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Building a healthy ecosystem

App ecosystems are a flywheel with 3 players - the API platform, app developers and users. These players are all connected via your Marketplace.
Ecosystem Flywheel image - platform, developers, users

App ecosystems are a flywheel with 3 players - the API platform, app developers and users. These players are all connected via your Marketplace.

The flywheel looks like this: More platform functionality >> more apps built >> more customer adoption >> new JTBD and more platform functionality.

As you look to build a healthy ecosystem, think about each of these groups, and how you are making it easier (or harder) for them to fulfill their needs via this ecosystem.

‌Keep investing in your API platform

The keystone of any healthy ecosystem is your app development platform. It has to be stable and performant. Developers have lots of options these days on what platforms to invest their time developing for. Make it as easy as possible for them to find success on yours.

Think about your marketplace and the customer buying experience

Having an app marketplace is a bit like owning a mall.

Customers come to your mall because they need something. You want their experience in your mall to be pleasant and productive. It should be easy to find what they need. The stores (app listings) in the mall should be high quality. It should also be easy to get around the mall, to trial and return products and to have flexible payment methods.

Developers will also want the mall to be nice, and they also need to create welcoming stores (listings). Is it easy for customers to find them? Can they merchandise in the way they need?

Buyer behavior and preferences are always changing, so make sure your mall gets updated frequently.

Growth = desire - friction

Make it as easy as possible for customers to discover, try and use apps. Really understand the experiences involved in finding apps, trialing apps, logging in and purchasing them. Even small amounts of friction in any of these steps can cause a big decrease in app adoption.

Be wary of anyone trying to "buy the market"

When ecosystems become successful, it can attract attention from larger, incumbent businesses. They may acquire into your ecosystem, and because of other business lines, they can afford to lower their prices and try to "buy the market" in your ecosystem. Watch out for this as it is a race to the bottom. What can often happen is a downward spiral when this new player lowers prices, which reduces their top line revenue, which causes this business to be less important to them, which reduces their investment in new features. Overtime this can stifle innovation in your ecosystem, so consider pricing polices which can avoid this scenario.

Be patient. Good software takes time.

Building software is hard. Building an ecosystem is even harder. Be patient and keep investing. Keep listening to what customers want, and what partners need, and you will get there.

Read: https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2001/07/21/good-software-takes-ten-years-get-used-to-it/

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