On Sales

iDoodle2 has been in the App Store for 9 months now and up till very recently I’d avoided putting it on sale.  I’ve figured $3 is a fair and decent price for the functionality that I provide and I didn’t want to join the rush to the ubiquitous $0.99.  Still, I’d grown tired of decreasing sales and seeing other apps in the top 100 which seemed to stay there indefinitely despite limited functionality and mediocre reviews.  So I figured I’d try dropping my price and seeing if I could enter that club.  Unfortunately going to $1.99, even with an update did not get me on the list so I made the fateful choice to drop down from the price of a Starbucks cup of coffee into McDonald’s dollar menu territory, and guess what?  It worked, sorta.
Within that first weekend I found my app on the top entertainment apps list for the first time, but even as I climbed my velocity dampened and I stalled out in the mid 60s on the top entertainment list. Once Finger Paint released a new update I started to slip again. Here’s where I made another business decision and switched categories over to photography. This was a fortuitous decision because my 75 on the Entertainment List became a 20 in Photography. The increased exposure coupled with the sale price led to my best week by number of units sold since last fall. But even then the revenue at that price point, while nothing to sneer at, was only fair when compared to weekly revenues over the past 9 months. The sale ended on April 15th and while my unit sales certainly took a hit I’ve been able to make up for it with the restored price. Furthermore, moving to the Photography list should allow me to stay discoverable far longer than I might be in the Entertainment category.
So a couple lessons learned. Going on sale does drive-up sales, but I had to go down to $0.99 ( over 60% off ) to see a really significant change in my sales volume. Even at that point and with increased exposure the lower price point meant my revenue wasn’t very impressive. It’s very interesting working in a market where there are no significant per-unit costs to contend with and profit can be derived as a function of sales and price only. The other significant take-away is that moving to a less-crowded category can increase your sales and discoverability. If you fall below a certain threshold you won’t show up in the top 100 list for the category and you become much harder to find. For Entertainment that cut-off point seemed to be in the neighborhood of 100 sales a day, it would be interesting to see where it lies for other categories.

Ultimately though I realized I’m not going to become a huge hit in the app store just by dropping my price, even with what I believe is a very good app. This leads me back to what I really enjoy, creating good software people enjoy using. Being a one-man shop it’s challenging knowing how to best allocate my limited resources. This experience has taught me that instead of trying to game the app store I should get back to coding. And with luck if I build it, the customers will come, even if they have to pay a bit more for an app than they would for a McChicken Sandwich.

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