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Using browser extensions to enter the market

webdev, startup, management

Let’s face it. Browser extensions are underrated. We’ve all tried many of them and probably still have some installed on our browser. If you’ve been out there on the web for a while you can think probably of at least one browser extension that you love or that made it big time in the market. However, not many devs are considering an extension-first strategy.

Point is that when it comes to building and shipping new consumer software, browser extension can be an unbelievably powerful go-to-market channel. Though it may not be the best market entry strategy for every product (or MVP) it is very useful if you care about at least one of the following options:

You want to meet users in the perfect context

Grammarly helps people to write correctly and writing can happen almost on every platform. Having a browser extension that appears in every text field while you start typing simply makes sense. They implemented it as a browser extension (among other things) and the magic simply happens instantly.

Honey is another absurdly prominent best practice. They hijack e-commerce sites to display different coupons and promotions right when and where you need them. Did I ever forget that I have a coupon for something? Sure. Will I ever need to memorize such things again? No way. Honey meets me exactly the in right context, a capability that browser extensions easily provide.

Raindrop.io for bookmarking essentially everything. Well… you got it already.

You want short iterations to reach product-market-fit

One of the hardest things about building consumer software is that it is tough to acquire users, let alone retain them. Browser extensions are great, especially in terms of increasing usage frequency (the number of times your users meet your product in a given timeframe). Why should I even care about it?

Let’s think about extensions that take over the new tab. Examples include Momentum, Infinity, daily.dev, and more. The pros are that once users let you occupy their new tab you get them to try your product ON STEROIDS. That’s a very special moment for you as a developer. It is the ultimate test to see if your product delivers the value it promised in the store.

However, this time it’s different. It is not a normal website that you visit and either forget (forever) or visit again sometime else. You are competing over their NEW TAB. A user’s new tab is probably the most exclusive, prime “real-estate” on the entire internet. A user will see their new tab between 10-15 times a day on average (for devs its even more… can reach to hundreds per day). Now you need to delight them every single time. Tough task for tough founders. If you can make it, you’re definitely doing something right.

You want the right kind of early adopters

Some users won’t like it that you are forcing them to install an extension. That’s fine in the beginning and you shouldn’t be concerned about it too much. You want those early adopters that are so passionate about what you’re doing that they are willing to replace their new tab with your web app. Those early adopters will help you the most.

What about all the rest? Don’t worry, if they like what you’re doing, they will come back once you scale your product to a more mainstream platform.

So what’s the downside?

Browser extensions are great to optimize for user experience and retention. Growth is a different story. User acquisition costs are pretty high for extension users.

It’s quite challenging to generate network effects and virality through browser extensions. Although the extension can be your main platform, you would usually need to think carefully about finding additional growth channels to support it.

If your service is not targeted for a minimum weekly usage frequency, browser extensions are probably not for you. Simply too intense.

Wrap up

  • Extensions are particularly powerful if you have a context-sensitive product
  • Extensions allow you to easily go through an ultimate test of your value proposition
  • Extensions are a great place to find early adopters and filter the rest
  • Extensions are a great way to enter the market

Would love to hear your thoughts ❤️


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