Free Apps – Probability of Success

The relative victory of free apps over other business model apps (both in terms of monetization and engagement), gives valuable perception into what apps need to be doing to acquire and retain users. For an example, average session length of a mobile game is 7.55 minutes, while the average session length of e-commerce and retail apps is 2.85. The inequality is similar for revenue: the average user spends $35 on mobile apps over the course of a year, and $25 of that goes to mobile gaming. Aside from the fact that mobile games are just simple fun, what accounts for this huge disparity in success?

The plain answer is; they listen to their users. Mobile games in common have highly effective customer feedback loops, and will often release beta versions of updates and new games to players in order to gather feedback.

There are many key reasons influencing all “users first” strategies for successful free apps:


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Community Building

Facilitate this level of community through in-app chat with specific topics (e.g. tips, ideas etc) related to the brand. Makes the app a resource for crowd sourced information and ideas.

VIP Programs

One of effective tools for encouraging customer engagement and participation. Encourage people who are already in love with the product to spend more and become more loyal by giving those perks. As loyalty marketing continues to move to the forefront of business strategies, more and more companies are taking advantage of VIP programs, driving addition and retention outcome by making their best customers feel special.

In-App Purchases

Mobile app is a business add-on, not a business in of itself. The app is a product, and it should be identifying the highest-paying customers (aka the ones who are likely to spend more on app in the future), and have them pay to use the app. The ploy, is in finding what precisely it is that will encourage the customers to make in-app purchases. Mobile games have figured this out through the rigorous use of analytics, testing, and surveys, and it’s just starting to show in their highly effective VIP and re-engagement campaigns.

Beta Testing

Puzzlingly, most apps do not beta test with their most loyal users before releasing a new feature. The majority of mobile users have encountered app issues including freezing, crashing, and slow launches. Couple this with the fact that while 79% of users will give apps a second chance, only 16% will give it a third. There’s no race for new features; taking the time to beta test the product, gather feedback, and work out the kinks before releasing it to the public.

Pure Feedback

Feedback can come in three main forms: in-app surveys, intelligent rating prompts, and customer advisory boards (another great way to gather VIP customers and make them feel special). The best companies will use all three. After all, knowledge is power.

Usage Becomes a Habit

The app should give unparalleled and increasing value. This is the value users get every time they use the app, which attracts them to make it an essential part of their daily lives. Once the app does that, and the user starts using the app as part of a regimen, it may turn into a habit. Habits are behaviors without much consciousness, and without requiring triggers. This means great user engagement, less price sensitivity, and sufficient monetization probabilities.

Free apps like Whats app, LinkedIn and other such apps have successfully engaged, monetized, and retained customers, often across multiple product lines. Through each of the above listed strategies, they have developed a user-first mantra that multiplies loyal customers who trust in their brands. If the aforesaid reason is kept in mind while developing your next app, and you’ll find that you don’t need to create a fantasy land to build a successful free app.


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