October 23, 2019

23k installs later, quitting the B2C game

James Reilly @JamesReilly

I've been making B2C apps over the last 6 or so years. I've loved doing it and learned so much but it's just too difficult a market with a relatively low ROI compared to B2B. After 3 months development in the B2B space I'm excited to be soon launching my first offering, Bookly - https://www.booklyapp.com/

I've recently posted about an early access beta, unfortunately it got buried pretty quickly in the new posts section: https://www.indiehackers.com/post/beta-bookly-a-crowd-sourced-library-for-your-company-in-slack-6ccb31df77

Some Stats:

• Cosmic Badger: Launched May 2015, worked on it for 2 years, 160 copies sold at $1 a copy
• Scenario Game: Launched Nov 2018, worked on it for about a year, 15.4k installs, ~50 DAU
• Yes or No: Launched March 2019, worked on it for 3 months, 7.6k installs, ~20 DAU
• Scenario game and Yes or No collectively have make about $1.60 p/m revenue through intermittent banner ads (wanted to nail retention before focussing on monetisation but never made it that far). They require no maintenance except when Facebook decides to deprecate their SDK and make me upgrade or face being cut off.

Milestones:

• Cosmic Badger got reviewed in a couple of big mobile game sites (despite being quite amateurish). It got slaughtered for its poor graphics and lack of music.
• The Scenario Game caught the attention of a pretty big publisher, it unfortunately fell short on some retention/marketability tests and went no further. That could have been a game changer.

Lessons:

• It's possible to succeed in mobile app development but it's extremely hard to make money unless you build something truly remarkable. If I were to enter this space again, niche products like utility apps have more chance of making a sustainable income. 
• Mobile game space is over saturated, best chances of succeeding are through a publisher or through the rare chance of going viral

While it's easy to view these all as failures, they're successful in so many other ways. I look back on all these projects and see glaring holes where I went wrong (whether it's presentation or just basic idea validation before committing years to a project) and that's a sign that I've evolved. My first project took 2 years, my most recent took 3 months. Wish me luck on the next venture!

  1. 4

    Welcome to the B2B world!! It’s much easier on this side. Sure entrepreneurship is still hard, but B2C tech is damn near impossible.

    Look at Netflix, they ONLY charge $13 a month. With just $13 you get the best video streaming player ever made. Native integrations with Smart TVs, Rokou, Chrome Cast, Apple TV, etc... Thousands of hours of content. A few of those shows Netflix spent millions of dollars producing. You get all of this for $13!! And yet if you look online you’ll find plenty of people complaining that this $13 is too expensive.

    Now look at Wistia. They are a B2B video streaming service. Their tech is not nearly as good as Netflix(no offense, Netflix has a team of 100+ engineers working on this), they don’t have as many integrations, and they haven’t spent a dime on content. They charge $99 a month. No one is complaining about their pricing.

    Now sure Netflix is a multi billion dollar company, and Wistia will probably never be that large. But that’s okay, their founders are very well off and seem to be living a content life.

    B2C is just not friendly for us IH. It’s so damn hard to meet consumer demands at such a low price point.

    1. 4

      Oh you're preaching to the choir haha. Sad thing about it is a larger percentage of unhappy customers will make noise compared to happy customers. I have to really fight to get users to rate the app but I had a user . have a little bit of text get cut off and gave it a 1 star rating. Another person gave me a 1 star rating because they should the user generated content was too depressing (end of the world scenarios, etc). It seems the cheapest customers can be the most entitled.

      1. 1

        Yes, that seems like a rule - free or low-end users always complain the most.

  2. 2

    Looks like a good idea. I just bought my wife a angular testing book because the city library system didn’t have it. If she was able to ask around her office there might have been others with this book - didnt think to do that...

    I’d think about adding a limited free plan per office say 10 books that way non spending authority folks can become internal advocates. I’d also think about increasing the price at $10/mo it seems too low for a company.

    1. 1

      Thank you!

      There's a 1 month free trial. Reckon that's enough to gain advocates or is the limit more useful? I never really thought about charging more than that as I didn't think smaller companies would pay more for it. Reckon it affects perceived quality?

      1. 1

        Just my personal thinking but if it becomes more useful then the value and need is there. By limiting the book count you can get inside a company for free then when the need becomes larger they will look to pay. This is vs a time limit where I only have a month to figure out if it is valuable or not.

        I'm thinking more technical folks that have tons of books - and are constantly trying to learn the next language. It should just grow over time as more books are added so they will quickly hit the upper limit. But I think it's something you test.

        Yhea - the pricing just doesn't feel right to me for a corporate environment. Maybe a sliding scale is better - Free / Standard / Premium. I'd 3-5x the price as well.

        Say they have 1000 $80 books roaming inside a company - that's $80,000 if they could only buy 100 and share they're going to save $72,000. If this scenario applies then your pricing should reflect that value to me. It shows a solid ROI and is priced so it seems realistic to a finance person who is looking to track cost savings.

        I'd go validate with prospective customers to see if this type of pitch is attractive to them though as it's only a theory to me...

        1. 1

          This is a really interesting point, thank you! My pricing is very arbitrary right now and I was afraid if I priced too high I might lose customers. In fairness, if I can charge 5x and lose 60% that would have paid $10 I'm still way ahead. I definitely need to interview some people.

  3. 2

    Great insights and nice write up. Bookly looks promising. Love the landing page. Wish you all the best for your future. 🙌😊

    1. 1

      Thanks so much, means a lot! If you know companies that want to beta test the spread the word ;)

  4. 2

    Congrats on the launch, I had the exact same idea too :D

    One suggestion: For bigger companies, there is a problem with multiple offices. Book sharing does not really work if the offices are divided throughout different countries :)

    1. 1

      Thank you, great minds, eh? :D You didn't follow through with it? Is it something you or your company would use (assuming you're not full-time indie and don't have an office)?

      Yes great suggestion. This is already implemented in Bookly as my day time job has offices in Sydney and Melbourne. When performing your first slash command you'll be prompted to either select an existing location from a dropdown or add a new one. Then it'll remember your choice and auto-fill location when you add books.

      Perhaps I need to make this feature clearer on the landing page though.

      1. 2

        No did not follow through with it. Working on another idea right now (this idea backlog is huge anyway). I am a full-time engineer at some fintech company in Europe right now.

        Make it more clear on your landing page. I think big companies are completely ready to pay for this. And again, congrats on the launch 🚀

        1. 1

          Haha I feel your pain, have a Trello board full of ideas myself.

          Thanks for the advice, will do! Btw, If your company has a need for it I'm giving early access to iron out any bugs/features before launch.

      2. 1

        Hey @JamesReilly,
        Impressive progress on your B2C projects and great learnings! And yeah B2C is super hard, I’ve learned this hard way through https://www.producthunt.com/posts/tribyo-85eaec90-b012-4046-b382-5024292e3577

        Monetisation is even harder, indeed close to impossible for niche products. I’m currently in market research phase for a product to solve this. It’s usage/value based micro payments platform.

        App creators can integrate the SDK and their consumers then need to link their payments account so that they can be billed monthly based on the usage or value actions.

        Will be really great if you can provide some insights on B2C monetisations challenges and your opening about the idea.

  5. 2

    Very interesting write up! I recently made the logo game. Any tips on how I can grow it?

    1. 5

      Yes I do :) All subjective, others might have other advice -

      I acquired all my installs mostly through ASO. There's a lot in there but I found https://asoebook.com/ to be a really good resource.

      1. Focus on you key words

      You title is good but might be opportunity to cram in some more key words as your title gives you the biggest boost (e.g. my title is "Scenario Game: would you rather")

      1. Nail your screenshots and copy

      The logo is the first thing users see when they find your app in search, so you have to have the most appealing one of everything in the list a user sees. Compare you logo with other competitors and see if it pops more than the others. The logos in the "L" are a nice touch but make sure they're legible on a mobile device. Consider if the black background is going to appeal to your target demographic.

      Then for actual screenshots make sure it's clear what the app does (people can be that stupid). I can see logos but I don't see the game itself. Make sure to sell the benefit and not the feature. "See how good you are" is a bit general so maybe something like "Discover hundreds of logos to guess" (I'm sure an ASO expert would suggest something better than me here though). If there's a leaderboard then another screen saying "Compete with the rest of the world"

      1. Nail retention
        Retention is the tricky one. Make sure you have analytics in your app first of all, then find ways to keep users coming back. Is there enough content to keep them coming back? Do you notify them when this happens. Keep notifications personal to avoid users switching them off e.g. "Your friend Joe has passed you on the leaderboard"

      2. Nail referral
        If you're not prepared or don't have the cash to boost your app store ranking via ads, then referral is your best traction channel. Do you have any features that will make users invite friends? Once idea that I roadmapped (but never got around to) was guess what the majority voted and turn it into a game to play with your friends. Have a look at the Quiz Planet messenger game to see an example of how it might work. If you have the option to invite a friend to play the game with you then you have free acquisition.

      There's loads more you can do, it just depends how much time you have to work on it. Good luck and let me know if anything works!

      1. 1

        Wow +1 for this advice!

        I completely agree based on my experiences in B2C. Starting with these tips will give you a huge boost.

        I waited a bit too long and it's been a pain trying to play the catch-up game as my competitive space gets more crowded!

      2. 1

        Wow this was incredible advice. I didn't expect you to answer with such thorough, actionable tips! Thank you so much James

        1. 2

          Oh one more thing, prompt users to rate the app after a number of positive interactions as ratings will give you an ASO boost. I think one of the stores even indexes keywords from comments (but don't hold me to that). For instance, I perform a prompt after about 20 questions are answered as that's what I determine to be engaged. You can even do A/B tests with this to find the magic number.

          Also, try make it as native looking as possible and not interrupt the flow of what the user is trying to achieve (i.e. after they've completed a round as opposed to mid game). I didn't have a logical end point so I made a native looking scenario like "If you had the opportunity to make the developers days and rate the app, would you do it?". If they said yes, it redirected to the app store.

        2. 1

          Haha no worries. Someone might as well leverage what I've learned :) Best of luck with it!

  6. 2

    Are you aware that there is an app with the same name:

    https://getbookly.com/

    1. 1

      Hmm must have missed this one when I did a search. Thank you!

  7. 2

    hey James, sounds like some good learnings..
    Best of luck with the new direction!

    1. 1

      Thanks Shaunau, appreciate it!

  8. 1

    Really great insights. Thank you for sharing!

    Truly remarkable to even hit that many downloads and your B2B ventures will be more successful especially with that knowledge!

    1. 1

      Thanks wakuu, appreciate it!

  9. 1

    I love the logo.

    Do you have any people asking for such a product? It's an interesting idea, but I can't imagine that you'd be getting much air time with the person holding the purse strings.

    B2B works well when you can say "Hey Mr(s) Purse Holder, if I take 5 of those notes, I'll help you make 10 back".

    1. 1

      It's going to be one of these things where I'll have to prove it's worth via company advocates. I've done some searching and found companies using the likes of spreadsheets and project management software as a workaround to managing libraries. I'll keep you updated if there are companies willing to pay ;) If I can find a sweet spot in terms of pricing and convey the cost savings to HR managers and learning and development professionals then it might just work

      1. 1

        Yes, but before you spend a heap of time, see if you can find 5 people who'll buy it and then go build it.

        1. 1

          You're right of course. Talk is also cheap. Ideally I'd need up front payment to guarantee it's worth building

  10. 1

    Congrats on entering B2B. I admire your persistence - putting stuff out there over and over is key.

    Btw found a small typo on your pricing page. “Organisation” should be “organization” on the gold tier.

    Best of luck!

    1. 1

      Thank you! To add to that "putting stuff out there" PLUS as quickly as possible to maximize feedback loops is key. I wish I didnt spend 2 years on my first project but hindsight is a hell of a drug. Very grateful for learning from mistakes though.

      Well is depends if you use U.S. English or U.K. English ;) I guess I should target the bigger market of the states though.

      1. 1

        Today I learned U.K. English spells that word differently. Maybe that’s technically the correct way then?? :)

  11. 1

    Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing where you’ve come from and what you learned. Even though we all want knock out hits for sure it’s a wonderful reminder that sometimes the road to success business wise can be long.

    Excited to hear how your new venture goes!

    1. 1

      Thank you, appreciate it!

  12. 1

    As someone just about to get into the B2C mobile space, I just want to say your post and replies to all these comments are really insightful and much appreciated! Thanks!

    1. 2

      Most welcome! Feel free to reach out if you want any specific advice.

  13. 1

    I'm trying to get into B2C. I have a B2B and while it's easier to monetize, I've gotten pretty bored with it.

    I'm building a social body weight tracker, so maybe a little different than the game scene? I'm only doing IOS for now, if I can I can get good traction I'll do Android as well. I'm planning to monetize with ads once I have more users.

    I have a few questions:

    What's $1.60/m mean?
    What's a good retention goal to shoot for?

    1. 2

      As it's a utility style app and it's more niche (although quite a saturated market too) it'll be easier to target keywords. I'd try to offer something a little different to all the other apps or focus on a specific sub-niche to gain traction though. Ads are good but make sure you know the numbers. If it's banner ads then you'll need 100s of thousands of monthly users to make a good salary. Rewarded video ads are better but harder to implement without alienating users. If you manage something suiting a subscription model then you'll be set!

      $1.60 per month is what the two apps make

      Day1, Day7 and Day30 retention are the key measurements. 20% Day 1 is the average, so to be successful you'd need to be closer to 40% day1. Maybe 25-30% day 30 would be great but difficult. Easier to manage with utility apps though (as opposed to games)

  14. 1

    Nice

    1. 1

      This comment was deleted a year ago.

    2. 1

      This comment was deleted a year ago.

      1. 1

        This comment was deleted a year ago.

  15. 1

    Hey James, how have you validated the need for bookly?

    Some questions I would ask:

    Who will be in charge of adopting this in an office and making sure people add books?

    Are you able to find + target those people easily online for $10/month per office?

    ---

    PS I like your previous ideas but think they need to have a bigger outcome of some sort.

    For example -- just answering yes and no questions -- what is the outcome for that?

    This is how I would be looking at your previous startups and the lack of retention/virality. What do the users want as an outcome, and are you providing that?

    I.e. finding like-minded people around you could be one outcome of the yes/no game. I could envision something like a "remote lunch club", where you answer questions and you get paired up with people to talk with over lunch.

    Cheers & good luck

    1. 1

      It's bad but I didn't validate a need. I was solving my own problem i.e. the fact that our company library is limited and my colleagues own far more interesting books. The problem was that there was no easy way to share/search what books my colleagues had and were willing to lend. There's some validation in the sense that people in my company love it (including our CEO). Whether they're willing to pay for it is another story. $10 p/m is not a lot for a company to pay but in the event that happens there's some other avenues of monetisationI can explore. Really good questions though, thank you!

      The people in charge of adoption would be HR/learning & development professionals but the free trial can be adopted by engineers if they're Slack admins (for example, all engineers in my company have this privilege). The idea is to make it sticky and prove its worth through a free trial and then have advocates convince those decision makers of its value. I'll be reaching out to more of those decision makers though to get feedback.

      The only outcome in Yes or No is seeing what percentage of the rest of the users agreed with you (and how many voted). There were some really interesting answers. I had a massive roadmap for Yes or No which I would have loved to follow up on (comment threads for discussions, etc). Unfortunately, the risk vs reward ratio was too big and I didn't understand my target audience enough (pre-teens) to accept that risk. Maybe one day I'll return to it but happy for it to tick along on its own for now.

      1. 1

        I have tried in previous offices to start book clubs, so I agree with your assessment that there are people out there who would definitely use your app if you can get it in front of them.. I just wonder if/where you can find them at some scale.

        (I think with your attitude you'll find success sooner or later... will be rooting for you in any case.)

        1. 1

          It operates as a regular library too so I'm hoping I can serve two niches (or at least would give me another in with decision makers), just figure the crowd-sourced angle is a little stickier in terms of generating interest. All speculation at this stage.

          Thanks for all the feedback, appreciate it!

  16. 1

    Totally understand your decision to get out of b2c - I'm doing the same. The App Store is a tricky thing to be at the mercy of.

    Bookly sounds really solid. My previous company built their own version (non-slack) a few years ago. I've also lost many books having loaned them to colleagues! Good luck with that. I'm curious to hear which role inside a company you think would be pushing for buying the product?

    1. 1

      Thank you! Yeah I have a roadmap for reminders, just testing my traction before bloating the product.

      The decision maker is a tough one and something I'm still figuring out. Right now I think it's people in charge of learning and development or HR. Some enterprise companies seem to have more comprehensive learning platforms in place already so my niche might be small to medium businesses

  17. 1

    This comment was deleted 3 months ago.

    1. 2

      Good luck with it! I hope I don't discourage you, success all depends on your goals and how disciplined you are at making it work

      1. 1

        This comment was deleted 3 months ago.

  18. 1

    This comment was deleted 4 months ago.

    1. 1

      Haha, I reckon those are famous last words. When you pile on top catering for multiple devices, app store copy, screenshots, analytics, etc it can blow out pretty fast. Feel free to share though :)

      1. 1

        This comment was deleted 4 months ago.