This is an article about how you can use the ever growing number of app ecosystems to scale your business.
Interview with Charlie Casey, CEO @ loyaltylion.com
Listing your product on an app store gives you instant access to a huge number of potential customers, millions of businesses have made use of them in the form of Apple’s iTunes or Google’s Play.
But in recent years the idea of an app stores has evolved well beyond just those two ecosystems to many other platforms that offer their own places to buy and sell apps. Wordpress, Tumblr and Twitter are all examples and there are a multitude of ecommerce platforms that have their own versions too.
Startups can scale hugely via these platforms and in this article you’ll gain some invaluable insights into how to best deploy a product in an app store environment.
LoyaltyLion helps ecommerce businesses by providing a framework that lets them easily set up loyalty schemes for their customers. Their technology can be installed on any site by adding just a few lines of code and it’s available in a number of e-commerce platform app stores.
However as LoyaltyLion CEO Charlie Casey tells us, it’s a lot harder than just wrapping up your product as an app and pushing it live to a store. Listing on an app store “exponentially increases the complexity of a startup’s operation” says Charlie, “if you think about it, it’s another conversion funnel you have to optimise and different platforms expose you to different languages and that has huge implications for support.”
LoyaltyLion is available in the app stores of e-commerce platforms Prestashop, SEOshop and Shopify. Being available on those three app stores gives them access to more than half a million e-commerce businesses but in no way guarantees they’ll make a single sale.
Their success is down to hard work, experimentation and graft that has resulted in a high level of expertise. Here Charlie shares some of his invaluable insights with us.
It is hugely important to research which platforms are likely to be best for your business. Each platform varies in size and users. For example Shopify has a far higher percentage of large stores than, say, Tictail. It is important to identify which platform caters to your target market. “Magento if you’re going after big clients, Prestashop if you’re French” says Charlie. What ever it is, make sure you have a good idea of the kind of access being listed in an app store will give you - it will have a huge impact on your ROI.
Research should be much deeper than just who is on which platform - “in particular you want to know who the platform decision makers are.” This means getting to know who vets the apps, who looks after the community and who is in charge of marketing before you launch on a platform. “It’s really important to build relationships with those people” says Charlie.
For example, before LoyaltyLion launched on Shopify, Charlie had already built a relationship with the head of app store marketing. Thanks to that relationship he knew if they received five, five star reviews they would be featured, for free, by Shopify to over 100,000 stores on their platform. So before they launched Charlie made some pre-sales, ensured they were in good favour with businesses on the Shopify platform and within 24 hours of launching had his five star rating. LoyaltyLion subsequently went from being a completely unknown app to being a “featured app” in no time at all - a huge boost to any business.
The trust by association you get from being in an app store is big but it can be leveraged by being featured, not just in the app store but also in blogs. “A lot of these platforms are great at creating content” according to Charlie. They have been featured four or five times by a single Shopify blogger - and that didn’t happen by chance. LoyaltyLion identified influencers and invited them to try their product for free once they had launched. Third party recommendations are some of the most powerful marketing channels you can exploit, particularly in an engaged and captive audience - like the one within a platform.
There are methods by which you can get to the top of an app store aside from building relationships. Each app store has its own search algorithm and it is important to work out how they are weighted in favour of one tag over another. Essentially you need to optimise your profile for each app store you’re in: “Without saying too much it was took a long night of trial and error… but it’s worth it… make sure you’re in the top six for whatever your customers are searching for.” LoyaltyLion also played around with their actual page by A/B testing certain elements - for one they found that including a .gif rather than a straight logo increased click-through by 20%. It’s important to optimise at every stage of the user journey, even if its all the same as your competition.
Target communities are a great thing for a business to engage with and a community operating on a single platform is likely to be highly active. But for all the opportunity this offers, there are also drawbacks. “You have to monitor what is being said about you” says Charlie, “and this is really time consuming.” Without doing so you run the risk of getting a bad name for your startup - which would be very hard to come back from.
Thanks to reviews app ecosystems are hugely transparent. Reviews can be great if you’re in the 5* bracket which LoyaltyLion “luckily” (and modestly) is according to Charlie. But he says “a single one star review would massively affect your conversion” and most crucially “reviews are completely out of your control.” So it is hugely important to be there in a supportive capacity and make sure your product is working as it should be. Just because there is an app store between you and your customers it doesn’t mean they are any more removed from your business. Possibly the reverse is true.
It’s true that a lot of these ecosystems are in their infancy and “anything in its infancy offers a huge amount of opportunity.” Unlike the iTunes or Google Play, if you package your product as an app in these stores you won’t just be a drop in the ocean. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a huge amount of work involved in making a success of these platforms.
It takes time to do the research and build the relationships that put your app ahead. It requires innovation to hack your way to a high level of exposure. It challenges your technical team to interact with new platforms and languages. And it drains resources to become an active member of a community. But if you get these points right and deploy your product effectively as an app you give your business a fighting chance of capitalising on all the potential a platform can offer.