From Zero to $1000 MRR in 4 Months — How I Created a Shopify App MicroSaaS

Erikas Mališauskas
7 min readApr 27, 2021

Some time ago I stumbled upon the Shopify developers page which stated that $272K is the average annual earnings for the top 25% of their app developers. It made me think that it would be interesting experience to launch a Shopify app (plugin) myself. Fast forward to the present, we have just met our initial goal of $1000 monthly recurring revenue in less than 4 months and it keeps growing (+83% this month). I’m about to share my journey from the idea to execution and future perspectives.

Context

First of all, it’s important to note that I’m a professional UI/UX designer since 2011 and I was always curious about eCommerce. What’s more, since then I have co-founded 2 other startups (without much success 😅), so I have some background as an entrepreneur as well. I strongly believe my previous experiences had a massive impact on my success with this app.

My LinkedIn profile

The Right Idea

The thought of launching a Shopify app came much earlier than the actual idea of the app. I spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas, analyzing competitive space, popular app store search queries, etc. My main criteria were:

  • How hard would it be to develop? I didn’t want to spend a year building a massive product, my goal was to launch fast, test fast and move on.
  • What is the target size? I didn’t want to solve a problem for 30 people. I wanted something scalable — a solution every store could benefit from.
  • Are there successful competitors? I knew it would be crazy hard to compete against apps that have hundreds of 5-star reviews.

Guarantees & Features Icons Shopify app

After days of thinking, checking hundreds of eCommerce stores and talking with successful eCommerce entrepreneurs I finally got it — I will make an app to easily add icons block to your store. Whether it’s a homepage section with guarantees (free shipping, premium quality, etc.) or a product page section with features (lightweight, organic, etc.), adding icons is a great way to improve your store’s user experience/conversion rate and almost every successful eCommerce store has it. It met all my requirements — it’s pretty easy to develop, it’s useful for every store and there are almost no competitors (there were only 2 apps with similar functionality but they both had less than 20 reviews).

Presentation on Shopify app store

Developing

As mentioned before, I’m a professional UI/UX designer myself, so I did all the design/user experience work at zero cost. I only needed the engineer to develop it. I found one on the local Facebook group. We agreed on the scope but the delivery started slowing down after a while and we split without even launching the app. Then I realized that I need a development co-founder who would be as motivated as I am. I found one and we managed to finish and launch the app in 2 weeks.

Shopify App Store Presence

Once we had our app’s MVP (minimum viable product) fully functional and ready to launch I had to think about app store presence. This is crucial to the success of organic growth. I spent the weekend figuring out how our app should be named and described so I could include as many and as related keywords as possible. I didn’t want to guess, so I figured out I could simply ask the Shopify community. I took a screenshot of the guarantees icon block and posted it to a popular Facebook group telling about our app idea and asking what keywords they would use to find an app to make such a block. Not only did I get a lot of comments, but people also started asking about the app and where can they get it. Of course, I saved their profiles so I could notify them about the launch.

After more than 50 comments, the few most popular keywords stood out: icons, guarantees icons, features icons, product icons, product highlights, trust icons. Having these, I got my name/description figured: Guarantees & Features Icons — Highlight custom product icons in description to build trust.

Launch & Growth

Finally, we were ready to launch our app. I planned to launch it totally free for everyone so I could gather as much feedback as possible. That worked great. When we launched, I posted about our app in few Facebook groups and told them that we’re offering exclusive free membership to our app in exchange for feedback/reviews.

Note that capturing positive reviews is the key if you want to appear at the top of the list in search. So after every comment that it’s useful etc. I replied that it would be very helpful if they could leave our app a review.

Almost 500 merchants installed our app in their shops in the first week after the launch. We made it to the #1 of the top trending apps in the whole Shopify app store which boosted the growth even more. We gathered a lot of feedback and many feature requests. We were improving the app on a daily basis which helped us to gather lots of positive reviews as people who asked for the specific feature were getting it in a couple of days.

After a couple of weeks, we were the #1 app when searching for all these relative keywords: icons, guarantees, features, highlights, etc. That meant that we will continue to grow organically and we’re ready to introduce monetization and start earning.

4 months of merchant growth since the launch

Monetization

Even before launching an app, I was pretty much clear about how it will be monetized. I think that freemium is the best model in terms of growth and revenue for such an app. I analyzed other popular apps’ pricing/upgrading to premium experience and decided to have 4 plans: Free limited plan, Monthly premium at 5.99$, Yearly premium at 2.99$ (35.88$/year) and a Lifetime premium for 59.99$. We also left everyone with premium features if they installed the app before introducing the monetization. Around 1200 merchants were using our app for free at the time.

The same day after introducing premium to our app we started getting subscriptions. Growth slowed down a little bit but we finally started generating revenue. Now it’s exactly 2 months after our monetization started and we earned more than 2500$ with current monthly recurring revenue of $1051 (+88% growth last month). There are more than 1800 merchants currently using our app.

Monetization dashboard as of Apr 27th, 2021

Future

We continue to grow organically, we reinvest some of our earnings to Shopify ads to boost growth and we hope to reach at least $3000 MRR by the end of this year. What’s more, we have already decided to launch another new Shopify app this year and use our current earnings to grow it.

Aftermath (2023 Jan)

We have sold this app at $6700 MRR for $250K. Now we’re scaling another app we have launched few months ago — Kaching Bundle Quantity Breaks.

Some Key Takeaways

  • Thinking of the right idea for an app is as important as developing a useful app itself.
  • You either need design/development partners as co-founders or you have to pay a lot to keep them motivated.
  • Using the right keywords in app’s name/description is the key to organic growth via search.
  • Shopify app store search algorithm tracks reviews and install/uninstall rate, keep that in mind to appear at the top of search results.
  • The easiest way to get a positive review is after successfully assisting someone who reached out for customer support. Also, email automation asking for a review after successfully using the app is a must.
  • 5.0 vs 4.9 rating has a significant difference, try to keep it 5.0 at all costs.
  • Invest in a great user experience. Without it, you will have to spend a lot of time handling customer support tickets. We only get 5 to 10 tickets weekly with more than 1800 active merchants and around 200 new installs every week.
  • Shopify communities (Facebook groups, Reddit subreddits, Shopify community forum) is a great channel to drive growth without spending money.
  • Good pricing is very important for growing revenue. Sometimes increased prices do not affect growth at all. There’s no other way to see if your pricing is good than testing it. We are still about to test other pricing options and compare growth/revenue.

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