Just over a year ago, I decided to learn how to create mobile apps. I quickly scrambled and used a number of tech resources such as StackOverflow and g33kTalk and put up my first app in about two months. Using those resources and lots of analytics, I was able to quickly grow the app to be one of the top-rated business apps on Android. For those curious, it is this business plan app. The app was free and it was time to monetize the app. But how?
All entrepreneurs need websites, right?
One of the ways I thought the app would monetize was to offer people a way to create websites by adding affiliate links to services where they can have those websites built. The service I wanted to offer was Squarespace, which is one of the top services to help people go from not having a site to having a beautiful in just a day or two.
So I made my affiliate account on Squarespace and placed their affiliate link to my app which, when clicked on, went to the Squarespace signup page.
No one signed up
While the app was getting hundreds of downloads per day, and the affiliate link in the app was placed in a prominent and relevant screen on the app, I was getting absolutely no sign-ups that generated affiliate commissions. I even placed code in the app to tell me when people were clicking through to the Squarespace affiliate link. And out of hundreds of monthly clicks, I was getting not even one sign-up per month. I could not figure out why.
Then it hit me. The SquareSpace signup process was too involved and complicated to complete on a mobile device. People were typically performing simple tasks on the mobile devices, but when they needed to do more complex tasks, they would typically put down their devices and sit down at a computer to do the complicated things they needed to do in order to complete their SquareSpace registration and website creation.
But the problem was that when people were switching their devices from the phone to the pc, the affiliate link cookie was being lost. So even if those people ended up signing up with SquareSpace, I was not getting paid.
Solution and workaround
What I had to do as a workaround was to ask Squarespace for a unique discount code. That way, if people ever entered that particular unique discount code, no matter what device people used, Squarespace would know that this user came from my referral and would credit me the commission.
But this solution was not effective either. I had to reach out to SquareSpaceÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s marketing department and ask for a personal referral code. Between asking them to have something done for me specifically, explaining my situation, and waiting for replies, it took about 1-2 months for me to finally get that referral code. And the discount code still didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t improve the situation.
Still not great
Even despite having a discount code, I was not able to dramatically increase my commissions. Since the mobile screens are relatively small, it was difficult to insert enough text explaining to people the exact steps they needed to take in order to get the discount, and at the same time maintaining the general user flow of the app.
Due to absolute ineffectiveness, I ended up taking those affiliate links out of the apps. Now, when I come across an affiliate opportunity, I only consider it if the transaction process is very simple.
Alex Genadinik is a mobile developer and the creator of mobile business plan apps that help people plan and start their businesses. Alex holds a B.S in Computer Science from San Jose State University. Please say hello to Alex on Twitter at @genadinik.