What we learned in 1000 days: Shopify app developer experience

In 2018 RetargetApp is turning three. The app may still be young, but we have reached a few milestones we are very proud of. To the date, RetargetApp has served over 15,000 e-store owners, bringing, on average, 500%-600% ROAS to each of them. We received over 150 5-star reviews on Shopify (and 30 1-star ones, which, you know, is also an achievement of a kind 🙂 ). For over a year now, we are honored to be a Facebook Marketing partner.

Looking back at our journey, we decided to share some of the valuable lessons we learned the hard way in hope that they may be useful for someone who is just getting started in the field of e-commerce app development.

Learn to focus

You should know what purposes people need your app for. Clearly defined vision and mission of your company are of vital importance. We created RetargetApp to make retargeting easy and efficient.  We believe that running a successful retargeting campaign shouldn’t take anyone more than 5 minutes a day, and all our effort ever since has been aimed at just that. So, whenever we have an idea, first we think whether it will make retargeting easier. If it will, we can — and should — bring it to life.

Mission and vision also help you see what NOT to do — not every customer’s wish should be brought into life immediately. Stay focused, learn to say “no” and make sure all your teammates understand the importance of vision and mission. To help you out with all this, there’s a great product management approach called “Jobs To Be Done”. It’s hard to enumerate all the benefits it brought, so just give it a try and never look back 🙂

Your clients have a lot to say. Hear them out

The only way to properly manage your product is through gathering, analyzing and reacting to users’ feedback. Encourage your users to share their experience. Users always have something to say, but they don’t always say it right away, so ask the right questions at the right time. We, for instance, use series of e-mails and in-app messages carefully segmented with the help of Intercom:

  • New users are asked to tell what wasn’t clear during the onboarding process and what problem they are trying to solve using our app;
  • Those who have run a campaign for at least 14 days, are encouraged to share their first impressions;
  • Long-term users are expected to suggest some ways in which the app could be more comfortable for them. This helps us see how the application can be improved and what new features can be added to increase value.

Here’s what these messages look like:

Image for post

Feedback analysis can result in new feature ideas, bug fixes and general improvements, so you simply cannot ignore it. For additional info on the subject, be sure to check out 3 Rules for Customer Feedback.

Support is essential. Do it or go out of business

Over 90% of dissatisfied customers will not willingly do business with you again. Negative feelings can easily ruin loyalty, so, you need to react to customers’ queries as fast as you can — and try your best to actually be helpful.

  • Set up a customer relationship management system which will help you organize all the incoming customer queries. Our personal recommendation would be Intercom — it has a great set of functions you can benefit from, awesome support, easy integration and affordable prices. Intercom has helped us properly handle over 18000 conversations with customers so far.
  • Compile a knowledge base with answers to all the frequently asked questions and provide links to it on all the necessary stages — admit it, you can’t be available 24/7. Besides, over 70% of customers stated that they wouldn’t contact support if there had been a self-serve knowledge base tailored to their needs. With Intercom Articles setting up a knowledge base is a matter of a few hours. We used it to create our Help Centre — be sure to check it out 🙂
  • Be prepared for getting messages in unusual places like your personal Facebook profile or Twitter — the users will go at great lengths to reach you if they have a problem. Don’t lose focus, though — Intercom offers a number of seamless integrations which will allow you to gather messages from most popular social networks and mailboxes into one CRM to make it more comfortable for you.

Approach the product development seriously

  • Make small steps. Try and deliver small features one by one — it will be significantly more efficient than accumulating them for a big update. This improves the development process as you get instant feedback from the users on each feature, not the whole new version. If you make one step at a time, you alleviate the stress of learning a completely new thing from user’s shoulders. Educate your users properly about each novelty you introduce, and, of course, base all new introductions to your app on both customer feedback and company values.
Image for post

We’ve made a mistake of accumulating a number of updates rather than releasing them one by one — as a result, we lost a number of clients who chose to use a different service rather that wait for our updates.

Image for post
Our new UI certainly looks more sleek and informative — but it came at a price
  • Set up a convenient and well-structured channel of internal communication inside the team. We, for example, don’t know how we’d work without Slack — its multifunctionality and integration possibilities allows us not to overwhelm our team with too many communication apps. The fewer services you use to organize the teamwork, the more streamlined development process is.

Team matters. Grow and excel

  • Get a good co-founder. If you are planning to embark on a journey of an app developer alone, think twice. A carefully selected co-founder will not only help you share the burden of everyday routine tasks on the first stages of development, but will also provide the so much needed feedback of a person with the knowledge and the background you may not have yet. No idea where to look for a co-founder? Check out the ‘Team and Execution’ lecture from “How to Start a Startup” course.
  • Grow your team and delegate tasks. The well-known adage “If you want something to be done right, do it yourself” doesn’t work in app development — you’ve got to focus on the most important tasks and delegate the rest. If you don’t think about it on the early stages, you may find yourself in a situation when you are too overwhelmed with tasks to even have time to look for the new employees, so go out there and hire 🙂
Image for post
  • Always improve the organization of your teamwork. In our approach to planning we were truly inspired by an article called “Lessons learned from scaling a product team”. Their approach emphasizes the importance of planning, concise project descriptions, clear accountability — all this makes the process of scaling easier as you grow. Of course, we’ve modified the routine to fit our needs, but, because of this carefully designed and refined approach we were able to focus on growth rather than deal with organizational issues.
  • Develop company culture. At early stages, agree upon core values of your company. When hiring, make sure that your employees share these values — if they don’t, you should probably refrain from working with them even if they appear to be amazing specialists. We at RetargetApp only welcome a new person aboard when we’ve made sure that the new employee believes in the idea of easy and efficient retargeting just as much as we do. It’s better to check more candidates and lose a few clients in the meantime than rush to hire a wrong candidate and severely damage the team and the business.

Learn more every day

Image for post
  • Be an expert in your field. You never know enough. A constant necessity to learn and develop should be one of the core values for each employee in a company. Make sure a portion of working time every day is dedicated to reading professional articles and blog posts, listening to podcasts and watching videos about the newest features of the platforms and services you are working with. If, for instance, you are new to the world of advertising, you will most probably find Facebook Blueprint course indispensable, just like we did.
  • Learn about product development. Expertise in your field is important, but not all savvy people can build commercially successful apps. Make sure you take time to carefully study the “five whales” which helped us get to where we are today: Intercom in Product ManagementIntercom on Customer EngagementIntercom on Customer SupportIntercom on Starting Up and Intercom on Onboarding.
  • Reach out when you need help. Know that Shopify isn’t just a platform — it’s a strong community that is highly supportive and can help you out. No matter where you turn — to BlogHelp Centre or Support, you will receive the assistance you need. And, of course, don’t forget about the ultimate place for all your questions to be resolved — Shopify App Developer Community — all the queries there are replied to within a reasonable timeframe and, in most cases, the issues you may be experiencing are quickly resolved. So, don’t be shy and ask for advice if you are confused.
  • Explore additional information channels. Remember that Shopify-related communities on Facebook and LinkedIn may also have answers you are looking for.

The new version of our app is yet another big step we are making. It is more transparent and informative, and, what’s more important, shaped and moulded due to tons of feedback we’ve received.

We do not plan to stop on our way to making retargeting easier and are really grateful to Shopify and Facebook for all their help and guidance. And, of course, we encourage developers to go ahead and create more apps that solve big and small problems that e-commerce world is facing today. Good luck and see you on Shopify 🙂

Join over 10,000 brands
who grow their sales with RetargetApp
Automated Facebook ads for Shopify and BigCommerce.