Now that you're familiar with some of the features of the BlackBerry 10 OS and BlackBerry World, it's time to look at strategies that you can use to monetize your app. Through a combination of app design choices and options provided by BlackBerry World, you can create a plan that best suits your monetization goals.
Designing your app
There are lots of ways to make money from your app. You can decide which of these strategies works for you and your app.
Using digital goods
Digital goods are virtual items that are offered and sold from within your app to increase app revenue and user retention. By offering digital goods that are attractive to users, you can entice them to stay longer in your app (retention), come back to your app after being away (visits), and promote your app as something that adds value (marketing). Digital goods are also a good way to increase conversion rates since the purchasing experience is built into your app and requires minimal effort by the user. Here are some examples of digital goods:
- Games: Access to exclusive levels, custom avatars, or additional powers or abilities.
- Music and video: Access to additional content, ability to download files, or removal of advertisements.
- Productivity: Exclusive themes, customizable interfaces, additional help or tutorials.
If you choose to offer digital goods in your app, you should consider items that add value to the experience. Offering a special power to a gamer, for example, is effective only when that power can alter the outcome of the game. It also helps to offer goods that follow the core purpose of your app. Charging money to change the player's name isn't likely to generate interest but offering in-game currency to purchase bigger engines for a racing game is valuable. Users learn quickly and know which items are useful and which items aren't. Their post-purchase experience affects their overall impression of the app.
Since digital goods have the potential to increase the amount of data your app has to process, it's important to design the app to accommodate the expected upgrades. If a user purchases an additional game level, for example, you can provide them the level by using a download or by unlocking data that's already included in the app's binary. You do not upload any binaries or file bundles to BlackBerry World for later distribution. This upgrade must not incur significant impacts to the performance of the app. Users will notice. You should determine how an update affects file system access, media performance, graphics rendering, or any other activity that impacts the user's interaction with the app.
It's also important to design digital goods so that they're discoverable within the app and easy to purchase. The ability to purchase a digital good must be obvious to the user, such as offering a storefront within your app. The process must be easy, such as offering a one-click interface. A user would never purchase an additional theme if they could never find it and they would be less likely to purchase it if the experience is slow or difficult.
Subscriptions let users regularly receive digital goods over a specified period using automatic purchases. Through a regular renewal process, users receive updates without having to perform any additional work inside the app. Subscriptions offer different renewal options, such as auto-renewing subscriptions, free renewals for a specified period of time, or reduced rate renewals that allow you to tailor your pricing model to your user's needs. Examples of subscriptions are: regular updates to a recipe planner, weekly access to special events in games, or monthly additions to magazine content. Subscriptions are convenient for both you and your users since the delivery of digital goods is recurring, automatic, and at a known price.
If you offer subscriptions to your users, they will expect the regular updates to add value to your app. This means your app must be maintained over time, adding new content or capabilities that keep users interested. The same design guidelines for single-purchase digital goods apply to subscriptions: they should follow the core purpose of your app and not impact performance, otherwise users will quickly decide that the subscription isn't worth it.
Using social connections
Connecting users together is an effective way to increase app revenue because it encourages users to share information socially and gets them talking about your app. Bringing more users to your app and keeping them interested provides more opportunities for monetization. It could be something as simple as sharing a recipe with like-minded people or something more psychological, such as encouraging competition amongst game players. The power of social networks can drive users to your app because friends can see which apps are being used and it can motivate users to stay within your app because they are communicating with people they know.
You have two options to connect users together using BlackBerry 10: the BBM Social Platform and the Scoreloop SDK. The BBM Social Platform allows you to connect to the BlackBerry Messenger communications service that is deeply embedded into every BlackBerry 10 device. This service allows users to find each other, send messages and media, and maintain contact lists and profiles. Here are some interesting facts about the BBM Social Platform:
- Apps connected to the BBM Social Platform are fifteen times more likely to be downloaded (RIM internal, multi-country study, January 2012)
- Over two thousand apps connected to the BBM Social Platform averaged a 50% growth quarter-over-quarter in the past year (September 2012)
The Scoreloop SDK allows you to embed social gaming features into your app, such as user profiles, leaderboards, challenges, and awards. Games are the most common type of application for the Scoreloop SDK, but you can use its features for any type of app through a technique known as gamification.
Gamification takes the features and mechanics of game systems, such as measurements, achievements, and rewards, and applies them to any type of application to motivate and engage users. For example, with a recipe app, you can add the ability for users to connect to each other through Scoreloop and establish achievements based on the number of positive ratings a recipe receives. This encourages users to submit and share more recipes that are likely to get positive ratings which, in turn, encourages user recruitment and retention.
Using the BlackBerry World storefront
BlackBerry World offers a number of pricing and billing options that support different business models for apps. Here, we discuss strategies that you can use to classify and price your app using BlackBerry World.
Targeting your app
There are a few ways in which users discover your app: the BlackBerry World storefront installed on every BlackBerry 10 device, the BlackBerry World webstore, websites and social media, and talking to friends and family.
BlackBerry World offers a few ways to help you classify your app and find your users. First, when submitting an app to BlackBerry World, there are several properties that you set to describe and categorize the app:
- Short and long description
- Category (lifestyle, business, productivity, games, etc.)
- Rating (mature, adult, etc.)
- Keywords used for search
- Feature image, screenshots, and icon
- Supported devices
- Facebook page and Twitter account
- Support email and URL information
- SKU number
There are a number of options to choose from when deciding on a strategy for SKUs. Since BlackBerry World offers apps that run on multiple platforms (BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry PlayBook, BlackBerry 7, etc.), it's important to know which types of platforms you are targeting. The following table illustrates common SKU strategies.
|Platform strategy||One SKU for all platforms||Separate SKU for BlackBerry 10|
|You want the same product name for all platforms||X|
|You want the feature image, screenshots, and description to be unique for each platform||X|
|You want user ratings and reviews to be separated across all platforms||X|
|You want to improve social discovery across all platforms||X|
|You want to charge a higher price for tablet apps over smartphone apps||X|
|You want users to be able to transition your app, for a single price, from an older BlackBerry device to a new BlackBerry 10 device using My World in BlackBerry World||X|
Choosing between premium and freemium
There are two pricing models that you can choose for your app: premium or freemium. With the premium model, users must purchase your app at an initial cost. With freemium apps, users download the app for free and you decide what premium costs are charged later for additional content or features. The freemium model is an effective method to get users downloading your app first and trying it with little to no obligation. One example of the freemium model is allowing users to use the app for an unlimited amount of time with limited features and providing digital goods that unlock additional features. This is known as "free to play".
The advantage of the freemium model is that it attracts more users to download, try, and talk about the app. There is no maximum limit on the amount that users can spend within the app, assuming the digital goods support it. The disadvantages of freemium are that it can take some time for revenue to start coming in and there's a risk that users won't purchase anything at all. This depends on whether the user perceives value in the additional content or not and whether the free features are already "good enough". Even at no cost, the free features should provide a great experience and entice the user to pay for upgrades.
You can also use the freemium model to guide your development effort. For example, developing a game that has thirty levels at launch may be unrealistic, especially if you don't know whether the game will be a success or not. With the freemium model, you can launch the game with five levels provided free, five more available for purchase, and then continue to develop and release levels as sales dictate. If sales are good, you can keep releasing updates, if sales are low, you can move on to another app. This approach helps you choose where to spend your valuable development time.
If you decide to use the freemium model, here are some tips to think about:
- Know your upgrade plan from the beginning: Ensure your app is designed with at least one useful upgrade in mind, so users have a compelling reason to spend money.
- Don't start charging for free items: Once the user community is accustomed to seeing an app or features for free, there's a risk of alienating them if those features start costing money.
- Make upgrades easy. The interface and process for upgrading an app should be quick and simple, otherwise a user might decide to skip the purchase.
- Keep improving the free product: Aside from useful paid upgrades, the free parts of your app should continue to evolve, to keep users interested and not feeling like your app has become obsolete.