After I wrote my article last week on the future of apps being free, Patrick Thompson of Inkstone Mobile emailed me some thoughts on free versus paid. Patrick has written a number of ebook reading and audio book listening apps, with a mix of free and paid apps. His thoughts:
- 2 app stores: Treat the paid and free categories as separate markets. It is an over-generalization, but assume people either shop in the free store or the paid store, that they don’t do a lot of comparison shopping between free and paid.
- Try before buy: There are so many bad apps on the app store, some people are afraid of getting burned. By offering a free app, you lower the barrier to them trying your app. Hopefully they have a good experience, which makes it more likely they will buy from you. (Especially for more “expensive” apps.)
- Disrupt yourself: There are surely free apps that compete with your paid app. You are better off getting that traffic than your competitors.
- Visibility: It all comes down to visibility. The more people who see your apps the more you will sell. It is just a matter of the conversion rate. The way most people try to get visibility is via high app store ranking or advertising. But you can create your own visibility through your app portfolio. If they have a good experience with your apps they are more likely to buy other apps from you later.
- Cross-promote: Use nag screens and push notifications (sparingly) to reach your app audience.
- Monetize free: It is okay to monetize free apps. Users expect it. I find no honor in not monetizing your apps, just poor business management.
- Advertise: Advertising in your free apps provides a bit of an irritant that helps push people to upgrade, plus it is a bit of extra income; for me it is enough to pay my mortgage. It increases and diversifies your app income.