Indie App Developers – The gloom that awaits them in 2015
A perfect world would be one where establishing one’s business isn’t hard and new talent constantly rises and replaces outdated players. However, it isn’t a perfect world out there and this fact couldn’t be more true for mobile app developers.
While it was relatively easier for current market leaders to break through and reign, the same isn’t the case for newer up-and-coming developers. The idealistic notion that good apps can sail through on just merit alone is far from the truth.
Here are a few things that prove to be major hurdles for independent app developers.
Cost per install or cost per acquisition as an advertising method is a popular option for many a developer seeking visibility for his/her mobile app. According to the Fiksu index in October 2014, CPI for iOS devices has seen a 59 per cent increase year-on-year since last year. Additionally, the Cost per Loyal User index (where a loyal user is one who opens an app three or more times) increased by 33 per cent in comparison to the previous year.
With the burgeoning numbers of new devices and OS, the demand for apps has been increasing, consistently driving marketing activity and acquisition costs higher. Given the situation, independent developers find themselves completely at sea, with lack of budgets to match the advertising prowess of big brands.
Lack of marketing budgets
Creating a great app that resonates with the audience in question is only half the battle. According to Jeremy Van Fleet, an independent app developer – “I think getting all the parts working together is the biggest challenge. A lone developer really needs to be a jack-of-all-trades as there are such a broad range of skills under the umbrellas of designing, building, launching and promoting,” Van Fleet said. “The store is a frighteningly crowded place and a great app can get lost in the ether without all those different cylinders firing.”
One aspect that independent developers particularly feel they miss out on is ample marketing budgets. For instance King, the developer of popular mobile games such as Candy Crush Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and Pet Rescue Saga ,spent $376.9 million on sales and marketing in 2013. In comparison, independent developers are unable to match the marketing might of the bigger developers in order to be seen by audiences. The result? Good apps get lost in an enormous ocean of apps.
Take a look at the home screen on your phone. Chances are that it is dominated by one or more app constellations such as Facebook-Instagram-Whatsapp or Gmail-Drive-Google Search-Google Now. What the presence of app constellations means is that major publishers who already have a significant number of users enjoy higher rates of success when creating new apps simply because discovery is not an issue. In comparison, independent developers have no such advantage and are usually left to countering the problem with other measures.
App store discovery or obscurity?
The search functionality on Apple’s App Store and Google Play are highly debatable in their usefulness to people who want to find specific apps or developers who want their apps to be noticed. Given this, relying on organic discovery, more often than not, serves to frustrate independent developers rather than help them acquire users.
Despite all these challenges, indie developers are seeking other options to improve discovery of their apps. One often used tactic is to have review websites write about the apps, although not everyone manages to get noticed this way. Another means is to use discovery platforms such as Product Hunt. Creative folks are even using quirky means such as partnering with YouTube celebrities to promote their apps.
While indie developers’ apps will hit the stores and some of them will become overnight success, the playing field favors app publishers with deep pockets.
If you are an indie app publisher and looking ahead at 2015, be aware that you are not making sustainable revenue or at least not enough to replace the salary you draw from your day job.