Product Manager| Entrepreneur| Carnegie Mellon University | Co-founder at Sugoi Labs
Have you heard of the Houseparty app? Most probably you have. The pace of growth of this app download outpaced all other video conferencing applications. If you were one of the two million (yes! 2 million) people who downloaded the app in the first two weeks of March, you already have used the app and are possibly wowed by its amazing on-boarding. You have at least played a game or two with friends over a video call. I recently used the application for the first time.
It saw 50 million downloads in a month, a 70 times increase over its pre-COVID downloads in some places. It’s become the number one social app in over 80 countries including the United States, and the number one app overall in 16 countries.
This got me thinking, what would ensure that I keep using the app.
Houseparty app attacks two problems -
(a) People want to engage in activities in their free time
(b) As social animals, we have an inherent need to bond and connect with other individuals — the human connection
I have Zoom, Messenger, Facetime, don’t forget Whatsapp and the good old Google hangouts(now Meetings from Google), why yet another app? What if I was a PM at HouseParty, what will I do to make sure, my churn after Shelter-at-home is not as high as acquisition during the Covid. How do I make my users keep coming back to the Houseparty app?
As a PM it’s a good place to be in, I have my acquisition sorted. The on-boarding is easy and great, customer registration isn’t difficult, the activation is effective. But, how do I retain these users, how can I make the app sticky?
Before I delve into that, I want to establish that there are two kinds of social media platforms around
Apps like Facebook and Instagram are async apps, where all your connections do not need to be online, there is no need for instant action on part of all the users in a group. While Whatsapp, Messenger, Facetime are all sync app — they need instant action. If a friend calls, you got to pick the call. If you get a message you have to reply instantly. This distinction is important as the strategy for each kind of app has to be different.
In this case, Houseparty is a Sync Social Media. One needs to be available online on the app, to connect with one’s friends.
To retain a user, I need to ensure that the user’s group of friend are retained so that the user keeps coming back to meet them. In the same breath, the group can together do something fun. If I can do the latter, I will be able to retain the group.
What are the fun things that friends do together?
Friends play games together.Friends go out to party, dine-in, have some coffee.Friends chit-chat/gossip.Friends watch movies together.Friends go out camping, hiking, biking and all sorts of activities.Friends study together(not a fun activity, but yeah studying together does make it less painful)
Okay! this is not an exhaustive list, but you get the drift.
How can Houseparty recreate some of these experiences so that a group of friends can have a good time together(virtually)?
1. Localization in games: Houseparty already has some games available online which can be played in groups. I believe the localization of these games will go a long way in ensuring users keep coming back. Get families to play games together.
For example, Ludo is a very popular game in India right now, it originally was a board game, which has been adapted digitally. Families are playing it together online. An adaptation of such a game will be a very good way to retain users. Trivia games can be localized to make the games familiar for regional audiences.
2. Office happy hours: Houseparty can be a good introduction for office happy hours, it will take people off the Zoom and Teams screens they have been seeing for all their meetings. The opportunity to bond with colleagues over some games will be appreciated. This will also mean a change in the limit of 8 members in a ‘room’ in the app, right now. Why limit a room-size anyway!
The office happy hours is how teams bond, those ‘mundane’ games that HRs organize is how you get to know your colleagues, build friendships, and long-lasting relationships.
3. Play your music and introduce a dark mode: A dark mode where a user can dim their lights and add filters to create an illusion of being in a low-lit pub can be an addition. Dark mode combined with the ability to stream the same music together will create as close an ambiance to a good night together in a pub as it can virtually.
I don’t recommend allowing strangers to walk into your party rooms, it will be a security risk. But, friends can definitely have a good time together filled with music, drinks, games, love, and laughter.
Every time I have come out of a call off house party app, I have come out happy and smiling. The app solves a real-life need of people to stay connected, do things together beyond audio and video calls. The pandemic and associated shelter-at-home made the problem that the application was solving grimmer and hence led to an exponential rise in the user base. But the application must continuously evolve to be able to retain the customers once the world goes back to normal.
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