Monday, 20th of Jan 2020
Sending SMS through a Shopify app
Who is MessageMedia?
MessageMedia is a global business SMS service provider based in Melbourne, Australia. Their global reach extends to New Zealand, US, UK and they have support in Vietnam and the Philippines. Whilst they boast an impressive list of products, they aspired to be part of one of the fastest growing SaaS platforms in the world - Shopify.
With a range of ecommerce platforms to consider - Shopify was a natural first choice. With over 1,000,000 stores and a mature app marketplace Shopify was the perfect platform to integrate with.
Our (our being Franklin) project brief was to build a Shopify extension that could operate at a global scale. This had to allow for merchants to:
- Send automated SMS to customers who left items in their cart
- Bulk send campaigns to customers
- Provide reports on revenue generated from SMS
As a business, we're skilled at creating products that work within our platforms. However, we cannot ignore the opportunity of integration in platforms like Shopify - it's a natural alignment between ecommerce specialised platforms and world-class messaging solutions that delivers brilliant customer experiences that drives revenue for ecommerce businesses. Rachael - Message Media
The Franklin Process
We don't pertain to do any magic. What we do consistently is stick to a process that works. This means that we work with our partners to build long lasting products that work. Products that are feature rich at launch, have a fast time to market and are scaleable.
We started out the definition process to identify what we should build. More importantly, this process outlines what we shouldn't build. The way we made sure we were creating something unique was to:
- Install and onboard to the top 5 most installed SMS apps in the marketplace
- Read every customer review to spot opportunities to stand out
- List out every feature of every platform and identify MoSCoW features
- Produce workflows of key customer journeys
MoSCoW is an effective and collaborative way to prioritise features. Every feature you list out is labelled as a Must have, Should have, Could have and finally Won't have. The O's don't mean anything but it's far catchier than MSCW.
From here, we created standard wireframes and project plan to outline what we are going to build for launch. This had a clear focus on key features, avoided over-complication and ensured alignment with MessageMedia's expectations.
Before we entered the build phase, we re-set our expectations so that we would build the application as easy and intuitive to use as possible. We got outstanding value out of the Shopify Polaris theme and kept all logic within the Shopify admin UI.
That meant setting clear customer-centric outcomes:
- No redirects.
- No links opening in a new tab.
- Everything native in a serverless environment.
The stack below highlights how we built this project.
The build phase also threw us up one massive opportunity. During development we found an untapped opportunity to offer something no other extension offered.
No other app could capture abandoned checkout and abandoned cart. This feature was quickly identified, scoped and a change request put through. A minor change request disruption for untapped and unique value.
As testing wrapped up and the launch date approached. We reached out to Shopify to get approval as quickly as possible. This took around 3-4 weeks.
During this time we privately on-boarded some test clients to smoke test the application. Thanks to the nature of the Shopify platform, we used this approval time to beta-test the extension with friendly customers who were the greatest asset in smoke-testing and polishing the product before launch.
Customers are the best asset to any product. We listened, we learned and we put some final polish and finishing touches on the product.
A large part of this feedback was to improve the onboarding process. To make it as easy as possible for users to get sending their first messages.
We were lucky enough that at launch we were on the front page of Shopify. First as a ‘New and Noteworthy' app which gave the extension excellent exposure.
The unique nature and quality of the extension meant that it was then catapulted by Shopify to the top of their Staff Pick feature - the primary marketing space on the Shopify App Store, and saw 900 installs in the first month.
The second we go live, we ensure all data is flowing to the right areas. As a group, we use this data to create insights around what features our users desire.
With this spike in users on-boarding, we gathered outstanding data to help prioritize our next batch of features.
So what did we launch? We launched a really powerful product, enabling MessageMedia to onboard more customers to their platform with little manual effort and entering a new channel space.
The app ended up offering the ability for merchants to:
- Offer customers discounts for signing up to receive marketing messages
- Send abandoned checkout and also abandoned cart messages to recover lost revenue
- Send bulk campaigns to customers
- Reports on how much revenue they have gained from using SMS
Some post-project insights?
- As a partnership, we made some excellent decisions together in order to build something feature rich, unique and with a fast time to market.
Some things that worked really well:
- Collaborative meetings - create an environment where everyone has a voice
- Learn from your competitors mistakes
- Make it feel native - If the platform has a UI library, use it
- Don't get too fancy - build what people need before getting stuck on what they desire
- Guide your users and give them the support they need to master your product
- Listen to your competitors customers
- Be realistic - not every feature is a must have
- Be pragmatic - look for opportunities to stand out from your competition and pivot fast
We always say calm seas don't make a good sailor. With that in mind the things we all flagged that we would do differently if we had our time over again were:
- Define clearer test scenarios at the design phase of the project
- Provide clear testing instructions to the marketplace that will be testing your app
Sound like something you'd like? If you think this sounds like something you need then don't be a stranger. At Franklin, we are always looking for new companies to partner with and change the world, one serverless product at a time.
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