For the Shopify app development community, 2016 was a great year. We witnessed several high quality apps launch, more merchant needs fulfilled through apps, and more developers contributing to the app store for the first time.
But now that the year has wrapped up, and we’ve started planning for 2017, we decided to take a look back at the apps that launched in 2016, to see what the most installed apps by category had in common.
Although these apps were built by different developers and covered vastly different needs, they all rose to the top by following the same practices.
Below are the commonalities among the most installed apps launched last year. Many of these include updates you can make to a current listing page, or are strategies you can keep in mind when you’re launching this year.
Based on last year’s successes, here’s what you should consider.
1. Use captivating visuals and layouts for icons, app cards, and banners
As the saying goes, first impressions are everything.
With more apps continually being added to the store, it’s important that your banner and app card can grab attention, and quickly communicate features and merchant value. We also know that improving your app’s features banner can help boost traffic to your listing page by a wooping 400 per cent! The banners and cards of 2016’s top new apps were clear and simple, with just enough words to entice merchants to click through to the app’s page.
Not a graphic designer or visual thinker? No budget to hire a designer? No sweat.
Just follow the examples below for layout inspiration, and explore some the the web’s best free tools and resources, such as Canva for fonts and layouts, and free stock photography sites like Pexels and Unsplash.
Some great app card examples from 2016’s top new apps:
1. NeoWize Insights & Analytics
- Simple gradient background is eye-catching but not overwhelming.
- Good use of NeoWize logo, meaning those who use other NeoWize apps can easily recognize the app has been built by a developer they already know and enjoy.
2. Automatic Discount
- Large and highly legible copy.
- Intuitive visual; division symbol and scissors.
- “FREE” banner in the top right corner stands out ,and gives the feeling of a special promotion to be acted on.
3. Image Safe
- Great app value call-out of “Stop Image Downloads.”
- Great use of intuitive visuals; combining the camera and lock.
You might also like: How Improving Your App Store Banner Can Increase Traffic by 400%.
2. Offer free features or a free trial period
If merchants are able to try out your apps first hand, they’ll directly learn the usefulness for their business. Instead of missing out on downloads from merchants who are unsure of how important your app really is for their store, free trial periods allow merchants a risk-free way of giving your app a try.
As well, by offering a lite version for free and offering paid add-ons, you can create an early relationship with merchants as they build their business. The freemium model can be effective in helping establish a user base, and can allow merchants to scale along with you, adding premium features when needed.
However, when choosing this model, it’s important to carefully consider what should be free, what should be premium, and how to clearly communicate between the two, as well as the value of the latter. An app that clearly lays this out is Welcome Header Bar, which even allows users to try premium features for a short period.
3. Guide merchant understanding through screenshots, videos, and walkthroughs
A pictures says a thousand words, and a screenshot of your app in action can speak volumes. Not only will imagery help merchants who learn visually, it will also help them to better envision the impact your app can have on their store.
Screenshots are simple and easy to add, and we’ve also found that many of 2016’s top apps went a step further by including a video on the app listing page, and sometimes even external links to demos or walkthroughs.
The app Pixel Perfect provides an in-depth walkthrough video of how their app works from download to final application.
Mega Menu also has a great walkthrough video, that goes the extra mile by showing both the app on desktop, and how their app appears on mobile devices.
In another approach, the app Yo does a great job of showcasing their app by including a link to a staging store with the app installed. This helps merchants get a realistic experience of the app in action.
Another key benefit of including visuals is that it can make the installation and onboarding easier for the merchant, meaning they will be less likely to reach out to you for support. By investing a little extra time upfront to explain and show how your app works, it can save you countless merchant help emails. Which leads to the next common practice among successful apps.
4. Respond to customers within 72 hours
Happy users can be the biggest asset to the health of your app business. When they’re really pleased with your service, they’ll continue to pay for and purchase upgrades. Often times Shopify merchants are very social with other entrepreneurs too, and they’re apt tell their peers about your app.
However, despite how content they are, an unsolved issue can completely sour the relationship. In a study done by Edison Research and Jay Baer in 2015, it was found that when a customer email complaint was answered, customer advocacy increased by 8 per cent. When an email complaint was ignored, advocacy dropped by 56 per cent.
In an era of instantaneous customer service, everyone is looking for a quick response, and it’s easy to feel slighted when it’s been a couple days without follow-up. To make sure you’re there for your customers when they need you, it’s important to prepare a customer service strategy for when you launch your app. This can include:
- Scheduling three or four inbox check-ins during the day, to make sure that no merchant inquiries or issues sit in your inbox for too long, without being acknowledged.
- Responding as soon as you’ve received an email to let merchants know you’re looking into the issue, and providing a timeline for resolution.
- Keeping track of questions that are continuously being asked, and updating your app listing page to add an FAQ section that includes details and clarifications.
- For more complex questions or fixes, using platforms like Skype to schedule conference calls to answer questions and do on-screen demonstrations or troubleshooting.
As one of the top Shopify app developers, Warner Liu of Hextom, has said before:
“Customer service is as important as software. Shop owners are not only looking for solid apps but also customer support around apps.”
You might also like: Designing With Customer Service In Mind Above All Else.
5. Serve specific merchant needs
Shopify merchants often turn to the app store when they have a specific need that’s not covered under Shopify’s core offerings. This is when your app can swoop-in and be the hero that keeps their business running.
Also, when you’re one of the first people to come address a need, you’ll have less competition against comparable apps. Even if it feels like you’re going after a smaller segment of merchants, it’s important to remember that it’s better to own an entire small pie, than a marginal slice of a bigger one.
Below are some examples of apps that have focused on meeting specific needs while garnering numerous installs, five star rankings on the Shopify app store, and glowing customer reviews.
- BEST Currency Converter - Great for shops selling internationally and helps cross-border shoppers properly compare prices.
- Custom Packaging - Custom boxes for merchants who need a branded box, such as subscription and gift pack shops.
- Mega Menu - A useful function for stores with a vast array of products that need to be seamlessly displayed in an organized menu.
- Image Safe - Important for photography and poster merchants, or anyone selling items with proprietary visuals.
When trying to determine specific merchant needs, it can be helpful to spend time on groups and forums merchants go to discuss their Shopify businesses, such as the Shopify Entrepreneurs Facebook Group, the Shopify Quora topic, or Reddit.
You might also like: 8 Merchant-Driven Ideas For Your Next Shopify App.
6. Use learnings from merchants to build multiple apps
Once you start, it’s hard to stop!
Building your first app can be a great learning experience, and after spending more time in the Shopify ecosystem and interacting with your customers, other app opportunities tend to spring up. Like many wise entrepreneurs throughout history have done, take the learnings from your first endeavour and use it to create something new.
In addition, if you regularly send emails with app news and updates, it can be worthwhile to use your newsletter to ask what features or tools merchants wish their store or business had.
Once you’ve built a loyal base of customers from your first app, they’ll likely trust that your new app has the same quality they already know and trust. Each time you launch a new app, you’ll have better recognition and will be one step ahead from where you started.
Your guide to app development in 2017
Take cues from the successes and learnings of 2016, and build them into your app development plan for 2017.
No matter how great the function of your app is, if merchants can’t understand its value, or can’t get a hold of you when they have questions and issues, it can be an uphill battle to increase app installs, and grow a loyal customer base. Once you’ve built this customer base, make use of a merchant’s familiarity and trust so you can continue to grow your app business.