LittleFin Software

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Three Days Later: The Mac App Store Effect

When the Mac App Store launched, I had high hopes. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened on January 6.

Our home inventory App, Compartments, had been selling at a steady, average pace—we were selling between 6 and 10 copies a day, at $24.95 each. We decided to lower the price to $9.95, in hopes of attracting a larger audience at the start of the App Store. 

What happened next blew us away.

Apple liked Compartments. They featured it as a Staff Pick, and listed it prominently on their Great Mac Apps page. The effect: On January 6, our little home inventory app went from a few sales a day to an astounding 1,500 sales on the first day of availability in the App Store. Through Saturday, as you can see on the graph above, it has maintained sales over 1,000 per day (Sunday stats haven’t been posted yet).

Our other app, Chronicle, was not featured by Apple. Even with no promotion, Chronicle is still selling 80 to 100 copies a day—about 10 times its usual sales volume, and it’s on the way up (see graph). Of course, the price for Chronicle is half what it was before. But rather than hurting us, the lower price is helping us.

Thoughts for Independent Developers

  • Lower Prices Can Be Sustainable: We have always wanted to price our apps lower. But when we tried that in the past, we simply couldn’t get enough volume to justify it. So like other developers, we were a little nervous about the potential for a race to the bottom in the Mac App Store, even though we came in with reduced prices ourselves. The removal of purchase barriers (everyone has an Apple ID) and the huge potential audience of the Mac App Store is providing enough volume that we can offer lower prices. Of course, our apps are simple, and belong at low price points. A number of expensive apps (such as iBank, OmniFocus) seem to be doing quite well so far as well. For us, though, under $10 is working. We briefly had Chronicle at $14.95 in the App Store, but when we put it on sale for $9.95, it started grossing more.
  • Prepare For More Pre-Sale Questions: Although we still have a full 30-day trial available on our website, most people who come across our app never visit our website. And many people, it seems, don’t really read the product descriptions in the App Store either. I rarely, if ever, got “Can your app do this?” questions before—but now I am getting a dozen a day. One thing that seems to have helped slow that down is adding more screenshots with bits of descriptive info on them (as the Cultured Code gents did with Things).
  • If You Keep Selling On the Web, You Will Sell More There Too: This surprised me. The Mac App Store is sending a lot more traffic our way, a fair number of people are choosing to purchase via our website. As a result, revenues are up on our website store sales, though not nearly so dramatically. 

It will be interesting to see what happens once Apple cycles Compartments off the Staff Pick list, and as the App Store picks up more users and more software. But for now, based on how Chronicle is doing, we are wildly optimistic about the future.