How Growing Your App Is Like McDonald’s Early Years

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@whynotmattMatt Johnston

Even if you are a fan of the Whopper over a Big Mac, you have to admit that McDonald’s must have done something right to satisfy customers for the last 80 years. Started in Monrovia, California by Patrick McDonald and his sons, their small food stand would grow into one of the world’s most recognized eating establishments. Here are a few ways that lessons learned from McDonald’s early growth can apply to your mobile app.

Success Takes Time

In 1937 the McDonald family opened a food stand called “The Airdrome” in Monrovia, California. The restaurant did not look like a modern McDonald’s. In fact, it had a completely different feel and served items like hot dogs and all-you-can-drink orange juice. But the business survived. In 1948 the McDonalds took all that they had learned, revamped the restaurant, and rebranded it “McDonald’s”.

It takes time to create a polished app. As days creep into weeks and slowly into months and you are just ready to launch, know that each bit of work you do on your app makes it a better product. Don’t get discouraged.

Your first app may not be the app that strikes it big. Even though “The Airdrome” is not alive today, its descendants are. The lessons you learn from creating an app will help make your next app even better.

Adapt Your Menu

The first incarnation of what would become McDonald’s included 25 items and even had hot dogs and barbecue. But the brothers soon realized that based on popularity and profits, hamburgers were the way to go. So they simplified the menu to just hamburgers and a few side items.

The first spark of inspiration for a mobile app is often a deceptive little fellow. Your brain tells you how awesome your idea is. You envision an app with forward thinking UI/UX, user retention out the wazoo and social shareability like no other app. Then you actually start developing the app and realize not all of that may come true.

Often, less is better. If your app has too many features or is covered with tons of flashy UI glitz, take a step back. Look at what is providing the most value to your user and then focus on that. Just like McDonald’s simplified to being a hamburger restaurant, your app may be better off if it narrows its focus on a prime feature.

Launch Locally, Grow Globally

By 1952, the McDonald family decided it was time to branch out, so they signed up 2 franchisees, one in Arizona and one in California. Ray Kroc noticed the restaurants in 1954 and was so taken by the idea that he partnered with the McDonald family to expand the franchising efforts nationally. In five short years, the total number of McDonald’s restaurants had increased to 102. Today, the number of McDonald’s locations worldwide exceeds 35,000.

Your app needs to find its audience in order to succeed. That audience may be users who live in a particular geographic area or are interested in a certain topic. To jump start your user growth, focus on marketing to your initial audience. Once you have a core group of users, expand your audience by focusing on other geographic areas or broadening your topic appeal. Just how McDonald’s grew their restaurants by focusing on one geographic location at a time, you can grow your app by gradually expanding your target audience.

McDonald’s was able to succeed by developing a strong initial product, adjusting to customer demand and then expanding to new locations. Applying these same concepts to your mobile app will help grow your user base.

To help developers listen and react to user feedback, my company created User Hook. User Hook is a suite of tools that lets developers segment and reach users with timely messages and actions. Sign up for your free account, download our iOS or Android SDK, and get started growing your user base.

If you are looking for help with a digital project, check out our company Cullaboration Media. We also help mobile apps with user engagement and feedback through our User Hook service.


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