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How we tripled our revenue by adding one button (medium.com)
255 points by ARolek on Sept 24, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments



Good deal, I think I'll buy this.

When it comes to buying games or apps me or our kids the "Unlock All" option is more than just a nice to have, it's a necessity. For me personally it doesn't have to do with convenience or perceived value: Rather it's because I feel that I am not buying into a scam.

If I see item (X) on the market for "Free" + in-app purchases I'm flat out not going to spend any time on it. You offer the same (X) for $5-$20 with everything unlocked and no gimmicky BS sales tactics then I'll pick it up without hesitation.

There are too many applications out there designed to be time and money sinks. The focus tends to be on giving the user just enough and then stalling until they spend more money. It's a dirty, scummy industry.

If you're selling a product (game, book, series, otherwise) and feel it can stand on its own merits then offer a fair price for the complete item with no strings and I'll most likely purchase it.


Yup. Especially if you're handing the app off to somebody who's just learning to read - even if the tablet is locked-down, the kid will be frustrated and need help if they get trapped in the "unlock" content while they were tapping around randomly and exploring the app.

I'm disappointed so few app developers don't offer a "I just want to pay for this so you can stop marketing at me" option. Free/Freemium/pay-up-front are not mutually exclusive revenue streams for an app, release with multiple revenue strategies.


We actually released a version of the app that was $2.99 upfront with no in-app purchases to test which model worked better for us.

The $2.99 version netted us less than $20 in the lifetime of the application. It never was ranked anywhere in the app store and thus was virtually DOA.

I agree it would be great to charge upfront - We didn't have a budget to market these applications to them to show them the value before they reach the store which would be essential in that business model. The freemium model was our only way to leverage the rankings in the store and give parents the ability to see the value in the application before buying.


That's surprising to me, as a user. On Android I often search for apps, find the "free" one, read all the reviews and (if it has positive reviews) I seek out the "pro" version and buy that without ever having installed the "free" version. That is, I know the "free" version will have the top placement and the good user-feedback info so that's the one I can quickly get info about, but I skip the middle-step of installing the "free" one and move straight to the pay-up-front thing.

I guess my workflow is unusual.


It's really because of Apple and their rules. Apple discourages Free and Pro versions of the same app (they may have loosened that up recently, but at one time, in an effort to combat app clutter and promote IAP, they would reject you). On iOS, there is no real way to try-and-buy without Freemium. At least in Android, and I think WP, you can get a refund within a certain time frame. Couple this with users generally seeking out free or super cheap apps and treating them as fairly disposable, just having a premium app for an upfront price, not being an established known brand, is basically a death wish.


Ah. Yes, WP actually has built-in support for offering both a "try" and "buy" version of each app, allowing two apps to coexist as the same entry... but in practice, most follow the "free" and "pro" naming-convention and offer two separate apps.

I hadn't realized that Apple's strict curating prevented these patterns.


You also can't return an app in iOS. If there is something grossly wrong you might be able to talk support into it, but in general that $5 purchase is final. I've heard that as a popular reason for the IAP model after people stopped buying apps after buying real duds for real money.


I do this exact same thing


>If you're selling a product (game, book, series, otherwise) and feel it can stand on its own merits then offer a fair price for the complete item with no strings and I'll most likely purchase it.

Yes. But please don't make it as an in-app-purchase. Why? Well, I maybe want to set up a new phone as brand new without going through a backup. And then, I would like to get the entire app I bought back on my phone. And I would be out of luck if by chance that app is no longer offered in the app store. I might still have the app on my computer that I can sync with my phone. But in order for the in app purchase to work, I am pretty sure the app would still need to be in the app store as well.

So, give me all the content directly in the app so I am in control of everything. IAP purchases are still a red flag for me. Even if it comes as an "unlock all" button. I may put too much emphasis on this, but I really don't want to be in a situation where I payed good money for IAPs only to find that some years don the line, I am unable to reclaim them because either the app doesn't exist anymore or the developer left he app store altogether.


Flipside: Not charging for the app allows the user to try the app without buying it.

If the content is worth paying for the user can choose how much to "invest" in it even though, generally, the in-app purchase model is going to cost way more than up-front purchase.


There's "added content/DLC", then there's "freemium". My hint: look for tokens/credits for purchase. If you see that, avoid the app. I could love the concept or see it as great for my kids but as soon as I'm "buying tokens" I realize it's been engineered to get my money and not deliver a solid product for a fixed price.

The "added content/DLC" model works well for me - I love games/apps like Carcasonne, Ascension, or 123 Color where you buy expansions or additional patterns. But again, most of these types of apps aren't free to begin with.


Over and over again I see the pattern that if you reduce friction to let people pay you, you will make more money. Also, discount bundling is smart and works all over the place. Smart combination.


Very true, especially for parents. If I find an author that I like and trust and my kids will read, I'll buy everything they write before going through trial and error again.

Now we just need to see Bilingual Child in other languages and I'll be a buyer!


> If I find an author that I like and trust and my kids will read, I'll buy everything they write before going through trial and error again.

Oh God, this. Suffering through bad children's books is a part of parenting, so finding a good author is a life-saver.


What languages are you looking for? We have a Mandarin version and we're working on a French and Portuguese version.


The latter two.

My observation of NY is that parents here don't have cars, so our conspicuous consumption is how many languages we force our kids to learn.

I'm sold!


haha! I love it.


Japanese!


Didn't see this comment:

We have an 18mo and a 4yo we read books and play games with on the iPad. The 4yo gets to play games or read books on his own as well.

Any app that doesn't let us unlock everything to remove IAP or Ads gets uninstalled.

For one I don't want my 4yo racking up $$$. But it's also frustrating for both of us when he clicks a button and gets taken out of his app and doesn't know what to do now.

So for us at least it's not that "parents can't resist". It's that $13 or whatever isn't all that much to spend if our kids like it, and we don't want IAP buttons and/or Ads in front of our 4yo. Perceived "value" has almost nothing to do with it.

Apple generally gives a 10% discount for buying a season pass. I'd be fine with that. A greater than 50% discount is surprising.

A better model might be something like FarFaria, where we pay an iTunes subscription fee to unlock everything and get rid of the ads. So recurring revenue ($4/month). You might consider it.

I don't claim we're super typical but I doubt we're all that special in regards to letting our children play with Adware either.


You're not that special :-) I do the same thing. And I complain to developers that place buttons like "see our other apps" or similar on the main screen of their app.

There aren't many good apps for kids. If your app is good, I will actively search for other apps done by you — no prompting needed. This is how I purchased a number of Toca Boca apps, for example.

I also think most good apps for kids are priced too low. I'd have no problems paying $15 for an app like "Little Digits". In general, I think $5 is fine for apps which are just fun/games, $10 or more if the app teaches something useful.

I think smartphones and tablets have a lot of untapped potential as educational tools, but I'm worried we'll never get there with $1.99 apps.


re: "see our other apps"

You nailed it. Hate that. Thanks for the app tips. :-)


That's a great idea regarding the subscription - we didn't think we'd be eligible because we're a game / book hybrid but I'll look into it again.

Regarding the "Parents can't resist" - I ment that in regards to School Apparel as that was their description. 97% of the parents that download our app can resist ;)


Great Article, HATE the title. I think it gives the wrong impression. The title should be:

How we tripled our revenue by understanding our users better

Yes by adding a button you tripled your revenue, but what you really did was understand your customers/users better and identified that you could have them spend more by offering a certain deal (which you then implemented by adding a button).

It (title) gives people the impression that they should be A/B testing button locations/colors/<insert (99.99% of the time) random property/> when what they should really be doing is learning more about their users and how to provide the most value for them which in the end gives you more revenue or profits or candy :)


My theory with content apps (I've seen this elsewhere) is that the majority of money comes from a small percentage of users (1-10%).

These users are what typically is referred to as whales. The biggest obstacle to monetizing whales is new content. Also, whales tend to be less price-sensitive. That is, they will buy what content you have at a reasonable price, and that price should be based on what those (paying) users will pay.

I don't really buy the convenience argument. It's unclear whether they released 10 books and users were still only buying 2. That is, they were unable to test whether convenience or the lack of new content was the gating factor. I suspect it was the latter.


You're dead on - our "whales" were 3% of our users.

We never released 10 books w/ out the Buy All option so you're assumption is correct - we have no data on this. You could be correct in that it was solely content as a gating factor, had we tested incrementally we would have firmer data in this area.


Does anyone know what software he's using to display those charts and graphs? Is that a 3rd party app or a custom in house dashboard? I've been looking for something like that for my SaaS business.


The charts are from appfigures.com. I'm not quite sure what they are using to generate them, but I'm sure the developer console in chrome will tell you ;-)


"To date — the ‘unlock all’ has been our highest grossing option." Love this.

And although it sounds so simple (just add a button!) there's really more to the success of it behind the scenes and you did great job highlighting those factors (ie: perceived value - convenience, etc.)

Super motiving post :)


Looks like a sound application of the "make it as easy as possible for people to give you money" principle. Well done.


I will start by saying that the sentiment of this is simple and true. The value added by the "Unlock All" button in it's simplicity is valid.

But they didn't "just add a button" they also added over 3x the content to give that button value.

If they had kept their original 3 books and added the button I'm guessing they would have seen next to no difference in the bottom line.

My point being that in order for an Unlock/Buy All button to work, you need to have enough content/product/etc to make the button worthwhile. Just adding a button may not be enough.


Thanks for sharing.

From a technical standpoint I am wondering about the implementation and scalability of such an approach. Are people sensitive to having to wait to download content for their kid's apps?

This app only has, as far as I can tell, ten items per subject. Download size is about 70 MB, which means all the content for the available subjects is contained in the one download waiting to be enabled. This is OK for a few subjects and a few items per subject. I can see a more substantial offering grow to hundreds of MB if a similar approach is used.

The next approach would be to serve new content off a server when purchased. I really don't have a clue as to whether or not that is seen as a negative when it comes to toddler or young child apps.


The content is all contained in the base download so there is no wait for the user.

To serve from our own server there would be a delay - Apple also has a serve that lets you deliver assets from their server, still a delay, but much faster infrastructure than we could afford.


Hello. Nice article. I just wanted to point out a small mistake where you forgot to fill in an amount: "our users who would have spent an average of $."

Hope this helps (and that you read this).


Thanks! Fixed now


"With the release of the next seven books we assumed most users would drop off purchasing around the fifth book resulting in a max purchase of $14.95 for less than 20% of our purchasing clients."

Did they?

I must be reading this wrong but it seems you added new contents AND a unlock all button and that increased the revenue.

Did you have a period where you had the new content but no unlock all button? How were sales at that period?


"Raising our prices and adding a convenience option paid off big time for us."

Since reading this, we've changed up how we're going to handle the pricing for HookFeed.

Breaking it up into individual feature upgrades, and easy options/discounts for buying all of the features. Also increased rates.

We won't know until we test it. But it seems like a much more attractive offer. Thanks for sharing!


Awesome! Can't wait for Hookfeed to launch btw!


Great read, but I don't see how this wouldn't be implemented from the start. It's a lot of clicking, adding up what you're spending and authorizing for in-app purchases. One click and authorization with a discount seems like a necessity.


Agreed - I wish we had the foresight at the time to have launched with it. Live and learn.


From the profit chart it seems to me that there was a boost in Q2 and then in Q3 things essentially returned to how they were before.


Often times, its the smallest changes that generate the most success.


It's so true. Tinker. Tinker. Tinker. Boom!


Is there a video of the app for us non-iDevice users?


Nice share! I think all our apps need that button.




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