Conclusions from selling an application on BlackBerry App World

20 Comments

blackberry-app-world

Although this is my first post for BlackBerry Cool, let me start by saying, “This is not my first rodeo!” My company REGARD is the longest standing BlackBerry partner dating back to 1998 when BlackBerry was still a seasonal fruit. Over the past dozen years, there are few products or services in the BlackBerry business ecosystem that we haven’t sold or at least tried selling. In the late 90’s, we configured farms of desktop redirectors before BES, Lotus Notes to Exchange connectors, installations, massive deployment projects, upgrades, BES Admin & Help Desk training, colored holsters, accessories, T-support, R-Support, BES licenses, CAL licenses, email & BES hosting, custom app development, 3rd party apps…you name it…REGARD has been there and done that!

In some cases, we sold products because there was a need and RIM had not yet come up with a solutions. In other cases, we sold competitive products because RIM dropped the ball. Which brings me to the BlackBerry App World!

It is no secret that the latest tech Gold Rush is “mobile apps!” Being an opportunist, and having one of the best BlackBerry app development teams in the business, REGARD quickly developed version 1.0 of a wine vintage lookup app to sell up on the new BlackBerry App World.

Uncertain what to charge for the app, our team decided to first offer a “Free” version and to later add features and release a premium version. In first 3 month of the App World, R-Vintage had thousands of downloads per month. Our interpretation was “this is validation that there is a market for our app”…RIGHT?

REGARD invested R&D dollars into version 2.0. With a slick new UI, we released both Storm and non-Storm versions. The new version retrieves vintage information from a back-end database, allows users to share comments, view content from “Region Experts”, and thumbs up and down of they agree or disagree with the expert. In terms of pricing, we opted to offer the “Try & Buy.” So that we could understand the user behavior, we also embedded analytics to see which parts of the app users favored and the duration they spent looking at the content.

Moving from Free to “Try & Buy,” the download volume dropped by 90%. Of those that did continue to download R-Vintage, the user behavior was pretty consistent. Those that really wanted the app were persistent and in some case just bought it right away. The majority passed it up for (IMHO) inferior free versions.

Recently, REGARD moved R-Vintage to “Buy” only. In the first week, purchases are now at a trickle. We continue to get very positive feedback on the UI and content, however, the number of downloads is highly disappointing.

From this early experience, I draw a few conclusions:

  • The PayPal interface lacks the mass appeal and adoption of the iTunes store and RIM should develop their own payment gateway.
  • Of the 28 million BlackBerry users, many are in enterprises that block the ability to download apps.
  • User are frustrated by “out of memory” issues when downloading apps.
  • RIM should put more marketing emphasis on the App World and throw a lot more support to developers that are making the investment to build for the platform.

Stay tuned because Regard will have more BlackBerry apps and we’re going to continue to strive to make them a hit on App World.

  • http://www.rimarkable.com/ Robb

    Outside of your splash page, http://www.regard.com/rv, and your listing in BlackBerry App World, what kind of promotion have you done for R-Vintage? I imagine that quite a few BlackBerry users drink wine, however, the percentage of them that consider themselves wine enthusiast is relatively small.

    Seems like you’ve got a pretty niche market. I could see R-Vintage doing quite well if you targeted wine enthusiasts that happen to be BlackBerry users as compared to BlackBerry users generally.

  • http://www.rimarkable.com Robb

    Outside of your splash page, http://www.regard.com/rv, and your listing in BlackBerry App World, what kind of promotion have you done for R-Vintage? I imagine that quite a few BlackBerry users drink wine, however, the percentage of them that consider themselves wine enthusiast is relatively small.

    Seems like you’ve got a pretty niche market. I could see R-Vintage doing quite well if you targeted wine enthusiasts that happen to be BlackBerry users as compared to BlackBerry users generally.

  • http://www.bbleaks.com/ BBLeaks.com

    Great read! Very informative, as we have been working on apps ourselves. Hopefully RIM will get their act together and bring full support to App World.

  • http://www.bbleaks.com BBLeaks.com

    Great read! Very informative, as we have been working on apps ourselves. Hopefully RIM will get their act together and bring full support to App World.

  • Frank

    I think the big thing is Blackberry users are not App users. They use the Blackberry for what it is and not much more.

  • Frank

    I think the big thing is Blackberry users are not App users. They use the Blackberry for what it is and not much more.

  • Richard K

    My Storm’s memory management is so primitive and obnoxious, I am very tight with what I download. Not a price issue. And I haven’t downloaded your app because I don’t drink wine.

  • Richard K

    My Storm’s memory management is so primitive and obnoxious, I am very tight with what I download. Not a price issue. And I haven’t downloaded your app because I don’t drink wine.

  • http://www.momentem.net/ Terry @ momentem

    hi Steve, great article. We are a successful app developer on App World with our Call Time Tracker free app, you can read about our experiences at http://www.momentem.net/news.asp, can we talk offline sometime? My email is terry@widality.com

    Cheers (as they say in the wine business!)

    Terry

  • http://www.momentem.net Terry @ momentem

    hi Steve, great article. We are a successful app developer on App World with our Call Time Tracker free app, you can read about our experiences at http://www.momentem.net/news.asp, can we talk offline sometime? My email is terry@widality.com

    Cheers (as they say in the wine business!)

    Terry

  • Cliff

    I don’t drink wine, so would never be a candidate for this app. However the four conclusions you drew seem inconsistent. You said when the app was free it got “thousands of downloads per month.” Does the paid version not work for enterprise users, require more device memory, or need more advertising and corporate BlackBerry support than the free version? If not, it seems the more obvious conclusion is that your app was deemed by users as good enough to at least try when it was free, but not worth the price you eventually charged for it. To me it’s as simple as that. Come up with an app with a broader appeal, charge less for this one, or choose a different revenue model (advertising supported rather than user licensed).

  • Cliff

    I don’t drink wine, so would never be a candidate for this app. However the four conclusions you drew seem inconsistent. You said when the app was free it got “thousands of downloads per month.” Does the paid version not work for enterprise users, require more device memory, or need more advertising and corporate BlackBerry support than the free version? If not, it seems the more obvious conclusion is that your app was deemed by users as good enough to at least try when it was free, but not worth the price you eventually charged for it. To me it’s as simple as that. Come up with an app with a broader appeal, charge less for this one, or choose a different revenue model (advertising supported rather than user licensed).

  • http://bbfour.com/ Eduardo

    You don’t mentioned how bad is the process of reviewing and approving applications. They are supposed to 8 business days, the reality is that it may take months to get a response from store managers.

    (Sorry for my bad English :)

    Eduardo

  • http://bbfour.com/ Eduardo

    You don’t mentioned how bad is the process of reviewing and approving applications. They are supposed to 8 business days, the reality is that it may take months to get a response from store managers.

    (Sorry for my bad English :)

    Eduardo

  • davinci27

    I read the article, but I don’t see how your experiences serve as a basis for your conclusions. At leaset one of your conclusions is completely opposite of the data you provide. “User are frustrated by “out of memory” issues when downloading apps.” If this is really a concern, it won’t change the download rate between free and paid models. Free apps don’t use less memory. The same can be said about your conclusion that “Of the 28 million BlackBerry users, many are in enterprises that block the ability to download apps.” If the user can’t download paid apps they can’t download free apps.

    I am not trying to offend anyone with these comments. I just spent my time reading the article, and I was hoping to read data supported comments about the experience of selling apps. It seems like all I really got was your guesses as to why your app isn’t selling as well as you had hoped.

  • davinci27

    I read the article, but I don’t see how your experiences serve as a basis for your conclusions. At leaset one of your conclusions is completely opposite of the data you provide. “User are frustrated by “out of memory” issues when downloading apps.” If this is really a concern, it won’t change the download rate between free and paid models. Free apps don’t use less memory. The same can be said about your conclusion that “Of the 28 million BlackBerry users, many are in enterprises that block the ability to download apps.” If the user can’t download paid apps they can’t download free apps.

    I am not trying to offend anyone with these comments. I just spent my time reading the article, and I was hoping to read data supported comments about the experience of selling apps. It seems like all I really got was your guesses as to why your app isn’t selling as well as you had hoped.

  • Name (required)

    First: 98% of people out there who download apps go crazy with it and download any app under the sun until they run out of space on their BlackBerry. It may be apps that they never use or never even had any intention of using, but downloaded it just because it was there.
    Second: Out of the 28 million BlackBerry users out there, at last count over 50% of them were personal users, meaning your market would be a little over 14 million (assuming that EVERY enterprise user had an IT policy on their device blocking 3rd party applications).
    Third: As mentioned above, you are appealing to a very small market compared to the other apps that are on the market.

    This is the risk you take as ANY type of software developer. The minute that you start charging for an application that had been free before, you are going to lose a good chunk of the subscribers/”downloaders”. ESPECIALLY when you (now) do not have a “Try & Buy” option. Users simply are not going to download an application they can’t try and purchase it for $3.99. Put it at $0.99, and you will probably sell a good amount. People don’t think twice about spending a buck on an application…But $4.00 is a different story. They aren’t going to download it unless they ABSOLUTELY are going to use it.

    Also as mentioned in the first comment…what type of advertising have you done for your application other than the website and placing it in AppWorld? Have you approached any blogs about giving-away 10 copies or so for free? Given the app to any blogs and asked them to review it? Other than here at BBCool (and a berryreview link to the BBCool article), I don’t see anything on CrackBerry, Rimarkable, BBRocks, etc. Do you expect to just put the App in AppWorld and it will magically sell copies? How did you sell the other apps that you have created BEFORE AppWorld even existed?

    Here is some feedback from a post on CrackBerry that may help you a little:
    I did try this R-Vintage not too long ago, but was quite disappointed. R-Vintage only shows a vintage (year) and a region, and then tells you what general quality you’re looking at. Seems awfully prejudiced, and it only includes major wine producing regions (Italy, France, Australia, California) and overlooks many smaller/less popular wine regions (i.e. BC’s Okanagan Valley). Additionally, I can’t imagine that all Napa Valley red wines from 2006 would taste the same.
    http://forums.crackberry.com/f35/wine-app-blackberry-200337/

    Hopefully you will take all of the above recommendations to heart and realize that it’s not AppWorld that is keeping this app from selling, it’s yourselves…

  • Name (required)

    First: 98% of people out there who download apps go crazy with it and download any app under the sun until they run out of space on their BlackBerry. It may be apps that they never use or never even had any intention of using, but downloaded it just because it was there.
    Second: Out of the 28 million BlackBerry users out there, at last count over 50% of them were personal users, meaning your market would be a little over 14 million (assuming that EVERY enterprise user had an IT policy on their device blocking 3rd party applications).
    Third: As mentioned above, you are appealing to a very small market compared to the other apps that are on the market.

    This is the risk you take as ANY type of software developer. The minute that you start charging for an application that had been free before, you are going to lose a good chunk of the subscribers/”downloaders”. ESPECIALLY when you (now) do not have a “Try & Buy” option. Users simply are not going to download an application they can’t try and purchase it for $3.99. Put it at $0.99, and you will probably sell a good amount. People don’t think twice about spending a buck on an application…But $4.00 is a different story. They aren’t going to download it unless they ABSOLUTELY are going to use it.

    Also as mentioned in the first comment…what type of advertising have you done for your application other than the website and placing it in AppWorld? Have you approached any blogs about giving-away 10 copies or so for free? Given the app to any blogs and asked them to review it? Other than here at BBCool (and a berryreview link to the BBCool article), I don’t see anything on CrackBerry, Rimarkable, BBRocks, etc. Do you expect to just put the App in AppWorld and it will magically sell copies? How did you sell the other apps that you have created BEFORE AppWorld even existed?

    Here is some feedback from a post on CrackBerry that may help you a little:
    I did try this R-Vintage not too long ago, but was quite disappointed. R-Vintage only shows a vintage (year) and a region, and then tells you what general quality you’re looking at. Seems awfully prejudiced, and it only includes major wine producing regions (Italy, France, Australia, California) and overlooks many smaller/less popular wine regions (i.e. BC’s Okanagan Valley). Additionally, I can’t imagine that all Napa Valley red wines from 2006 would taste the same.
    http://forums.crackberry.com/f35/wine-app-blackberry-200337/

    Hopefully you will take all of the above recommendations to heart and realize that it’s not AppWorld that is keeping this app from selling, it’s yourselves…

  • http://www.yatca.com/ Yatca

    In my experience, the majority of BlackBerry users are completely unaware that it is possible to download apps to a BlackBerry. They will say that the existence of apps is the main reason they would move to iPhone or Android, and they will look pretty sceptical when you tell them that there are thousands of apps available for the BlackBerry. Of users who know about BlackBerry apps, many tend to see this as a sort of theoretical possibility – certainly not something mainstream that ordinary users do. They’ll express concern about bricking their device or violating their carrier agreement. This represents nothing less than a massive failure on the part of RIM.

  • http://www.yatca.com Yatca

    In my experience, the majority of BlackBerry users are completely unaware that it is possible to download apps to a BlackBerry. They will say that the existence of apps is the main reason they would move to iPhone or Android, and they will look pretty sceptical when you tell them that there are thousands of apps available for the BlackBerry. Of users who know about BlackBerry apps, many tend to see this as a sort of theoretical possibility – certainly not something mainstream that ordinary users do. They’ll express concern about bricking their device or violating their carrier agreement. This represents nothing less than a massive failure on the part of RIM.