Developing Perspective

#178: Customer Escape Hatches


00:00:00   Hello, and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of note and iOS development, Apple and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm an independent

00:00:09   iOS developer based in Herndon, Virginia. This is show number 178. And today is Thursday, March 27.

00:00:16   Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes. So let's get started. All right. So as

00:00:21   I had said in the last episode, I'm last week never never got a show. And that's because I was

00:00:26   I was at MSConf for the better part of last week, which was an awesome time.

00:00:31   I got to meet many of you, which was also very cool, and got to kind of get over a lot

00:00:36   of the apprehension I had about public speaking.

00:00:39   It's something I've done a very limited amount, if at all, previously, and certainly this

00:00:43   was the first time I'd ever been kind of just like up on the stage, you know, with a couple

00:00:47   hundred people in the audience looking at me.

00:00:50   And so I think it went pretty well, all things considered, and it was definitely kind of

00:00:53   a nice experience for that.

00:00:55   And my thanks to Scotty and all the folks

00:00:57   who organized that conference and allowed me to speak.

00:01:01   Of course, I'm kind of going a little crazy with conferences

00:01:04   this week, because tomorrow I'll be at CocoaConf, which

00:01:07   will actually just be here in my backyard in Herman, Virginia.

00:01:10   So I'm kind of doing two and two weeks, which might

00:01:13   have been slightly ill-advised.

00:01:14   It feels like it's been forever since I actually wrote code,

00:01:17   rather than writing keynote files.

00:01:19   But if you're going to be at CocoaConf tomorrow

00:01:21   and you hear this before then, please do stop me, grab me.

00:01:24   Let me know.

00:01:25   It's always fun to meet people who listen to the show.

00:01:29   Another interesting thing that happened in the last couple

00:01:32   of weeks is that Apple is apparently testing new search

00:01:35   stuff in the App Store, which I would love to have taken

00:01:39   complete credit for, which of course is, I'm sure,

00:01:41   completely wrong.

00:01:42   But obviously, last episode, it was all about how to think

00:01:45   these are practical ways that I think they could improve

00:01:47   searching in the App Store and the things that they're, in

00:01:50   theory, random screenshots from random people.

00:01:53   Who knows what that actually means?

00:01:54   But I'm glad to even just see that progress

00:01:57   is being made in that area.

00:01:59   At some level, I don't even really care

00:02:00   what they're actually changing so much as that they're

00:02:03   actually making progress, that they're actually

00:02:04   changing things.

00:02:05   That's the part that makes me excited.

00:02:07   That's the part that kind of got me jazzed when I saw that.

00:02:10   And maybe someone at Apple is listening, and if they are,

00:02:14   and you're starting to think about these changes, I love you.

00:02:18   You're awesome, and keep it up.

00:02:21   All right.

00:02:22   So today I'm going to be talking about practical changes in the App Store as they relate to

00:02:27   business models or as they relate more generally to things about the way that you can turn

00:02:33   an application into a business and the way that someone as a developer who makes my living

00:02:38   exclusively from the App Store.

00:02:40   This is something I think about a lot.

00:02:42   It's very, very personal and very important to me that the App Store has mechanisms in

00:02:47   place and does things in a way that allows me to make a good, make a living and, you

00:02:52   know, sustainable, reliable way. That's very, very important to me, because obviously that's

00:02:57   the thing that's, you know, paying pay my mortgage. And so whenever I start thinking

00:03:03   about business models and changes, I mean, it's always I think ripe with peril where

00:03:07   people start assuming that either old approaches are best because they're old, because they

00:03:15   they were what was working before.

00:03:16   I think about this a lot.

00:03:19   The transition from the old Mac indie sales from your website

00:03:24   model to a model that is in an app store, even.

00:03:29   I think there are very fundamental differences

00:03:31   about those that change the dynamics in a way

00:03:34   that if the model itself isn't updating and being made

00:03:37   current to that, it's unlikely to expect

00:03:39   that that's going to be the best thing for developers

00:03:41   or for customers.

00:03:43   And so that's just a sort of a caution that I always have when I start making these changes.

00:03:48   Along those lines, there's another caution that I, in general, I'm always very nervous

00:03:53   when Apple makes these kinds of changes.

00:03:55   And that's because obviously, like I said, I'm making my living in this.

00:03:59   And so while they could make a change that would be better for the store as a whole,

00:04:03   that could potentially not necessarily be better for me.

00:04:06   And so that's just kind of part of this game of overall, I would prefer to work in an environment

00:04:13   where I feel like it's the fairest, best, most sustainable

00:04:16   model for developers.

00:04:18   And if I have to adapt myself to that, so be it.

00:04:21   But it's always just something that I'm

00:04:23   in the back of my head, where the way the App Store is set up

00:04:26   right now is working OK for me.

00:04:28   I'm making my living, and this is fine.

00:04:30   And so I always get a little bit nervous

00:04:33   when I start suggesting that they make changes,

00:04:35   because I don't know the actual impacts that that would

00:04:38   have on me as a developer.

00:04:40   But all that said, so I have three main areas that I think--

00:04:45   practical, simple, straightforward things

00:04:47   they could do that I think would improve the business

00:04:49   environment in the App Store.

00:04:51   And the first-- and this is probably

00:04:53   the most important one.

00:04:54   And honestly, it's one of these things that

00:04:55   has been bugging me for a while, but I've never quite found

00:04:58   the right venue to talk about it in,

00:04:59   and this seems the right place--

00:05:02   is Apple needs to better explain the refund process and policy

00:05:09   in the App Store, and perhaps make it more accessible to users.

00:05:15   And what's important to note is that I didn't say Apple needs

00:05:19   to change their refund policy.

00:05:21   You'll often hear people talk about software trials

00:05:24   or these types of things.

00:05:25   And what we want is what they have on the Google Play Store,

00:05:28   where if you delete an application after so many hours

00:05:33   or something like that, you don't get charged for it.

00:05:36   There are things like that that you could do.

00:05:40   But I don't really like trials.

00:05:41   A lot of people ask for them.

00:05:43   In a thing about business models in the App Store,

00:05:45   I think a lot of people would have expected some talk of something

00:05:48   like software trials.

00:05:49   I don't like trials.

00:05:50   And most of why I don't like trials is because it creates kind of an awkward

00:05:55   thing for me as a developer.

00:05:56   Because with a trial, what you're doing is I'm giving you the app for free

00:06:02   and then asking you later to pay me for it.

00:06:06   Like that's the nature of a trial.

00:06:07   I'm giving it to you for free, and then I'm asking you for money later.

00:06:13   And while that sort of makes sense at some level, in terms of I want to try it out before

00:06:18   I know if I want to buy it, I always get uncomfortable with the expectations and the kind of the

00:06:24   marketing of that message of saying, "Here's this thing that I think is worth $5 for argument's

00:06:30   sake.

00:06:31   Here's this thing worth $5.

00:06:32   I'm going to give it to you for free, and then in two weeks, you're going to give me

00:06:35   $5 if you want to keep using it.

00:06:36   Which I can understand why that works, but I don't really like

00:06:40   the philosophy of that.

00:06:42   What I prefer, and it's a model that applies, I think, to most

00:06:45   other purchases we have in life that I think works very well.

00:06:49   And I think the typical customer is very used to, is when you go

00:06:53   to a store, you buy something, you hand them the $5, and you

00:06:57   know that if it turns out you don't want it, you can take it

00:07:00   back and you'll get your $5 back.

00:07:02   And it's a subtle difference.

00:07:04   It's not like a fundamental change in what's actually happening.

00:07:07   But I know a lot of people, a classic one is going to a clothing store, for example,

00:07:13   where sometimes you'll buy more than you actually want because you want to go home, try it on,

00:07:20   ask someone else's opinion.

00:07:21   There's a lot of scenarios where having that type of a refund policy that's very clear

00:07:26   and very straightforward to exercise as a customer makes me feel very comfortable.

00:07:31   And I think it makes me feel more comfortable in a lot of ways than having been at trial

00:07:34   would, where with a trial, I'm having to keep in my mind, do I want to pay for this?

00:07:38   Do I want to pay for this?

00:07:40   Whereas with the refund model, I've already paid for this.

00:07:43   I've already decided this was worth my attention, and I have an escape hatch if it turns out

00:07:47   I don't, which for me is anyway, as a customer, feels much less intimidating.

00:07:53   It's not something that, for example, I'm building up a debt essentially to a developer.

00:07:59   I don't like being in debt to people.

00:08:01   And so having a trial piece of software is basically that.

00:08:04   I'm putting myself in debt to them for a while.

00:08:07   And the App Store has a reasonable return policy.

00:08:10   A couple times I've used it, and it's gone fine and worked

00:08:14   as I would have hoped it.

00:08:15   You kind of go into iTunes Connect support,

00:08:18   or it's like report a problem.apple.com,

00:08:20   or something like that.

00:08:21   And you click the things.

00:08:22   And it's a very opaque process, though.

00:08:24   And if you asked, I think, most people

00:08:26   what the return policy for the App Store is, I imagine you'd hear very conflicting and

00:08:31   confusing results.

00:08:32   I think a lot of people have no idea what the return policy is.

00:08:36   And I think what all Apple needs to do is, because presumably they have some kind of

00:08:39   policy that if you ask for a return, you know, so many months after you purchased it, maybe

00:08:43   it's not applicable, or maybe you can.

00:08:46   And if that's the case, great, like, tell people about that.

00:08:49   Because the thing that I found is so complicated is I found it, I don't even really understand

00:08:54   the policy myself.

00:08:55   I haven't really found it anywhere.

00:08:57   And that I think is, that engenders that sense of, you know, it doesn't add that benefit,

00:09:04   even though it exists.

00:09:05   We don't, you, the developers don't get to enjoy the benefits of a return policy.

00:09:09   And with it, I think an increase in terms of users' willingness to buy paid applications,

00:09:14   to put money into something knowing that if it doesn't work out, I have seven days to

00:09:19   return it, or I have two days to return it, or I have 30 days to return it.

00:09:23   that very clear and potentially even making it a nice interface within the app store.

00:09:28   Or if you go into your purchased area in the app, if it's eligible for a refund, you have

00:09:32   the ability to request that directly from there.

00:09:35   I think developers would make far more money up from the increase in purchases, from people's

00:09:42   comfort of knowing they can return it, than they would lose from making that process of

00:09:46   returning it easier.

00:09:49   And honestly, even just the fundamental question of, I don't want people who don't like my

00:09:52   software to have given me money, that's negative advertising for me.

00:09:56   That's going to hurt my sales, I think, in the long run.

00:09:59   So if you don't like it, I'd far prefer to have gotten your money back so you can

00:10:03   move on, rather than if you ever encounter my application again, or you run into a friend

00:10:08   or someone, you have this negative thing in your mind that's like, "Oh man, I paid $5

00:10:11   for that and I never use it, and I hate it."

00:10:14   So that's the first thing.

00:10:15   I wish they would explain and make more obvious the refund policy that presumably currently

00:10:19   exists.

00:10:20   I don't even need it to change.

00:10:21   make it obvious and make it easy to access as a customer.

00:10:26   Next and number two, I wish there was slightly better policies around in-app purchases.

00:10:31   And this is something I'll link to a blog post I did about this several months ago.

00:10:35   But I think there's definitely a stigma around in-app purchases, especially consumable in-app

00:10:40   purchases in the App Store, specifically around a lot of the rise of these very kind of shady-ish

00:10:47   games.

00:10:48   And I was, like I said, I'm always trying to be careful about calling people names,

00:10:52   because sometimes I have some things that I think are cool, they, other people don't.

00:10:56   But I think there's a lot of, two main changes that could be done to the in app purchase

00:11:01   system.

00:11:02   It would make them just more honest and upfront with customers.

00:11:05   And I think being honest and upfront is all we have to do.

00:11:08   And ultimately, customers are responsible for their own actions.

00:11:11   And if they're putting money into a game, then that's their choice.

00:11:14   But I think there's two things that would make that much more straightforward.

00:11:17   The first is I think the app store should display

00:11:20   the average cost of a typical user or a median or something

00:11:24   like that on the purchase screen when you're buying it.

00:11:27   So when it says free, you understand

00:11:29   that it isn't actually likely going to be free,

00:11:31   that most users are putting money into it.

00:11:33   And I think that's an important thing both to set the user's

00:11:37   expectations correctly, but also to make sure

00:11:43   that there isn't quite as much of a differentiation

00:11:46   between paid and free.

00:11:47   Because right now, if you look at an app,

00:11:49   and one of them says free, and in tiny letters

00:11:51   it says offers in-app purchase.

00:11:53   And on the other app, it says $2.

00:11:55   You may end up actually spending the same amount of money

00:11:58   in both of those apps, but there's

00:11:59   a very strong marketing message communicated

00:12:02   by not having an average or typical price in the one case.

00:12:06   And the other one is on the purchase screen.

00:12:08   If you have consumable in-app purchases,

00:12:10   I think it should show your cumulative outlay

00:12:13   into the application as you're doing these purchases, just as a reminder of what's happening

00:12:18   and to make it clear to you how much you've invested into this application.

00:12:24   And that's for better or worse.

00:12:26   But being honest with our customers and being very clear about what they're doing seems

00:12:30   like a good idea.

00:12:31   And I mean, I remember Apple recently even got in trouble about this and had to change

00:12:35   some of their in-app purchase policies because of, I think it was the Federal Trade Commission

00:12:40   ruling or something like that.

00:12:42   a lot of peril and things that can go on with in-app purchases that I think doing those

00:12:48   the tooth making adding those two changes to the App Store not changing any of the policies

00:12:51   around them but just informing our customers better would improve. And lastly, and this

00:12:57   is a fairly maybe a bit more controversial is I think generally the App Store should

00:13:01   get rid of the top grossing list and replace it with I don't even know either just remove

00:13:06   it or replace it with something that potentially only included paid apps. The reason I remember

00:13:11   back a couple years ago that the top grossing list was added,

00:13:15   at least ostensibly, was to deal with the issue of high cost

00:13:19   paid apps not showing up in the paid apps list,

00:13:23   because those are based on volume.

00:13:25   And so if you have a low volume, high cost application,

00:13:29   you wouldn't show up.

00:13:31   And I think that's a great goal.

00:13:32   And I think that's something that

00:13:34   would be a worthwhile thing to show to users,

00:13:36   that here are some apps that are generating a lot of revenue,

00:13:39   and doing it by having a high price.

00:13:42   But I think those lists stop making sense

00:13:43   when in-app purchase is included in that, because they

00:13:46   immediately become so flooded with things

00:13:49   like these consumable games or things.

00:13:51   And perhaps you could even just differentiate and say,

00:13:53   consumable in-app purchase doesn't

00:13:55   count in the grossing list, or something like that.

00:13:57   But generally, I would even just be

00:13:58   happy to just get rid of them, because I

00:14:00   don't think they're constructive.

00:14:01   I don't think they're showing useful, actionable information

00:14:04   to the customer, necessarily.

00:14:05   They're just something that is an avenue for abuse

00:14:12   within the App Store.

00:14:13   All right, that's it for today's show.

00:14:14   As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns,

00:14:16   or complaints, I'm on Twitter @_davidsmith,

00:14:18   david@developingperspective.com.

00:14:20   Otherwise, I hope you have a great week.

00:14:22   Happy coding.

00:14:22   And if you're at Cocoa Con for this weekend,

00:14:24   make sure you say hi.

00:14:25   Bye.