Why You Should Make Your App Free (And How To Do It)

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You’ve spent months creating your app, and now it’s finally time to release it. Should you charge for downloads?

It’s tempting—with paid downloads, you can start making money right away. But competition is intense, and users are accustomed to getting most of their apps for free.

If you have a specialty app, there’s a small chance you can get users to pay, depending on the category and demand. While games are almost all free, users have a history of paying for some educational, navigation, fitness, and productivity apps—though there usually are plenty of free alternatives.

If you charge for downloads, you face an uphill battle. Unless you provide truly unique, compelling content, you’re likely better off with a free or “freemium” model that allows you to make money over time.

A freemium model offers several choices for generating revenue. You can charge users more for greater bandwidth or more storage space. You can offer a free trial to get them hooked, then charge them to continue. For games, you can charge for in-app purchases to help users advance. For other apps, you can offer premium content, subscriptions, or ecommerce services. A Gartner survey found that mobile app users spent 24% more money on in-app purchases than they did on downloads.

Of course, you can also make money by running ads—or charging to remove them. In the Gartner survey, just 20 percent of respondents said they "often click on advertisements contained within mobile apps," while almost two-thirds said they don’t. Ad removal lets you make money from customers who opt out of ads while still being paid by advertisers for those who click.

Give them something fun

A fun alternative for users—and a money-maker for you—is to offer surveys. Most people enjoy answering a few questions about themselves. In return, they gain free access to premium content like an informative ebook or a funny video.

Surveys work well in conjunction with ads, and unlike freemium offers, they don’t require your customers to pay a thing. Instead, you are paid by companies that want their information. With surveys, users get in the habit of interacting with your app. That might influence them to make more in-app purchases.

In-app revenue—whether it’s from surveys, ads, or freemium purchases—increases with user engagement. And users are engaging more with their apps more than ever as download speeds increase and mobile providers adopt free-data business models. An App Annie survey found that time spent in apps grew by 25% last year, increasing revenue to publishers by 40%.

In-app advertising and freemium models will continue to dominate the app landscape, an App Annie monetization report says. In-app advertising revenue to publishers is expected to reach over $117 billion by 2020, and in-app purchases will bring publishers another $71 billion, the report says.

With downloads expected to reach 284.3 billion in 2020, there are bound to be people who will love your app once they try it. Why risk alienating them by charging upfront? With surveys, you have an added opportunity to make money over time while users engage with your app and have fun.

Learn about monetizing content and experiences, increasing ad revenue with Survata SurveyWalls.

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