3 Successful Mobile Apps and What Your Business Can Learn From Them - BuildFire
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3 Successful Mobile Apps and What Your Business Can Learn From Them

With about 64% of Americans owning a smartphone of some kind, it’s a great time to build an app for your business.

But if you want to do that, you can’t just dive in head-first and expect instant success. It’s best to look at the strategies that have worked for other companies in the past and determine what you can learn from the way they launched, marketed, or designed their app.

So, let’s talk about some successful apps now, the strategies they used to succeed, and how you can apply those strategies to your own app.

1. Afterlight

If you’re on Instagram, you’ve probably heard of Afterlight, a one-of-a-kind photo editing app that has gained lots of popularity for all of the options it offers users. According to data collected in December 2015, it has consistently ranked as one of the top 5 photo/video apps as far as downloads.

I’m not going to talk about the interface, the functionality, or even how awesome it can make your photos look. I’m going to talk about something else:

The app’s pricing.

Many apps are either free with in-app purchases or paid with no in-app purchases. But Afterlight is different. You’ve got to pay 99 cents to download it, and you also need to pay extra for certain photo filters.

But guess what?

The product is so good that people don’t mind the fees. They download the app and love it.

Don’t just take my word for it. Look up Afterlight in the app store, and you’ll see that it is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars with tons of positive customer reviews.

Because they have delivered a high-quality product that lots of people are interested in, Afterlight’s creators have found success charging for both the initial app download and in-app upgrades.

If you’re going to charge for your app too (whether you also offer in-app purchases or not), you’ve got to make sure it’s something people won’t regret paying for. Obviously, you should think that way any time you create an app, but you’ll find that paying customers have much higher expectations than customers who didn’t have to pay anything to download your app.

What I’m getting at is this:

If you offer your app for free and it doesn’t live up to peoples’ expectations, they’ll simply delete the app and go on with their day. However, if you anger paying customers by not delivering the value you’ve promised in your app description, you’ll likely end up with bad reviews.

They’ll feel ripped off and therefore more resentful towards you. And that’s not something you should take lightly since bad app reviews affect your app’s rankings.

Be honest with yourself about the value/quality of your app, and let your analysis guide the way you structure the app’s pricing. After all, picking the wrong way to price your app can make all the difference when it comes to your number of downloads and happy customers.


2. Snapchat

Snapchat is wildly popular among millennials – data from 2014 even shows that millennials use it more than they use Twitter.

Snapchat has consistently placed in the top 5 social apps in the United States. So, they must be doing something right.


Of course. They’ve created an app like no other that appeals heavily to their target audience.

With all of their success, they could have kept their app the same. But they didn’t.

In fact, they recently made a pretty big change to the app, adding photo lenses that make it more fun to take selfies.

And the lenses have been a huge hit. Snapchat was smart to add them, no doubt.

Think about it. People primarily use Snapchat to take selfies, and these new lenses open up a whole new set of possibilities for selfies.

If you’re a Snapchat user, you know that the app started offering paid lenses shortly after featuring free ones. And now, they’re making even more money from their already-successful app – all because they weren’t afraid to make a strategic change.

So, why does this matter to you?

Well, it’s a good example of why you shouldn’t be afraid of change. Change is good as long as you’re smart about it, like Snapchat has been.

While you don’t want to make people pay for features that should really be free, try to think about what you can charge for. Ask yourself what else your app could offer that might improve its value even more in the eyes of your target audience, and offer it.

3. Mylo

This app isn’t available for the general public to download yet, so I can’t talk about how successful it has been in the past or how many people have downloaded it.

But what I will say is this: the creator of Mylo, Daniel Eckler, clearly understands how to successfully build anticipation for an app before it’s released.

He published a blog post on Medium (“The 21 Best-designed Apps of 2015”) and smartly included Mylo as one of the featured apps without making the post feel like a sales pitch.

Now, everyone who reads that post will learn about the Mylo app, helping it gain visibility among people who are interested in well-designed apps.

On top of that, Daniel has created an awesome landing page to help build anticipation for his app.

He’s trying to capture email addresses to let people know when the app will be available to them. Again, smart.

In general, the landing page’s excellent design and enticing copy makes it memorable and effective. When you scroll through it, you immediately get a sense of what that app does, who it’s for, and why it’s useful.

As if that wasn’t enough to convince people to give the app a try, there’s also a video on the landing page that shows exactly how someone might use the app.

So clearly, the creator of Mylo understands marketing and the importance of giving his target audience lots of information about the app before it’s launched.

And the proof is in the numbers.

Okay – so now I know that over 35K people are already interested in this app. Pretty impressive.

And the email encourages inviting friends to sign up for Mylo. This is another smart move that’ll result in even more people excitedly awaiting the app’s launch.

What I’m getting at is this:

If you want to launch your app successfully, you’ve got to aggressively market it and build anticipation among your ideal customers.

Here are a few ways you can build some serious buzz for your app:

  • Start building relationships with popular bloggers and editors of publications (go after the ones who publish content that appeals to your target audience) that might be willing to feature a review of your app. Keep in mind that you’ll need to do this far before your app’s launch so you have plenty of time to make genuine connections and get something published. (You can learn how to craft a good pitch by reading this blog post.)
  • Post your app on PreApps. When you post your app in this online community, you can start building an email list and getting the feedback you need from your audience to launch the most successful app possible.
  • Create a landing page. If you do this, make sure your page clearly states what your app does, who it’s for, and how it’s used (just like the Mylo landing page). And don’t forget to use your landing page to capture email addresses – that way, you can stay in touch with your audience and let them know when your app is launched.

Follow these tips, and you can improve your chances of having an eager audience who can’t wait to get their hands on your app when it launches.

The way you handle your app’s marketing, development, or launch can mean the difference between huge success and total failure.

Don’t let that scare you away from making your own app though – just let it make you a bit more cautious about how you approach the entire process. Using a solid strategy will help ensure that you see a good return on your investment.

Which of these tips will you plan to use when developing your company’s mobile app? Share in the comments section!


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Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.

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