An API First Strategy

People say a lot of things about taking a mobile first approach to building their digital experiences, “We absolutely need to be mobile first”, “Consider the customer”, “Build for the devices customers are using day in and day out”.

This is short sighted.

There I said it.

Yes, I am an avid fan of mobile devices, of mobile apps and of the entire smart phone ecosystem that we’ve built up in recent years. Bilue was founded on the back of my passion and enthusiasm for building amazing mobile experiences. But it is patently untrue to state that our technological future hangs on this fleeting interest in everything mobile. Limiting yourself to a fixation on the mobile experience above anything else supposes that mobile devices are and always will be the main touch point for the customer.

Mobile apps are the present, they’re what your customers are using now. Today.

You can ask me what the technology of the future will be, but I will not have the answer. Anyone who says otherwise probably has deeper underlying interests of their own. Hear them out, shake their hand, and then make a break for it. Run for the hills.

People said HTML was the future, the Web was the future, Augmented Reality was the future, Virtual Reality was the future and this list of things that weren’t quite what we made them out to be only continues to grow, into the future. No one really knows what the future holds.

When investing in technology, think as long term as you can. Technologies like ‘The Web’ or ‘HTML/CSS’ are all content delivery technologies. They’re great at what they do and they will continue to be great at what they do, and you will need to continue to invest in them, but they’re client side technologies. By and large the popularity of that technology is not defined by, or decided by you. Your users will ultimately decide where they want to interact with you. If they don’t choose to use the Web, then they won’t. If they don’t want to use an iPhone, they won’t.

This is where APIs (Application Programming Interface) come in. APIs enable one piece of software to communicate with another piece of software. APIs are nothing new, they’ve been used to communicate between software systems since writing software began.

APIs come in many flavours, and as you can imagine, engineers have many opinions about what makes a good API. With everything from SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol, BTW, if this is the simple version, I’d hate to think what the complex one looked like), to RESTful (Representational state transfer), then there’s the various opinions on RPC and Hypermedia, XML, JSON, and there’s always the cool new kid on the block GraphQL.

This is a complex landscape, but one that with the right direction, and a proper strategy driving it, really opens up the possibilities of what your business can achieve.

Invest in APIs and you’ll find yourself able to react to the needs of your customers faster than ever before. With a good API Strategy you can serve websites, mobile apps, interface with your partners, vendors & clients, create interfaces for things like Facebook Messenger, Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple TV, Chromecast and even a SmartTV or a SmartFridge. When you provide an interface to connect your software to other software, you create a promising opportunity and potential for your business to exploit. If you want a competitive advantage, develop a solid API strategy today. The only known thing about the future of digital technology, is that software talking to other software will be the driving force behind it.

Why a 30 day free trial could kill your product

In the Digital Age – Big Time Conversion is the Key

Free trials have been around as long as there has been commerce. Customer acquisition is never cheap, but is there any real value in free product trials in the digital landscape? How many offers have you received for a 30 day free trial when a new product launches online or to subscribe to a new product with the first 30 days free?

In the offline world, this style of selling has been repeatedly successful, and likely will continue to be as long as the product is good or better still, great. A delicatessen, offering the latest exotic cheese from a local organic farm or perhaps from an exotic international location works. How could this not be attractive to customers and engage them in an experience that not only sees them as buyers but also likely advocates for their new found discovery. If the product is good or great, then the experience of tasting or using it could be the difference between Big Time Conversion and a customer response of “that’s nice but not to my taste”.

Remember that in the online world the same principles apply but are staged differently. The test drive of a new car for a week, free dessert at a new restaurant or coffee is free at a new café on opening day, all have a level of human interaction. Not the same with 30 day free trials where access to the product is provided online!

Even if you execute the trial perfectly, you might not get the conversions that you are looking for. Unless you are driving massive conversions, the free trial is probably hurting you. Making your product free cheapens its value. Free trials also attract freeloaders who will use your product as long as it is free but will opt out once payment is required. Users will pay for value but will accept free offers, so it is likely that you are leaving money on the table. Unless you are attracting huge numbers and converting, the net effect of your free trial will in most cases be disappointing.

If your marketing strategy is to release a minimally viable product with the intention of attracting a volume of users with a 30 day free trial, and then converting them into paying customers with new functionality and features – stop.

What is the alternative? Create a product that at its core is loveable. Loveable is the key to big time conversion. Yes release the product in a limited way to a targeted customer base. It may be free to a specific audience; at a particular event or within a definable demographic, but their experience of the product must be extraordinary, memorable and shareable within the target demographic. The customer becomes the seller.

If you want to succeed but need to get to market to prove your concept will work and has market appeal, then all of your efforts must go to ensuring that the product, even if minimal in functionality initially, is truly Lovable to interact with. Your target customers will love the product and accept that additional functionality is coming and as a result will pay the price for having that unforgettable experience of falling in love with something new.

If your product is not lovable, a 30 day free trial won’t fix the problem. Likely it will be the beginning of the end.

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