What does it take to make a successful iPhone application?

What does it take to make a successful iPhone application?

Before answering what does it take to make a successful iPhone application we have to define what makes an application successful. Sapient always asks why are we building something, what are we trying to achieve, and how are we going to measure it; so starting from top down, what are the business objectives, the key performance indicators, and all metrics. iPhone applications usually serve one of two purposes: drive brand or drive revenue.

Objective: Drive brandApplications that drive brand most likely are free since they have to target a broad reach. Objective is usually increase awareness, brand recall, or word of mouth, and is traditionally measured based on simple downloads, usage, and extended with how many share with friends, stickiness, and engagement levels. A good way to take it one step further is tie in social media monitoring and analyze share and velocity of voice, general sentiment, and overall impact of the application within social conversations.

Now that we understand how to measure it, what will the application do? Nowadays brands cannot push messages to the consumers, they have to provide value and we generally call it brand as an enabler. Applications that drive brand usually fall under one of two categories: be entertaining or be useful. Entertaining applications usually have a wider adoption, more downloads, but less engagement as users open it just a few times before they get bored. Useful applications have a smaller reach but higher engagement; less users will download the application, but they will use it much more than simple entertainment applications. However the key for both types is simplicity.

Objective: Drive RevenueRevenue can be driven directly by the application, or indirectly but multi-channel tie-in with retail and stores. Indirect revenue usually aims to drive users to store fronts, partners, or provide reasons for the user to purchase products or services. Whereas direct revenue is generated by the application. Measurement towards these objectives are always dollars.

Direct revenue can be generated from advertising or downloads, and both have different strategies. Revenue from advertising is similar to brand-driven applications: it aims to reach as many users as possible by providing free entertaining or utilities, and collect revenue through 3rd party advertising. However, download revenue can be a little more complex as it involves pricing strategy.

The secret to maximize download revenue is pricing. The most popular paid applications are priced between $0.99 and $3.99, with predominant 99 cent applications. These applications are what we call the big-fast-sales. Most users download them and use them once or twice; they’re predominantly entertainment and provide small value to the consumer, but the mass download provides great initial revenue and then stops. The most grossing applications are actually priced between $4.99 and $9.99 at 44% and account for 44% of revenue. These applications are downloaded less, but used much more often as usually they do provide value.

Here’s a simple framework to determine your iPhone application strategy

  • Set objectives – what is successful?

    • Drive Brand - Free

      *   Entertaining
      
      • Useful

      • Generate Revenue

        • Direct Revenue

          *   Business models
          
                  *   Free apps
          
          • big fast sales
          • sustained sales

            *   Revenue Models
            
                *   Thru ads
            
          • Thru downloads

                        *   Pricing Structure
            
                                *   Most popular $0.99 at 50% and 0.99-3.99
            *   Most grossing $4.99-9.99 at 44%
            
          • Indirect Revenue

            • Cross / Multi-channel
        • Point of Sale
          ConclusionSo what does it take to make a successful iPhone application? You need a strategy, know what you want, how to get there, and how to measure. Keep it simple, make it engaging, and provide means to share and pass-along.