We launched Shrinking, our weight-loss tracker webapp, about a year ago. The site is relatively simple in scope and was designed and built in about 3 months. The idea for Shrinking came about through a personal desire to lose weight and track my progress. At the time there wasn’t a service that offered the features and simplicity that I envisioned, so I set out to create my own app. I figured that if I build an app that I would personally use then it would necessarily be appealing to the masses as well. After all, the weight-loss market in the US is absolutely enormous. I was wrong.
The featureset, order of implementation, and interface were all devised and implemented by our team, with minimal feedback from outside. Once the app was completed we started marketing the app through our existing contacts, social media, etc. We did get traffic and signups early, but the results were nowhere near what I was expecting.
The goals going into the project were: 1) Have a conversion rate of at least 10%, 2) Have a paid account/free account ratio of at least 5%, and 3) Have consistently engaged users, with at least 10% of users logging into the site on a daily basis. Our conversion rate after the first year has average around 5%. That’s nowhere near the 10% goal that we’d set, but not unreasonable for a new webapp. Our biggest issues are paid accounts and engagement. Our ratio of paid/free accounts has been closer to 1%… a far cry from our goal of 5%. My belief is that the reason for the lack of paid conversions is the lack of user engagement. A large majority of our users create accounts and never return to the site. That’s where I believe we went wrong, and is where I believe that a better customer development strategy could have made a difference.
The lack of engagement with the site tells me that users aren’t finding the existing featureset compelling enough to return. Our webapp is heavily geared toward charting your weight and setting goals. Additional features added over the past year include tools for tracking your diet and exercise. We know that users do enter weights initially, but few return to the site to enter subsequent weights. Goals are less used, and the diet & exercise tracker is rarely used.
At this point we don’t know why our customers choose to signup for the product but disappear soon after. Are we pushing out an inferior product? Are we pursuing a market that doesn’t exist? Is our site turning off potential users? All of these are questions that should have been explored in detail in the development phase. Now I’m having to looking for the answers after the site has been live for a year, which is much more complicated because pivoting is going to be more difficult and time-consuming.
I plan to keep writing about Shrinking and it’s progress. It’s a great example of how things rarely go as you would expect them to. I’m going to go through the steps of customer development for an existing product and update you along the way. Hopefully I can learn some things that other struggling webapps can apply and benefit from.