers, but there is an added benefit which, if used correctly, can help you in all aspects of your business, and give you the tools to anticipate the needs of your users: Gathering user data.
In this online age so many people are wary of privacy issues, yet people are willingly giving up their info all the time. You know all those quizzes on Facebook that go through surges of popularity…
What 3 pictures describe you?
What does your Vegas trip look like?
Who is your soulmate?
They all require users to give access to their info before seeing results. And droves of people do it! In spite of the vocal minority speaking out against privacy issues online, either many of us are unaware of privacy concerns, or we just don’t care.
So how does gathering user information benefit your business? In countless ways. Here are just a few:
The most obvious use of user data is through marketing. Knowing a user’s demographics, location, and desires gives you the ability to target your advertisements to your key audience. Tracking what they are interested in and actually using on your app highlights your projects successes and failures, and gives you the tools to improve things in a targeted way.
One thing you can and should be doing with your app is tracking what your users are clicking on, how long they are on each module for, and what they are attracted to. You can even see the peak times of day your app is used. This gives you a massive opportunity to learn about your user and, before they are even aware of it, you can give them what they want.
Gathering user information is not only beneficial to the app administrators, but also to the users. In obvious cases you may need permission to access a user’s location, contacts, camera, or be able to deliver push notifications in order for the app to properly function.
But other aspects of learning about your user will help them have a better user experience as well. Discovering what your users are drawn to can give you the ability to target your newsletter and emails to their needs, giving them what they want, instead of guessing.
Knowing that a majority of your users are reading or listening to something can help you speak to them as well, by featuring stats that include them. For instance you could have the ability to say “70% of you listen to the new Adele album…” showing users a sense of inclusiveness.
So should you start collecting this information right away, or wait until your app is beyond a MVP? Most sources will tell you to start right away. Even if you don’t know what to do with the information you gather, it will be extremely valuable at a later time when you know what to look for and do with it.
Many people who now have successful online brands regret not getting a database of user info – in particular email addresses, from users who came to them in the beginning. Having a way of gathering contact info for your users, while maintaining privacy guidelines, is so important. If you don’t do it from the get-go, you are missing out on a way of reaching thousand of potential customers in the future.
Getting the Info You Need
How does one go about gathering the user info and making sense of it?
Many people do something as simple as having a form each user needs to fill out when signing up for the app. This would automatically target the areas you are interested in learning about your users, and could be anything from age and place of residence, to household income and how many pets they own. What goes in that form is up to you, but some people will warn against this type of information gathering as many people are lazy and/or suspicious, and could back out from signing up with such an in-your-face request.
A very common way of gaining access to important user information nowadays is by logging in with a social media account rather than creating a new account specific to your app. This not only is more convenient for the user because it is as easy as the click of a button, but it gives the app administrator access to aspects of their profile.
Others simply include their data gathering in a terms of service that the user needs to agree to before using the app. While an easy way to get access to the information you are looking for, many experts say it is better to be upfront about the data you are requesting.
Whether you are a startup, or you missed the boat on gathering this information from the start, talk with your developer about what you are hoping to learn about your users, and how to access that database. Get on it as soon as you can, for the benefit of your company and your users.
App DEV : Documentation can make or break your project
Documentation is a very important part of your whole project and it’s going to be critical long term. Many developers do a really good at managing new features while they are engrossed in the project, however as soon as you have any time break between development most or all that information is forgotten. So when developers return to add new features or make changes they have to look back to understand how everything is organized again. Also when moving from one developer to another developer documentation is absolutely critical.
The purpose of documentation is so that others can easily understand what is going on and carry-on development or make changes as needed.
Outsourcing – Their main concern is the end product, in order to have you sign off on it. This type of hiring almost always leads to absolutely no documentation. The biggest problem with this is that you really don’t understand what is going on and if you have any bugs or problems it takes time to think through and find those.
- [bottom line] You are going to have to create the expectations and ensure the documentation is updated on a daily basis.
- [pitfalls] You do not know the technical requirements needed and there is going to be a lot of critical information missing.
In-House – Their main concern is usually quality, and their documentation comes in two different types. Either way too little and not informative, or much too detailed and confusing for others. They will be focused on what they require and not what others require.
- [bottom line] You will be responsible for controlling the documentation, and somehow knowing what is missing.
- [pitfalls] Most developers are not used to working in teams and thus make low quality documentation.
Contracting – Their concern is with your end product. Most of the time they run the project fully in-house which means that their teams communicate on a daily basis, and use whiteboards or project boards. The downside of this is that a lot of the documentation is discussed and organized but never written down for long term retention.
- [bottom line] You will need to ensure that they provide all relevant documentation when the project is completed.
- [pitfalls] Many companies do not bother to provide that documentation or have it in a proper format to provide.