The author of the YouTube channel "The Noland Thoughts of an IT Specialist" shared his experience of making money on mobile applications with the AliExpress affiliate program. He mastered the skills of app development on his own and earned over $40 000. Unfortunately, after 2 years, his applications were banned on Google Play. What app features helped to make apps appealing to users and why were apps banned?
The Show-Case Evolution
Initially, Sergey got interested in mobile app development more than 2 years ago — before that time he made money on websites. Although he had previous experience in C# programming, he had to master Java to be capable of self-guided app development and to get fully immersed in the process. Not to waste time on long-drawn courses, Sergey found specialists and mastered practical skills of creating mobile applications.
Sergey selected the e-Commerce niche and decided to monetize apps via the AliExpress affiliate program. His first application in this niche was a showcase of goods from the Chinese platform — the app displayed the best offers. The app received data from AliExpress in JSON format, including images, descriptions, prices, reviews, and so on.
The disadvantage for users was in the fact that a user could not sort products into categories; instead, various products were shown as "Best Products" and selected according to unknown criteria. All products were displayed as a never-ending list. During 2 months the project made only $100 in profit and was banned by Google Play later. As Sergey explained, the reason was in the sub-quality of the application.
Even though the first app went down in flames, it was clear that this model allows earning money. Hence, Sergey began developing a new, more complex application for parsing products from AliExpress. Initially, it was called "AliExpress products in Russian" but later, due to brand issues, the name was changed to "Aligram". The app was localized for the Russian market (so all screenshots are in Russian).
The new app offered multiple useful features:
Generally, the benefit of the app was in getting data from AliExpress and displaying it in a more comfortable and well-arranged way.
Income, Promotion, and Bans
At various stages, the application made a net profit from $1 000 to $1 800 a month. Sergey promoted the app via integration SDK from Facebook and Google, as well as through Cheetah Mobile. Besides, he continuously worked with rates and reviews (the app had 1 500 reviews).
Data parsing was carried out via proxy because, according to Sergey, AliExpress was not happy to experiment with the platform's data. Either way, he couldn’t avoid problems with Google, though.
The application was banned by Google Play several times. For the most part, Google didn’t like references to the AliExpress brand in the app’s name. After all references to AliExpress had been removed, the app was active again. Despite all Sergey’s exertions, Google banned the app at the end of 2019, pointing at the sub-quality of the application.
Later Sergey continued working on the second application for the AliExpress affiliate program; he began creating the second app concurrently with Aligram. The difference was that the second app received data not directly from AliExpress but through Sergey’s website. In the case of Aligram, the webmaster disliked that he couldn’t get high-quality images, detailed product descriptions, and reviews via API AliExpress.
He found the solution in the form of a website with unique descriptions written by Russian-speaking writers. Such an app was more useful for the end-user since it was possible to search and choose products based on their true qualities, and not on descriptions based on twisted-beyond-recognition machine translation. Yet, Google blocked this application after a while too.
All-in-all, Sergey worked with mobile apps for the AliExpress affiliate program for two years. During this period, his net revenue was more than $40 000.
Sergey created nothing new — actually, he simply streamlined the purchasing process on AliExpress. As a result, being an absolute beginner in mobile app development, he earned up to $1 800 a month. Yet still, his experience shows that you need to be cautious with trademarks and API because all funds invested into app development can burn before the app pays off.