How to seamlessly replace your favorite public Shopify app with a custom private app

What can you do when you and your Shopify App Store app are deep in like, but not deep in love? Do you break up and find someone new, or stick it out for the long haul?

I get a lot of clients asking me how to deal with an app that performed faithfully for a few months or even a couple of years, but isn't a good fit anymore.

Here are some of the most common complaints:

In every case, the store owners come to me because they're tired of burning precious time on workarounds.

They needed an app that reduced their workload and frustration.

Fortunately, shifting from a public app to a custom private app isn't rocket science. It's definitely not a DIY project either, but you absolutely can have a qualified developer create an app that serves your unique business.

Here's my best advice on how to transition from a public app to a custom app smoothly and intelligently.

Consider Budget and Features First

As you would expect, the more features you need, the more you'll have to spend on a custom app. If you want an identical copy of an app that's loaded with backend features for you and your staff plus frontend features for your customers, expect a significant price tag.

However, if only one element of the original app is crucial for your store, like transferring product descriptions from your vendor to your site, then you'll spend a lot less.

If budget is a significant issue, figure out which feature will make or save you the most money (or time!) and start there. If you need help determining which feature brings in a better ROI, here are a few questions that will help:

If you're still not sure, try tracking the time you spend on your store's issues and see if you can find the tasks that demand most of your attention.

Fix the Bugs

Developers of public apps aren't always dedicated to fixing every bug in their product. If you've ever gotten the cold shoulder from a public app developer about a problem with their product, it's likely that your issue wasn't impacting many customers.

The cold, hard truth is that fixing bugs is an ROI issue: many developers of are trying to make an app that makes business easier for the greatest number of store owners. If your store's needs fall outside that generalized circle, then your problems may not be worth fixing in some developers' eyes.

Working with a committed developer on a custom app is a completely different situation. Your priorities are the only priorities, so it must be absolutely right.

It's All About You

Every part of a custom app is centered on your business and your preferences.

The big advantage of a custom app is that you can have the same features as a public app, but have them dialed in perfectly to your workflow, your network of vendors, and your shipping system. Your particular preferences are driving the app, not a middle-of-the-road business profile.

Make sure you have a clear idea of which features you'd like to change, but also how you'd like to change them. I won't say the sky's the limit, but you when you work with a developer to create a private app, they probably have a range of ideas to help solve your particular issues.

Start Small and Build

If you have a lot of funding from a Kickstarter campaign or an investor, by all means, commission a multi-feature custom app right from the start. But don't be afraid to try a personalized app even if you only have the means for a single feature.

If the public app you're working with has five features that you use, you can definitely start small by launching one in a private app and then building in additional features over time. Building custom apps this way is a way to ensure their success.

For example, you might have a public app that handles email marketing for you, including abandoned cart reminders, upsale emails, and newsletter delivery. You can commission a developer to create an app to perform the one feature that gives you the greatest ROI or is the most problematic on the public app. In a few months or year, you can add another feature.

You can run the public and custom apps side by side as long as you switch off the similar feature in the public app. When this is done correctly, customers won't know the difference, but you may see huge returns in terms of recapturing lost time to workarounds or increased income from automated features.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Ecommerce entrepreneurs like you are definitely experts on your businesses, but you can't be experts on everything. So give yourself a break and talk to someone who understands the technical side.

Shopify-savvy developers will be likely to save you a significant amount of time and money not only by solving the problem you knew you were having, but also by identifying other roadblocks that might be in the way. Often, the solutions can be addressed cleanly and smoothly in your own app.

I guess you could say that when you're thinking about calling it quits with your current app, breaking up might not be that hard to do.

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Topics: Private app

Would you like a daily tip about Shopify?

Each tip includes a way to improve your store: customer analysis, analytics, customer acquisition, CRO... plus plenty of puns and amazing alliterations.