Shopify App Dev Story: Iz El-Bahnasy of Gather

This is the first in a series of Shopify App Dev Stories.

The Basics:

Shopify App Developer: Iz El-Bahnasy

App on the Shopify App Store: Gather

Iz — Founder of Gather

How did you originally find out about Shopify & the Shopify Partner program?

I had come across the developer program many years ago. It wasn’t until my friend who had built many apps on Shopify told me about the program and shared much of his experiences, that I decided to join and build a product on Shopify’s APIs.

Gather’s app banner

What was the inspiration behind your first Shopify App?

I was sitting at my friend’s office and received one of my favourite email newsletters in my inbox. In the newsletter, the author asked if I would be so kind to forward newsletter to a friend as a referral.

This triggered the idea of email newsletter growth through referrals, and what we can use to augment the effect of newsletter referrals. At the time, my friend Seb (who is now an advisor to Gather), indicated to me that newsletters were one of the most fundamental channels for his wife’s Shopify ecommerce store.

He was keen to help her grow her list. So we started exploring this idea of newsletter growth through referrals. I built an MVP for him, slowly testing it out and refining it. This was a very minimal solution. If I recall correctly, it lacked the ability to support more than one account!

The app in action

We kept refining Gather for a few months until it was ready for launch on the Shopify store as a Beta app.

At work. Left: Todd (the Javascript advisor) Right: Iz (Founder)

What did that day feel like, when you officially became published on the Shopify App Store?

It was definitely a mixture of nerves and excitement! When the app was previously in Beta, a few customers were kind enough to leave us great, detailed reviews. Nevertheless, they were only a few reviews, and I wasn’t sure if it would be enough to attract new customers, so that contributed to the nerves then!

My Shopify App QA Specialist had worked with me in ironing out a few details to ensure that the app enhanced the customer experience. After that I was fairly confident that the app was production ready, and was excited to watch customers try the app and follow the signup onboarding.

What was your favourite moment as part of the Shopify Dev Community?

Sydney’s first Shopify Meetup

There’s a few favourites actually! Like when the app was featured on the Shopify App Store’s front page. That was a big deal for us, and it sparked great conversations with merchants and partners in the community. Also, helping out in finding a venue for the the first Sydney meetup was a very rewarding experience, especially on the evening of the event when the turnout was incredible.

The most rewarding moment as part of the community, was working with a fellow Shopify developer and merchant to improve his sales process, with Gather, and then observing the improvements as a result of our work. That was very rewarding as they were my first customer!

I absolutely love helping merchants achieve what they want. If they’re in the same city I would offer to visit them to learn more about their business and operations. Getting access to various types of ecommerce models and how they work really does broaden your horizons.

What advice would you give to another Shopify dev?

There’s a few tips I can share with developers who are starting out, or aspiring Shopify developers. I will categorize them as follows.

Pricing

Keep iterating on pricing until you get it right. This is not as easy as it sounds, and each app has it’s nuances which make it different.

Try and search for tips on the web on pricing strategies, and learn from those who have done it well.

Support

When building an app, it won’t be a ‘finished product’ for a very long time. Whilst this could mean that your app might fall short for some customers, the one thing you can do really well from day one is be awesome at supporting your customers. They will love you for it.

Get Intercom.io installed, or an equivalent tool that makes it easy to talk to your customers whilst they are using your app. I think when a customer tries a new app, they will be taking a small risk. If they get stuck, sometimes they will feel a little helpless and it will also be an extra effort for them to sift through support articles.

When they contact you while they’re in the app, they feel a sense of presence and help on the other side. This doesn’t have to be a situation where you would reply instantly, you could setup automated messages to tell your customer not to worry and that you’ll get back to them as soon as possible.

Also, having that sense of someone being in the background available if you need help, I think, simply makes customers like your brand more since they get the impression you care. The act of simply liking a brand can compensate for lack of features or maturity of the app.

A friend of mine who runs a successful app on the Shopify App Store noticed that his app really took off shortly after they utilized Intercom. That was one of the reason why I implemented Intercom very early on.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I think every app has nuances, and attributes that make it completely different to others, even if in the same category. An app may not respond positively to a tactic that had a great effect on another app. So it’s hard to say that what worked for Gather will work for your app, and at the same time what didn’t work for Gather won’t work for your app.

Nevertheless, what I can share, is a list of resources, podcasts that I found useful:

  • The Shopify Web Design and Development blog. Shopify has an awesome relationship with partners (developers being one type of partner). The blog continually distributes great content to help partners succeed. The success of partners is the success of Shopify.
  • I found Nathan Latka’s podcast incredibly useful especially when it comes to getting insider knowledge on the intricacies of the the SaaS business model. Nathan digs into the numbers and keeps each podcast episode super concise. His podcast really is an asset to the SaaS community.
  • Getting involved in the Shopify community is incredibly rewarding, and opens many opportunities. Get to know you local partner manager, they do great work in helping partners progress and succeed on the platform. Also check out your closest Shopify meetup. Meeting merchants and partners and interacting with them goes way beyond transactional relationships. Besides, the meetups make for a great evenings out!

Want to contribute your own developer story? Send us an email at appdevcommunity@shopify.com.