January has been for me the month of a very bad idea regarding iPhone Apps : I decided to make a sale. Here's a report of how things have been doing before you decide to do the same stupid thing. Of course your mileage may vary, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.
How things were going before
Well December and beginning of January were reeeaaaallyyyy slow. November was a great month, as you can see from that graph estimating weekly income. I don't know why, but for me it was slow. Maybe the weak economy (but frankly I doubt, seeing the number of iPhones sold here in France), maybe the holiday season, maybe my attempt at making less updates.
I was quite unhappy wih two things : first of all the comments and ratings of my first and most important application, TrackMe. As I said before, the comments on some stores are from the very early days of the app, and although I admit I've been a bit too fast to release, the version that was on the AppStore end of september was good, working flawlessly and really comparable to other competing apps (some of which much more expensive). And the app is better than the free or low price apps it is compared to. Really better, like 2.49 euros better (that's 2.99 USD).
Second thing I was unhappy about : I had taken more time to polish and improve another app, a Location Recorder, that was published on the AppStore on the 23rd of december. And sales on this new app were really slow, even nonexistent. Most of all, there were almost no comments on it. I didn't want the app to become a stone in the bottom of the app ocean.
What I did
It's been a strange decision making process. Absence of knowledge has led it, for the most part. To start, you must know that january is the month of sales in France. So on January, 7 the sale period was opened for all retail outlets. I decided to open the sale too.
My goal was as I said before to give a little bump to unit sales, and be better at estimating the good price : the price at which you make more money, despite selling for a lower price. My second goal was to get a better exposure. New comments. I hate the comments I see in some store, did I say that already? Then I wanted to reach higher and show people how much better I was than competitors : after all we're all chasing after glory and reconnaissance.
Of course, I didn't reach any of my goals. As I read there, there are lessons to be learned, just don't do it the hard way. Hard for your bottom line.
Well here is the chart you've been waiting for that dissects what happenend in the last 4 weeks :
The day I started the sale is on January, 7 2009. You can see a peak there, and you can see a really better number of unit sales for TrackMe for the end of the month. But hey, look at the money : I have been making much less money.
I've had an update on January 16, that also helped sales (you know you can have a little help and come back to the first page when updating, yes you know, the developer of pcalc told you how). That was, as usual the real helper in unit sales.
Then last week of january I had this crazy idea : let's try free, to see. See what? see if people like the app, if you can at last get some nice comments, etc. So I did, for TrackMe only.
Here's the story of updates and price changes of that app.
Free == Shit
Pardon my french, I am. I don't like 'free' stuff. I like nice stuff that people have spent some time on, I like real support where people spend time, I love indie developers : Coda, MarsEdit, Snapz Pro, Mate, BBEdit, Screenflow, Super Duper, Fission & Audio Hijack etc etc.
I wasn't sure I liked free apps downloaders on the iPhone. On my iPhone, I don't have crackulous, but apps such as fastlane, instaviz, burnball (great game), obama!, things, Dakslide (formerly know as Exposure) Premium. I have the occasional free app, but well, except for really useful NetNewswire happiness, I don't use them. So I buy apps.
Well, when my app became free, the unit sales rose in one day from 30ish to 1200. Still not the figures you'd get from a game app, but reasonable. But who are these guys? Where were they before? Were they people who couldn't afford to pay the app when it was 0.99 USD? Was a student who had trouble buying such an app because of the economic downturn (I read that from a fellow developer)?
So, here is the graph of that stupid week:
How to make no profit, kill sales and attract people that would anyway never buy your app....
Lessons learned, well..., the hard way
- Pricing is tough, and having a very low market makes it even tougher
- Free is evil : free 'buyers' don't want your app, they want free and that's a relationship where you're gonoing to loose.
- Going from paying to free and back is like shooting a bullet in your feet while tying a rope to hang yourself.
- Updates are nice, having a real marketing is better. Playing with price is worthless, except for the top 10 apps on the AppStore.
I am now looking for better strategies to reach the goals I had before, and better strategies for my next apps. I'm thinking about a low, short introductory price to try to makes sales take off, and then back to regular price. When I say short, I mean short. 1 or 2 days.
I'm thinking also about a new model for updates : the more you add in an update, the more expensive the app should get. It's a way to reward even more the user, it values more the work you've done, and it should increase the profits (even if sales are a bit lower).
Commetns are certainly welcome. If you want to continue the discussion more privately, use my email a gmail.com , cgodefroy, or come by on twitter