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What I Learned In WP7 – Issue 15

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I learned something about pricing your applications in the Windows Phone Marketplace  today that I never expected.  (Keep in mind this entire article is based on my sample size of ONE, but it’s an interesting thought exercise.)

Trial Mode might actually HURT your sales.

Let me explain:  I have been very diligent with my applications in the marketplace to make sure that they offer a compelling Trial mode to my users.  I want them to download it, and try it, so that they will ultimately buy it.  None of my applications are crazy addictive, or something that I thought would sell millions of copies.  Not by a long shot.  But I did think that I would sell SOME.

In fact, I am selling some.  Maybe 5 copies a day across all three of my paid applications (5 total, not 15).  Probably right in line with what I expected for the time/effort I put into some of these applications.  But I tried an experiment recently, and it had interesting results.

I am speaking at the CodeMash conference this week, and in one of my sessions, I am building a simple Twitter app alongside an iPhone developer and an Android developer.  We each get 15 minutes to build the same application.  (In other words, it’s incredibly simple.)

I decided it would be cool to have the application I was building for the session be available for download after the session, so I submitted it to the Marketplace over the holidays.  I had no trouble getting it submitted, but I decided to price it at 99 cents, with no trial mode (conversely, the rest of my applications offer limited functionality in Trial mode.)

Twitter Stalker (the app I’m talking about) sold 5 copies on New Year’s Day.  And has continued to sell at a higher rate than my other applications.  It’s description even says that “This is an application that was built as a demonstration at the CodeMash conference in Sandusky, OH on January 13, 2011.”


Now, I know that there are numerous factors that go into something like this, and one anomaly does not mean correlation.  For example, people might just be looking for a new Twitter client, and willing to spend the 99 cents to find out if it’s good.  On the other hand, if I had offered a trial mode, then they certainly would NOT have spent the 99 cents afterwards.  The app is really nothing special.

So, here’s your food for thought:

When building a simple application, is it more important for your users to LOVE your application?  Or is it more important to you that they BUY it?

I propose that if you’re building something simple, that can easily be explained in your description, perhaps a Trial mode isn’t something you should offer.  Perhaps people would be willing to pay 99 cents to find out if your application is what they’re looking for.  By offering a trial, you’re actually giving them the chance to NOT like it.

What do you think?


9 responses to “What I Learned In WP7 – Issue 15”

  1. Rich Avatar

    This is interesting. I had actually suspected this and had planned to perform some tests on my own in the near future. I'll let you know how that goes. -Rich

  2. Rich S Avatar

    I think you are onto something…I've been wondering about that for a while.

  3. Emad Ibrahim Avatar

    I 100% agree. I have 4 apps, 2 paid with trial and 2 free. The sales numbers are very low and I have been wanting to remove the trial mode from my paid apps but have been hesitant to do so. One reason is that I have been so busy and don't have time to quickly respond to user requests and I feel by having a trial mode, I can afford to delay updates.

    For example, my Picasa Viewer app sells for 1.99 but it doesn't have pinch or zoom gestures support, but the trial mode is very functional and they can do pretty much everything (except download/upload images). So if someone asks for that feature or requests a refund for some reason, in mind I am thinking "hey you had time to try it for free, so I don't really feel bad for you".

    If I remove the trial mode then my reaction will be (and probably should be) a little different. I don't know if I am right – what do you guys think? Anyway, I think I am going to go ahead and try removing trial mode for a week or so and see what happens.

  4. BlackLightMobile Avatar

    But surely this is only an issue if your app is not very good. If your app is good the customer will find it worth the money and maybe you will get a sale where there would have been none.

  5. Ian Avatar

    Not necessarily, if the trial is almost fully functional then often the customer will make do (you can monitor this by implementing Google Analytics for trial mode apps).

  6. WP7 Avatar

    You totally answered all your questions at once: people don't buy your apps because they are nothing special.


    PS: posting this from FF because IE says "error on page" (but how comes I'm not surprised?)

  7. Mike Avatar

    I'm really surprised that this hasn't been studied by an economics group


  8. BlackLightMobile Avatar

    What if you use a time limited trial mode. That should convert them over to a sale.

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