IPG Children's Publisher of the Year

Building an audience for our apps

Posted by Tom on Jul 23, 2012

This Wednesday, Bizzy Bear Builds a House will be free on the App Store for 24 hours.

One of the most exciting (and sometimes, quite scary) things about making apps is the fact that so much is new and unknown. The way we tell stories, the way we engage children, and the way we sell our products are all different to how we do things with our print books, which can be incredibly liberating. Selling our apps on the iTunes App Store presents a unique set of challenges around discoverability and marketing, and one of the ways in which app developers like us can try and increase our visibility on the App Store is by experimenting with pricing.

Very broadly speaking (and without taking into account other, admittedly large, factors like quality and brand power), apps that cost little are downloaded in greater numbers than apps that cost a lot (which is not to say that they make more money), and apps that are free are downloaded in even greater numbers. The more downloads your app receives, the higher it climbs in sales charts, and the more visible it becomes, and so the more likely it is to be downloaded by other people. This is what’s known as a positive feedback loop (there is an incredibly interesting book called Winners and Losers, which looks at how positive feedback loops – which are not always good – have affected different businesses).

We’ve never experimented with a free price model before, but we thought we’d give it a try now (and be as open as possible about our thinking behind the decision). Bizzy Bear Builds a House, our newest app, will be free for one day, on Wednesday July 25. What we hope is for a very large number of people to download the app on that day, so that when it returns to its incredibly reasonable price of £2.49 the following day, it will be high in the charts and enjoy a very visible position.

Being able to expand our audience and reach lots of new people, who we hope will love our apps, is one of things that’s very exciting. And doing so by making an app free is one of the things that’s quite scary. But we’re very eager to try new things, see what will happen, and learn from the experiences.

If you download Bizzy Bear Builds a House on Wednesday and enjoy it, why not try our first Bizzy Bear app, Bizzy Bear on the Farm? And if you have any thoughts about app pricing (or Bizzy Bear!), please do share them in the comments.

Comments (7)

  1. I appreciate your thinking behind this and I really hope that it helps to build visibility and increase sales for you as I’m a big fan of Nosy Crow’s apps. I’ll help spread the word! I do have some concerns about free apps firstly from a personal point of view (it is so frustrating when I buy apps only to see them go free a few months later, although obviously I have benefited from free apps too). And secondly, because I think it doesn’t help alter the mentality of wanting content for free rather than being prepared to pay (even at a sale price) as you usually would for a book. It is such a dynamic environment though, and I’m speaking purely with a regular app consumer’s hat on, so I’m really interested to see what others think on this.

    Helen Monday July 23, 2012 #

  2. I’ve learned about some of the best app companies out there by hearing about and downloading a paid app that was briefly free. I happily paid for their other apps afterwards and spread the word with friends and family. We already own your Cinderella app and appreciate the level of quality and the effort that went into it. It’s one of the little ones favorites! I am sure we’ll love Bizzy Builds a House as well. Good luck on your rankings with it. We’ll help spread the word. I look forward to hearing how this experiment works out for you!

    pltprincess Tuesday July 24, 2012 #

  3. A free app sounds brill to me as it gives one the chance to use the product and enjoy it and hopefully would encourage one then to ‘purchase’ another at a later date or look at your site……Its like a free sample at a beauty counter if you like the product you will then go back and buy it…It also gives one a chance to show other people so they might then buy one at a later date……..Good Idea.

    Carla Koala Tuesday July 24, 2012 #

  4. Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

    Helen, we thought very hard about the two points you raised!

    We don’t, of course, want to disappoint customers who have paid for our apps and then see that they’re free a little while later – but we do also want the freedom to experiment with price and different promotions, which is why we’re only doing this for a day, and being as open about it as possible. And we also think the apps are very good value at their full price!

    And you’re entirely right about general attitudes towards paying for digital media – this is something we weighed up as well. The last thing we want to do is devalue apps as content: we hope that people will download Bizzy Bear, see how good it is, and then consider paying for one of our other apps. By its very nature, something like this – a 24-hour flash promotion – wouldn’t, I’d hope, permanently change people expectations regarding price (in the same way that people who receive books on World Book Night know that they’d have to pay for the same book if they were to go into Waterstones the next day) – but it will, I hope, mean we reach a whole new audience.

    Tom Tuesday July 24, 2012 #

  5. Tom that’s a brilliant answer to the points I raised, thank you. I agree with the other posters too, I am sure I have discovered some great app developers through such flash sales myself, thinking about it. The analogy of free samples at a make up counter is a really good one, as is the one about World Book Night. Best of luck with today’s promotion!

    Helen Wednesday July 25, 2012 #

  6. Tom, thanks for posting this blog and trying this test.

    We put “Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island” free for 12 hours a year ago so that members of a non profit could access it (50 promo codes weren’t enough). We weren’t allowed to promote it at all so we couldn’t explain why we we’d gone free.

    We had significant downloads and saw an increase in sales of the app after (we only had one app at the time so none to cross sell).

    One of the things I’d heard could happen when apps go free did happen.

    Our review rating went from 4-1/2 stars to 3-1/2 stars in 1 day. Buyer Behaviour theory is that people will rate higher the things that they’ve paid money for. (“Treasure Kai” is a unique, award-winning book app and has been on a number of “Editor’s Choice” and “Top 10 Lists”).

    Are you open to sharing your results from this experiment? I’ve written an eBook called “How to Market a Book App” and would love to share this with my database.

    I’m sharing your blog now and just downloaded the free app (I’ve bought your others!). Feel free to contact me directly.

    Karen Robertson
    http://www.digitalkidsauthor.com

    Karen Robertson Wednesday July 25, 2012 #

  7. Tom, I would also love to hear the results of your test.

    We, ZiggityZoom, are now developing some of our most popular content from ZiggityZoom.com as apps and ebooks, plus new educational games and stories, of course. The pricing and marketing is the hardest part.

    It appears that many consumers wait for the Free apps, so it is hard to compete with that sometimes.

    I would like to compliment you on your high quality book apps … Three Pigs is exceptional and one of my personal favorites! I recommend it all the time.

    Cheers,
    Sharon

    Sharon Pierce McCullough Wednesday July 25, 2012 #

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