I have an idea for an app. Now what? Your app launch guide
With over 4 million apps across Google Play and the App Store, and consumer spend on mobile apps growing 19% in 2021 to $170 billion, it’s clear that apps are big business. No longer is it enough to build an app in your dorm room and hope it catches on. Today, going from concept to launching an app business is a multi-step process that requires meticulous planning — and more than just a single app developer. This article will explore the answers to questions such as “I have an app idea; where do I start?”, “Where to pitch app ideas to get funding?”, and more.
Checklist: How to start an app business
The app development process doesn’t look the same for all apps. The process is unique for every app and changes from one vertical to another. While different app verticals have distinct concerns, a few best practices apply to all verticals. Let’s tackle these universal steps first to help you build a successful app-based business:
1. Research the app market and competition
Your first step to building and launching an app is to do your research. Not only do you need to understand the app market as an industry, but you also need to take a deeper dive into your vertical. For example, launching a gaming app is quite different than building a travel app. The audiences and their preferences aren’t necessarily similar. So, examine the following:
- Know your competition — Understanding your competitors tells you if there is room for your app in the market, and it allows you to understand how your app can stand out from the competition. Competitive research will tell you what works, what doesn’t, and where your app can make an impact.
- Study your target market — Whom will your app serve? That is, perhaps, the most basic yet foundational question you need to ask yourself. It will inform everything from how to market your app to how to monetize it. Therefore, defining your user personas is integral to the success of your app launch.
2. Understand your funding options
While financial situations and resources needed differ, most apps require funding to exist. If this is your case, you need to think about how to fund your vision. There are various funding options available to startups, and only you can decide which one is right for you. Are you willing to give up equity to investors? Can you bootstrap the process long enough to get it off the ground? Are contests too risky? Only you can decide, but here are a few funding options to consider:
- Personal network — Reach out to friends and family to put together the money you need for an initial investment.
- Private investors — Look for private investors who have a vested interest in your app, such as local businesses that might benefit from your hyper-local delivery app.
- Funding contests — If your idea is strong enough, consider entering it into a contest not only for the prize money but also to gauge if your idea has merit.
- Angel investors — Look for individuals who invest in early-stage startups in exchange for a share of your business.
- Venture capital investors — If your app is already in development, VC investment may be possible.
- Bank loans — Banks are always an option but often have stringent requirements.
- Crowdfunding — When all else fails, turn to the internet and use a crowdfunding platform to find a large group of people willing to make small investments in your product.
3. Set your budget
Once you have made some tough choices about how you will fund the app development process, it’s time to think about your budget. Do you have to bootstrap the process with a tight budget, or can you spend investor money on hiring a top-notch development team? Will you be able to launch a multipronged marketing campaign when you launch your app or do you need to consider how to achieve great word-of-mouth to get off the ground? Knowing your budget will help you answer these questions.
4. Explore monetization options
There are a variety of ways to monetize your app, and understanding the nuances of each is the only way to pick the right option for your app. Ecommerce apps have it easy here — as selling goods is a means of monetization. However, other apps will need to decide whether they want to charge a one-time fee at download, run in-app ads, allow in-app purchases, or charge a subscription fee. Without a plan for app monetization, you do not have a viable business model.
5. Consider app development options
There are many app development options, and each has its pros and cons. There is an option for every budget, from fully custom development — which can be expensive and take months or even years — to simple no-code options. Using a no-code platform allows you to develop an app for free but limits your ability to customize it and its features. Low-code requires more knowledge but is also a low-cost option. Deciding on one of these options will allow you to establish a timeline. Do you have a few weeks to get your launch plan in order? Or will you be waiting a year for a finalized app?
6. Build a minimum viable product
You have to start somewhere, right? Having a minimum viable product (MVP) can allow you to test your product with a small audience, learn what features they are responding to, what you need to add, or what you need to rethink. Having an MVP also gives you something to show potential investors.
7. Start developer accounts with Apple and Google
This one may go without saying, but if you’re new to apps, it’s worth pointing out that you will need developer accounts to get your app in the marketplace. Apple currently charges $99 per year, while the Play Store requires a one-time fee of $25.
8. Protect your app idea
Whenever you have a great idea for an app, your next thought is likely, “How do I keep someone from stealing my idea?” Frankly, it’s a good question and reason to consider the following steps before launching:
- Share selectively: It’s imperative not to overshare your idea, even if you’re asking for help. Vet the people you plan to work with before briefing them about your app idea. This applies to everyone from coders to investors.
- Use NDAs (always): Even if you trust your friend who is a coder or the person you hired to help find funding, you should still employ NDAs to ensure they guard the confidentiality of your app as you’d like it to be protected.
- Trademark your business name: Register and trademark both the name of your app and your brand logo to legally ensure you own both.
- Copyright your idea: As the trademark relates to how your app business is identified, a copyright will protect the intellectual property of your app idea. Copyrighting your app is a must.
Armed with the right information to create a roadmap to launch, you now know how to turn an app idea into a reality. For tips on launching select app verticals, keep reading below!
Tips for launching gaming, e-commerce, and fintech apps
Certainly, your app’s vertical will determine a fair amount of how you develop, market, and launch your app. Below we cover tips for launching the verticals gaming, e-commerce, and fintech.
1. Considerations for mobile gaming apps
When creating a mobile gaming app, you’ll need first to determine which gaming engine you’ll use to build your game. Gaming engines are software development environments designed for creating video games. Not unlike some of the low-code and no-code options we discussed earlier, gaming engines come in various options, including:
- Game templates only allow you to change basic details of the game like music, characters, or backgrounds.
- Drag and drop options give developers a list of actions that can be applied to objects in the game.
- Visual scripting allows you to graphically create programs without writing out code
- Coding is the most flexible and fully-customizable way to develop a game.
While an in-depth role-playing game may require custom coding, a hyper-casual game can likely get away with a less customizable option.
2. Considerations for e-commerce apps
With constantly changing inventory, collecting payments, and other considerations, developing e-commerce apps can be a complex task. This complexity may be why even the biggest names in e-commerce choose to create hybrid apps. However, there is another easy alternative. Android Studio — which allows people to develop apps for all devices — provides templates for e-commerce apps.
3. Considerations for fintech apps
Whether you want to build a crypto exchange or a traditional banking app, security is imperative. If your app will deal with sensitive information of any kind, including finances, privacy and security are of the utmost importance and needs to be one of your top concerns. To learn more about the industry trends and drivers that are shaping crypto and digital assets on mobile, read our “Fintech Deep Dive: Digital currencies 2022 playbook.”
It’s never too early to plan your user acquisition strategy for your new app. Check out Scaling your app to 1 million users: The ultimate guide. Part 1 for the latest insights and tips for exponential app growth.