In Episode 65, we are diving into the world of apps. And to take us on this journey, we are bringing in Brian Messenlehner, co-founder WebDevStudios and AppPresser to give us some tips on helping you decide if your online store is app ready. We all know how critical it is for any retail site to be mobile-friendly, and that app will not only get you to that point, but will take it even further with customer engagement.
We chatted about:
- Two key factors to determine if your online store is ready for an app
- What you should consider when you hear people saying Another app? I don’t need another app on my phone.
- The features you should look for when deciding on creating that app
- The benefits of using a product like AppPresser vs. having a developer customize it from the ground up
- The top feature of using AppPresser
- Some of the bigger app failures Brian as witnessed himself online
Thanks to Our Podcast Sponsor: Bluehost
Bob Dunn: Hey everyone welcome back to the WP commerce show,. Bob Dunn here, also known as Bob WP on the web. Today we are talking about mobile apps, more specifically mobile apps for online stores. I’m sure you have a few on your phone and often debate about adding yet another one. But today what we want to talk about is if your online store doesn’t have an app, is it time? And how can you know if it is? Well, to help us answer this ongoing question, we are bringing in Brian Messenlehner, who is co-founder of WebDevStudios, co-founder of AppPresser, and author of the book Building Web Apps with WordPress. Hey, Brian, welcome to the show.
Brian Messenlehner: Hey, Bob. Thanks for having me, and hey, everybody.
Bob: So, Brian, I talked a bit about who you are, a very little bit. Can you tell us more of what you do, especially in the world of mobile apps?
Meet Brian Messenlehner, Co-founder of WebDev Studios and AppPresser
Brian: Sure. So, like you mentioned I’m the co-founder of a company called AppPresser. At AppPresser, we have a series of WordPress plugins that allow you to build a mobile app with WordPress. Some people may be thinking, “How does that work?”. Well, we are leveraging a platform for building mobile apps called PhoneGap. And if you think of WordPress as open source for building websites, PhoneGap is open source for building mobile apps. The idea behind PhoneGap is you build it once and it works across all of the mobile platforms, which is iOS and Android. All AppPresser is, is just a bridge between WordPress and PhoneGap.
Does every online retailer need a mobile app?
Bob: Very cool. And I know that a lot of people are struggling with whether they should even do an app for their online store. Let’s start out with a couple of key factors that a shop owner should watch for that tells them, “Hey it’s time for you to get that app for your online store.” I’m not sure if it’s the number of products, the sales, just when and where does this come in?
Brian: If you’re selling anything online, then you should probably have an app where you could sell those products as well. I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily any right time to introduce an app, but if you’re selling products through your website, you should probably complement that with a mobile application. The idea is to get as many eyeballs on your products as possible. By having an app, you’re having more doorways to your content and your mobile apps.
Bob: A lot of people may be thinking, “Okay if I’m putting apps on my phone, I’m thinking, “Okay ,I already have dozens, or hundreds of apps, I don’t know, and now I need to add another app?” Or a store owner’s thinking, “Hey my customer’s going to be reluctant to put yet another app on.” Do you have any thoughts on that? Are there incentives to get them to put that app on there as a loyal customer? What are your thoughts on that if I were to say, “Hey Brian. I don’t want an app because nobody’s going to want to put my app on their phone.”
Brian: Sure. I guess it would depend on the demographics of the people you’re selling your products to. And some people may be more on apps and on their mobile device than they would be on a website. So it kind of varies, but like I said before, an app is creating more doorways to your content and your products, so why wouldn’t you want to have an app selling your products in the app stores?
Watch your stats to see how much traffic is coming from mobile
Bob: So, can one assume that, for instance, if I have an older demographic, that they are not using their mobile phone as much? Do I watch my stats? How do you decide that there are enough people wanting to access products via mobile? Is there any method to the madness?
Brian: You definitely should look at your stats, your analytical data of traffic coming into your website. Is most of it on mobile? If that’s the case, you should probably look at getting a mobile application. What products are you selling? Are you selling makeup to teenagers or are you selling … I don’t know … custom-made furniture or something else that might not appeal as much to young people who are more likely to be on mobile devices than on desktop.
One of the most useful features on a mobile app
Bob: Okay. Are there any features that most apps have on them? And again, if it depends on what you’re selling maybe you can give us a couple of examples.
Brian: Sure. I think that the best feature on a mobile app to have is push notifications. With push notifications, you have direct access to all of these people. So whenever you publish a new product, say on your WooCommerce store, everyone’s getting a push notification directly to their device about this new product. You could also send out push notifications when you have sales or discounts. You could send out push notifications on any news around your company or the products that you’re selling or related news. Push notifications are great for being in the face of the people that have had downloaded your app. I say that’s one of the biggest features.
We’re also experimenting with AppPresser with a lot of local storage. An example: when you’re way up in the air and you don’t want to pay GoGo for the internet, then you’re probably just sitting there going through apps you never go through on your phone. It would be great to have all of your products loaded on an app they could access. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to actually check out and go to a transaction, but as soon as they land and switch off airplane mode they would be. So that’s another benefit of having a mobile app.
With our AppPresser framework, anything you could do on WordPress and WooCommerce you could do in your mobile app. So any of these key features you have in your WooCommerce store, say like related products, you could have related products showing in your app. You could set up paywalls, so maybe you’re not selling a product but you’re selling access to private content or videos or whatever, anything behind a paywall. You could easily set that up within a mobile app as well. So pretty much any of the features you want to have for your e-commerce store, you could have those same exact features built into your mobile app.
If you have a physical location, say you’re selling out of a store, you could build an app that uses the GPS of the device. You could do cool things like send push notifications to somebody if they’re around your store, or maybe you could tell that they’re going to a competitor’s store and you could send a push notification to them saying, “Hey, guess what, we have a discount on these products.”
There’s a lot of cool stuff that you could do with a mobile app. Just off the top of my head, maybe social sharing. Somebody buys something, and you should probably have it on your website as well. But somebody buys something they should have the option to share that on their social media accounts, and that could all be done within the app as well.
Are features like push notifications customizable?
Bob: Now I wanted to ask you a question on the push notifications. Let’s say you have push notifications for sales, you have push notifications for new products, can the user actually go into the app and choose … do they have to get all push notifications or can it be set up so they can say, “Okay I don’t really care about new products but I do want to hear about sales.” Is that possible to do on their end?
Brian: Yes. All that stuff is completely customizable. At the end of the day the AppPresser plugins are essentially just plugins. They can be extended. They’re laced with hooks and filters just like any WordPress plugin should be, and third-party developers can take advantage of those hooks and filters to build in any custom functionality they want to send push notifications. That could be enabling the end user to choose and dictate what categories they want to be able to send push notifications to, or certain custom post types, or product notifications or whatever.
The advantages of building your own app with AppPresser
Bob: Excellent. So now this a good segue because you were talking about customizations with the AppPresser and talking a bit about the plugin itself. Now if a store owner’s sitting there and they’re working with a developer, maybe this is a no-brainer, but for those store owners that are a bit non-tech, what advantages would they see to going to the developer and saying, “Excuse me, I want to use AppPresser rather than you running with it, customizing something from the ground up.” What are those advantages that they would tell that user in a way that they could understand?
Brian: So I think the best selling point for AppPresser is that using AppPresser versus the plugins to start with versus building a custom app from the ground up, is that it’s going to save whoever is funding the development of this a ton of time and money. Our agency bundle is $500, and basically you install these plugins, you go to MyAppPresser.com, you’re using our visual app building, and you are building your app within 5 to 10 minutes of purchasing the agency bundle. Now you could literally set up an app and it would take you longer to register for an AppHold developer account and get it approved and submit it to the app store than it would to actually build your app. So you could literally build an app based on the data from your WordPress within a few hours, versus building something from the ground up, which would probably take a lot longer than that.
Bob: So it really boils down to time is money right?
Brian: Right. And remember earlier in the podcast, I mentioned PhoneGap and how we’re using it to actually compile and build these mobile apps so you can submit them to the app stores? So pre-compiled files we give you access to, through the plugins you could download the files that the plugins are creating through PhoneGap. And you could absolutely go in there and customize the apps even further than what our framework allows you to. So if you are a mobile app developer and you have the know-how, you can go in there and customize it as you see fit. And you could definitely use AppPresser as a tool to get you to that point much faster.
Bob: With that all said, I’ve got another question here to close this out. But before we do that, tell me from your viewpoint what is the coolest feature or benefit of AppPresser that you may have already touched on, but in a nutshell was really the thing that sells AppPresser to the online store owner, the developer, whoever that is looking for something like this.
Brian: Okay. This lends itself to your previous question. I would say because AppPresser uses WordPress as a data source to power the app, that is hands-down the best selling point of AppPresser. Because a lot of companies spend a lot of time and money building a website or online shop, and they’ll set it up exactly how they want it, and it works great. And then the word comes down from higher up or you do some research and you find out that you want to have a mobile app, so you start getting quotes. Those quotes that you get, if you shop around for a custom app, you’re going to be looking at, depending on what you want to do, especially for an e-commerce app, you’re probably looking at anywhere from 20 grand to 50 grand to 100 grand or even more, depending on what you want it to do. And a lot of those costs are incurred because the app developers are different. They didn’t build your website, and then maybe you’re going to a company that only specializes in iOS and then you have to get a quote from them and then you need to get a quote from another company that specializes in Android apps.
But because AppPresser leverages WordPress as a data source, it’s eliminating all that extra roundabout stuff, a lot of the costs incurred when you have a website and a mobile app on iOS and Android, just making sure all the data is consistent between the apps and your website. We eliminate all that because your app is your website.
Brian’s take on one of the biggest app failures
Bob: Oh, that’s huge. Yep that definitely is a top feature. Whether you are a store owner, a developer, whatever, that’s great. Now I’m going to lay one last question on you. Having been online and having developed apps for as long as you have, your eyeballs are always looking and tearing things apart and thinking about them as you go through other apps. What have you seen out there in the wild you would call big app failures when it comes to online shopping? Got a couple of examples?
Brian: Like specific companies?
Bob: You don’t even have to mention the company, maybe you’re on an app and you say, “Whoa, what are they doing here?” Or, “This just doesn’t make sense.” Something that just has thrown you for a loop and you thought, “Damn if I could get in there and fix it, I sure would.”
Brian: My biggest pet peeve, whether buying something online, through a mobile app or a website, or whatever, is if I’m trying to buy something and they’re not letting me buy it because I’m getting an error on a certain field or something, and I’m sitting there like “I filled it in, I filled it in.” I just want to buy something, and if they’re preventing me from buying something, that’s not a good experience. So anytime that you’re selling something, anywhere that somebody’s putting in their credit card information and you’re collecting their money, you should make sure that the process is good to go.
I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating it is when you’re trying to buy something, all you want to do is buy it, and the place that you’re buying it from won’t let you buy it. That can be very frustrating. And to go along with that, long checkout forms. There’s nothing more daunting than a long checkout form. Actually, through AppPresser, we made a custom plugin, it’s not specific to mobile apps, it’ll work on mobile app, but it’s called WooCommerce smart checkout, and it handles the long checkout form problem. So if you have a really long checkout form, this WooCommerce smart checkout plugin will actually break that form down into multiple modules, with steps, so you can go through step 1, step 2, step 3, and it has auto-complete on the address. That’s tedious, too, on a mobile device, especially when they have the credit card address and the shipping address, you don’t have the checkbox that says the same then you’re entering in all that information again. Our WooCommerce smart checkout plugin integrates with an address API, so as you’re typing in the address, it’s finding it, and it’s pre-populating the other fields, like the town, the city, and the zip code. Sorry city, state, and zip code.
Bob: And I know that’s a big one. I know a lot of people have really loved using that plugin, and I’ll just tell all my listeners to keep an eye out because that is on my list to do, I’ll be doing a post on that WooCommerce plugin here, hopefully in the near future, and you can learn more about that. Yep, I know what you mean about not being able to purchase, you just want to buy something, you just want to yell at your phone or your computer, “Why aren’t you letting me buy this?”
Brian: Let me give you my money. Take it!
Bob: Yeah, here’s my card. Can you see my credit card? It’s right here. Yeah, I know that feeling. So this is a huge piece for the success of any online store, and i hope that today’s show has given our listeners a bit more insight on the next steps to going with a mobile app. I’ll be putting in all the links to AppPresser so you can check them out. Also Brian, I know they can find you there, they can find you at WebDev Studios, but is there anywhere else on the web that you’d like people to connect with you?
Where to find Brian on the web
Brian: Sure. Yeah. Most social networks my username is BMess. As in Brian Messenlehner, but just BMess for short. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram I’m still trying to get that name, but it’s BMess underscore WordPress.
Bob: Cool. I should say again, listeners, take heed of what Brian has shared with us. If you have an online store, it might be time to move into that world of online apps if you haven’t already. Thank you, Brian, for taking the time to come on today’s show.
Brian: Thank you, Bob.