It started with an idea for an app and within that app or eCommerce site, you’d sell your digital service and products or physical products digitally. You assembled the team, UX and UI designers, DevOps folks, engineering, product owner. You went through a design thinking process. Several months later, you deploy this glorious app in iOS and Android. Marketing does its bit via digital channels with some social media and ads. Uptake isn’t bad, but in-app use drops after three or four sessions and overall sales are not where you thought they’d. But you’d designed such an amazing app. And that’s the key. An app. Singular. On your platform.


That’s the problem. The app works across the two key platforms, but stops there. It’s common for companies to focus digital products within an app and leave them there. Today, however, the strategy deployed needs to think about how the app can extend across other channels, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and even through cross-promoting through other related apps. Take for example, a mattress manufacturer we worked with. Rather than just sell their mattresses via a mobile site, they integrated with other related apps creating an affiliate program. The related apps were for snoring, sleep health, wellness and yoga. These app owners then had a new revenue line beyond just the subscription model and the mattress company extended its reach beyond the usual digital channels. We classified the mattresses as a digital product because they do not sell in physical retail stores.


This is comparable product line extensions. It brings greater awareness of the product to drive sales but also adds value to the consumer and other app owners. Some digital product companies are also pushing into messaging platforms, but most don’t have much success and this is mostly to do with over-automating the sales process, which is driven by a misunderstanding of the customer experience and journey in messaging apps. If you’re selling FMCG products or simple subscriptions it can be highly automated, but once you get into higher ticket items, chatbots are not going to work.


The idea for ensuring product extension is to do two things at the very start of the product design process, which is 1) consider what related products in the market you can tie into with a clear understanding of the mutual value proposition and 2) truly understand the customer buying journey. These two elements will have to factor in closely as you go through the UX/UI process. If your product will connect with other products, you’ll need to consider API’s and of course, how you’ll manage affiliate revenue programs.

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This does add a layer of complexity to product design and development, but if you’re already using RESTful API for example, it can be easier. The product manager/owner will also need to understand the difference in the customer experience in messaging apps versus within their own system only. UI design also comes into play if you’re pulling the customer out of a messaging app back into your own. Then there’s how you’ll integrate with other apps, such as where product recommendations come in, is the product promoted inside the paid part of another app or before that? How can the placement be done so as not to seem just like an add or promotion and not interfere with that apps conversion process. Will you promote their product into yours?


While there’s a lot to consider, the benefits can be significant with new revenue lines and new ways to add value to existing and new customers. But this approach should be considered at the start, whether you think you might in the future so later development costs are reduced or you’ll be doing this from the start.

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