S is for Sell something

Or you’ll have to serve ads

Joking aside, it’s good to think about how you can monetize your app early on. Try to identify the right balance between what your app should offer for free and what could be behind a paywall. Everything is possible: from an entirely free ad-supported app to a totally locked subscription app with a free trial. It all depends on who your users are and what value they’re getting from your app.

Your monetization strategy will evolve along the way but dramatic changes in monetization mechanics are not well-perceived by users so try to focus as much as you can.

For TextingStory, I initially thought users would use the app very sporadically to create a joke and post it online for fun. I felt this kind of use called for a generous free tier and a few cheap one-time paid upgrades to change the colors and such.

Monetizing with ads requires users to spend a lot of time inside the app so it didn’t seem to fit. It turns out many users spend time inside the app but I wasn’t completely wrong as many of my users are also kids, not the ideal or most ethical target for ads. Ads also don’t fit well with education apps and TextingStory ended up being well-received in education. It’s something I’m proud of and it’s probably helping spread the word about the app.

Having a generous free tier turned out to be a good bet because my young users often don’t have a way to make in-app purchases and wouldn’t use the app if the free version wasn’t fun. Free users have real value. They drive up the number of app downloads and ratings which is good for your search ranking in the app store. They also create watermarked video with TextingStory which creates virality.

User feedback gave me more monetization ideas as some users wanted to be able to remove the watermark from the videos. It felt like a more serious use of the app and I tried a higher priced purchase. It worked and I went even further when I was contacted by advertising agencies inquiring about copyright of the videos. I created a more expensive ‘Pro license’ purchase, unlocking everything and allowing any business-related use.

I’m still selling one-time purchases and haven’t switched to subscriptions but it’s on my mind. Investigate subscriptions if you feel your app can provide continuous value as they seem to be a significant revenue booster! Be careful how you implement them though – you don’t want your app to be confused for one of the many subscription scams populating the app stores.

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