Every app developer wants to make money off their app.
Whether yours is a standalone app or an accompaniment to a full-fledged website as a marketing tool, you want it to be a huge hit with its intended audience and bring you money in the process.
This, however, is easier said than done, not so much because there aren’t enough people willing to spend on an app, but because there are far too many me-too types of apps in a very crowded app marketplace. It can be tricky to monetize an app.
For a new app to stand out, the developers/marketers have to be clear about the following:
- What are the unique features of the app?
- Which problem/issue is it specifically addressing?
- How would it make the life of its users easier (in a way few others do)?
- Why is it preferable to other apps in the category?
- Would the target audience be likely to pay for the app? Why? (Your reasons for this will have to be solid, not wishy-washy, since this will determine if the app is a success or not.)
Once you have the answers to these questions, start by choosing a model that is most suited to the nature of the app, the features it offers, the target audience, as well as the geographical region where most of this audience is based.
All of the above will have a bearing on the monetization potential of your app, which in turn will determine the right business model for it.
Look at the competition
One of the best ways of ascertaining which business model to opt for is simply studying the competition. Study all the successful as well as not-so-successful apps in your niche. Understand the features that seem to be clicking for the users as well as those which are not. App store reviews can be of a great help in this regard. If the app is free, download it to gain a first-hand understanding of how it works and how it is monetized.
But each app is unique, or at least, you should aim to makes yours so. There is a ton you can learn from others but do not end up copying someone.
Incorporate native advertising into the app
You don’t sell anything to the users but you provide the data the users share with you to third-party publishers who then place targeted ads within the app for the concerned users.
Native/personalized advertising integrates well with the form and function of the platform and tends to engage rather than annoy users. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all do this rather seamlessly. All the biggest blogs and media publications are doing this, too.
Also, ads of products/services relevant to the users’ interests have higher chances of being accepted, or at least, tolerated. Pop-ups, random intrusive bits, and banner ads will only result in a loss of business. One Google test found that pop-ups that ask users to buy the app scare away 69% of the users!
Start free and then slowly take away what they like
Game makers have this down to an art.
They give you just enough to get you hooked, and before you realize, addicted.
And once they are convinced you cannot bring yourself to quit the app, which they are right about, they up the ante.
Now you’d have to buy a few gold coins just to proceed, or spend $0.99 to unleash the Mighty Eagle on hapless animals in Angry Birds. It’s almost cruel but is successful in making people part with their money.
All those little purchases, once you have big enough a number of active installs on your app, will amount to a big deal.
But what if yours isn’t a gaming app?
Start charging for upgraded features then. Evernote does this and so do many other apps. Photography, wallpaper and launcher apps reserve a premium experience for those who are willing to pay.
But you have to first ensure that users are thoroughly vested into the free version of the app in order to upgrade to the professional one.
Rope in the friends
Candy Crush Saga gets you to invite your Facebook friends to play, too, if you want to move to the next level without having to wait for what can feel like an interminable amount of time.
Certain e-commerce apps do this, too. They have in-built messengers, which they encourage you to invite friends over for, or ask you to create fashion looks and share them with your friends via social.
This is a good way of roping more people into the game (no pun intended!)
Offer it for free (and ad-free) for a certain period
Textra, a highly-rated text messaging app for Android, is an excellent example of this. It offers all the features of this beautiful and intelligently-designed app for free for a certain period of time. Beyond that, you have to put up with ads to continue.
Depending on the alternatives available, this may or may not work. For example, if Google’s Messenger is good enough a text messaging app for you, it could replace Textra, unless the latter offers you something which Messenger doesn’t. Incidentally, Textra does offer a lot more than what Messenger does, mainly customization abilities, but it’s up to the users to decide whether it’s worth paying for or not.
Whichever model you choose, keep in mind that you need to keep the experience pleasant for the user. Disrupting the experience could cause a user to choose not to upgrade, choose not to make in-app person or simply delete the app. If they leave nasty comments on your ratings page, you will be faced with bigger problems that could affect your app store optimization down the line.
The way an app is developed and marketed determines its success. It’s better not to ape successful apps in the market and instead bring something genuine to the table. You will have to market the app, as well as optimize if for the app stores, in order to let big numbers of people know of it.
Which are some creative ways of app monetization that you’ve come across? If you are an app owner yourself, how did you choose your monetization model, and how did it all work out for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments, our readers might benefit from your experience and let us know if you need any help deciding or developing your app model.