In this extended and in-depth episode, Nicole Harris, COO of Slyce, shares how she grew the mobile coupon app SnipSnap from startup to a profitable venture that was eventually acquired by Slyce. Nicole also gives UA and Monetization advice on how to achieve similar successes across multiple channels.
Mobile Growth: We’re here with Nicole Harris, COO of Slyce. How’re you doing, Nicole?
Nicole: Good, how are you?
Mobile Growth: Awesome! All right, so I’m gonna dive right into it, and ask first, please tell us about your recent history of working with Snip-Snap and merging into Slyce?
Nicole: Sure! So about five years ago, I joined the Snip-Snap. At the time, it was a coupon app, on iPhone only. It had launched in the app store about 30 days before I joined, and the team was only the founder and one other employee, so we were essentially the founding team.
Nicole: I joined when we had about 100,000 users. If that, even. So that was about five years ago. And we worked with Snip-Snap to grow the app to at this point, um, over six million users. About two and a half years ago, we were acquired by a company called Slyce, which at the time was publicly traded on the Toronto stock exchange, and is a visual search and image recognition technology company, which sounds pretty complicated, but the connection between the two is that Snip-Snap does some image recognition of coupons, and so the acquisition made a lot of sense, and since then, over the past two and a half years, we took Slyce private and I am now the COO of Slyce, although I do still manage the day-to-day operations of Snip-Snap, which is still a very popular and successful coupon app. Now on Android and iOS.
Mobile Growth: Awesome! Snip-Snap’s probably the best performing consumer app that Slyce owns, and you were the main force behind Snip-Snap’s success, so how are things going now that you’re COO of Slyce overall, even though you’re still managing day-to-day for Snip-Snap, is it still as successful, has it plateaued, tell us a little bit about that.
Nicole: Yeah, it’s a great question. It’s interesting because there are different ways you could quantify success, so now that I run operations, that’s the parent company, that takes up obviously a lot of my time. But as we have focused our priorities on Slyce, and that technology, and growing that company, we have decreased our time spent on developing and growing Snip-Snap, so we attribute very little costs to Snip-Snap, so while the userbase may not be growing at the rapid pace it has in the past, because we’re not spending on marketing or user acquisition like we used to, it is more profitable than it has ever been, because our revenue remains steady.
Nicole: So there’s an argument to be made that if we spent more on Snip-Snap, like we did in years prior, the revenue might be growing in a faster pace, but considering how low our costs are now to maintain it, I would consider it as successful, if not more successful than it ever has been. That being said, I still do spend a decent amount of my day-to-day manager at Snip-Snap clients, and you know, bringing on new clients and making sure our users are still using the app and saving with it, but running the operations of a company that has an SDK, and is more of a software as a service, that takes a lot of time because my role in operations is pretty heavily on the client side, so while I’m not out selling and I’m definitely not a point of contact as far as client-management, I manage a lot of the sales operations, so making sure that we bring out a new client, they’re on board seamlessly and quickly and smoothly.
Nicole: And that we have the processes in place on our side, to service all of our clients. So you know, Snip-Snap obviously doesn’t see revenue because of that. But like I said, our costs have – to run Snip-Snap now are very, very low, and the operation’s very lean, so it continues to bring in revenue, it continues to grow, just at a slower pace than previously.
Mobile Growth: Awesome. Since they’re both kinds of similar, as far as their client base goes, as far as demographics and type of customer, do you have a particular user acquisition channel that’s successful for both, or do you interestingly notice that maybe one channel is good for Slyce and the other is good for Snip-Snap?
Nicole: Yeah, so for Slyce, it’s really about finding the customers to work with us and integrate our technology, so it’s really sales heavy, at ground marketing and lead generation, so a customer like Home Depot takes our technology and puts it in their app, right? And we work with Home Depot to grow their app usage and to feature the camera technology, which is powered by Slyce, but it’s not like we’re pushing someone to download Slyce, since it’s a technology that’s built into other apps. Where Snip-Snap, we have probably tried every single type of user acquisition that’s out there.
Nicole: We’re more successful than others, and I’m – if we get into it later, I could talk about how it’s an ever-changing landscape, so when we first – when we first launched the app, we were featured in the app store. The app store was pretty different back then, and being featured wasn’t all luck, but it was a combination of luck, timing, and the fact that the – the people at Apple liked our app, and that propelled us to, you know, over a hundred thousand downloads right away, which I wouldn’t say we were prepared for but helped us get to a user base that is really difficult, um, when you’re a new app, so that alone, which cost nothing, got us to a point where we then could infuse cash into marketing efforts.
Nicole: And right around then was when Facebook, probably a few months later, Facebook started testing these download – app download ads. We got into that right when it launched. We were actually part of a BETA group that tested it out. And back then, we were able to optimize. We were probably one of the better cost-per-install campaigns on Facebook at that time, or historically, but we were able to get our installs down to 30 cents per download, and with the blended cost of 10 cents, because we could calculate that every paid download led to two extra downloads from word of mouth, that’s crazy. You can’t really get below two dollars, a dollar fifty nowadays, so that’s another user acquisition channel that has essentially dried up. You could still use it, it’s very effective, and to launch and to get to your first threshold of users, it’s a great way to do that, or if you have a paid app, or if you have some sort of paid service or you’re – you know, lifetime value of your customers, ten dollars, for instance, it’s great.
Nicole: But you know, that’s another option for user acquisition that has changed so much over the past five years. You know, over the lifetime of Snip-Snap, the number one best user acquisition channel has been word of mouth and continues to be word of mouth, so we’re a free app that saves people money, which is great, and we see people a lot, our average users save forty dollars a month with the app, so word of mouth does continue to grow the app, but you know, in the landscape, now, that’s ever-competitive, that isn’t always enough. So that keeps us pretty steady with our user growth, but it doesn’t propel us into the sorts of growth, you know, as they say, a hockey-stick like growth, like we used to have. But the good news is we’re no longer fundraising or attempting to be acquired, so we’re fine with steady growth, with consistent revenue.
Nicole: But you know, there are other types of user acquisition that have been somewhat effective, like PR, and around the holidays, and we are always on the list of apps to download and save money, that kind of stuff helps. We were once featured on a local news channel that got picked up by a bunch of other local syndicates, that was extremely effective, actually. Interestingly enough – we joked it was probably a slow news week, but we were out shopping – our Founder and CEO went shopping at Toys R’Us and showed how we could save with the app, and it got picked up in like Ohio and Florida, Tennessee and that led to a lot of downloads. Again, it’s kind of like a word of mouth, you’re sitting watching your local news and they’re telling you to download this free app.
Nicole: But I’d say that for Slyce, you know, PR is somewhat effective, it’s been effective if we have been featured in the sort of industry write-ups, so with Snip-Snap, we’ve built a future in Tech Crunch, or even you know, of course, like Good Morning America, but with Slyce, you’re looking for like the the mobile marketer write-ups, because then the innovation officer at a company may see it. So, the truth is that with Slyce, it is mostly sales. And those sorts of efforts.
Nicole: But, of course, if we have a customer that’s live and another customer sees it, that’s also been a great way to gauge interest. So, you know, if we’re live and for example, JC Penny and Burlington Coat Factory sees it, they might say, hey, what’s that? Oh, we should reach out to those people and look into it.
Mobile Growth: Awesome. Is there one – or, I guess, say that there could be a few, but what would you say was the worst user acquisition channel for you, personally, over there? The one that really did not pull in anything that you were lookin’ for?
Nicole: That’s a great question, and thankfully, I have a pretty good answer. So, we were really interested in the blogging space because coupon blogs are huge. You know, there are these blogs, that these are people who make millions of dollars a year, with millions of unique hits in months, I in, you know, my hobby and spare time, I am a couponer myself, I’m a huge reader and visitor of these websites and these blogs, and we had thought, you know, if we set up a sort of referral system, which is very common in apps like ours, and were able to incentivize the bloggers to post about the app, perhaps that could lead to a lot of downloads. Two surprising things happened: One, a few of the blogs we wanted to be on said, ‘Oh, we won’t post about you, because we’re making our own app, and we don’t wanna be competitive.
Nicole: None of which ever came out with an app similar to ours, I think they were just thinking of coming out with a glorified RSS feed. Snip-Snap is a mobile only, in-store only coupon app, and these blogs post about a lot of different ways to save money, so that being said, they wouldn’t post. The other was that most of them said, ‘Oh, well you know, I don’t really don’t wanna do a cost-per-install, because,’ and that raised red flags with us – oh, maybe they don’t drive much, of installs, but we could do it for a flat-fee. So we did a post on a few blogs, or the bloggers posted themselves on their own blogs about the app, and we saw very little traction with that. So I do think that there’s a specific type of company that can do really well with blog posts, and I’ve heard about it from friends who work at other companies and experience in the past.
Nicole: But for us, we just didn’t see the sort of downloads. Maybe because their blogs are viewed on a desktop a lot, or maybe because people just wanted, you know, to read, but weren’t really interacting with the – hey, try this new app! But that was probably our – our biggest surprising, you know, the poor road to get users.
Mobile Growth: That makes sense. All right, when did you – or let’s just say, how did you know when you reached a “significant number” of users for Snip-Snap, what was the point, the tipping point where you’re like, okay, we’re now at a good level, here?
Nicole: Yeah, so, this reminds me of a story that is one of my first sort of sales and – and the business revenue facing memories was we – we work a lot in the affiliate space, and I won’t get into that, because it’s boring, but they have conferences every year, and I still go to them, so you know, that’ll be like my sixth conference coming up, and I went to my first one about six weeks after I started, and we were about a hundred and fifty thousand users, and I went to this conference in California, and it was run by the largest affiliate company in the – in the world.
Nicole: And in-store affiliate was brand new, it wasn’t really a thing, we only had one client at the time, which was Air Postal but we went to see if we could find new clients. And people just laughed at us, with our user base. They were used to promoting online codes on websites, and these websites, you had ten million views a month, and we were saying we have 150,000 users. I remember this meeting with The GAP where they said, you know, how many users do you have? And I said 150,000, and they said, that won’t even make a mark. I can’t give you a coupon to promote because even if every single one of your users redeemed it, it wouldn’t matter.
Nicole: And I remember thinking, oh man, how many users do we really need to get to? This feels impossible! Fast-forward to a year later, we were at one and a half million users, and the reception was completely different. We had more than enough users to justify people running campaigns with us and paying to market with us. Part of it was that the in-store coupon space had grown, but more of it was that we now had enough users to justify their time. So, I’d say that once we hit a million users, we knew that it was important, because another thing to remember is, a million users doesn’t mean that a million people are using your app every day, it means it’s been downloaded a million times.
Nicole: Active user rates range, on certain apps, between 2% and 5%. So when I say a million users, that could very well mean that I only have 50,000 people opening the app every month. You know, we – our user rates are pretty good, they’re higher than that, but even so, a million is a number that can get thrown around, but it only means so much. So I think when we hit a million, we knew that it mattered – and then the next big stage was five million, and that’s when it sorts of sets you apart in the app world because that’s a lot of downloads.
Mobile Growth: Nice. All right, so movin’ on, so kind of tailing off of that, when did you realize that Snip-Snap could actually make money?
Nicole: Yeah, so, it was interesting, because when I started, like I said, the space was pretty new, so we were looking for creative ways to monetize the app. Um, we’re a free app, so we didn’t make any money from downloads. I remember when we were at about a million users, probably a million and a half, and then ad agents reached out to us and they said, ‘we wanna put ads in your app, banner ads,’ and we said, no, we’re not interested in that, it’s spammy, and it looks bad. But we can design native ad units, as they called it, so they don’t look as spammy, they fit in the flow of the app, and they’re not, you know, just sitting at the bottom or the top.
Nicole: Our app has a feed where you scroll to find offers, and so they would just kind of drop into the feed, and at that time, things have changed in that industry as well, but the rates that they were receiving for that sort of ad space were extremely high, and I remember when they gave us the budget forecast for what we could make in revenue in that month, which happened to be December, and it was, you know, six figures! From one month of ad revenue.
Nicole: Yeah, and that wasn’t coupon revenue, that wasn’t, you know, campaign revenue, that was simply CPMs impression-based revenue that had nothing to do with coupons. I think that they realized, wow, we have an opportunity here to not just make money on driving someone to the store to purchase, which is still our – our main business model, our main news case, and that’s what gets our users in the app, but oh, there are other opportunities where we can supplement that income, that maybe aren’t directly tied to what we thought our business model would be. We were doing pretty well at that time, revenue wise, but we didn’t quite appreciate the other – I guess, as you’d say, business development opportunities that may have existed.
Mobile Growth: Let’s see… So what were some of the creative ways that you monetized Snip-Snap?
Nicole: Yeah, so we were willing to try sort of anything that, and I’ll probably get to this in a later question I think, but anything that wouldn’t disrupt the user or be something that was, you know, selling your email addresses, of course. So, we have monetized the app a lot of different ways. We’ve – we’ve monetized it, of course, with coupons, we started selling paid placements, which was very new for us, a few years ago, so selling a placement in our email newsletter or selling a push notification as a flat fee.
Nicole: We started looking into anonymizing the data, packaging it up, anonymizing the location information, packaging that up, selling that to certain customers in the space – like I said, we’ve run ads. Probably the most unique, we’ve worked with Beacon companies – beacons are technology that’s still fairly new and hasn’t really been adopted at the speed at which people thought, but it’s these tiny little kind of like – they look like keychains, almost, and they’re put within a store, and they use Bluetooth, not GPS, and they know much more specifically where you can be, so you can be in a Lauren & Taylor and be in the purses section, and they could send you a message that says, like, ‘looking at purses? We’ve got some great Michael Kors stuff that just came in.’
Nicole: It’s really specific, not just that you’re in Lauren & Taylor, but that you’re in, you know, section three of the store, or aisle five, of the grocery store. So, we worked with Beacon companies to do some really cool campaigns that we’ve monetized those as well. We – we’ve sold some interesting promotions, like we’ve run contests for stores, oh, you have to go to the store and you have to take a photo and post it on Instagram with this hashtag? Well, we can send a message to our users as they enter that store to do so. So, it’s – it’s things like that. We’ve definitely turned down opportunities for revenue as well, but if it’s interesting, if we think it might work, we’re always down to – to give it a try.
Mobile Growth: So, since you’re retail-based, you would say the geofencing and things like that have been a pretty unique way that’s worked for you?
Nicole: Yeah, so, we use a lot of geofencing and location-based technology for ourselves to target our users with the coupons that we’re running, so if we’re running a campaign and it’s at Toys R’Us and you’re near Toys R’Us, we’ll tell you about that coupon to try to draw you into the store, but separately from that, location-based information and data’s huge right now. So many companies are in that space.
Nicole: Being able to get aggregated location information is big, you know, companies like Verizon are doing it, and Comcast, so, you know, we’re little compared to them, but we have really specific information we can provide, and when anonymized, it can be really interesting, so you know, Verizon or ourselves may sell to McDonald’s to make it clear to McDonald’s that people that go to McDonald’s also go, you know, to Pep Boy’s, so you should run ads outside of Pep Boy’s, for example. That’s an example, something that McDonald’s would pay a lot of money for. So location is really big, and thanks to our mobile devices that are always on us, and whether or not people want to admit it, always know where we are, it’s – we have a lot more information, now.
Mobile Growth: If we back up through the years, we’ve got a lot of specific information about what’s been going on lately, and that’s really amazing stuff, and thank you for sharing so much. Has – have you changed any of your monetization strategies over the years, and what would – what caused the change, what learnings did you have that helped… implement that?
Nicole: Yeah, so in the beginning, we were really against anything that affected the user at all that wasn’t a coupon, so we’d run ads in the feed, but they had to be related to shopping, or we’d run offers at stores, but we refused to talk about sales, because, with the sale at a store, you only have to go to the store and buy, you don’t have to have anything special, like a coupon. We’ve since realized that our users wanna save money, and so, whether it be a sale or a coupon, they’re just happy to learn about ways to save, and if we help teach them about that, then they’re happy.
Nicole: So a good example of that is there are other apps in the space, they’re not necessarily our competitors, because they don’t offer in-store coupons that you scan right off your phone, like we do, but maybe they offer like receipt scanning after you buy at the grocery store, which we don’t offer and we can’t really help you save much at the grocery store because we can’t support manufacturer’s coupons. We used to be really against telling our users about those apps. Well, since things have evolved, we’ve realized, what if a user searches for Target? We have no Target coupons, and we don’t allow them to save with manufacturer’s coupons. Well, what if we told them about that app, and said, well, we can’t help you save, but XYZ app can download it here.
Nicole: And get paid for that download. We’re more than willing to do that now. We used to think you push someone out of your app, you lose them forever – while it’s true that you should really try to keep your users inside your app, it’s also true that if they try to save with you and they don’t, they’re not gonna come back, so they will remember that we told them about that other app, they will remember that we helped save them money and if we can monetize that, why not? So that’s a great example. We’ll now run native ads, as long as they’re appropriate about anything, you know, whether it’s a local race in your town or a movie release. They’re not intrusive, they don’t block your whole screen, why not do it?
Nicole: So I think we’ve relaxed in some ways about that.
Mobile Growth: It all comes out to value, right? If they know who’s givin’ them the value, they’re gonna keep coming back to that?
Mobile Growth: So some of these successful monetization strategies, have you applied them to other Slyce apps, and if so, what were the results there?
Nicole: Yeah, so Slyce has three consumer apps in their portfolio. One is a fashion discovery app called ‘Craze,’ where you can take a picture of any outfit and find the outfit online to buy, or similar outfits, and one is called ‘Slyce App,’ which is an app where you can take a picture of basically anything you wanna buy, and it’ll show you where to buy it on Amazon or Target or Walmart.com. Those apps are much smaller, we haven’t spent much time running and growing them, we don’t provide any sort of marketing expense to them. They’re not, you know, tiny, but they’re in the thousands or hundreds of thousands of downloads, as opposed to millions.
Nicole: We have monetized them in ways similar to Snip-Snap in that we’ve – we’ve put affiliate models into the apps, that we learned through Snip-Snap, so if someone buys something from the app, or finds in the app and ultimately purchases it, via their phone, we’ll get paid on that, but the truth is, that until you reach a significant number of users, the revenue is, for all intents and purposes, nothing. You – you can make five percent of every purchase, but if you’re driving one purchase a week, you’re gonna make fifty cents in a week. If you’re driving ten thousand purchases a week, then it’s significant.
Mobile Growth: I would think that like some of those other apps, think they have a large potential, too. Is there a reason why you haven’t prioritized the monetizations on that? That you haven’t prioritized user acquisition on that?
Nicole: Most of it is that, in this stage, in this day and age and this world, to get your app to a certain user threshold without it going viral, which is a matter of basically luck, takes a lot of money, you know. You’ll need a million dollars to get two-hundred fifty thousand, three hundred thousand users. And we’re just not interested in spending that kinda money now, on consumer apps, when we have Snip-Snap, and it’s extremely successful, but we’re focused on Slyce, so we’re focused on that technology, and we’re focused on getting into our retailer’s apps, and – and helping to power the camera mode of apps across the space.
Nicole: So that’s where our focus is, and that’s where our spend is – building that technology, as opposed to spending time and money trying to get people to download a fashion discovery app, and hoping that it gets traction.
Mobile Growth: That’s true. Yeah, that makes sense, ’cause you’re gonna taking as saying, technology, and just selling it to someone else who already has that large userbase… Let’s see. So, how do you weigh user experience with revenue optimization?
Nicole: Yeah, so I got into this a little previously. I think our big question is, you know, are we going to disrupt the user, are we going to get in the way of what they’re trying to do, which is save money? And without opportunities without full-screen ads or screen takeovers, as they’re called. We’ve had opportunities to run video ads, that you have to watch the whole video. While we’d be willing to experiment with something like, oh, you have to watch a video in order to snip another coupon to your account, which is a Words With Friends sort of use case, we’re not interested in full-screen ads, we’re not interested in something that gets in the way of our users saving money, so I think, you know, that’s a big part of it.
Nicole: We still monetize, more than anything else, we monetize the redemption of the coupons. We’re paid by our customers to drive people into their stores, so if we’re blocking that, we’re impeding that process, that’s a problem. I think secondary to that is, are we taking advantage of our users’ trust? We still would never sell email addresses. We have millions of email addresses, we’re not interested. We will send out an email newsletter, with a callout to three of our partners’ offers, in a given month. That’s fine, they’ve signed up for the newsletter, and they like reading it, but we’re not going to go and take our users and sell them to someone, which is a very common practice, and which is why often you sign up for an app or a website and you start getting spam by who knows what company, later, and you’re like, I never gave – you know, “Bye Bye Baby” my email.
Nicole: Well, “Bye Bye Baby” is buying, in bulk, email addresses from someone, from a catalog, from a website. So, I – I think that for us, it’s, we don’t want to block the users from doing what they need to do, which is redeem coupons and save, because that makes us money, and because that’s what keeps them in the app and coming back, and we don’t wanna do something that would make them not trust us, because then we’d use them as a user, then we’d use the money they make us, and that’s our business.
Mobile Growth: Well, staying with the revenue optimization, what KPIs do you track, internally?
Nicole: We track a lot. Most importantly to us, our monthly active users, so a user that opens the app and engages with it in some way, in a month, as well as new user signups and downloads. We also track time spent on the app, we track the number of coupons saved and submitted, a number of coupons redeemed, comments – we have user comments that we look at. We track app store reviews, but mostly, it’s on usage, so how many people are using the app in a given time period.
Mobile Growth: All right. I just got a couple more. Let’s see – were there any roadblocks or disappointments along the way that you can share and help out other people that might be experiencing those, and if so, how did you break free?
Nicole: You know, there were some disappointments. I’d say that the biggest was that we really wanted to revolutionize the paper coupon industry, and we were able to do that in a significant way with store issued coupons, but something that I mentioned before, for just a second, was that we can’t really save you much money at the grocery store, or farmer’s, because those coupons that you see, you know, that are for a brand, like fifty cents off Advil, those can be used anywhere that Advil is sold.
Nicole: The way that the store makes – gets their money back, right, because they gave you the fifty cents off, they didn’t issue the coupon, Advil did, is that they keep all the pieces of paper, all those coupons, and at the end of the month, they mail them to a clearing house, usually in Mexico, sometimes in the US, and they get paid fifty cents per coupon, plus eight cents, and they get a check the next month. So someone sits and counts that Rite Aid in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, got seven hundred fifty cents off Advil coupons, and sends them a three hundred and fifty dollar-ish or so check. So, it’s a super archaic system. There’s no reason we should be mailing paper around in 2017, but we are.
Nicole: This is a huge business, with hugely profitable companies at the helm, so kind of like, you know, why is it taking us so long to get great electric vehicles? ‘Cause we have these big companies that are making sure we can’t innovate. It’s not quite that much of a cover up or anything, but we were hoping that at some point, we’d be able to digitize those coupons, so you could scan them right from your phone. Unfortunately, that – that business opportunity doesn’t exist right now. The industry is not ready, and these big companies are not ready to innovate. My hope is that you know, for manufacturer coupons come around and forces them out, or forces them to innovate, because they’re – they’re lazy, to do so, but we’re not gonna be the ones who do that.
Nicole: So the solution has been that all these apps come out, that I mention, that allow you to take pictures of your receipt after you buy. And then you can get rebates. I use those apps, and they’re great, but to take a picture of your receipt after you go shopping to save twenty-five cents is not something the average consumer will do. They will have you scan something off their phone, which takes two seconds. So I use the apps, but – but I’m not the average shopper. My parents don’t use them, for example, but they would scan a barcode off their phone screen, and they do use Snip-Snap regularly when they’re out shopping.
Nicole: So, I’d say that was our biggest disappointment, is that we haven’t yet figured out how to kind of break into the manufacturer coupon space. Overall, though, I think we were able to adjust what our goal was, and you know, we always say that our – our proudest moment was the first time we sort of – the first time we got an outreach from a store, right at the very beginning, that said, ‘who are you, and why are people asking to use coupons on their phones? We have way too many people coming in trying to scan off their phones, we have no idea how to handle that!’
Nicole: That was five years ago. Now, it’s extremely commonplace. So, we were so happy when we disrupted them enough that we were getting outreach from – I think the first one was Bed, Bath, and Beyond, that said who are you guys, and what are you doing? And now they’re one of our biggest clients. So, in that way, we’ve been very happy with the progress that has been made in the coupon space, but there have of course been some disappointments along the way.
Mobile Growth: I got one more question, and it’s gonna leave everyone off on a great note. It is, what tips would you give to someone thinking about building a consumer-bacing app?
Nicole: Yeah, so I’d take these kinda with a grain of salt, but you know, we have a lot of experience, and we’ve learned a lot. One thing I’d say is the space is always changing, so if you’re listening to this six months from now, maybe it’s not relevant anymore, but I’d say, you know, you have two options with a consumer basing app: One, you can have it be a paid app or an app that you don’t pay to download, but you pay to use certain features, like a paywall. Or you pay to upgrade, or you pay to remove ads or something like that. In that case, great, if you can get downloads, fantastic, even if-if you have ten thousand downloads, if you’re charging two dollars per download, you know exactly how much money you’re making, and that’s a great way to monetize.
Nicole: If you want a free app, entirely free to use, like Snip-Snap, you have to be willing to put in the time and a lot of money to get to a point where you can bring in revenue. People think, oh, it’s kind of like a blogger, like I wanna be a blogger, so I’m gonna start a WordPress blog, and I’m gonna put some google ads on my page, and I’m gonna make money. You won’t make any money until you get a hundred thousand users a month looking at your pages. The same thing is true with an app. Assuming it’s free, you really can’t build a model around the revenue that works until you reach a certain number of users. It depends on what kind of app you have, but really, it’s about a million. So, how do you get a million downloads? You can pay for them, on Facebook or other methods, but they’ll cost you two to three dollars each.
Nicole: So get ready to spend two million dollars. You can get a PR firm, but that’s not cheap. And you can hope that you get some PR organically, but that’s timing based and luck based, so I’d say you have to be ready to put in time, effort, and a good amount of money in marketing to reach a point where you’re significant and you can make money off of impression based ads, or affiliate or downloads, or anything. So I’d say there’s no reason not to try it, especially if you can build an app for not that expensive.
Nicole: If you have some development opportunities or experience, then try it, but just don’t think that you’ll get ten thousand downloads and then you matter. It sounds really depressing, but it’s true. You have to reach a certain number for anyone in the advertising space or the revenue monetization to really be interested in you, especially when your competitors, no matter who you are or what you’re building, your competitors are Instagram, and Twitter, and Facebook, and Amazon. So, you know, you need to – you need to even just even be a blip on their radar, requires about a million users.
Mobile Growth: And bonus question to build off of that: Say like you were just starting from scratch, and you were building a consumer-facing app, what basic steps, what three basic steps would you say to take, like right now, besides getting an app developed cost-effectively, that I need to get it out there, what three steps do you think would be the most efficient steps to get to those ten thousand, hundred thousand users?
Nicole: It’s interesting. I would say, one, make sure the app is useful. That could even be steps one two and three. It needs to be something that – getting the download is important, but do you know how common it is for an app to be downloaded and never opened?
Mobile Growth: The majority of the time, right?
Nicole: Or opened once. So, how do you make sure that it’s opened and that they like it and they come back? We have ways to engage our users, you know, like a push notification, or an email, or a location notification. You can’t send those if no one’s opening the app and give you permission for notifications.
Nicole: So, you need to make sure that the app – you know, Snip-Snap’s driving power is that we save people money, and if they use it the first time and save, they’ll come back. If they use it the first time and fail or don’t find savings, we’ll never see them again. They might not delete it from their phone, but they won’t open us again. So I think you need to make sure that your app has some sort of value. Now, the value could be that it’s fun to play the game that you built, or the value could be that your friends are talking about it, so you want to keep checking in, but it doesn’t have to save people money. Maybe it tells you the news, but in a great way that you haven’t been able to engage or take part in that commentary before.
Nicole: Maybe it’s providing you with directions, for example. That’s a great example – if you have your favorite app, whether it’s Google Maps or Ways, you go there every time you want to find out how to get to where you’re going. You don’t need something that sticky, stickiness doesn’t have to be like that, but the thing that we work so hard to do is that we wanna make sure anytime someone’s out shopping, and they’re in a store, they think of our app to save money, and they open it to see if there’s a coupon. It’s sort of that training to get someone to have that habit – have that thought in their head when they walk into the store when they get in line to check out.
Nicole: So you need to have some sort of activity that reminds the user to use the app, or some sort of impetus to get them to open it. Otherwise, just getting the download, even if it’s a million of them, sounds sad, but it won’t matter. So, you wanna make sure that you provide a value to the user. And I think that’s most important, and you wanna make sure that it’s easy to use. That would just be my three tips. You don’t want someone to have to sign up for five minutes, you will lose them in the sign-up flow. You don’t want it to be busy and to have it be impossible to figure out, oh, how do I start the game? Or how do I play the game? So, yeah, that would be my tip.
Mobile Growth: All right, so basically, start with a great app that has tremendous value, optimize the onboarding process to make sure that that is a – a good user experience, then I guess to go back to your earlier point, publicity seemed to really work for you at the beginning as well. So, if you get a couple of key write-ups, and you got a usable app with a lot of value, boom!
Mobile Growth: You could be just like Nicole someday!
Nicole: Yeah, I’m not sure if that’s what people want, but…
Mobile Growth: Well, thank you very much for taking the time, you’ve given so much amazing information, this was a really great interview, I truly appreciate you taking the time and sharing it with all of us.
Nicole: Thank you! And thank you so much for having me!
Mobile Growth: All right, thank you very much! Hang up, stop recording…