How to Build A User First Approach to Entrepreneurship

How to Build A User First Approach to Entrepreneurship
Alexis Baghdadi, Feb 13 2015

In the digital era, marketing is redefined as a fast-paced, high-impact affair. In this new global platform, entrepreneurship has evolved to a whole new level. SMEs can now rub shoulders with mega corporations, even with their limited resources. The relationship between customers and businesses is becoming less static thanks to technology and social media. Things have just gotten more interesting.
But being in the game is not enough; knowing how to play is the only guarantee of staying in the game and, with the right attitude, winning. A successful business is no longer defined by its size, but rather by its ability to attract and maintain a strong user following on the web. And this means delivering a fun and interactive experience from the get go. In other words: It is all about being “user first”. This was the engine under the hood of Melltoo, a Dubai-based mobile version of classifieds that is capturing the attention of users and investors around the MENA.
Adopting an Advanced User-Centric Approach
When a company puts users’ needs at the center of its product development it changes the pace and the focus of all of its endeavors. Being user first means giving top priority to user experience in order to nurture brand loyalty. Whether Melltoo is building content or expanding user outreach, the question is always: How do we engage users and bring them value? For co-founders Morrad Irsane and Sherene Lee, the app answered the need to bring the classified ads culture into the new digital age and make the experience more friendly. Websites, blogs and various social media networks had already adjusted to host classifieds on their platforms, but they all registered similar complaints. Posts and items for sale often got lost in the noise, and the response rate was sometimes despairingly slow or untrustworthy. The startup also noticed there could be buyers for even the smallest, inexpensive items so it decided to give fair treatment and exposure to every item. This has given it a distinct edge over other selling platforms like Dubizzle. Melltoo’s user first objective challenges conventional business practices on a daily basis. Real-time messaging through the in-app chat allows users to address each other directly and receive immediate updates on their phone to conclude deals. Because it is the only way for them to interact, it guarantees their privacy and ensures the safety of their contact details. They can also file complaints and block abusive users. This example of a user first approach constituted Melltoo’s primary entry point into the MENA market where the mobile app territory was still widely unchartered. So in many ways, the company’s user first, mobile first, MENA first mindset created quite a stir in the Dubai startup scene. Its unique approach to addressing users’ pain points in the UAE has created a new set of business practices tailored to the needs of a growing population of young smartphone users in the region.
Community Feedback at the Heart of Growth
Melltoo is always looking for new user engagement strategies and testing them. As a small operation, it takes a Darwinian approach to strategizing in order to conserve its resources and human capital. Its flexible hierarchy makes it possible to involve all team members every step of the way, starting at the idea stage. Of course, such an operation requires constant communication and often calls for multitasking. Although members of the Melltoo team are located in different parts of the world (France, Tunisia, Pakistan, India and the UAE), they are able to stay in constant contact thanks to the team communication platform Slack. Ultimately, this makes Melltoo a leaner, more united and supportive team. Once a strategy is implemented, the team spends weeks on monitoring user behavior and internet analytics before deciding on improvements in service delivery. According to the founders, “Being user first means incorporating user feedback into the development process, in order to build a product that brings value to users.” Because it is a small operation, Melltoo is able to quickly adapt its marketing and engagement strategies to changes in its user base. In turn, this grants it the necessary elasticity to redefine and refocus its brand identity effectively. Such a dynamic brand identity is very conducive to the organic growth of both the company and its user base.
One example of how Melltoo translates customer engagement into growth is through its broader range of social interfaces. For instance, the website’s blog features articles by experts on how to promote items on sale or advice from Decluttr Me ( on reducing excess at home or in the office by de-cluttering. The app has also collaborated with other startups and initiatives such as sales of handcrafted products or used items to raise funds for causes. This deep social integration has a purpose: to build trust in the marketplace. It also serves to strengthen the buying and selling eco-system in the UAE and therefore reinforce Melltoo’s position in the market. Since its launch in March 2014, the app has had over 100,000 installs, with a daily growth of 450+ users.
More About Meltoo:
Arabnet the quaterly
Melltoo is a classifieds listing service for mobile where people can buy and sell things. The startup was launched in 2014 with an initial investment of $100,000 in own funds and has recently secured investment from the WOMENA angel investor group to boost itsgrowth. The app is available for free on the Apple and Android stores.
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