19 Jul

The Downsides of selling in the App Store

My iOS app, OneVoice, has been on the Apple App Store for just over 4 months now. Overall it has been a positive experience, but there are some downsides that I hadn’t anticipated before starting the process. First let’s start with the good.

The Good.

The main benefit of the App Store is having the entire purchase experience handled for you. Since they have a massive customer list, every account has a credit card, and it only takes a couple clicks to purchase you don’t have to worry about any of those things. Building and maintaining an e-commerce site with that level of quality in the checkout experience can be rather expensive.

Also I have received a handful of “free” sales from people stumbling across OneVoice in the app store. Though the vast majority of customers come from my own website and marketing efforts.

Now for the downsides.

The Bad.

Customer Information

The only data you get from Apple regarding sales is the quantity, date, and country. An example would be that you received 2 sales on Monday from the United States. This tells me how much money I made, but nothing more.

Often I will email back and forth with a potential customer answering questions about OneVoice. They sound quite happy and ready to purchase, so I wait. But if they don’t tell me “Hey, I bought your app” in an email then I have no idea if they followed through.

Ideally I would like names and email addresses of everyone who purchased from me (as I would have in any other online retail environment) so that I can send a personal welcome or follow-up email to answer any questions and see how OneVoice is working for their family member. This would be incredibly useful for collecting testimonials, gathering app store reviews, and providing higher quality support.

Approval Process

In March I released OneVoice 1.1. It included great new voices, more icons, and highly requested features. Though I made a critical programming error that ended up only affecting the Distribution Build of the app (so it wasn’t found in my regular testing). The resulting bug made it so the new version didn’t have synthesized speech. This isn’t a fringe bug, it crippled the core functionality of the application.

It ended up taking two separate releases to get the problem identified and fully fixed. It turned out to be an amateur mistake I made (I’ll save it for another article), but the process of notifying users was painful.

Not having a customer list I couldn’t sent out an email notifying anyone, since the app description can only be updated when you submit a new build I couldn’t put a message there. I was stuck waiting for the new version to be approved. Even though Apple moved the app to the front of the queue, it was still the most painful 48 hours of my iOS development carrier.

Payment Delay

Apple pays out the proceeds from sales about 30 days after the period ends. So you will be paid for March sales on or around April 1st. Since I work a full time job and am currently saving all the revenue from OneVoice this isn’t a big deal. But if I were working full time on OneVoice and needed the money this would be really frustrating.

Overall I love developing for iOS and plan to work on many apps in the future.

Enjoyed the article? Follow me on Twitter or with RSS.

3 Responses to “The Downsides of selling in the App Store”

  1. Overall, you’ve got some great points. The app store, though, is optimized for small purchases that you don’t even think about. There would be some real privacy issues with automatically giving names and emails to app publishers for their marketing efforts.

    I don’t think the app store was designed with large purchases in mind. But… Apple should add the ability to opt-in when purchasing an app. I think that most of your purchasers would opt-in in a heartbeat. The other thing you could do is start a Twitter account for the app’s news and updates so that customers can opt themselves in for news and updates.

    • nathanbarry says:

      True, for small purchases you are right about contact information. Though if I were able to host my own payment and purchasing system I would get this information by default.

      I should add the Twitter account. So far the Facebook page (http://facebook.com/onevoiceaac) is doing quite well.

  2. Thanks for sharing Nathan. I’m working on my first iOS app and your story helped me prepare for what’s to come. Keep up the awesome work that you do man.

    By the way, we share the same name :)


Leave a Reply