The concept of “product free of charge” has substantially transformed over the last couple of years. Until recently, it wasn’t much of an option but merely a necessity for a small company with limited resources and lack of credibility. After all, every company starts with something and this something is usually given away for free in mostly vain hopes of getting through.
But things have changed. Not only the understanding of the concept had evolved but the very business opportunities of the free products had substantially transformed in a positive direction.
Today, free apps are not just a fancy bow wow wow - it is a powerful tool with many benefits for your business. And many businesses are realizing this trend. Check out the Google Android store distribution of free and paid apps (according to Statista), keeping in mind there are 3,708,107 apps in that app store alone:
Here are five ways free apps can be beneficial for your business.
One of the biggest and most important benefits from the development of free apps are opportunities. The biggest opportunity of all is to try something different, something new.
Development of free apps gives a chance to test and flesh out new ideas and develop new approaches to the old ones.
Free apps can offer even more. It is one thing to try things in a controlled environment. It is a completely different situation when you try out something on the real users. The sheer force of market can keep an idea grounded. It can also show what works, what is not and what can be improved through user feedback.
An insight that market can provide to the perception of the concept and nuances of its reception is invaluable and can seriously improve the idea and make it more feasible with each successive iteration.
With testing, ideas comes another big benefit. Any way you look at it - making a free app is a fine showcase of skill for your development team. Plain and simple. Each project, each function adds, refines and furthers the skills. It gives the team a chance to test their mighty expertise and make it appreciable.
The reasoning is justified by two facts:
- Free apps are more likely to be downloaded and used by common users. More downloads bring more users. That results in exposure. Which leads to another important thing - feedback;
- Users usually don’t expect much from free apps. Because of that - there is always quite a room for wowing an audience and making a splash.
Because of that, the stakes are relatively low and losses are easily retractable. So it is definitely worth a try even for sake of trying.
The biggest takeaway from making free apps is the honing of the skills “on the real battlefield”. It gives a taste of the real market, gives an understanding of the customer behavior and its reaction to the product.
That gives invaluable insights that will greatly help you in the future endeavors.
Another important gain from producing free applications is building a reputation and developing a brand presence through actual products and not just loud and fancy words. A succession of useful products targeted at various audience segments can do a fine job of establishing a brand in an audience’s consciousness.
There are several ways you can make the mark:
- Deliver gimmicky applications for niche audiences - it will provide a short-term presence in the newsfeeds and attract users through the sheer power of curiosity. However, abandonment level is pretty high and so you will need to provide frequent updates and new products;
- Deliver useful common needs applications for a mass audience - it will provide a firm place in listicle overviews and will gradually attract users who just need the stuff to be done nice and clean.
Both ways require a lot of skill and effort (see above) but if done right - in the long run, reputational gains outweigh possible monetary losses.
One of the most potent ways of making free apps work for your benefit is to use them as a part of a bigger scheme of brand extension and product promotion.
Let’s say - you have a Star Wars movie coming out and there is a big advertising campaign to raise awareness about its existence. How can you expand upon that?
- You can make a mobile space flight simulator where you can play as a rebel fighter or imperial stormtrooper.
- Or you can make available Chewbacca sounds pack because it is fun and can be used randomly.
- Or R2D2-speak translator because interaction with droids might come in handy.
On the other hand, you can offer a different angle on the advertised product - with an interactive twist. For example, Fox’s recent VR campaign for “Alien: Covenant” where you can experience being a chestburster inside a human and in the process of bursting out.
Such little things derive from the primary product and further impressions of the users in various directions.
However, in order to pull this off, you need to have an established brand or association with an established brand first. Otherwise, an app will do little for your business.
One of the key elements of building a recognizable brand is making some sort of signature app. Let’s say you are providing some services
While “free apps” are called so because they are free (duh) - it doesn’t mean they can’t make money. Quite the contrary. In fact, free apps are quite effective in creating sweet-sweet revenue.
There are several ways of monetizing free apps. However, they don’t have much effect on their own. It is better to use combinations. Let’s make a short rundown of most viable monetization options:
- In-app adverts - a little banner or pop-up inside the application which will present some product - usually another app;
- In-app purchases - optional ability to buy additional functions for the product. Works best with transformative applications such as text or photo editors. A couple of elaborate filters are always in demand. Works best with timely occasions such as Halloween or significant cultural events;
- Freemium model - an offer to extend and expand user experience with the bigger & better version of an application. It means - free version offers a basic set of functions completely capable of doing the job while for a little pay there is a significantly expanded version of an application that can do the same and much more. In this case - free app serves as a teaser of sorts;
Despite being a viable tool for making a profit - there is still a persistent impression that free apps are just that - free apps free of any positive business consequences. This and many other myths about mobile apps that need to be laid to rest. And this article is a part of this “myth-retiring” campaign.