Full Featured E-Commerce App for Top Global Brands in just Weeks

Welcome to the first episode of the Low-Code Ninjas Podcast

Low-Code Ninjas shines a light on industry thought leaders and the strategies they embrace to do business successfully in an app-first, unpredictable world.

Meet our hosts

John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz

John Koetsier
John Koetsier is a senior contributor to Forbes, host of the TechFirst podcast, and a mobile industry analyst.

Previously, he was the Mobile Economist for TUNE and the VP Insights for Singular.

Peggy Anne Salz
She is a mobile analyst, a top 30 Mobile Marketing influencer and a nine-time author based in Europe. She tracks and documents the trends, companies and innovators shaping how we do business and engage with consumers across the multiple screens, devices and apps that define our daily lives.


FollowAnalytics’ Samir Addamine weighs in on how low code apps allow brands to pivot quickly.

Apps are where it’s at — but up until now, many companies have been priced out of the market. A revolution is happening. Here at Low Code Ninjas we’re exploring how low and no-code app development is changing everything about apps. This week we talk to Samir Addamine, founder of FollowAnalytics, which provides full-featured apps and flexibility for companies looking to create apps in a few hours instead of weeks or months.

This kind of flexibility has been an integral part of COVID response for many companies, as they adjust to a reality where in-person sales are practically non-existent. Find out how, with the help of flexible cloud infrastructure, FollowAnalytics has enabled companies to respond rapidly to new challenges and ensure business continuity. Learn about the features — such as in-app video calls — that have allowed retail and fitness brands to adapt to social distancing and more.

Full Episode Transcript

(This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity).

John Koetsier:  Is there a way for brands to build mobile commerce apps that are 10X faster and maybe even 20X cheaper? Welcome to the very first episode of Low Code Ninjas. My co-host Peggy Anne Salz and I will be diving into the world of low-code mobile apps. My name is John Koetsier.

Peggy Anne Salz: And I’m Peggy Anne Salz. And as you said, John, we have this show because there’s a revolution in mobile right now. It was always there, it’s just accelerated because of COVID, you know, if it’s mobile first, mobile forced … either way, that’s what it is. Apps is where we are. Apps is where companies need to be. But hey, you know, it isn’t that easy, because first of all, brands/retailers they’re spending money, they’re also spending time — 6 to 12 months to build a great mobile app — painful, slow, consumers aren’t going to wait. But there is an option, you can look at low-code option. That’s what we’re talking about in this show, because that gets it done in a fraction of the time, fraction of the cost. That’s what people want to hear about.  

John Koetsier: Absolutely. I don’t know about this mobile forced thing, but I understand it, I guess, I get there. 

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah.

John Koetsier: So, to kick off Low Code Ninjas, we’re gonna chat with somebody who’s building mobile apps for top brands, with a low-code platform. They’re rich, they’re full-featured, they’re full on mobile apps, and we’re going to dive into it.

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah, and his name, Samir Addamine, he’s the founder of FollowAnalytics. Welcome, Samir! Great to have you here on our debut show. 

Samir Addamine: Thank you for inviting me

John Koetsier: It’s a real pleasure to have you. Samir, we’ve got to ask you right off the top, can you really build a full-featured e-commerce app for a major retailer or brand in just weeks? 

Samir Addamine: Oh yeah, absolutely. We’re doing it all the time, actually, dozens and dozens of companies are using our technology to do that. 

John Koetsier: Very, very interesting. Very cool. In fact, I think you even do it on a one-off basis for like a sales demo?

Samir Addamine: Yeah. I mean, we, or actually, the tool is allowing any salesperson in our team to build an app within a few minutes and show it to the customer. We come at the first meeting with a customized demo of what could be the e-commerce or service mobile app of this, you know, enterprise company. Which is something that is very, very new and usually surprise them a lot, actually.

Peggy Anne Salz: I can see that, being surprised in just a few minutes. I am, I would be too, absolutely. ‘Cause I’ve seen how people say, well, you know, we can take a module approach or something, but it’s still taking forever, and you’re doing that in sales demos. I have to jump in here and ask, you know, you’ve done it many times, can you name some brands that you’ve done it for that we would understand or say and recognize?

Samir Addamine: Absolutely. So, you know, I would mention [a] few retail brands, because these days retailers are probably our first vertical and all retailers need to get on mobile quick on e-commerce. I would mention for instance, Sephora in Europe, used our technology to build an app in just a few days. The Honest Company, you know, Jessica Alba’s company, actually, same thing here, you know, they wanted to have like in less than a month a mobile app, retail, e-commerce, e-commerce actually on the App Store and Google Play. We built it with our platform in less than 3 weeks. And then, one of the probably largest and oldest retailer in North America, Hudson Bay Company is also using our technology for their banners, like Saxx, you know, that is an iconic brand in the U.S. 

John Koetsier: Hudson’s Bay that I believe that company is hundreds of years old, actually. Very, very interesting, and all across Canada of course. So, right now obviously, we’re in Coronavirus, we’re in COVID time and that’s changed so much about our lives and how we buy things, how we interact with brands as well. What have you seen happening in e-commerce over the past 6 months? 

Samir Addamine: So it’s amazing. It’s an amazing acceleration. I mean, you know, 8 months ago companies would say, ‘Hey, you know, we have some time, you have a great technology. I mean, you’re going to reduce dramatically the time to market, the speed here.’ But now, it’s all about ‘We need it now.’ It’s not a, you know, there’s a great acceleration in e-commerce, and I would say that companies and retailers especially that don’t have a mobile app or…  it’s going to be very difficult for them. I mean, mobile e-commerce is 20 to 40% of the online revenue today. 

Peggy Anne Salz: Mm-hmm. If I can interject for a moment, because I had the mobile forced idea. And it really is a concept and it’s going to be, you’re going to hear about it more and more because the whole idea is that through the acceleration, companies that were saying, ‘Hmm, an app, you know, I’ll do, I’ll just work on my website,’ you know, ‘I’ll do responsive, it’ll be just fine.’ Right? And now they are forced to look at mobile apps. They are forced to be the brand in the hand, to be something I’m going to be interacting with while I’m confined at home. So I’m wondering if you’re seeing that as well, Samir, you know, that you’re seeing companies that maybe hadn’t thought like this, that they’re saying, ‘Wow, you know, we’re missing the boat. We really have to do it now.’ It’s not something you can plan anymore. 

Samir Addamine: Absolutely actually. They are forced, as you said, and one of the reasons we’re having this success with dozens of these iconic brands is because we are actually leveraging what exists. So companies have a website, an e-commerce website actually, and they want to build an app on top of that. So, I mean, they are forced, they want to go fast, and the only way to go fast is not to go start from scratch, right. Rather, you know, than using their existing platform infrastructure, you know, cloud, e-commerce, engine, etc. and building on top of it. And that’s what our technology is doing. 

John Koetsier: Super interesting, Samir. Now let’s talk about who’s winning. Is it everybody that’s winning? I mean, is it just a few companies? Are all brands actually getting on the train here? 

Samir Addamine: No, unfortunately not everybody’s winning. I mean, the reality is that some companies didn’t have the infrastructure, the low-code, they have not invested that much in digitization. I mean the winners, we all know them. It’s Amazon, you know, they had an amazing platform, an e-commerce mobile app actually, and it’s probably one of the top 5 today on the App Store, right. But you have Walmart as well that have made a fantastic job as well on their digital platforms, especially on mobile. And Target, and this company is, you know, it’s amazing. We see them actually very successful in business, but the only reason they are is because they’ve been working with the best digital platforms.  And today, you know, they don’t have to catch up with having the right product platform, etc. 

And there is all of these brands that are losing today, amazing companies, amazing brands — you don’t see them on the shopping category of the App Store on the top 100 apps here. You don’t see them, and you will be surprised. Take a look, and you’re gonna see, you know, your most iconic brands are not there yet. And we have a solution for that to get them within like 3 to 4 weeks on the App Store. So that’s the reason why they’re coming to us actually these days. 

Peggy Anne Salz: Just want to make a note about that. I wasn’t aware of the brand aspect here because you’re right, you know, I’m based in Europe so I’m seeing different brands, but the ones I want to see, they’re not there either. So there’s a lot of opportunity — it’s a global opportunity, I have to say — but, you’re talking about how they’re losing, how they’re not able, how they’re not ready, not able to build fast enough. I’m just curious if what you’re also seeing in that respect is that they understand this opportunity. Do you find that you have to tell them increasingly about the mobile opportunity? And the reason I bring that up is because you’re also writing and talking out there about the opportunity, you know, what do companies need to focus on when they want to build mobile commerce apps. 

Samir Addamine: So yeah, I mean, the low code, no code is definitely the solution. I mean, speed is about everything, you know, mobile, building a mobile app is a pain actually today. I mean, it requires lots of effort and time and you want to have an impact immediately.  You know, with these traditional solutions, system integrators, adjacencies, etc., they’re gonna take 12 or even 18 months, millions of dollars to build an app. I mean, it’s not possible anymore, right? So, I would say that using a low-code platform accel…  you know, leveraging what exists today, reducing the cost, improving, having a much better impact on time to market here and being ready sooner with a pixel perfect app is definitely the solution here. And local products allows that today. You know, you can build and we are building, we have apps that are on the top 50 of the App Store today, and there is no actually reason to reduce the quality. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. And we reduce the maintenance headaches, we reduce and we have ways now for these companies to get faster to open their mobile channel and have it integrated with their marketing and customer platform.

Peggy Anne Salz: I’d like to pick up on that fast, ’cause that’s something that you’re talking about a lot out there, which is this 3 F’s idea. Fast is one of them. There’s two other F’s, of course, but I’d like you just overall to talk about the concept, you know, what is it that is, so to speak, the checklist here. Fast and … what are the others?

Samir Addamine: Fast, Friction-free… 

Peggy Anne Salz: Okay.

Samir Addamine: … and Feature-rich. Actually fast, you know, speed is everything these days, especially these days. So, going fast, but, you know friction-free. We, companies actually improving their productivity, you know, their IT team and their marketing teams are getting more busy. I mean, and varies with need on not having to spend days, weeks, or months on a mobile app, and, you know, rely on an external team or external product here that can accelerate that. And I would say feature-rich, it’s the quality of the app is quite important. I mean,you don’t build an app and you put it on the App Store and Google Play and then it’s gonna live by itself. It has to add, you know, innovations every month. We have customers that are going to add AR, Apple Pay, you know, to Touch ID, Face ID. You know, a lot of these kind of what we call native features on a regular basis. They’re going to improve, they’re going to be creative, and so feature-rich is very important here. If you look at an app like Amazon, mobile app, it has most of the innovations that exist today. I mean, amazing search engine, augmented reality, you know, all this technology concentrated with a pixel perfect user experience. So I would say if it’s 3 F’s that you mentioned, Peggy, are critical to be successful actually, on the long term.

John Koetsier: Let’s dive into those features then. If you look at the most successful apps, and I know you’ve done some of that — and I believe you’re coming out with some research in the near future as well on that — what are the top features that you see that the most successful e-commerce apps have? And maybe, after that, follow up with some of the features that people think that they need, that brands think that they need, but actually don’t.

Samir Addamine: Yeah. So, thank you for this question. Actually, it’s interesting, since like now 7, 8 months since the pandemic started, there is this features that needs to be that are helping actually companies challenge social distance, for example, video call, right? We added this feature to several customers. So being able to call a sales agent, right, without being able to go to the shop today, right, is one of the features that is getting a lot of interest. We have BOPIS, you know, Buy Online Pickup In Store. People want to continue, it’s amazing. People want to continue to come to the store, even if it’s just for a pickup here, and so curbside pickups. So this BOPIS feature is getting a lot of traction and most of the retailers and e-commerce retailers that we are working with are implementing it. Now you have all these payments capabilities. I mean, not having Apple Pay and Google Pay today on a mobile app is definitely losing a lot in terms of user experience and how easy it is to buy with an Apple Pay one-click or Touch ID Apple Pay activation here. I mean, there is, you know, probably a dozen features here that we see in our reports on the most successful e-commerce mobile app is going to highlight that very soon. It’s all the features that were not only important, say 6 months ago, but the new features as well, that are like critical these days. As I mentioned, BOPIS, curbside pickup, video call, a reservation system for shops that are closed or, you know, going to reopen, right, and they want to have a way to allow the customers to come at the right time for, uh, to reserve a slot actually to come to the shop. So we built as an example here, kind of scheduler reservation system that we launched with already a few customers. So that’s kind of some kind of new features with this new normal that are coming as well here.

John Koetsier: Super interesting to hear, because these are not the kinds of features that we’re typically thinking about when we’re thinking about a low-code environment. They’re not the kind of features that you think about when you go to some website that says, hey, build and launch your mobile app, you know, $99 a month, or $10 a month or something like that. And you think, okay, it’s basically a wrapper for a website. So low-code used to mean low quality and probably low in features … not anymore? 

Samir Addamine: Not anymore. We are able to build, again, pixel perfect mobile apps, very creative, adding all these innovations, right, that I just mentioned as some new features, but also what are integrated with the marketing platform. You know, it’s not just about launching a mobile app, but it has to be integrated with the company multi-channel marketing platform, whether it’s a Salesforce, Adobe, Microsoft, or any of these marketing platforms doing email, push notifications, etc. The mobile app can not be a silo. It has to be integrated with the company backend system. So all of that makes it like, no, it’s not a low quality. It has to be pixel perf… and we prove that, by the way. I mean, many of the apps we built for iconic brands are on the top of the App Store. They have, you know, in term of usage, actually, they are quite amazing. One of the things we provide as well is a mobile, is an analytics engine. It’s the intelligence here, we build data-driven mobile apps that are intelligent, but are like, you know, reacting and adapting to the end users, to the end user here. It’s all about user experience. So we cannot actually minimize that, you know, most of the success of apps are about user experience here.

Peggy Anne Salz: I couldn’t agree with you more. That’s what I’m always saying. And it was interesting to hear you also talk about the fact that they’re top ranking, right? So, for me that’s like, okay, user experience, ticks all the boxes. Top ranking, really important. But let’s talk about some other results, particularly when companies are looking at this, they want to look at uplift or they want to look at something that gives them a reason, you know, maybe user experience is a little warm and fuzzy, that’s not enough to invest in the app. But there’s got to be other things you can achieve. What are you seeing? What are the results that your clients are achieving with this? 

Samir Addamine: So, I mean, usage is critical here. And one of the things that is interesting with the App Store is the rating and the comments, right? I mean, interestingly you have feedback from customers quickly, you know, look at the rating of an app. Look at the comments actually. You don’t have that on a website, on an e-commerce website, right? On mobile here, Apple and Google actually with the ranking system here, they forced actually the brands to improve their user experience. So I would say that one of the things that is quite critical is make sure that the quality of the app is, and the user experience is very high here, and it has to be taken care. I mean, you know, on a continued basis having a strong analytics and data-driven mobile app allows actually the brand to better understand what’s going on, right, with the app. What works and what do not, and how to improve it. And I would say the interaction allowed by push notification is also a critical aspect actually of the marketing of the relationship between the brand and its consumer here for the app. Having a strong mobile analytics, mobile marketing and being able to add new features regularly by listening to the customer, or by challenging these issues that we are experiencing now, you know, social distance and people want to stay connected, right? To their brands, and they want to keep this connection. And the mobile app is probably now becoming, I think the main channel here, the channel here for that. 

John Koetsier: I want to follow up on that question, real brief. What have you seen for the brands that have built e-commerce functionality, mobile commerce functionality into their apps? What are you seeing in terms of their growth in sales?

Samir Addamine: So, I would say mobile apps, e-commerce, e-commerce on mobile is probably 20 to 40% of the e-commerce revenue of a brand. We see usually when retailers have a website, e-commerce website, a responsive website for mobile, and a mobile app, they usually have probably 30 to 40% of their activity happening on the mobile app versus around 40% on the desktop, and maybe 20% on the mobile web here, of the transaction. So, now the conversion rate on mobile is much higher actually that we observe now in terms of e-commerce transactions than desktop, right? Probably 6 or 7 times higher than desktop today. And the reason for that is the engagement. The fact that you are, you know, on your mobile in a different experience, I mean, it’s a personal device first. You know, in this screen you get as well, something that is probably much more powerful than email, which is push notification, right? We have a lot of sophistication on that where whether you know, we are able to send you a push notification based on your location, based on the time of the day, based on your habits here, because we analyze that with the app.

So, I would say that there is quite an interesting tendency here to see the mobile app for e-commerce actually becoming probably the main channel in terms of revenue now, for many of them. It’s already the case for Amazon. It’s already the case for many, but I would say that so many brands realize that the website, the desktop, actually, is probably going to be 30 or 40% of the activity. Still, the backend system, the engine, right, of e-commerce is on the website here and you need that, right? They need that. The companies that are fortunate today, I would say is the one that have already invested in these e-commerce platforms, right? Because the low-code platform like ours can build on top of any of these existing e-commerce platforms and leverage them. Rather than starting from scratch, which makes it, you know, much, much more longer in terms of time to market here.

Peggy Anne Salz: Well it’s going to be a huge part of revenues, that’s really, that’s very clear, you know. But it’s also going to evolve to even drive more business if you have that sort of that feedback loop of understanding, this is what I’m doing, this is how the customer is reacting, now I’m going to go… because in those times where really, if you’re not, you know, how, when and where the customer wants you, then you’re out. I’d like to understand a little bit of the value that the analytics or the insights, because we’re talking about how your clients are achieving certain objectives. I’d like to understand how they’re achieving certain insights because that’s going to be key to long term success. 

Samir Addamine: Yeah. It’s actually, you know, one of the critical things here is building an app is great, but you know, if you don’t have a clear understanding of this new behavior, I mean, this new normal is changing everything, right? And then the way people consume, the way people use their apps here and communicate and interact with their brands. So, you know, to be able to predict how users are going to react to what you’re proposing here on an e-commerce app, you need a strong analytics engine. So we are able today, with AI actually, to predict what’s going to happen here. We analyze actually thousands, millions of users’ behaviors here, and on a personal level, we are able to customize a user experience here. That’s what mobile platforms are allowing brands to do today. So we can actually personalize the experience of each users based on what we learn, and based on the time of the day, based on their location, based on several patterns here going to be analyzed with this analytics engine. And we have, we are fortunate because our first product was about analytics and intelligence, and we build a kind of low-code platform on top of that rather than, you know, we haven’t just solved actually the app development pain here, but we also are adding the intelligence to that, right? And the integration with the marketing and customer platform.

John Koetsier: What a concept, data first, and then you build a solution on top of it. Very, very cool. Well, Samir, I want to thank you so much for being on the very first Low Code Ninjas. 

Samir Addamine: Thank you. 

John Koetsier: It’s been a real pleasure. I’m sure Peggy will agree as well. Over the next few weeks and months, we will be finding the very best brands and retailers that are building low-code mobile apps. Some will be e-commerce, some will be a little bit different. We’ll be interviewing them. We’ll be finding their secrets. And guess what, Peggy, we will be sharing them. 

Peggy Anne Salz: Absolutely. I’m excited about that because there’s nothing like finding new stories, giving these companies a platform to tell us their stories. This is going to be great. Of course, if you like it — and you’re going to love it — subscribe on all the major podcasting platforms. Give a little bit of time to propagate, it’s going to be out there. Full transcripts at FollowAnalytics.com. And of course, if you want to be on this show, that’s what it’s all about, contact us. We want to hear these stories because this is the only show out there that’s really going to shine light on — I’ll call it again, mobile first and mobile forced companies. So, it’s going to be quite a ride. 

John Koetsier: Excellent. Until next episode, this is John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz with Low Code Ninjas. 

Peggy Anne Salz: Absolutely. Stay well, k