In 2008, Rylan Barnes, an engineer with a passion for mobile development and graphics processing, was looking for his next project. "It turned out that barcode scanning was actually the perfect intersection of those two," he says. "While building out the barcode scanner, I realized the best use case for the tool would be to compare prices across retailers. So if someone went into a store looking for new sneakers, they can scan the barcode and see prices across other shops in their area to find the cheapest price." That year Rylan built out those features and launched his app ShopSavvy. A year later, Jake Marsh joined Rylan to help expand the app and has been an integral teammate ever since. Since formalizing the team back in 2009, ShopSavvy has been downloaded over 40 million times.
Monolith Technologies, ShopSavvy
Rylan Barnes and Jake Marsh, Co-founders
How ShopSavvy makes an impact
Rylan and Jake built out their team and scaled their business to new levels. "We built the business as big as we could and sold it," Rylan relates, "But in 2018 we had the opportunity to buy it back. The landscape around product search had changed and we saw a big consumer need for an independent product search app with an integrated alert service. The technology had also evolved, so many features that were difficult in the past are now feasible."
With a mission-driven team ready to act, Rylan and Jake were able to capitalize on the moment and evolve the business. "We have a really great team of folks who know this space super well," highlights Jake. "They have years of experience working in development and truly care about our mission to empower shoppers."
Since buying their app back, the ShopSavvy team has expanded their suite of offerings. "We’ve launched new features like price tracking, price history charts and deal updates," says Jake, "As supply chain issues have impacted shipping and pricing throughout the pandemic, we’ve built additional features like re-stock alerts and price change tracking."
With a dedicated bargain-hunting audience, ShopSavvy has always been a free app. "Our user base consists of bargain hunters." Jake says. "Asking them to pay for an app to save money just doesn’t make sense. So we’ve been free and ad-supported since the beginning." But initially the ShopSavvy team managed their entire ads business in-house, causing inefficiencies for their team. "We had our own ad system and we’d talk directly with advertisers one by one to get these one-off deals," Rylan explains. "It was a huge distraction and took a ton of time for our engineering team to code the individual sales."
Rylan and Jake decided to make a change to their advertising approach. "We made the decision to stop our in-house ad management and instead start working with Google AdMob," Jake shares. Working with AdMob, the team has seen time savings and solid ROI. "It’s been a game-changer not to have to manage our ad sales anymore," Rylan adds. "Having access to programmatic demand has made a huge difference. We’re super grateful for AdMob to take that off our plate; we’re able to tap into a big pool of advertisers and can stay focused on improving the app." Plus, strong CPMs help fuel growth for the business: "We tried other providers but AdMob’s network of advertisers helps us to get the best price for our inventory," said Rylan.
Since starting with AdMob and testing new ad networks and ad formats, the ShopSavvy team has seen big impacts on their bottom line. "We’ve integrated interstitial ads into the core flow of the app and have seen CPMs as high as $200, which is pretty incredible," Jake explains. "We’re also big fans of Open Bidding, because it not only increased our earnings by about 30% immediately, but also gave us more transparency compared to the old waterfall approach."
Now that the app has strong adoption, Jake and Rylan stay motivated by the thought of helping their customers. "Working on ShopSavvy is super rewarding because I know I’m actually helping people," Jake says. "We’ll get emails from users saying they used our app to save $100 on a price match. Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money, so being able to create an app that I know helps families like mine is incredibly meaningful."