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How We Evaluated Muslim Super-App Idea, Saving Client over $150,000

With a successful idea often comes the anxious thought: “we need to start development urgently — before someone else creates the product.” Our client also decided to outpace competitors and release a universal service for Muslims faster than anyone else.

But developing a super-app is an expensive endeavor. You can spend a lot of money and time, but the app may not take off. To prevent the client from losing money, we suggested first conducting audience research and calculating the unit economics. And if the results were positive, then moving on to design and development. Make yourself comfortable— we'll tell you how it turned out.

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Table of contents

Context

Muslims around the world actively use gadgets and apps that simplify life and ensure compliance with Islamic rules. IT products remind users of prayer times, help find halal cafes, and even allow for digital pilgrimage to Mecca. Major projects receive support from spiritual authorities and enjoy great popularity.

But currently, the market is mostly represented by separate products for each religious practice. In one app, the followers of Islam check prayer times and direction, in another, they calculate zakat and zikr, while a third helps with fasting during Ramadan.

Client’s idea

The idea suggests itself — to combine all these products into one app. With this idea in mind, our client — a Muslim from Uzbekistan, who had his own development and design agency in Bishkek — approached us. He had already tried to create a service for reading the Quran correctly, but it never made it to release.

The client’s new idea was to create a convenient super-app for Muslim religious life.

Value for the user — everything in one place. No need to switch between apps to meet daily needs.

It sounds great, but developing such super-apps is difficult and expensive. If the app doesn’t provide value to the audience, it will be another costly project languishing in app stores.

So, we suggested to the client to first conduct a business analysis, and only then start development. It’s better to spend $3,000 to test the hypothesis and confirm it with small money than to lose $160,000 on product development. Additionally, research helps understand what users really need and prioritize product backlog accordingly.

Our task was to determine if real Muslims need such a super-app and if they are willing to pay for it.

We often assist clients with market analysis and app business logic. For example, we’ve already conducted research on the niche of music marketplaces and devised the structure of a CRM system for an agricultural machinery manufacturer.

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Identified needs in the JTBD format 

The analysis began with immersion into the pains of the target audience. Initially, we presented the needs of Muslims in the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) format. In other words, we described users’ pains through context, triggers, and current problem-solving solutions.

After that, we outlined the segment that might be interested in the future product:

Muslims who value adhering to religious practices. For this, they are willing to make efforts and find a convenient solution for themselves: from a compass to a chat in a messenger.

With such a foundation, we started to formulate questions for interviews and recruit respondents for qualitative research.

We faced challenges in recruiting respondents

To find respondents, we first decided to use the Unicorn Telegram chat. It has 12,000 people ready to undergo interviews. However, only 6 people from this group fell into our segment. Not the easiest situation.

Nevertheless, we were lucky: the followers of Islam were willing to help. Some recommended people for interviews, while others brought interested respondents themselves. This pleasantly surprised and inspired us.

In addition to the Unicorn chat, we also looked for respondents in Muslim communities on social networks. Administrators posted our studies, and subscribers participated in them.

Conducted qualitative research

The goal of qualitative research is to talk to representatives of the target segment and find out how they meet their daily religious needs.

Within the framework of qualitative research, we asked the following groups of questions:

    • Prayer: how do Muslims determine prayer times and the correct direction to the Kaaba?
    • Quran: did respondents learn the correct pronunciation of the Quran?
    • Ramadan: how do Muslims monitor the time of fasting?
    • And other religious practices: how do respondents count zikrs and where do they read dua?

Here are a few insights from the interviews.

A few insights from the interviews

Let’s explore one insight further.

How do the followers of Islam know when to perform prayer? In Muslim countries, people listen to the call to prayer. In secular cities, experienced followers orient themselves by the sun, while beginners follow posts in special messenger groups or use apps with push notifications. At the same time, qualitative research showed that respondents do not have problems due to the number of services — they are not bothered by the need to switch between them.

All these are examples of solving one of the JTBDs: we made such lists for each need.

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Noticed another pain

In addition to defining the main segment, the JTBD framework helps identify additional audiences and determine their pains. This is the benefit that can be obtained even if the initial idea does not pay off.

For example, we found that many Muslims in small secular cities have a problem buying halal products. One of the respondents spends 3 hours searching for food.

One of the respondents spends 3 hours searching for food

Going ahead, this pain was confirmed by 100% of the respondents from small secular cities who moved there recently and have not yet found suppliers of halal products. So, as a result, the client had a backup idea for the application. Remember it — we will come back to this conclusion later.

But let’s return to the client’s main idea. The next step is to test the service idea within the segment.

Conducted quantitative research

We went to check the insights from qualitative research in quantitative research. We found out the following.

84% of respondents use apps that help with the accurate prayer time.

Research for a religious super-app

68% of respondents use apps to determine the direction for Salah.

Research for a religious super-app

63% of respondents do not experience discomfort from the large number of services.

Research for a religious super-app

However, 36% of respondents are not willing to pay for a subscription to such a super-app.

Research for a religious super-app

Question: how much are you willing to pay monthly for a single application? Most common answer — “Less than $1”

It turned out that the majority of Muslims prefer digital solutions and already have at least two applications. This is good news for the product, but there are nuances — only 29% feel discomfort from the number of services. This once again confirms the conclusion of qualitative research: “Muslims do not feel discomfort from the number of applications.”

Only 18-40% of the main segment have a need for a single application. This is not enough to invest in the development of a super-app.

However, 36% of users are not willing to pay for the product. But perhaps a small audience is willing to pay for an expensive subscription, and the service will be able to recoup the development costs? Here we move on to the next stage of analysis — calculating unit economics.

See also  CustDev Interviews, Unit Economics, and Customer Pain Points: 4 Clear Steps That Let You Know If Your App Will Rocket

Calculated unit economics

At the previous stage, we found that only a very narrow segment needs a single product for religious practices. It was important to understand how much this would affect monetization plans.

The client planned to use the Freemium model. In this case, users are offered a free basic version of the application, while access to the extended version of the product is possible through a monthly subscription.

This is an excellent option:

  1. The religious needs of Muslims are daily, which means the application will also be used every day. This is good for user retention. Moreover, it’s much easier to sell a subscription to an application that will be used every day.
  2. Retention is high, which means the product will have strong cohorts. In other words, groups of users on whom money was spent once to attract, and who continue to buy a subscription.

Now it remains to find a price that will allow keeping the subscription cost low enough to attract new users and at the same time make a profit. For this, we calculated the unit economics.

Unit economics is a model for calculating the behavior of the economy when scaling, determining the average check, and the necessary conversion to purchase. This framework has an important advantage: if necessary, it allows adjusting the figures and getting a more viable solution.

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We calculated two versions: based on client prices and based on prices from quantitative research.

The version with client prices. If we take client prices, then the cost of attracting a user will be $0,3 — this is an excellent figure for advertising channels. And since the client plans to make a mobile application, there is much hope for free user acquisition through app stores.

As a result, such a model in the first month of the product’s operation will already bring in $6,672, without deducting fixed expenses for the team and servers.

Version with prices from quantitative research. We calculated the product’s economy based on the subscription price close to the results from quantitative research.

We got that even with much lower prices, the product’s economy will still remain profitable. However, it will be necessary to use cheaper distribution channels (ASO, word of mouth). Adding cohorts to all this, the product should still remain profitable.

Intermediate conclusions

However, despite the strong product economy, the research showed that there is not a large enough segment on the market for developing such a product. Only 18-40% of the main segment have a need for a single application.

In this case, we did not recommend the client to develop this product.

Suggested considering a new hypothesis

Instead, we suggested delving into another hypothesis that we found out during the research.

It turned out to be difficult for Muslims to find halal products in secular cities. One of the respondents had to spend up to 3 hours searching for halal food. 

On our own initiative, we explored this topic and estimated the approximate economy. Instead of making a super-app, you can create a service to find halal stores. In this case, legal entities — food stores — will pay for the subscription. For them, the value of the service is getting new customers.

New product idea

The unit economics of the new product showed that the service can pay off. The monetization model, where not users, but suppliers pay for the subscription, works. Companies can afford higher rates, which means the product development and user acquisition will pay off faster.

Results

During the research, we realized that there is not a large enough segment for developing a product on the market. The application’s economy will be strong, but there is a risk that the service will not be able to attract users with additional value. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to invest a large amount of resources in the project.

Does this mean that the money spent on research was wasted? Definitely not.

The client learned more about the real needs of the audience, did not lose millions on application development, and gained new insights about the audience.

Now he can conduct research on other needs and change the product idea. Or take a risk and try to implement his original idea, modifying it based on the research results.

If you need to test the idea of your project, fill out the form to contact us. We will listen carefully, share our experience, and estimate prices and terms.

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