Tasting a Slice of the Big Time – Buy Me a Pie! Interview

Buy Me a Pie! is one of the most prolific grocery shopping apps on the market - fulfilling such a simple need with above and beyond top service. We had the chance to speak with the team's QA Specialist Ekaterina Kameniuk about the story behind Buy Me a Pie!, the benefits of being an agile development team, and working as a Silicon Valley-style startup all the way in Russia.

Appolicious: How did it feel when Buy Me a Pie! became big? The little grocery shopping app that could, suddenly a hit. That must have been a surreal experience.

Ekaterina K.: Buy Me a Pie! was our first mobile product created for the whole world. Since the beginning we were sure that we are on the right way, because we solve a relevant problem for most of families – to simplify shopping. It didn’t become popular in a clap, it required a lot of efforts and experiments. Till now we think that there is a huge audience that is going to know about the app and to fall in love with it.

APP: What do you feel are the core principles to the Buy Me a Pie! team’s success? How has SCRUM benefited your team?

EK: Focus on the product became one of our core principles. We have refused development of other products and all our forces were focused on Buy Me a Pie!. We have decided that we would make the best shopping list in the world. Simple and comfortable. And all team strives for this goal. No feature can be taken in development if it complicates the use of the app. And SCRUM helps us with it: regular meetings, planning and discussion of results influence the best way on both development process and on all product in general – any member of the team can affect Buy Me a Pie!. We don’t adhere very strictly to all canons of SCRUM, but we have taken the key principles as a basis and we use them for our requirements.

APP: Were there any surprises while developing Buy Me a Pie!?

EK: There are always surprises, and we are ready for them. We understand very well that we should maintain the highest quality for the user and follow all trends set by the platform among other. For example, when Apple released the Watch we were happy because it offers additional comfort to our users – rare app is so much appropriate for the Watch. You are in a shop with a basket/cart and you don’t need to get your phone from the pocket – you just look at your wrist and you buy everything that you need. Fantastic! But we had not just to create new app for the Watch, but also to rewrite a lot of things in the current one in order to make changes on the Watch be instantaneously displayed on the phone as well and generally on all devices of all clients using this list. Watch OS 2 made us change again internal operation of the app. Or, for example, we will never forget that large volume of work we did moving to a new for us monetization model – Freemium. Sure, it wasn’t a surprise but a necessity: it was more user-friendly. At that time we gave to users of the free version almost everything that was earlier paid. Synchronization, increase of the number of lists, possibility to share separate lists or the content of the entire account with anyone. And we see positive feedback – people have used our app for years!

APP: The Buy Me a Pie! team brings to mind the agile developers of Silicon Valley, but is based out of Ulyanovsk, Russia. What’s it like as a modern tech company in Eastern Europe?

EK: Modern technologies allow to be among leaders of the mobile market no matter where your geographical location is. Our professionals aren’t worse than Silicon Valley’s ones, we are sure. It’s surprising how many well-known products were born here, in Russia and in Ulyanovsk in particular. We feel as significant players in the field and we successfully work with international partners, including from States, offering special conditions to American users.

APP: Utility apps are a competitive market, so how does the team stay ahead of the competition?

EK: A practical and effective application is certainly a basis. We listen to our users, try to understand their needs and to satisfy them in the simplest way.

APP: On top of the Buy Me a Pie! app, your team runs a lifestyle blog with recipes, exercise, and tech pieces. What inspired this branch off from the main app, and would your team ever consider expanding into new apps along similar subjects?

EK: We are inspired by our users. We see how they create their meal plan while making their shopping lists. Many of them like cooking and they add products directly from recipes and we do it also! In the nearest future it will become even more practical – the new app version and iOS 11 will allow to create lists directly from the recipe. Brilliant! At the beginning we posted interesting recipes in the blog and gradually it grew into something big and independent. We even created a bot in a messenger (http://m.me/dinnerideasbot) that helps us to find the best recipes on the Internet and uses them to create shopping lists. At present we are focused on improving Buy me a Pie! and don’t plan to develop any similar apps.

APP: What are some of the team’s favorite memories from working on Buy Me a Pie! ?

EK: The most pleasant thing is warm responses from our users. We even post some of them on the app screenshots in iTunes. One of the most unusual working moments is when all the team has left for a while the severe winter and went to work to a tropical island. We were living, working and having a rest all together. Very cool, unusual, exciting and productive experience at the same time.

APP: What would you say is the most important lesson the team has learned, creating and maintaining Buy Me a Pie! ?

EK: Probably the lesson is: it is possible to make a product, useful to millions of people, out of a small utility and at first it seems quite easy. But behind an externally simple product there is a huge work, tens of experiments, failures, search of new decisions. And we are glad that we succeed. We succeed to make people a little happier.

APP: What should Buy Me a Pie! users keep an eye out for in the near future? Any exciting new updates on the horizon?

EK: Oh, yes. Our users will get the largest update lately very soon! We have tried very much to make our app even more easy. And new means of iOS 11 certainly help us with it! So, for example it will be possible to add products via Siri, without opening the app. It is super practical. It will be more simply and quicker to make a list – smart hints will remind what products the user buys together. It will allow not just to accelerate the composition of the list, but also will remind what you could forget. There will be an opportunity to pin important lists on top that is important when you have many. Such pleasant trifles allowing to exclude some casual actions in the list will be added. Complication on the watch will allow to have the list ready at hand. Work with recipes will become even more comfortable on iPad – just drag ingredients into the app and voila – the list is ready! We are sure, users will highly appreciate our work. We have something to be proud of!

For more about Buy Me a Pie!, be sure to check out the links below to try out the app.

Developer: Skript, LLC
Price: $24.99
Elijah Beahm: Elijah is a man who can't stop talking about games, geeky things, and to the chagrin of his colleagues, horrible puns. He's been working as a game journalist for several years now, and in addition to Appolicious, His other work can be found at GameCritics.com, I Need Diverse Games, and The Unabridged Gamer on YouTube. When not reviewing games, you'll probably find him ranting on Twitter, writing, or replaying Dead Space 2 for the zillionth time.