How to Make a Successful App

Meet William, the owner of a family restaurant that brings him an average income of $82,000 a year. And meet Olivia, whose courier company brings her over $500,000 annually. Both want to find new sales channels and get more customers through a mobile app. But something is preventing them from doing so, and it’s the horrible statistics: 9,999 out of 10,000 apps fail. So should William and Olivia further develop their good app ideas or should they stay in their comfort zone and hope for the best? Let’s look at a couple of examples:

  • Starbucks built a careful mobile app strategy that gave them a revenue increase of $621 million.

  • IKEA analyzed the market of software for selling furniture and built an augmented reality app that was downloaded over 8.5 million times and helped the company exceed €35 billion in revenue.

  • Nivea Sun Kids saw a 62% increase in sales in Rio de Janeiro thanks to an app that helped parents keep track of their kids.

What can we see from these examples? Careful market analysis and planning combined with technology can work miracles and take William’s and Olivia’s businesses to another level, helping them generate more sales and increase revenue. That’s why we’ve done some digging and created this guide for creating a successful mobile app. Ready? Let’s go!

Business goals

Remember William and Olivia? Each has a vision for his/her company. Probably, it’s something like changing the world for the better with the quality of services they provide. And it’s great that there’s a vision. 

However, to be successful, business owners need to translate their visions into clear goals and objectives. Goals are what you want to achieve with your app, and objectives define how you’ll achieve it. Here’s a list of common business goals:

  • Make customers more satisfied with your app and services

  • Spread brand awareness

  • Enter new markets 

  • Expand the number of services provided

  • Speed up the time to market

  • Improve employee satisfaction

  • Cut operational costs

  • Widen your partner network

The objectives for each of these goals will be dictated by the business specifics. For example, Olivia wants to build an app to cut operational expenses for order management and distribution. William wants to make customers more satisfied and to provide more services, including deliveries.

How can you set goals and objectives for your company? The answer is with a clear understanding of your business plan and multiple discussions with your team.

If your goal is too optimistic, you’ll never get anywhere. If it’s too vague, nothing will get done. If it’s too boring, it will inspire no one. Set a realistic, understandable, and manageable goal that delivers value to your company, and you’ll get a list of requirements to create a new successful app.

Market analysis

We already know that William’s and Olivia’s businesses are doing quite fine, providing stable income. But William and Olivia are both new to the world of apps, which is why they need to conduct market analysis to form the proper entrance strategy. Let’s look at this process in detail.

Customer portraits

In pursuit of new customers, William and Olivia will have to understand who’s going to use their apps. And to ensure those apps will offer the most desired functionality and UI/UX design, they’ll need to build customer portraits – in other words, buyer personas for their apps.

To do that, they’ll need to research their existing customers: who makes repeat purchases and what do these customers have in common? It can be age, gender, location, preferences, income, lifestyle, devices, operating systems, etc. Once William and Olivia group their customers and discover shared characteristics, they can create portraits of their ideal customers. They can also survey the existing customers to learn about the group’s goals, problems they encounter when using the services, and what functionality and design they expect from an app.

Platform choice

In our previous post about how much it costs to build a mobile app, we mentioned that iOS apps more often generate monthly revenue of $5,000 or higher, so it’s better to start with this platform. However, William and Olivia could have learned that their audiences mostly use Android devices or use iOS and Android equally, in which case they can make an informed decision before investing in app development. 

Product research

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you can use the experience of your competitors. That’s why William and Olivia do some research before building a concept for an app:

  • Download all the apps by local and global competitors and use them for a while.

  • See what features of these apps are the most useful and the most appreciated by users. They figure this out by looking at user reviews on the App Store and Google Play Store. Based on their findings, William and Olivia can define the basic features for their own apps.

  • Find bugs and any other issues in competitors’ apps and think about how to get rid of them.

  • Consider what else they can do better than competitors – offer extra features, provide a better design, etc.  

In search of the perfect combination of features and design, entrepreneurs can use techniques such as SWOT analysis. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats are the four main factors when it comes to usability. 

SWOT analysis

Market demands are constantly growing as advances in technology in many categories increase consumer expectations. Qualitative SWOT research into existing products helps you understand trends and opportunities in an industry and predict user behavior with your app.

Monetization strategy

Now that you’ve collected a lot of valuable information for your business, it’s time to think about your monetization strategy, as it will influence your app’s functionality. Will users pay to download your app? Will you place in-app ads? Use a freemium model? Use some combination of these methods? The answer lies in your business goals. 

Say you’re working to develop a loyalty app and your business goal is retaining your customers. Would you make users pay to use this app? Definitely not! For William and Olivia, it will be better to allow users to download their apps for free and make in-app purchases. But selecting a monetization strategy can be tricky. That’s why we’ve written a blog post about the pros and cons of each strategy. Check out the post if you need help with your choice.

App development

Once you finally complete all of the preparations, you can start looking for developers for your app prototype. There are two ways to develop an app: by hiring an in-house development team and by outsourcing. William and Olivia are looking for a faster app release and are not ready to invest in an in-house team and a lot of equipment, which is why they hire an outsourcing vendor. Your choice will depend on your budget and business specifics. 


As soon as developers release an early version of your app, you should start measuring your business performance. Analytics will let you define your business objectives in the form of key performance indicators (KPIs).

To get data for analysis, you’ll need an analytics tool that’s integrated with your app. For instance, William and Olivia choose Google Analytics and the Firebase integration for mobile apps. But when they open Google Analytics, they see multiple dimensions, metrics, and graphs. How can they find their way around all the information in the analytics tool?

To make sense of the numbers, they decide to use the AARRR framework, which has successfully helped startups for over 10 years. Here’s what AARRR means:

  • Acquisition – various channels users come from

  • Activation – users enjoy the first visit

  • Retention – users come back

  • Referral – users share your product with friends

  • Revenue – user behavior brings you money

You can find more information about app analytics and how AARRR can be used for your marketing strategy in our previous article. 

Engagement techniques

The key to engagement is the value you create for your users. You can convince a customer to install your app but if it doesn’t give them what they like, they won’t use it. Here’s the advice to help you turn your users into regular and long-term ones.

Make a strong first impression

The screen people see should be:

  • hospitable – you can include a personal welcome message

  • motivating – call up to get started

  • helpful – explain how to use your app graphically without long texts

  • easy – too many items on the first page distract and confuse

Gradually expose the depth of your product

Don’t offer all the features from the start. Get your users deeper into the app by carefully paving the way there. At first, let your users see what the main functionality is and analyze their preferences. A worthwhile app has features that are not immediately apparent.

Pay attention to user privacy

People are very sensitive to their privacy. If customers agree to share their contacts and other information your app should know how to use it and stop asking the same thing over and over.

Use engagement metrics

To ensure that you’ve done everything to make users stay longer in your app and drive you more money, you can use these metrics:

  • Number of daily or monthly active users (people who use your app repeatedly)

  • Number of uninstalls (total number of people who deleted your app and its changes)

  • Average session length (how much time people spend in your app per one use) 

  • Number of items users get engaged with and the items themselves (like, say, food items in William’s app)

  • Retention rate (how many people who installed an app during a specific time period and are still active users of the app for a designated time period)

  • Transactions (number of items purchased, subscriptions, or registrations)

There can be additional metrics that are specific to your business. For instance, Olivia can track how many miles her couriers run for certain users to offer such users bonuses and discounts with every 100 miles of distance covered. William can track the tips and provide extra services or additional food items to the most generous tippers.

Iterative releases

William and Olivia have their apps running and measuring their business KPIs. Is it the end? Not yet. It’s just the beginning. Growth hacking requires iterative development as one of the app success factors.

Iterative development scheme

The purpose of working iteratively is to process data, assess metrics, and introduce changes accordingly after the initial release. Analysis of user interactions with your app in accordance with your KPIs will show you the need for changes and optimizations. By working iteratively, the project team goes through a cycle where they evaluate each iteration and determine what changes are needed to produce a satisfactory end product.

Every change you introduce should derive from metrics. Sometimes, your updates may include a variety of options, and it’s hard to predict which will bring valuable outcomes. Every iteration entails perfection-oriented testing and experimenting and will bring benefits only if you pay attention to the relevant data. By the way, you can do staged rollouts for iOS and Android apps to run A/B testing for your business.

Trends also have a significant influence on what your app may look like and what features it should provide. Some of the trends for 2019 are more user control over data and total personalization. William and Olivia follow the GDPR requirements and Privacy Shield norms when building their apps and implement personalization based on user preferences and location.

You can clearly see that making your app successful is all about planning, analyzing metrics, making well-grounded decisions, iterating, experimenting, and testing. Wow, that’s a long list, right? Most definitely, there will be ups and downs when doing all that. But you know where to find us in case you need help with creating a successful app!

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