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Building a Shopify app can be challenging. Unfortunately, things only get more difficult when it comes to running the whole business as a Shopify app developer.
But, nobody said making money would be easy. Thankfully, there are proven ways to build and grow a sustainable business.
This article will cover 10 business tips for improving your Shopify app’s development, marketing, and sales.
10 business tips for Shopify app developers
I’m going to walk you through some of the top-level ideas that can make micro-SaaS development a little bit more manageable. The overriding theme here is that you need to be flexible.
1. Take the time to plan
Let’s say you want to have your minimum viable product (MVP) submitted to Shopify for vetting in two months. What do you do first? Would the decision change if you had six months? What about if you only had seven days?
It shouldn’t! Whatever your timeline, the first step needs to be planning. Having a solid, reasonable timeline keeps all of your team members focused on what they need to be doing and your company progressing on pace.
An effective plan should include the time required to:
Scope an existing need for Shopify merchants
Look at the competing apps in the Shopify App Store
Figure out what tools you need
Decide what work can be done in-house and what work might need to be outsourced
Your planning should also include a strong understanding of your target market and why they need your app.
2. Know your audience
As I’ve said, you need to know your audience. This includes not only the type of merchants that will benefit from your app but also the person inside that company who will be using your app.
Are you targeting marketers? Designers? Sales?
Understanding the end user of your app will affect every decision you make, from how your UX/UI looks to your marketing and pricing strategy.
3. Have a big goal in mind
Whether you are spending nights during school or after work building your Shopify app or leaving a stable job to do it full time, you need to have a big goal in mind to keep you focused.
Without some deeper goals in place, it can be hard to keep driving towards a finish line when missteps occur.
Keeping yourself focused on the value you will give to the community when the Shopify QA team sends your app back for more work will help you pick yourself up and keep moving forward.
4. Use data to test pricing
When you start developing an app, the road ahead seems so clear. You’ve identified a user base with a problem, came up with a solution, as well as how to build that solution.
Then, you hit a snag. Maybe someone else releases a competing app, maybe Shopify has updated its platform in some way that removes the problem, or maybe it is that the problem isn’t all that easy to solve. Whatever the issue, you need to move on.
Usually, it isn’t something so extreme. It could be something as small as your pricing scheme. Let’s say you release your app with two price tiers, a basic tier and a more expensive tier with more features.
But nobody seems to be buying. What’s the problem? Are you not attracting the right leads? Are you too expensive? While that could be it, it could also be that the basic tier doesn’t have the “magic sauce” that helps your app bring value to customers, while jumping to the pro tier is off-putting.
What do you do? Price optimization can mean changing the prices of your tiers, but it can also mean changing your pricing model entirely.
For example, a freemium model where users don’t pay to use the app but have to upgrade in order to access more features might be successful.
Often, the right pricing model can not only get you more customers, but more revenue per customer, as well.
5. The Shopify QA team are your friends
The over 6,000 apps in the Shopify App Store have been vetted by the Shopify QA team. While that can make things nerve-racking when you are waiting to hear about approval, it also bestows a great deal of trust on each and every app.
Shop owners can be confident when downloading your app thanks to the QA team. The QA team will also give you guidance on how to get your app up to snuff if it isn’t there yet. They’ll provide you with logs, screen caps, identify issues, and offer help on how to fix them.
That guidance is invaluable during the vetting process.
Before that, they are also there to offer help and encouragement during the entire development process. Don’t be afraid to reach out. As Shopify app developers, you should be engaging with the Shopify team. It is super helpful.
6. Use Baremetrics to monitor your app’s revenue
To turn app development from a hobby into a business, you need to make money. Maximizing profit requires tracking your growth metrics.
Baremetrics can track all of your needed growth metrics. Just look at this image of the SaaS quick ratio:
Baremetrics provides an easy-to-read dashboard that gives you all the key metrics for your business, including MRR, ARR, LTV, total customers, and more directly in your Baremetrics dashboard. Just check out this demo account here.
Connect Baremetrics to Shopify and start seeing all of your revenue in a crystal-clear dashboard. You can even see your customer segmentation, deeper insights about who your customers are, forecast into the future, and use automated tools to recover failed payments.
Sign up for the Baremetrics free trial and start seeing more into your subscription revenues now.
7. Build one feature at a time
While this can’t always work, you don’t want to wake up months behind schedule with a dozen features all half completed. You definitely don’t want to then release your app and find most of those features ignored.
Even the best and most mature apps only have a handful of major functions. Those are the functions that attract leads and get users to pay monthly for your service.
The rest, while often helpful, is more “nice to have” than “need to have”.
Focusing on the features you are confident will be the center of your marketing campaign is a good way to get yourself in business as Shopify app developers. The rest can come over time.
8. Customer service is everything
Your star rating and the number of ratings and reviews you’ve received are the cornerstone of your app’s success.
While customer service is important in every industry, the risk of early poor ratings might be greater in the Shopify App Store than anywhere else.
It is better to grow slowly while maintaining peak customer service than go too fast and find yourself with a low rating.
9. A pivot isn’t a failure
Don’t be surprised if you never develop the app you envisioned at the start. That’s ok. The feedback loop of research-development-research-development means you will almost certainly experience a pivot or two.
That’s ok. Every time you move away from an idea towards a better one, that’s a success.
10. Build in the open
I discuss this more in an article about marketing, but building in the open is a great way to find early fans.
By keeping the community in the loop (through the Shopify Community forums, social media, your blog, etc.) about what you are developing and why, you can start the marketing and sales cycle even before your app is complete.
You’ll also know immediately when what you are building is off the mark because your followers will tell you. In this way, you can avoid a lot of dead-end development and focus on what your future users really want.
Even growth metric tells a Shopify app developer something about their company’s financial health. To get the whole picture, you need to track as many as possible.
However, doing all of this by hand takes time, leaving you less of the day available for development, customer service, marketing, and all the other important functions as Shopify app developers you need to accomplish.
That’s where Baremetrics comes in. Baremetrics can track all of your needed growth metrics and display them one on dashboard.
Sign up for the Baremetrics free trial, and start monitoring your subscription revenue accurately and easily.