After learning about Apptimize co-founder and CEO Nancy Hua’s approach to improving app development, we asked her to talk about what she sees businesses doing wrong when it comes to their mobile apps. She also pointed to two apps that she says are doing everything right, and she admitted to stumbling over a few hurdles at helm of a startup.
Aabaco Small Business: What are some common mistakes businesses make that impede the effectiveness of their apps?
Nancy Hua: There are different parts of making sure the app is good that people get wrong. They often don’t track how customers find their app. They need to because that can make a really big difference in the experience. A lot of time they don’t have all the analytics set up properly. Analytics are how you know what’s going on.
Another thing people do wrong is to not onboard users correctly. You have customers install your app, but you’re pouring money into a leaky bucket. Before you spend money promoting an app, nail it down. Start small, with 5,000 to 50,000 users. Make sure that they are doing the task or completing the goal that you made the app for and showing the engagement that would make it worthwhile for you to continue.
Identify the part of the user base that is useful to you and learn as much about that user profile as possible. These users return five times more than others. That’s how you know how to focus. Be strategic about why you made the app and what you want them to do and which set of users you want to focus on. Develop your strategy around and spend money on the acquisition of those users.
People usually do the totally opposite of all this. They make the app, they haven’t tested it, and they don’t know who is finding value in it. They don’t know anything about which users are valuable and which aren’t. They pour a lot of money into ads and promoting it on Facebook. People are coming to the app, but they don’t know how they found it, and people install it and never use it. They’re not learning anything.
ASB: What mobile apps do you think are well done?
NH: HotelTonight is really innovative. It has a great design and they have done all this cool stuff with geolocation and pricing that is pretty great. And Trulia is a kick ass app. There’s a natural synergy between real estate and travel mobile apps.
ASB: What have been some challenges you’ve faced in building your business?
NH: Everyone talks about hiring. For me it was like figuring out the right hiring thesis. When I started, I just thought I wanted to hire people who are really smart. That was my main criteria. Then I realized that a lot of smart people suck. Being smart is not the be-all and end-all. A lot of my initial team are people I knew from MIT and they don’t suck; they’re great. But being smart is not always the most important thing. In some roles you want someone who cares about all the details. In others you want them to care about relationships. That’s a different kind of person. It seems obvious, but it wasn’t.
Another challenge is prioritizing. There are so many things I want to do, and there are 12 fires to put out at any moment and a million awesome opportunities. You can’t do most of this stuff. For us, figuring out a non-random way to prioritize came down to being really clear about what our mission is. We would ask, “How is this going to help us grow, how is it going to help our customers grow?” If you’re just on autopilot, you do the wrong things all the time. You’re busy but not moving.