On the back of funding, mobile going-out app YPlan has come of age in 2014, after expanding into three major US cities and acting as official app for high-profile events like Edinburgh and the just-ending London iTunes festivals. Co-founder Viktoras Jucikas reflects.
YPlan came about as a simple answer to a simple question “what shall I do tonight?”. My co-founder, Rytis Vitkauskas, and I had left our jobs in London in mid-2012 to spend a month travelling around California visiting friends and old co-workers at Google, Skype and Dropbox, while working on business ideas.
Sofa surfing our way through California, we were repeatedly stumped with ideas for what to do that night and had no way of browsing and booking last-minute events on the go. Thus, YPlan was born.
We wanted to create something that would enable us to enjoy the best of whichever city we happened to be in at the drop of a hat, and which, . like most of the best things, you hear about them via a word-of-mouth recommendation.
Whether that be New York, London, San Francisco, Las Vegas or Edinburgh, we have assembled a group of local experts who source and cherry-pick a refined list of the coolest and most exclusive events going on that night or up to a week in advance, including everything from food tastings, gigs and theatre shows.
We’re super picky about what ends up on the app. It isn’t just a platform through which we can drive ticket sales; it’s also about giving people a great time whether they are a tourist or a permanent resident in a particular city.
Our data shows that 90% of people wouldn’t have gone to a given event if they hadn’t booked it through YPlan. That element of discovery and enjoyment is key to how we have expanded. Stephen Fry (7.5million followers) tweeted about us in December 2012 and, we believe that social moments like these and recommendations have put us on the map – and helped us remain there.
We have made the app social in every sense – easy sign in via your Facebook instantly connects you with other friends who are users. You can see which friends have booked and which events they’d recommend. We’ve had over 1 million global downloads worldwide since launch, and it’s precisely this kind of word-of-mouth recommendation that has continued to drive growth throughout the five cities that we’re live in.
Working with event partners has also helped to drive awareness of the app. In London alone we work with 800 venues, pop-ups, producers and promoters, all of who bring in a network of fans who might not have bumped into us before.
This is the second year we’ve partnered with Apple on the festival and as with 2013, we’ve seen a significant boost in discussion of the app. On Twitter, for instance we received over 1,000 tweets.
For the first time this year we’ve also launched a sizeable above-the-line advertising campaign on London’s buses, tubes and taxis, looking to cement our reputation as London’s go-to entertainment app, at the same time as introducing our brand to new users clamouring to see Kylie, Pharrell, Sam Smith and Calvin Harris amongst others.
It’s quite a change from our early beta days when Rytis and I often had to run around London delivering tickets by hand to the first users.
The quality of events that we source is strong and as such we’ve seen high retention rates throughout the year – 70% of those who open the app are return users. Retention is our top priority – we want people to hear about YPlan through word-of-mouth from friends, colleagues and family.
Those kind of recommendations carry significant weight, and that kind of organic growth is what drives widespread adoption. Acquiring new users is pointless if you’re not able to retain them, and you can only do that if you’re constantly looking for ways to improve your product.
If someone starts using a service, and for whatever reason don’t have an enjoyable experience throughout the entire user journey, then it’s extremely difficult to get them back. Only by constantly improving your offering are you going to achieve sustainable growth for the business.
This summer, we completely overhauled the app, replacing our vertical scroll list with a lattice of specially curated grids grouped to reflect event priority and, eventually, the specific interests of that particular user.
‘Collections’ significantly strengthens our curated offering, presenting YPlanners with a wealth of hand-picked events grouped into themes (such as music, film or cabaret), neighbourhoods (Battersea or Soho), special occasions (Valentine’s Day or Halloween) and recommendations (YPlan Unlocked events, VIP experiences or app exclusives) among others.
For us at YPlan, growth is measured not just in terms of downloads and ticket sales, but through social media engagement and repeat use. It is proof to us that we have a product that delivers and continues to be needed.