8/29/2018 8:50:15 AM
iOS 12 subscription based app tips for success
iOS 12,Subscription Based Apps,Apple Meeting
App Developer Magazine

iOS 12 subscription based app tips for success

Eran Kinsbruner Eran Kinsbruner in iOS Wednesday, August 29, 2018

iOS 12 is coming and Apple is pushing subscription based apps more than ever. Here's how to make sure you deliver the best app you can to get subscribers to pay you recurring revenue.

Last year, Apple held a secret meeting with a select group of iOS app developers in New York to talk about changing the current app delivery model from one-time purchases to subscription-based. From Apple’s view, these one-time purchases typically are inexpensive ($1-2), yet grant end-users unlimited access to the app and support, which can prove to be costly from both a services and R&D perspective. Apple’s expectation was to have developers switch to a different mindset around long-term customer engagement and recurring revenues, which is easier said than done.

Today, there are very few successful subscription-based apps in the Apple store. To change this reality, there needs to be a shift in the way apps are developed, delivered and maintained. As users commit to paying on a monthly or annual basis using subscriptions, they have clear expectations around service, support, quality, and value. To ensure consistent revenue, app developers need to focus on these areas when considering the switch to such a model. Below are three tips to keep in mind when making that transition.

Providing value consistently with your subscription based apps

Paid apps already set the bar high in terms of expectations; most users would always rather choose from a plethora of free apps. Subscription-based apps take paid apps one step further, setting the bar even higher. When paying for a subscription-based service, customers expect consistent value add.

Consider Amazon Prime’s subscription service. With Amazon Prime, users pay an annual fee to get unique products, free movie services, two-day guaranteed deliveries and more offerings that they wouldn’t get from Amazon.com. The same thinking should apply to subscription apps and utilities that are purchased through the Apple app store.

When that value is gone, either due to other products that offer competitive pricing or because the product fails to deliver due to quality issues, customers will immediately act upon that and either cancel their subscription or claim compensation that will result in business loss to app developers.

When defining consistent value to the customer, especially in a mobile lens, this means ensuring timely updates to support new iOS platform releases/devices and providing innovative, cutting-edge functionalities that are not available in any other competitive service. From a developer standpoint, that means always being up-to-date with the iOS market, as well as with customers to anticipate upcoming releases and changes in perception about certain features (to retire, update, add, etc.) by gathering feedback through monitoring services, surveys and more.

Ensure continuous quality

Innovative features and consistent value are key for subscription-based apps, however, continuous quality of the apps across all iOS platforms (smartphones, tablets, watches, TVs, and now cars) is equally essential to retain happy and renewing customers. Apps in the subscription model must be highly responsive, well-performing and exceptionally functioning. While there is no software free of bugs, the level and severity of defects should be as low as possible. And when such issues do occur, the response from developers ought to be fast.

Recently, there were many reports of a quality issue in the MoviePass app, a subscription-based service, in which it suffered repetitive outages due to memory leaks. As a result, there were many complaints about the recurring issues and even threats from users that they would cancel their service if they continued to occur.  

With continuous testing processes, MoviePass and similar app vendors could’ve caught service and availability issues and addressed them in a timely manner, without causing too much disruption for users.

Instill strong customer service

As mentioned, software will always encounter defects and in high peak usage, some outages may occur. While there should be proper testing to avoid these issues, there must always be a support plan when these events occur so communication is well delivered to subscribers.

Customer support doesn’t just mean communication, but also creative solutions to mitigate interruptions as much as possible when issues with the app do arise. The faster customers get answers to the complaints, the higher the chances are for them to remain loyal. While responding to customers in a timely manner, developers must also be fixing issues just as quickly. To do so, developers must have a robust analysis solution that will help them pinpoint the issue and its root cause, leading them to a resolution. Fast feedback to the developers through monitoring systems and test automation code is a great way to address issues and deliver patches to end users.

Overall, the move to a subscription-based model for iOS apps can be a great way to increase revenues and gain a greater market share, also allowing developers to focus on what they like the best - innovating and developing new features. However, there’s also a greater responsibility and risk as end-users’ expectations are set higher.

It’s a long road to full adoption of subscription-based models from an adoption and success rate perspective due to the nature of mobile apps and the unlimited number of them in the market today. Proving value and convincing customers to subscribe to a monthly/yearly service requires time, appealing features and strong marketing engines. It’s when DevOps teams can demonstrate maturity in quality practices like continuous testing and continuous delivery that the market will embrace such apps in a more trusted manner.

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