At this point, nearly every company can make an app of some kind — but not everyone can make money off it. There are several different strategies for mobile app monetization, but shockingly enough, simply charging money for it is probably the worst one.
It wasn’t that long ago that the conventional wisdom about apps said that, if you didn’t charge your users for it, you’d make virtually nothing from it. But ironically, current trends are pointing to the opposite — it seems like that price tag you’re putting on your mobile app might as well be a toe tag.
As the market for smartphone applications gets bigger and bigger, users are becoming more and more discriminating in their tastes. In 2013, Mashable reported that the average American smartphone user had an astounding 33 apps sitting on their home screen, and it’s likely that the number is only getting higher.
While that might seem encouraging to developers now, when you think about the fact that there were 1.4 million apps on the Google Play store as of last February, you wonder how good of a chance your own app has in such a market, according to Business Insider.
So as the competition heats up, even a big brand name isn’t enough to ensure you turn a profit on your app monetization model. And charging customers before they even get to use your app just adds another big obstacle between you and your mobile audiences.
How to Monetize
Generally, developers can choose between three app monetization strategies for their product: charging a one-time download fee, using in-app advertising, or offering in-app purchases.
In-app advertising can sometimes offer a small boon, but only in some markets. For instance, it’s great for mobile games because the people playing them are used to mindlessly clicking buttons — what’s one more thumb stroke to push away a pop-up?
Still, in most situations, using irritating advertisements is only going to delay users from accomplishing their end goals. Since apps are meant to have utility, that’s counterproductive to your brand’s goals, as well.
In-app purchases are always going to make you the most money, and when you think about it, it’s fairly obvious why that is. A good app should enhance the services your company already offers, making it easier for customers to spend more money more often. If your app already does that, what do you need that extra 99 cents for?
Apps That Are Doing it Right
If you’re like 75% of America, there’s a Walgreens pharmacy within five miles of your home. To make the most of their presence, the company enables users to search their local store for the products that are available from within the app — that way, Walgreens will always be the first place they check.
The app also lets you scan your pill bottle’s barcode to refill a prescription, effectively eliminating that dreaded wait at the pharmacy.
Another innovative use of the platform comes from Ikea, which launched an app last year that featured their entire Autumn catalog. But what made the app more than just a handy reference was its use of augmented reality.
Potential customers could actually use their phones to project how a certain piece of furniture would fit in a given space — knowing how cumbersome furniture shopping and assembly can be, it’s a huge convenience to know you’re not buying anything you won’t be able to use.
Making money in the mobile market should be a creative task, and charging to download is about the least creative thing you can do. Get to know your customers, what they want, and how an app can make it easier for them.
Once you’ve done that, the app doesn’t have to work to bring your company value, and that’s because customers will see a new kind of value in your company.