Thursday, October 3, 2013

Welcome to a free iTakeNotes

After long consideration and in depth analysis of the market, we have decided to make iTakeNotes a free App with no hidden costs and without any ads
We are starting a brand new era with more than 25,000 users after just a month and very positive feedback on our initiative from the public.

Now taking notes on your iPad will be free
There's a lot to say about it and I will come back in the following weeks on the various aspects of this decision.
But right now for those who still hesitate to put a penny in downloading a great meeting notes app for your iPad, well, save it because it's free!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Customer Service on the App Store

Even the most skilled ios developer knows that bugs will eventually come up. No matter how extensive your testing has been, you need to be extra careful about it.

In the real world, a bug can always be managed. A customer will call you and you'll end up dealing and solving the issue.
On the App Store, not a chance. You don't know the customers, they are Apple customers. And if they get a bug, they may end up firing a terrible review and that's bad.

Despite all efforts, there's always a bug somewhere

Three scenarios may show up:

Scenario 1 (likelihood: 70%) : they get angry and drop you App. Most people just stop using an app when they are not satisfied with it, this "fire and forget" behavior is not in the developer interest. You might never get the information on the bug and you will lose a customer forever.

Scenario 2 (likelihood: 20%) : they get angry and write a bad customer review. And that's bad. Because everyone knows that excellent reviews are fake (they come from your friends, your mom or whoever else) but bad ones are real.

A bad review will follow you for a long time

And a bad customer review is there for a while. The only way to get rid of it is to come up with a new version that hopefully corrects your bug.

Scénario 3 (likelihood: 10%): they still get angry but they are nice enough to send you a request to complain. And that's the best thing that can happen.

Now when you get the complaint through email (or facebook page or twitter...), answer right away with 3 elements:
- Acknowledge receipt of the message
- Say you are sorry
- Say you'll do your best to correct the issue.

Whatever happens, say you are sorry

Keep in touch with the customer to inform him/her of your corrections because correcting the bug and submitting to Apple may take a good month over all.

If the customer is really angry and has already dropped a bad review, you may want to pay him/her back (provided your app is not for free...). It doesn't sound very profitable but in such a case, some customers have corrected their review and that's completely worth it!

Finally make good use of those customers who took the time to write to you: ask them for the features they would want, the usage of your app they have. Apple will leave you any access to them, so take advantage of the situation!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lessons from the AppGratis experience

For those who haven't been following French tech news, there's an interesting story going on between AppGratis and Apple.


AppGratis has been founded back in 2009 when iphone apps were kicking up. As others business like AppShopper, AppGratis was giving an app for free to its followers for one day only. We all know those businesses have been very successful so far because they connect 2 needs: a customer need to get something valuable for free and an app developer need to get your app ranked and known to the market. When you know that there are 1,2 millions iphone apps and 300,000 ipad apps, there is definitely an issue to get market awareness.

Is there anything more important in the Tech news?

The Story

AppGratis developed its own iPhone app and recently its own iPad app. It's been ousted from the AppStore on April 7th with very little explanations from Apple, which was perceived as a scandal in France, the media picturing Apple as the bad guy vs. the French startup world. Even the Digital Economy Secretary of State, +FleurPellerin, made a public appearance at AppGratis business site to show support against the great injustice. AppGratis has now started an online petition  to get public support.

What Apple says

Apple stated that AppGratis's App has violated 2 AppStore rules:
"- 2.25 Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected.
- 5.6 Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind."
Apple doesn't like App Store rules violations

AllthingsD believes that Apple are started cracking down AppGratis and similar apps because they say they were troubled that AppGratis was pushing a business model that appeared to favor developers with the financial means to pay for exposure. “The App Store is intended as a meritocracy,” a source familiar with Apple’s thinking told AllThingsD.

I believe that behind that beautiful thinking, Apple also protects its market: you want to promote your App, use Apple tools or get ready to live dangerously. As I stated earlier, App Store customers are Apple customers before being yours, so don't feel home and respect the rules.

What does that tell us?

It's going to be harder to "manipulate" rankings from within the AppStore but it doesn't mean paying for promotion is going to disappear, it's just going to happen on more traditional websites. 

I would add AppGratis and the likes are not going to be out of business because they are not on the App Store any longer. As AppGratis CEO +SimonDawlat stated it, this story is an incredible chance for them since they are getting almost free advertising. For sure. But it will not last forever and they are not alone on this market. That's why I believe AppGratis business model will probably evolve to market analysis.

AppGratis type firms future is in customer intelligence 

Think of it: they have thousands if not hundreds of thousands regular users. They can measure campaign success according to customers profiles, a very high value information for any app developer. If you've been using iTunes Connect, you know that this kind of information is just not available! The only thing you get from iTunes Connect is the number of App sold per country and that's it. Market analysis is pretty much what companies like AC Nielsen were doing in retail, only now we are on virtual retail.

Getting more customer insight is a real challenge, if these companies would understand the value they could bring they will securitize their market position for a long time without any need from Apple approval.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

First days on the App Store

Provided you set your sales to all available App Stores, you are now "ready for sale".

What happens next?

Well in the first few days, you will be featured in the News section of the App Store, meaning you are sitting in the front page: everyone who opens its App Store app during that period will see your app. Result: if your app is good and you are not pricing it like a luxury item, YOU WILL SELL. And believe me numbers can be surprising.

Success is surprising in the first days

A lot of people will buy out of curiosity or just because your app looks good. Reality is that they buy it because you are visible.

An example on the French App Store

Think of you app as any store in the world: If you are sitting on Rodeo Drive or the Champs Elysées, thousands of people walking by a day, part of them will stop and some of them will buy. The more pass by, the more you sell, nothing more simple.

Provided you are damn sure that all the major bugs have been identified and corrected, my advise is to take advantage of those days to do 2 things:
- Communicate on every media available about your app being out, it will eventually help you be ranked
- Use viral marketing: Insert all the relevant "like" buttons (Facebook, LinkedIn, Tweeter..) so your new users can communicate on their incredible experience.

And get prepared. A few days, a week, maybe more?

Toutes les bonnes choses ont une fin, all good things have an end. One day you are out of the news and your sales will drop. And boy that hurts

That's how it feels when you are out of App Store News
As of March 2013, there are 1,2 millions of iPhone apps and 300,000 iPad apps and you will need to crawl your way out from red sea to blue sea and it can feel very long but don't despair: this blog will keep giving advise, so keep faith and keep posted!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

iTunes Connect, the way to submit your App

If you have checked all the boxes regarding your app submission check list, you can now move on to submission.
Submission happens only through iTunes Connect. If you believe you can talk to Apple about your app in the process, forget about it. iTunes Connect is just a landing platform which will inform you of the following submission steps:

1) Prepare for upload
2) Waiting for Upload
3) Upload received
4) Waiting for review
5) In review
6) Processing for App Store
7) Ready for sale

Between "Waiting for review" and "In review", 15 days will pass in a complete silence, so be patient. And pray. Pray that your testing has been well done, otherwise you will have to retake the whole process from the start.

ios developers praying Apple divinity during submission

Apple will check that your app is compliant with the AppStore rules and that it works. And that's pretty much it. Review last on average a few hours, very frustrating when you think that nothing happened for 15 days while "waiting for review".

If your app is rejected, Apple will give you the reason why (the bug they found for example). I strongly suggest not to discuss your rejection, even if you feel it's unjustified.

Don't play too smart if your app gets rejected

In a world where the only relationship you will have with Apple is based on your app and half filled dialog boxes, it's better to keep it clean. Remember that Apple is the one calling the shots here. Even if customers will be terribly frustrated from not getting your app, all these customers are Apple customers. And Apple is not going to jeopardize its customer relationship for you.

So what can you do during those 15 days? Well for one thing you can create a facebook or google+ page, a tweeter account and start creating some awareness around your app. If your customer target is not too wide, you can also start creating some buzz.   If you have connections at Apple, it might help you get some interest but we didn't have any so it didn't take us very far.

And then, one day, you will receive the magic notification "Processing for AppStore" very quickly followed by "Ready for Sale". You're in baby and that's worth celebrating!

Celebrate when you get your "ready for sale" notification
Nonetheless don't forget that :

- You will need to go through the same process for EVERY evolution (which will be very stressful for bug resolution)
- It's only the beginning!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Will everything be free on the App Store?

Creating an app is a painful process, it takes long time and you would believe it deserves to get some reward and a price. One thing when you start thinking about pricing an App is that you can't escape having those wild billionaire dreams where all users will pick up your app and you'll end up purchasing a beautiful island somewhere.

All app developers share the same dream

Before approaching any fancy real estate agency and putting option on a Ferrari, you will need to pick up your pricing model. Choices aren't that large even if Apple pricing matrix offers up to 87 tiers.

Setting the starting price for your app seems to offer lot of flexibility. You can either:

Option#1: Go for an upfront price ($0.99 and above)
Option#2: Go for a freemium model ($0 and selling in-apps)
Option#3: Go for upfront + in-apps because you are very confident
Option#4: Go for free because fame is the reward you are looking for

Option #1: For some obscure reason, someone at Apple decided to make prices start at $0,99 and by doing so made completely useless about 70 tiers above $10. On iPhone, prices have already got down to $0.99 and as Richard Gaywood stated it, it looks that there is very little room for prices above that tier.
The iPad has been somewhat preserved from the cup of coffee syndrome but there are very few apps above the $5 tier. I see a few reasons to this deviation from the iphone apps price behavior:

- The iPad reaches a different kind of public than the iPhone (families, business people) who sound more able to pay for an app that's worth it
- There are less apps for iPad than iPhone and competition has not been as fierce as on the iPhone market

Overall I think there is a market on the iPad for the moment but looking at the way iPhone market has evolved I am pessimistic and Option#2 is likely to become the standard.

No escape from the freemium model?
Option #2: The freemium model will probably become a standard in the months to come. Most of the games have already gone that way and with increasing pressure on boosting downloads, going free seems the way to go (check out this incredible experience). With a broader customer base, In-Apps purchases make sense, provided that they come with a service.

There are however 3 limits to this model:
- Customer behavior may evolve with the increasing amount of junk apps around. They may become suspicious at free apps and may be willing to pay if they see a point in getting your app.
- What has value has a price, everyone knows there is no such thing as a free ride. They know that there is a price to pay at some point either with in Apps or with no maintenance.
- Customers are zappers: they get an app and for a large majority of them, they just forget about it after a few hours, making In-Apps just inapt.

So big question is: are we doomed? 

Unsustainable business model will bring everyone down

Everyone needs to make a living. There are less and less investors on App Store start ups and many developers are giving up because it's just not sustainable that everything goes for free. Price war is like nuclear war, at some point everyone loses. Even Apple will start to worry (at some point) because what makes iPhone and iPad competitive is the number of apps available. And with an unsustainable business model, who will develop apps?

Conclusion and I am asking Apple here: why not make possible a 30 days trial on every app? It will give customers more confidence in what they buy and developers a reason to compete!

It's not that hard to do and cannot be more complicated than the pricing matrix!