Small services for big tasks. How VK Mini Apps platform is useful for business

09 August 2019

The Freesoft editorial staff continues the column "Author's Columns". This week Deasoft team will talk about its experience with VK Mini Apps platform - the company launched its projects there. VKontakte services are "applications in an application", where you can order a cab, transfer money, make purchases without leaving the social network. In this article, you'll learn why businesses need them.

How the economy is born in social networks

The concept of social networking is gradually moving beyond communication and content consumption. Today users want more - in one place and at one time to solve everyday tasks. Imagine: waking up, opening an app to reply to messages, immediately ordering coffee, hailing a cab, transferring money. All of this in one program, without any extra installations, settings, or bank card connections. Perhaps that is what the future looks like.

The developers of the Chinese messenger WeChat were the first to "put" services into a social network. Today it is used by more than a billion people. WeChat became the whole ecosystem with its payment system and limitless possibilities for modern economically active person.

Delivery of meal, acquaintances, payment of utilities, replenishment of transport cards, purchase of tickets - the list of WeChat is endless. Ask anyone who has traveled or worked in China what they liked most about this country. Most likely one of the items will be WeChat. But there is another side to this beautiful future - the total collection of data about users, but not about that now.

The Russian social network VKontakte has launched a platform called VK Mini Apps. The concept is similar to the development of Asian colleagues, but, of course, is unique in its own way. Any company can develop its own application and place it in the official catalog. The key requirement is that the service must be of interest to a wide range of users. The social network itself is ready to share tools and traffic.

In fact, VKontakte is also building an ecosystem of services. It is not surprising that this idea originated in this social network. The company has everything it needs to implement and develop such a system:

  • A huge audience. Attendance of the social network reaches 100 million active users per month. This means that it is possible to reach every second;
  • Infrastructure. VKontakte has all the possibilities and resources to implement such projects;
  • System of application testing. The social network undertakes the analysis and identification of bugs in the service, which improves the quality of products and removes the headache from developers;
  • User-friendly development platform. It is based on modern React framework. It is ingeniously simple: developers need only a basic knowledge of JavaScript. Interfaces are created in HTML/CSS. It's accessible to small development teams and affordable to any business.

How we had it.

We learned about the new platform because of the hype around the service VK Coin. We wondered how it was implemented. So our team discovered a new area of development. We felt a real excitement - we wanted to try out new tools and launch our own service as soon as possible.

We have an app for iOS called "Who's Calling " - it helps users identify and block the numbers of spammers. The product has been successfully sold in the App Store for over a year, but we kept dreaming about cross-platform. There was no doubt about it, so we decided to develop Who's Calling for VKontakte.

Based on the library of UI elements we made a basic interface of the service for a couple of hours. The rest - work on the server-side logic. Then - testing and moderation. In aggregate it took us a couple of weeks to complete the service, even though the platform was brand new to us at that time. It has to be said that "VKontakte" has well-developed documentation.

So the Deasoft team launched a free version ofWho's Calling onVKontakte. Every day the service is used by 5 to 8 thousand people. This helped us solve three tasks at once:

  1. To increase the number of installations of the iOS app. We simply placed an advertising banner inside the new service.
  2. To expand the base of numbers. Users added numbers and reviews to the database on their own. Thanks to the high activity in "VKontakte" we achieved a result of 500%.
  3. Stay ahead of the competition. We were the first to put number verification on the social network, and we remain leaders so far.

We also launched an independent product in VKontakte: FitQuest, a service for personal training. This is already a classic business with the processing of applications and the management of processes. In addition, we have created a CRM-base for working with clients. Now we are in the audience testing stage. Soon we will move on to a full release.

As a result, we have come to the point where we can develop services not only for ourselves but also for other companies who want to be in the trend of technology. And we have already started two projects to build loyalty systems. By the way, it is noticeable that there is great interest in business.

How can the platform be useful to business?

The services of VKontakte can be useful to business in two cases. The first is when they need to open a new sales channel, bypass competitors and announce their products or services in a new way. The second is when there is an idea for an independent service with its own monetization scheme.

New opportunities for marketing

If a company's service is included in the official Vkontakte directory, free traffic automatically starts flowing to it - even without any special efforts to promote the product. This is not the App Store or Google Play, where there is nowhere for the apple to fall. There is still little competition on the platform, so businesses still have a head start. I checked it out for myself - in the first days after its release, our service was used by tens of thousands of people. The number of subscribers in the service's community grew by leaps and bounds.

But the most important thing is that our traffic is not impersonal. These are not just abstract characters from the Internet, but real people with names, age, interests, desires, avatars. In this way services become a quick and easy tool for accessing audiences.

A simple example: if earlier at exhibitions company representatives came up and introduced themselves to a person by holding out their business card, now it is the opposite - the person himself comes to the business. Marketers should at least jump for joy, because before such simple tools to work with the audience did not exist.

As for new products - the social network does not limit the choice of monetization. There is its own payment system VK Pay for calculations. Users do not need to bolt bank cards to each application separately, all they need to do is connect a card once.

Most importantly, the service can reduce the cost of creating and maintaining tools for interaction with customers, such as personal accounts, messengers, sms and emails.

VKontakte's services are always right in front of the user's eyes. There is no need to install anything, to waste smartphone memory, to register and to configure. Everything is ready - just go and use it. The only disadvantage - in the mobile application of the social network services are at the last tab, but as far as we know, they will move up soon.

Comfortable development process

The process of creating a VK service looks much easier than developing a mobile app. But to pass the rigorous moderation, you will have to work hard on the interfaces. Experienced developers will help solve the issue.

Any project goes through several stages from idea to release and support. And if we are talking about prototyping, design and development of the idea, then everything is very similar to the standard application development. The backend is not much different either, so contractors must have sufficient competence.

But within the frontend, an interesting story begins. To develop an app for iOS and Android, you need to have specific knowledge of these platforms, which, of course, makes the project more complicated, longer and more expensive. With the implementation of the application for VK Mini Apps, things are a little easier due to the fact that the interfaces are created based on HTML/CSS. The process is simplified many times over. There are millions of layout specialists, and the cost of their services is not so high. The React framework allows any web developer to make their own simple application in a few clicks and copypastes.

It's even easier with testing. "Vkontakte" takes on this task - the social network has a bug tracker in which a huge number of independent testers check services. A thousand people are ready to check your service crosswise from different devices - you only have to fix bugs and make your service better.

Testing lasts for a maximum of a week. After that, you will publish it in the official catalog. For iOS and Android this work has to be done internally. The speed of adding new features, respectively, is also different.

And the last nail is cross-platform. For the social network there is no need to write separate applications for different devices, this question is closed by the platform itself, which again saves time and money. Those who know how to count will draw conclusions.

Ideas for business services

In our opinion, the concept of the platform perfectly lends itself to stories with loyalty systems, where we offer the user the opportunity to get something nice in return for his user history (reviews, subscriptions, etc.).

Order or product sales services work great. Many brands are so entrenched on the Internet that we clearly know which site to go to in order to buy goods or order food. It is to such companies that the service provides access to a live audience and the opportunity to finally see their customer in person.

What's more important - the user will never lose their discounts and passwords from the service, because everything they need is at their fingertips. You open the service and you've already been identified. A person is unlikely to forget about your company - after the first launch, the service automatically stays with the user in their app list. This is building a relationship with the client for years to come.

Time and Timing of Development

A simple service can be implemented in a month. But it is necessary to take into account that the development of the requirements specification and the coordination of the logic of the application can take some more time. If there is already an understanding of what to do and in what interfaces, then it is quite simple to manage in a few weeks. The cost of developing such a project depends on the competence and status of the contractor. The rates on the market vary - on average 1500 rubles per hour.

Are VKontakte services useful for business? The platform clearly has good prospects. If we talk about the process of creating a product and adding new features, then yes, it is incredibly profitable. But whether the business will be able to monetize its service is a question of another order. In any case, all the tools and necessary traffic for this are there.