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.