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.