Polish start-ups about: mobile in Poland
As mobile technologies expand worldwide at an amazing pace, the number of mobile-first start-ups are skyrocketing. Mobile is used increasingly more by e-commerce, for purposes such as payments, and in conjunction with various emerging technologies such as proximity beacons. Polish start-ups are right there at the forefront of those changes. Let's listen what they got to say on mobile trends, business and international growth
Only several weeks ago, Google announced that in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan, more searches take place on mobile devices than on desktop computers. Poland is no exception. According to TNS Poland's research, back in 2012 only about 25 percent of Poles owned a smartphone. In 2014 it was 44 percent, this year, according to predictions, it's 60 percent. Polish entrepreneurs understand the global impact of mobile technologies, including changes in how we consume entertainment, the updated sales pipeline, which highly benefits from engaging mobile users, and the convenience smartphones bring to the table.
We contacted some of the most noteworthy Polish start-ups for which mobile is the most important channel. For web.gov.pl they talk about mobile trends, best ways to monetize mobile business and their plans for expanding globally. Let's listen to Listonic, Everytap and Kinetise.
Polish start-ups and mobile trends
As mobile apps are most eagerly used on the go, it's not surprising that apps providing shopping lists are popular. Listonic is the shopping list app of choice for many Polish users. It allows to easily create mobile shopping lists to be accessed offline and even turn the whole recipes into lists at the push of a button. It's currently in the process of establishing its presence on the American market. Listonic's co-founder Filip Miłoszewski argues that today it's a lot more difficult for emerging apps to stand out in most popular app stores:
“One of the most important trends in apps economy is that as app stores growth accelerates, it gets considerably harder for new apps to break through. Especially if you're indie. It usually means that you lack funds for proper promotion and you are often left hoping that your app you spend so much time improving will somehow get noticed by users or the store itself that could include it on the home page or in some bundle. Compared to 3 years ago, people are spending twice as much time using apps. However, rather than downloading new ones, they keep using a small number of popular ones. The average cost of paid downloads keeps increasing and the success is heavily dependent on an app's position in top charts on both App Store and Google Play.”
As those most obvious channels for promoting apps are getting tighter, Listonic tries to break through using different means:
“It becomes more and more important for a mobile start-up to have a decent web presence. It opens new opportunities for growing userbase and allows for apps content to be indexed on the web. App indexing is going to influence how information from apps is exposed to users and it's an essential part of mobile strategy for both Google and Apple. When users search for information related to your app, the install button to it appears next to the search results. It's a very contextual and thus effective way to find users. Currently, both Google and Apple have problems with searches - it's difficult to find an app on their stores. And those companies have different approach to app indexing from a technical point of view. This means that we may have to position the app differently for each store. It will require a lot of work, but it may make it easier to get your app discovered. Listonic is trying to keep up with those trends. That's why even though we've always had a mobile-first approach, we're about to launch a new website and use app indexing to our advantage. Then, there are smartwatch apps, coming up later this year. It will further increase our app store discoverability ” says Miłoszewski.
The founder of Kinetise Piotr Pawlak believes that in order to succeed, mobile start-ups have to focus their attention on this one killer feature that is decisive for their worth. As mobile users are even more impatient that Internet users, it is splendid UX that makes or breaks mobile projects. There are few who know that better than Kinetise. This ambitious start-up develops a DIY software that allows to create mobile apps without having to code. Kinetise also takes care of publishing the apps to all major app stores.
“User experience is the key. Apps delivering just one function are getting stronger and stronger, but it requires to cut all secondary functions completely out. I haven’t seen many examples of such bravery in Poland, but this will come - Polish designers are skilled and learn fast,” says Pawlak.
This one killer feature is increasingly more about assisting and enhancing our daily activities. Mobile is an area where the growing relevance of technology at every step of our lives is especially visible. The latest smartphones are capable of communicating using the updated Bluetooth Low Energy protocol. A brand of devices called beacons are used to exchange all sorts of information with smartphones, such as advertising, thus becoming popular with e-commerce. Some of the most important beacons manufacturers are from Poland – Estimote and Kontakt.io from Krakow and Ifinity from Warsaw. Everytap takes advantage of beacons for its offline solution for e-commerce. With the Everytap app, users may earn points for items they purchase in restaurants, cafes and other places that participate in Everytap's program. During the purchase, they tap their smartphone to a beacon and that's all it takes. Everytap's co-founder Adam Pachucki believes that this connection between mobile and traditional activities such as shopping or bar hopping is one of the most remarkable sings of today's technology:
“The first stage during which mobile apps hit the market was a bit boring as it was about moving the experience you had on desktop to a smaller screen that you use more often. However, as smartphones got sensors and more possibilities were getting uncovered, those apps started to be truly innovative. They started connecting the device with your day-to-day activities and having more impact on your life. This is great as that’s actually why technology exists.”
Mobile and the struggle to monetize for start-ups
A lot of mobile apps fail to be profitable despite achieving considerable popularity. According to a research by eMarketer published early this year, only about 33.3 percent of American mobile users will pay at least once for apps in 2015. Those figures don't look any better in Poland and other markets. This is why mobile start-ups search for different ways to monetize their traffic. Listonic is one of the most impressive in this regard. This shopping list app uses big data to provide partners such as large market chains with information on shopping intentions of consumers. They also use contextual ads of products that accompany generic items on the list such as “water” or “pasta”.
“Listonic have always been a free, ad supported app. Usually apps that are considered "Utilities" monetize through in-app purchases, SaaS subscriptions or just by having a paid app. However, as our service collects data about actual shopping intentions and purchase decisions, we were able to charge premium for that and establish great relationships with leading FMCG producers on the Polish market,” says Miłoszewski.
Much Like Kinetise's Piotr Pawlak, Miłoszewski stresses the significance of user experience as an inevitable ingredient of a long term success for a mobile start-up:
“Following this model requires keeping focus on the user, because even though compromising UX can bring in extra cash in the short term, it can also seriously impact our userbase. Ads can be done the right way though and we strongly believe in native formats that require more creative work but don't interrupt the workflow.”
Everytap's Adam Pachucki believes that a lot of businesses that switch from desktop to mobile do not take into consideration all factors that make fine mobile experience different that desktop experience. For Everytap, it's especially visible in e-commerce:
“Two separate things are mobile web traffic and mobile app usage. The problem with monetizing traffic might come from the approach thanks to which many mobile sites exist. Possibly they got built just to compensate for the dent in desktop traffic without thinking much of the whole experience. E-commerce stores often build a mobile or responsive site, but don't take care of the payment process. Many of the solutions working well on desktop (Pay-By-Link) are a disaster when taken to mobile - switching between mobile sites and apps, receiving SMS messages with codes - it’s all ridiculous.”
Pachucki concludes that polishing user experience is not as much of a duty, but rather an actual way to make your mobile project profitable:
“When it comes to apps, the problem might be completely different. It’s often hard to convince people to download the app. And once they do - keeping them using it regularly is even harder. It’s all about the value and bringing such value to the customer requires outstanding user experience. Therefore UX is not an obstacle on your way to monetization - it’s how you can actually make money.”
Mobile going global
Considering the traction one has to achieve in order to make a mobile start-up profitable, in most of cases it's a must to go global or even be global from the start. The basic barrier to entry, that is getting your app added to the app store, is merely the beginning. In order to succeed in the most competitive of all markets, in the U.S., Listonic's Filip Miłoszewski believes that figuring out a way to stand out in the crowd is the biggest challenge.
“Our goal is to create the best shopping list in the world, and believe me, that's a tough challenge. The barrier to entry is set incomparably higher when promoting your app in the U.S. The competition is fierce and the prices for premium ad space is much higher than elsewhere. It may take that sort of long term measures, such as careful indexing or generating some sort of buzz among users, to get your app out there. Unless your product comes with a really catchy story or delivers some real and unique value, it takes a lot of hustle and money to get some meaningful traction. On the other hand, if you want to be the best in your niche, you have to address the U.S. market and that's our current focus.”
Piotr Pawlak agrees. Kinetise's founder believes however that sometimes it may be wiser to go for other, less competitive markets. As the promotion is done in each country separately, one has to take cultural and market differences into consideration when crafting a copy.
“Thanks to Apple iTunes Appstore and Google Play, worldwide distribution of mobile apps is very easy now. But it is not enough to just be in appstores, as there are millions of apps out there and average user uses only seven of them. Your app needs to stand out and be well-promoted, which is usually a costly activity, which must be run country-by-country. When selecting target markets, you should ask yourself a question, whether to focus on a big market with many potential clients, but with strong, well-established competition or maybe it’s better to look at an emerging market with zero competition at all.”
Everytap's global expansion is unique as Everytap's solution requires tight cooperation with local outlets to work. Scaling globally is costly and risky, but on the other hand it's slower, allowing for more time to experiment. Everytap tests its capability in Guatemala. According to Pachucki, it's a way to gain information before making a move towards Brazil.
“Almost everyone can use apps such as Instagram or Pinterest wherever they are if they just have the right device (and a low-end Android device will do). They don’t need much presence outside of their HQ. In case of apps such as Uber, it’s a completely different story - building a great app that works well, has amazing UI and uses awesome technology is not enough - the app is just an end point. Behind it is a huge business that needs to be done in every single location based on its own and separate rules. That means lots of hiring and organizational struggles - which is not easy. It’s extremely hard. As apps rely more and more on contextual awareness, they are more tied to the physical location. There is then a potential that successful apps would be those more like Uber than Instagram. Having said that - we’re not at a stage where we can have a clear view of how to do such things as scaling overseas. But we’re trying to find out early - hence our presence in Guatemala”
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