Recently, the Clockwise Software team developed a marketplace project from scratch - an Uber for babysitters. And now we have some meaningful insights worth sharing. If you’re about to create your own nanny app - this article will be your comprehensive how-to guide.
Also, check out our case study on developing Toddy - an application that connects parents and babysitters.
So, you have an idea for a babysitter app like Uber, what’s next?
Step 1. Research the market for babysitting apps
You may want to start the development process ASAP. But you don’t really know the market you are going to enter. First, you need to find out more about your competitors.
Create a list of companies that already deliver services similar to those your future startup will offer. Define local businesses, international companies, and niche products. Here’s why this is important:
- You research the market demand
If there is only one local solution with a dozen users, this probably means that there’s no actual need for such a service in your region. However, poor marketing may also be a reason for this.
- You understand the essentials of the industry
You’ll become familiar with the basic features each babysitting app should have, find out more about available marketplace business models and think of possible partnerships. Market research takes you closer to creating your startup busines plan.
- You know how to stand out
Most nanny apps are similar. So why would a client choose your platform? Knowing what others have to offer makes it easier for you to outplay them. Attract clients with special deals and unique services.
First of all, define the niche for your future product. Are you helping people find full-time nannies, or are you focusing on “Uber babysitting” - providing a database of on-demand sitters that are available at the last minute?
Depending on this choice, search for available platforms in your niche. Here are a few of the on-demand apps for babysitters we have analyzed in our research:
This is the biggest babysitting platform available in the US and 20 countries, mostly in Western Europe. Parents can post a job for free. Along with the timeframe, they can also include some additional work for the sitter, such as help with homework or dog walking. Also, it’s possible to filter nannies according to their education, skills, and experience. The job posting, chat, payments, etc. occur in the mobile app for Care.com (available both for iOS and Android).
Helpr targets working parents. They promise to find you a sitter in less than three hours. The company also regularly screens babysitters, including in-person interviews, ID verification, reference checks, etc. This means that only the best and most reliable service providers make it through. Helpr is also available as a mobile babysitter app on iPhones and Android smartphones.
The story of Zūm started in San-Francisco. The startup offers transportation and childcare services. What does it look like? A Zūmer can pick up your kid from school and bring her to a piano class and then bring her home and stay until you or your spouse is back from work. The platform assigns no more than 6 Zūmers to a family to avoid having new people pick up the kid from school each day. The schedule is combined so that there’s always someone from the family’s assigned sitters available to contact.
As you can see, each of the above-described companies has something special. And narrow targeting is one of the key reasons why these companies are successful. They stand out. And you should too. So here is what you should do next:
Step 2. Define what makes your babysitting app like Uber unique
Hundreds of companies have positioned themselves as “uber for babysitters”. Each of them has a unique strength.
Care.com has the largest base of babysitters.
Helpr targets working parents and works only with proven sitters.
Zūm provides childcare and transportation.
When working on a new marketplace for babysitters, Toddy, we identified two unique advantages of the service. First, we were primarily working for the Australian market, where the competition was relatively low. To beat the rest, Toddy has introduced a unique system called the circle of trust.
The application requests access to your social media accounts (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter) and list of contacts. When you browse the app looking for a babysitter, you can see all the contacts you share with this person. This enables you to contact your friend directly and ask for their personal opinion about this person you consider as a babysitter. Of course, there are also real reviews from other parents this sitter has worked for.
What will your strength be?
You have to decide what your competitive advantage will be.
Offering something extra, something that your competitors don’t have may be your path to stable orders.
What can these extra services be?
- Bilingual babysitters, who can teach a child a second language
- Male babysitters
- Babysitters that can cook for the child
- Grannies “for rent”
Unique app features
- Babysitter sharing (collaborate with other parents in your neighborhood)
- Real-time photos or video streaming
If some international solutions still aren’t available in your city or country, you can adapt the concept of a babysitting app like Uber to your market. In some regions, you’re lucky since there is no actual competition. On the contrary, you have no successful example and no one to chase. So, you have to learn from your own mistakes.
Anyway, never copy successful business models. Find your unique strength and go for it.
Step 3. Find the right tech team
This chapter is not about promoting our own services. It’s about the importance of partnering with the right people, which is half of your future success.
Building a marketplace is technically difficult. You won’t make it far with just basic knowledge of frontend development. There are many things to consider, and many professionals you will have to work with. You’ll need a team.
Business analysts, designers, frontend developers, backend developers, quality assurance engineers, project managers – you’ll need them all if you are serious about your intention to build a babysitting app and make it your business.
Where can you get all these people? There are two options:
- You hire freelancers and manage their work by yourself.
- You outsource your babysitter app development and just overview the process.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
For example, working with freelancers is cheaper but they are less reliable. What will you do if one of your backend gurus just stops answering on Skype? This happens quite often.
Besides, if you hire all these people as freelancers, you’ll spend 24 hours a day controlling and revising their work. You won’t have time for a good sleep, so don’t even think about some strategic job. You could also hire a freelance project manager, but you have to make sure that this person is a) reliable, and b) completely understands your intentions.
Software outsourcing can make the life of a startup founder a bit easier. In this case, you’ll assign the job to a whole competent team. You won’t spend days revising their work, but a regular call is a must to sync all these processes. But there is risk too. You may be lured by low rates and find your babysitting app in the hands of low-skilled developers. To avoid the main mistakes, check out our article about mobile app development outsourcing.
The good news: While your app is in development, you can work on strategic questions, partnerships, marketing, etc. Software development outsourcing gives you time for more important things.
Step 4. Decide what MVP features you want
You should already be aware of the concept of a minimum viable product (if not, go through this article on MVP).
According to the MVP concept, you have to decide which features on your babysitting app are a high priority and put the rest into the waiting list. This is done with one clear aim: to develop the application and release it in the shortest possible time and with the least amount of expenses.
Next, you’ll estimate the market response, listen to your users and decide whether it‘s worth it to keep investing in this business or not. Failing early may prevent future debt.
If your babysitting app gets positive reviews - good news! You can now move on and develop a full-featured application.
How do you decide what belongs in a marketplace MVP?
The less, the better. Take your features list and reject features until there’s nothing more to reject.
You should have only basic functionality (including the unique feature that is your competitive advantage).
Features to include in an MVP
- Social sign in
Personal profiles are a must for a marketplace. However, you will make the life of your users much easier by enabling social sign in. Then they don’t have to fill out every field. And your tech team can use a ready solution for social sign-in, which saves you time and money.
Marketplaces are based on trust. And you can grow this trust by enabling ratings and recommendations.
Let your users discuss the details in a chat. Moreover, there are easy ready-made solutions for this so you don’t have to spend weeks building a custom chat.
- Push Notification
When talking about an on-demand app for babysitters, push notifications are essential. Nannies should be notified about the new request and parents need a timely acceptance notification.
Uber babysitting works when both parents and the Uber nanny live in the same neighborhood. Geolocation enables the right people to be matched quickly.
- Search and filters
When a client knows exactly what he is looking for, filters can save him time and efforts. In the case of a babysitting app, parents usually have certain criteria for the babysitter in their mind. Let them filter the offers to get the job done quickly.
- In-app payments
Marketplaces usually provide escrow payments functionality. This means that the client is charged upfront, but the service provider receives the money only when his work is done properly. Enabling such payments wins you more trust.
Depending on your initial idea, you can remove features from this list or add unique functionalities, which will make you stand out from the apps alike.
Development approaches to build a babysitting app MVP
When you know what to develop, it is time to decide how to develop it.
First of all, choose one of these three approaches:
- Native app development
Applications are developed specifically for a target platform (usually iOS and Android). These apps offer flawless performance but are quite expensive.
- Web app development
Web apps can be run in any browser on any device. They are cheap, but the performance is also far from perfect. However, sometimes a web app is just enough to test a concept quickly.
- Cross-platform app development
Cross-platform apps are somewhere in-between. They are much cheaper than native apps but offer high-level experience.
This short description is definitely not enough to make a wise choice. You should carefully read about the main pros and cons of native, hybrid and web apps.
The native approach is just too expensive for the MVP concept. To cut cost for your marketplace development, you should start with a cheaper alternative and move to native later on when your project starts generating stable revenue.
Step 5. Move on to advanced features
If you’ve come this far - congratulations! Unfortunately, most startups fail early due to various reasons. But a successful MVP launch and user feedback already make your project one of the few candidates for success.
Your efforts have been rewarded by extensive user feedback so you have ideas for further app development.
Which features will make into the next release?
- Calendar of availability
Before sending the request, the parents can check the nanny’s availability calendar. This greatly saves time and improves communication.
- Upload an introduction video
Videos tell much more about a person than text. Enable introduction videos to make the choice of an app nanny easier for parents.
- Live streaming video
It is always scary to leave your child with a stranger, even if this stranger has hundreds of reviews and tens of certifications. A live video may bring peace of mind.
- Profiles for kids
Enable parents to create profiles for their children telling about themselves, their hobbies, schedule, duties, etc. This will help the sitter to better understand the requirements.
- Verification of references and certifications
People tend to trust verified references more. However, verification will require more effort from your side and is usually manual. If you’re ready to provide this extra service - go for it.
- Additional services (help with homework, baths, cooking or walking a dog)
Some nannies can offer more than just babysitting. Enable parents to book additional services right in the app; this will be beneficial for both parties.
- Multiple languages support
If you live in a multi-cultural region or plan to expand abroad, you have to think of localization. However, if this is your primary feature - prioritize it and move it to the MVP bundle.
- Work time tracker
Such a tracker works well when it comes to hourly pay. It helps to exactly track how much time the babysitter spent working and how much they should be paid.
You definitely have ideas for tens of other features and this is great. It’s important not to chase the number and properly prioritize. Also, constantly asking your users about their opinion will greatly help you when choosing which feature to develop in the next sprint.
Lessons learned from developing an Uber for babysitters
Knowing the theory is good, but there are some insights you get only after making a few mistakes on your own.
When building Toddy, there were some problems we had to overcome quickly. These are lessons we’ve learned:
Lesson 1. When building a marketplace app, learn about both of your target audiences.
Toddy is a hybrid application built with Ionic. We started building an app for iOS first, which seemed logical for the team. After launching the application, we collected dozens of parents profiles. But babysitters didn’t sign up.
Would you guess the reason? Most of the potential babysitters were students with limited income using budget Android-based smartphones. By focusing on iOS app development, we haven’t even given them a chance to start working on our platform.
This problem was quickly solved since hybrid app development enabled us to reuse much of the code. So, the Toddy Android app launched three months later and opened the door to many babysitters that still work within the platform.
Lesson 2. Think about possible collaborations in advance.
When starting to work on a project, we were quite sure that our potential nannies were individuals. Later, it turned out that babysitting agencies were also interested in joining the platform.
We had to quickly develop functionality for agencies. This move enabled the application to experience significant growth.
Lesson 3. When hiring remote teams, ensure that you have a good project manager.
Basically, there were three teams in different time zones working on the same project. We were in danger of miscommunication, missed deadlines and, as a result, poor quality for the final app. However, employing a skilled project manager enabled us to avoid this problem.
When deciding to outsource your app, choose a contractor that can provide A-Z product development. If you have to work with distributed teams for some reason, don’t neglect the role of the project manager. This professional will make sure that the process is smooth, deadlines are met and the budget is spent correctly.
There are dozens of apps that call themselves Uber for babysitters. However, this doesn’t mean that the market is overheated. Unique ideas are always appreciated!
In addition, starting a babysitting platform in a region where this type of business isn’t present yet is a good idea as well.
We hope that this guide based on our real experience with building a babysitting app helped you to create your own development plan.