The Recipe for App Store Success – How FitMenCook Went Mobile

Welcome to our #AFtalks Special Edition recap – App Success Stories!

App Success Stories is a new series where we talk to developers about their journeys, motivation, and how they got where they are today so others can learn from their experiences.

Our guest this week was Andreas Kambanis, Founder of Nibble Apps, the creative minds behind some of the best-selling Food & Drink apps for iPhone and iPad. One of these is FitMenCook, which became a #1 Food and Drink app in 82 countries. We sat down with him to learn more about the successes and obstacles over the life of their apps. Below you’ll find his answers as well as some relevant resources:

Q1: How did you come up with the idea for your app?

A: The FitMenCook channel is all about easy, healthy, practical recipes. As soon as you come across the recipe videos you get a feeling of “oh, that looks easy! I could make that!”. I knew there was a lot of potential to turn the recipes in to a handy app so I reached out to Kevin Curry, the founder of FitMenCook, and suggested we create the app together.

Q2: Did you build/design it yourself or outsource? Why?

A: By the time we partnered with FitMenCook, we had already built a number of successful recipe apps. We wanted to continue to grow and adapt our unique in-house technology and create a team that is passionate about healthy food apps. We knew that by building up our strength in this one particular area, it would be hard for competitors to match our years of progress and experience.

Q3: What sort of challenges did you face when building the app?

A: Whilst we had built recipe apps previously, we wanted to be really ambitious with FitMenCook. We spent a lot of time understanding the audience, how they were tracking their fitness goals, what they wanted to achieve and how the app, along with the FitMenCook food philosophy, could help them. There were a lot of new things for us to learn. For example, when we started we had no idea what “hardgainer” and “meal prep” meant. As our understanding grew, we were able to add features such as our integration with Apple Health along with meal plans. Sometimes, other apps have blazed a trail before you and you are able to learn and be inspired by them. Whilst creating FitMenCook were in really new territory.

Q4: Marketing is a crucial element of an app’s success. What does your current marketing plan look like, and how has it evolved since launch?

A: For most developers, aside from building a great app, you need to create and execute an excellent marketing plan. Fortunately, by partnering with FitMenCook, we were tapping in to an audience of over 1 million followers on Instagram and other social channels. This, alongside building and maintaining a good relationship with Apple is what has turned FitMenCook in to the success it is today. Lately, we’re also working really hard on improving our App Store listing and monitoring our conversion rate thanks to the new analytics that Apple now provide. We do this inside Appfigures, using the charts and by exporting the data.

Q5: Which marketing channels do you rely on for promotion?

A: We primarily promote through the FitMenCook Instagram, YouTube channel and website.

Q6: What kind of challenges did you encounter marketing the app after launch?

A: Despite the quality of the FitMenCook app and the overwhelming positive reviews, we continue to struggle to get a good place in the App Store search results. I believe a large part of your App Store search ranking is built upon the number of downloads you get. As a paid app, this will always be less than a free app, so you end up with a lower ranking. We’re looking at how we can better track our search ranking and further optimise it to help users discover the app.

Q7: If you knew back then what you know now, how would you have approach marketing?

A: With the FitMenCook app our marketing approach has worked really well for us. With our new app MealPrepPro, I would have loved to have had a longer launch window. I wish we could have had the app finished sooner and held back from launching to get it in the hands of an early group of users, let them use the app for a few months and then launch by sharing the results they received with the app. Unfortunately, as is often the case, development ended up being more time intensive than we initially scoped out, so we didn’t end up with enough time to do this.

Q8: What is your monetization strategy, and how has it changed over time?

A: When we first launched FitMenCook it was a $2.99 paid app (now $3.99). Later on, following user feedback, we added a premium subscription. It’s quite unique to have a paid app, with an in-app subscription. However, this helped make the app more sustainable. The subscription unlocks some additional features inside the meal planner. We never wanted to charge for additional recipe content and we believe this would have caused a backlash from users and would have been unfair. However, charging for additional features was a more natural fit. We’re very careful not to push the subscription to users who don’t need the additional functionality.

With a growing acceptance of subscription apps, we’ve also now launched MealPrepPro, which provides users with a healthy weekly meal plan, which is really easy to customise. MealPrepPro is a free app, with a 7 day free trial.

Q9: Have you tried experimenting with different strategies and price points?

A: We’ve kept the pricing of FitMenCook very consistent and only dropped it once during the Apps for $0.99 promotion with Apple. We feel at the current price of $3.99 the app offers outstanding value for money and we wouldn’t want to undervalue our offering, or make existing users feel cheated because new users can buy the app for less during a promotional period. This is fairly consistent with other apps in the Food and Drink category. If we were operating in other categories, this may be different.

Q10: When it comes to apps, users play a major role in providing feedback through reviews. Do you incorporate user feedback into planning new features for the app? If so, how do evaluate suggestions?

A: The FitMenCook and MealPrepPro apps are built on user feedback. In all our messaging, we encourage people to reach out and send us their comments. We also keep the loop going by showing how we’ve responded to feedback with new features we add. To listen to users we monitor comments on social media, App Store reviews and messages we receive via our contact form inside the app. Based on what we’re hearing we’ll then craft surveys that we send out to our users to get more detailed feedback. After we’ve read through the responses, we then discuss what we can achieve, within what timeframe and how many people we believe will benefit from the new feature. We then craft new features and create new apps.

Q11: Starting something new requires making hard decisions. Were there any decisions that were particularly hard?

A: When we set out to create a followup app to FitMenCook we wanted to provide people with meal plans and workouts. Three months in to development, we had the sinking realisation we were building the wrong app. We were creating what we thought people wanted and not what people were actually telling us. Despite putting user feedback at the heart of what we do, we’d still messed up. It was a painful meeting when we had to sit down and take the tough decision to change everything. Fortunately, we were able to adjust and once we knew we were on the right path, everything started falling in place.

Q12: How do you measure success? Are there any particular metrics you focus on?

A: Like all teams, we keep an eye on our chart position, along with our downloads, sales, and reviews. However, we try to do this in a constructive way. There’s no point in checking sales on a daily basis because then you feel great when they’re going really well and disappointed when they’re not. I don’t want to tie my mood, or the teams mood, to our sales charts. For us, receiving a heartwarming story from a user about how our app has changed their life, is a really beautiful moment to reflect on. It’s not all careers where you get that kind of satisfaction.

We recognize the limits of what can be reflected in our download and sales charts. One of our projects this year is to find a better way to measure our impact on our users. We want to know, after we added X feature, how many people stuck with their meal plan, lost weight, gained muscle, lived a healthier life. For us, this will be a really constructive way to measure our success.

Q13: What was the first success you remember for the app?

A: On our launch day, we reached the top 2 paid apps in the App Store. I’ll never forget the feeling of being up there with apps like Dark Sky and Monument Valley!

Q14: How do you plan on evolving the app and growing its user base?

A: This year, we’ll be continuing to improve both the FitMenCook and MealPrepPro apps through new content and functionality. We recently celebrated hitting 400 recipes inside FitMenCook and I’m looking forward to the 500 recipe milestone and beyond. We’re also planning on building out the marketing strategy for MealPrepPro by testing out different advertising channels. This is new territory for us and we’re hoping to share what we learn with the developer community through my Twitter.

Huge thanks to Andreas for sharing his experience. Check out FitMenCook online and get MealPrepPro on the App Store.

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