Please note: The strategies in this article were tested on a paid app with in-app purchases. They may not apply to free apps, even if I think the ideas behind each strategy are worth considering.
We released the first version of Pili Pop in September 2012 on the iPad. Our goal was to put the app in the App Store as quickly as possible so as to present our prototype to actual users and continue to develop the app by learning from their feedback. Initially the app was available for €4.49 with no in-apps and only contained one level.
First Experience with In-app Purchases.
After receiving lots of positive feedback we set out to develop more levels. It was only upon finishing Level 3 in December of 2012 that we introduced in-app purchases to Pili Pop. We wanted to simply test the ways in which we could make some money from the additional work and content we had put into the app.
We wanted Pili Pop to be a highly educational application so we raised the bar in terms of both the quality and diversity of the content. To get the message across that we had achieved such a high level of quality, we decided to go where no app-developer had gone before in our particular domain: charge for additional levels in an application that you already had to purchase. We were expecting quite a reaction from parents concerning this major update.
Each extra level was available for €2.69, the same price you had to pay for the app (after we had lowered the price down from €4.49). Much to our surprise, we didn’t get any bad feedback for such a bold move! By the time January was over, these were our statistics:
45% of new users had clicked on the locked 2nd level
8.5% of these users then went on to purchase the level
6.5% of these users had equally purchased Level 3 (a conversion rate of 75% between the 2nd and 3rd levels)
We were certainly reassured by these results. Some parents at least were ready to pay for additional content and even pay twice of what the original app had cost in order to unlock all levels. Such a strong retention rate between level 2 and 3 was great news.
How We Improved the Process of Buying In-apps.
We had heard about the existence of a 20-30% conversion rate for in-apps within a paid application. How could we improve our own rate? We decided to do some research. We set out to optimise our app in order to increase both the number of users interested in new content and the number of people who would go all the way and click “buy”. In order to have these desired results we did a number of things:
1. Put more information in Pop-ups
Objective: With most in-app purchases, I always found it difficult to know exactly what I was buying and this was the case with Pili Pop. When users clicked on a locked level, they would immediately see the classical iOS pop-up asking them to buy, making it less than evident what the user would be purchasing. You wouldn’t buy an app without knowing what it contained, so why would you with an in-app? Our objective was to give an informative pop-up with each in-app to see if this helped boost sales.
What we did: We wanted to show parents that there was a lot pedagogic value added to each level with several high-quality games. In order to show this, we integrated a trailer into the pop-up to demonstrate each level’s pedagogic content. Parents were then able to make an informed decision about whether to purchase the next level or not.
2. Created a “Buy all” Option
Objective: A number of studies about pricing strategies, see a great article here for example, highlight the importance of giving users buying alternatives. This allows them to compare their options and facilitates their decision making for them. We decided to test this theory with our Pili Pop app.
What We Did: We added another buying option. Now the user could purchase Level 2 and then Level 3, or a pack which unlocks both levels with a reduction. We had already noticed that 75% of parents who buy Level 2 go on to buy Level 3. The pack helped make the process of buying both levels easier for users and thus more appealing.
3. Made it Easier to Access the Levels:
Objective: The more steps there are in the process before an actual purchase, the higher the chances are of losing potential clients. We had already added our new trailer pop-up a stage before clicking “buy”, so we knew we had to get rid of all the other unnecessary steps.
What We Did: Previously, you had to swipe to another screen in order to see the extra levels available. This meant that the visibility wasn’t great and some users could miss the fact that there were bonus levels altogether. We decided to delete this extra swipe and put Level 2 on the same page as the previous level to increase discoverability.
4. Changed the Wording
Objective: Vocabulary is extremely important in the buying process. It becomes indispensable to find the right choice words that will attract potential buyers, without tricking them.What We Did: On each level we previously had a closed padlock illustration. This was far from enticing- it was dissuasive. By clicking on the level you were not going to buy the in-app straight away, or “unlock” it as the padlock suggested, but simply discover the trailer and information about the level. We decided to get rid of the illustration and replace it with a button with the word “Discover” on it.
We couldn’t wait to see how all these improvements impacted purchases! Then the results for the month of March 2013, just after the update, were revealed as follows:
62% of new users had clicked on the “Discover” button
43% of new users purchased an in-app
77% of in-app purchases were for the “pack”
We thought that perhaps our conversion rate would reach an average percentage, but the changes had an amazing effect! Our conversion rate had increased by more than 500% by going from 8% to 43% and almost all parents had decided to buy the pack, unlocking all levels and thereby increasing the average revenue per user!
What You Can Take from This for Your Own App
Perhaps not everything I have detailed is applicable to your app but I think some of the main ideas are interesting to consider, no matter what sort of application you develop:
Give more information about what buyers will be purchasing with each in-app
Propose different buying options
Analyse the visibility of your in-apps
Change the wording in the buying process
I hope this information has been useful!PS: Unfortunately, the recent changes made to the App Store concerning kid’s apps make it difficult for us to continue with our business model as it is. We have therefore decided to remove all in-app purchases from Pili Pop (a post about this to come). I just wanted to pass on our experience so that you may take something from it!