When I started in this business 12 years ago, there was tried-and-true consumer price points: $9.99, $19.99, $29.99, $49.99, $99.99. Only a few apps — Microsoft Office, Adobe Photo suites come to mind — were able to price above those levels. Anything under $19.99 was considered an impulse buy and anything above $49.99 was considered professional quality.
This never was in the mobile/smartphone/PDA world. In this world pricing seemed to break down as $10, $15, $20, $29.99, and $39.99. Only the rare app was able to get more. We charged $59.99 for powerOne Finance but bundled both the Palm OS and Windows Mobile version together for that price. If we had been in the old model of consumer pricing, we would have been between $100 and $200 (with slightly different presentation and functionality). Impulse buy was anything less than $15; professional apps were at $29.99 and above.
Now those prices have morphed again, at least for iPhone. For whatever reason — first products in the AppStore, lack of trials, single purchasing location, Apple’s devious plan, natural laws of commoditization, Chris Anderson (just kidding) — all pricing have depressed even further. It seems that the new scale is $0.99, $1.99, $2.99, $3.99 and $4.99. Only the rare app can charge more.
The interesting thing to me is that the mentality hasn’t changed. Now, $0.99 is an impulse buy and $4.99 denotes professional quality.
Case in point: In April, a competitor was at $5.99 then $4.99 then $3.99. Never really impacted FastFigures’ sales, but we could never catch up with him, either. For a week, he went free. When he went free our sales shot through the roof. When he came back to the paid side at $3.99 he made no headway. It didn’t impact my sales at all (I was way ahead of him in Top Paid) and the same was true when he dropped to $0.99. He sold a lot more, catapulted above me in Top Paid, but it didn’t impact my sales. Only when he went back to $3.99 did my sales start to fall off as I was clearly losing units to him and he was able to stay ahead of me in Top Paid.
One conclusion: Top Paid position has a clear impact on sales. I think most people try the 1) cheapest and 2) first found product that they were looking for.
Price, though, also impacts sales. So where’s this cut-off point that attracts the alternative, professional customer we were looking for? Is the connotation that anything under $0.99 is a throw-away app? Or is that point $1.99 or $2.99? Clearly, $3.99 has a different connotation but I’m curious if that “professional level” actually falls in somewhere lower.
Or is my entire theory flawed, and the reality is that software is diving toward $0 price points, as my Building an iPhone Business surmises? I can definitely say the market is shifting. And I don’t believe, unlike other developers, that it’s Apple’s fault. I think they are just accelerating the curve.