3 things to do as part of your first-time release strategy for fintech apps

Fintech is one of the fastest-growing mobile app categories in the U.S. To stand a chance as a fintech startup, you need to make sure that your fintech app delivers a top-notch experience. Read about the three main things you need to do to get there!

Fintech is one of the fastest-growing mobile app categories in the U.S. Right now, with a forecasted compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25%, it’s safe to say that more fintech apps will continue to emerge and competition will become fiercer.

To stand a chance as a fintech startup, you need to make sure that your fintech app delivers a top-notch experience. This includes fast loading times, minimal service downtime, reduced percentage of failed transactions, and a generally seamless user experience. Alongside development and design efforts, an effective first-time release strategy helps you get it right.

In a previous article, we covered some generic release strategy tips for mobile apps. However, the specific environment of fintech introduces additional challenges — which means you’ll need some extra release measures. So, before you deploy your new fintech app, here are three things you should do as part of your release checklist:

1. Set up observability tools

Testing increases your confidence about how your app will behave when it gets to production, but observability tells you how it is actually behaving in production.

In their guide to achieving observability, Honeycomb defines observability as the ability to ask arbitrary questions about your environment without having to know ahead of time what you wanted to ask. In simpler terms, observability is having visibility into the underlying factors of a software application.

No matter how thorough your development and testing teams are, you may discover some elusive errors once your app is launched. The observability provides the visibility that eliminates the guesswork, allowing you to quickly identify and solve errors before they have an impact on app usage or lead to churn. It also helps you understand why particular errors occur, so you can prevent them in the future.

The pillars of observability: logs, metrics, and traces

To gain observability into your system, you need insights from logs, metrics, and traces. It’s important for your observability stack to incorporate all three because, when combined, these pillars make a system observable to the highest degree.

  • Logs: Logs are event records from which useful information can be extracted, and events are actions that happen in applications (e.g., a user logs in, a browser requests a page, an API call is made, or an exception is thrown). To decide what to log and what not to, ask yourself: “What are the most important processes of this app? and what features will my users care about the most? ” Start with the essentials, then iterate as you go, removing or adding fields as needed.
  • Metrics: Metrics are numerical measurements aggregated over time that can help you understand what normal is for your systems, so you can easily identify abnormal. Google SRE recommends four golden signals to start measuring as metrics, namely: latency, traffic, errors, and saturation. Setting these up gives you fair coverage of your system’s performance.
  • Traces: Traces track the path of a request through your application to help you understand how your systems behave. A trace tracks a request from the moment it enters your system (frontend, API, job queue), throughout its lifecycle, to the moment it ends.

How to choose your observability tools

There are several observability tooling options available — both open source and managed. Managed tools are considered easier to use than their open-source or DIY alternatives because they require less maintenance, which is really helpful for smaller teams.

Some popular observability tools are Loggly or Logentries for logging and alerting, Datadog for performance metric monitoring, PagerDuty for incident response and escalation, and Honeycomb, which is an all-around observability platform provider.

Ideally, whatever tools you choose should provide a unified view of logs, metrics, and traces, so you don’t have to switch contexts between different tools. This will make it easier for you to understand and solve problems faster.

When choosing tools, go for tools that are:

  1. Flexible. So you can add additional context as needed.
  2. Transparently priced. So you can correctly estimate the costs before you start using it.
  3. AI- and machine-learning powered. That way, it can automate your workflows and also be able to automatically detect anomalies in your services, i.e., the “unknown unknowns.”
Read our case study about Dojo by Paymentsense

2. Beta test with real users

Beta testing is the process of having a sampling of a product’s intended audience try the product out. It enables the mobile team to evaluate the overall app quality, usability, and functionality from the perspective of users, allowing them to discover defects that would otherwise go undetected due to creator bias.

Since fintech app users are especially unforgiving when it comes to user experience, there’s no room for mistakes. Therefore, it’s critical that you beta test your app before releasing it to the public. Continuous and internal testing can help you find and fix surface or obvious bugs and glitches. However, they cannot replicate every possible configuration, test query, or bug that could possibly occur when real-life users make use of your app.

To get beta testing in motion, first, you need to find beta testers and also decide on what platform you’ll be using to coordinate the beta testing program. Ideally, this platform should make it easy for you to set up an onboarding process as well as an efficient pipeline for feedback collection.

How to find and manage beta testers

You can find beta testers from various sources such as actual customers and partners, Twitter, BetaTesters.io, BetaFamily, Betabound, or Product Hunt. When scouting for potential beta testers, here are some tips to keep in mind to help you make the most of it:

  • Decide on a number of testers beforehand. Only one out of every five testers you get is really going to test your app. Pick too low, and you won’t have much feedback to work with; pick too high, and you’ll be needing a helping hand to effectively monitor feedback. In general, go for a number that is within your customer base. For example, if you’ve signed up three to four million customers (or more), then you need thousands of beta testers. However, if your app is a super-niche fintech app with an estimated 40–50 monthly active users, then five or six solid beta testers would be fine.
  • Diversify your testing pool. The more diverse your beta testers are, the better the feedback you receive will be. This diversity can be anything from geolocation to device specs to demographics, etc.
  • Don’t forget good testers. Good testers find genuine bugs and give honest and relevant feedback. When you notice that a few testers in your pool are doing great work, keep a record of them, reward them, and then in the future, you can call on them again and save time recreating your pool.

How to choose a beta testing platform

You can deploy your beta test builds to a variety of platforms, including official and third-party solutions. Official solutions are great, but they have platform-specific limitations and are difficult to integrate with other internal tools used within companies. 

Apple’s official beta testing platform, Testflight, only supports iOS and Apple platform apps, while Google Play Console, the official Android beta testing platform, does not support iOS apps.

If you’re going to be using a third-party platform, here are some factors to consider:

  • Support for your app’s OS
  • Provision of feedback pipelines, so your testers can easily report bugs, submit feature requests and journal
  • Team and group management features, so that specific builds can be sent to different people
  • Easy integration with tools used within your company for bug tracking (e.g., JIRA or Bugzilla)
  • Ability to communicate with beta testers (forum or chats)
  • Support for devices/platform management, so you can diversify your texting tool
  • Ability to add release notes
  • Crash reporting

Whatever beta testing platform you choose, Bitrise can help you automate the process of sending builds to your beta testing platform, so you don’t have to do it manually. Every time you merge a PR to a pre-defined branch, Bitrise will automatically upload the build to your beta testing platform.

To make things easier, Bitrise offers built-in integration with DeployGate, which lets you share your iOS and Android apps with beta testers instantly. DeployGate provides tools that make automating various tasks around beta testing seamless. With DeployGate, you can create a landing page for your testers where they can download your app without signing up for another service and get feedback from your testers through a closed forum page dedicated to your app.

Read our interview with Dama Damjanović from N26

3. Confirm compliance with necessary local regulations

Fintech compliance regulations are policies set up by governments and various entities to curb risks associated with financial transactions such as money laundering, fraud, or privacy violations. These regulations could be in the form of data security, consumer protection, anti-money laundering measures, and other security regulations.

Failure to comply with such regulations may result in legal action against your organization. Furthermore, legal action taken would also result in financial and reputational losses. While making sure your app is compliant with these regulations may feel like it’s slowing you down, being compliant allows you to build a sustainable business and increase confidence among investors and customers.

How to approach compliance

The nature of a fintech business and its resident country usually dictate which laws apply to it. In most countries, there is no central regulatory authority or law that applies to fintech, so a fintech may be subject to several regulatory authorities/laws at various levels of government. And expanding internationally could mean you need to implement additional regulations.

For example, in the U.S., there are laws like:

  • The Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA), which protects fund transferring using credit cards, ATMs, and other electronic transactions,
  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which regulates how financial organizations collect and use consumer data, and
  • The Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), which regulates anti-money laundering measures, such as cross-border transactions

Amidst all these complexities and constantly evolving laws, your best bet is to partner with a compliance firm or hire a dedicated compliance officer.

Read our case study with Wise

Generic processes won’t cut it for your fintech app — neither will generic tools

In addition to the three tips, we’ve shared for ensuring an efficient first-time release strategy for your fintech app, having a mobile-specific CI/CD tool as part of your toolset is an added advantage. Generic CI/CD tools are not optimized for the complex requirements and multiple workflows of fintech apps. They require extensive configuration and maintenance and will not offer the level of automation needed by a fast-paced team.

For example, the team behind one of the world’s most popular fintech apps, Wise (formerly TransferWise) switched to Bitrise from TeamCity. Since then, they have automated 99% of their release processes and significantly shortened their build times. This time saving allowed their developers to launch several new features that help Wise users manage their multi-currency accounts and debit cards securely and conveniently. The result? An increased number of monthly active users, more app downloads, and happier customers.

Want to experience the same? Book your Bitrise demo today.

If you'd like to learn more about building better mobile apps in the heavily regulated finance and banking space, download our latest report, Mobile product success in finance and banking, 2022 or sign up for our upcoming webinar How to win in mobile finance: A panel discussion.

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