The 7 Mobile App Monetization Models

By Rich Foreman

Something I typically ask my startup clients is, “How do you plan on making money?” Sometimes I get a stunned silence in response. They’re so caught up in their idea that they never think about the monetization model.

This is especially true for startups that include an app as part of the business model. So, if you are at the “napkin stage” of your next app venture, here are seven app monetization models to give you food for thought.

  1. The Price of the App

The most obvious way to make money is by selling it on an app store. On the Apple App Store, the price can range from $0.99 to $999.99. Both Apple and Google take a 30 percent cut, but both of them have good systems that will deposit the funds directly into your bank account.

Although, from what I’ve observed, putting a price on your app is often a barrier to people downloading your app.

  1. In-App Purchases

Typically, in-app purchases for a free app allow users to:

  • Unlock features
  • Purchase a subscription
  • Buy virtual goods
  • Purchase additional content

Just as in the upfront price of an app, Apple and Google Play take 30 percent of the sales from in-app purchases. If you look at the top-grossing apps in the Apple App Store, the top 30 apps are all free, but they offer in-app purchases.

  1. Mobile Advertising

Mobile advertising is close to a $100 billion market in 2016.

  1. License

Essentially, if you build an app that solves a problem, you can license it. A good example is event apps. There are a number of companies with an app template that will create custom apps for organizations in need of an event app. They typically charge a setup fee and a monthly subscription. This follows an SaaS (software as a service) model.

  1. Improving the Business Process

Although this isn’t exactly a monetization model, effectively implementing a mobile app can substantially improve business revenue. A good example is Fandango. Its revenue increased by 57 percent after launching a mobile app in 2012. If you have an existing business or startup, implementing a native app that improves your business process may be a way to increase revenue.

  1. Deliver a Service

Uber is a great example of service delivery via a mobile app. In 2015, its revenue was estimated at $1.5 billion, with a valuation of $62.5 billion. Other examples of delivering a service via a mobile app are TaskRabbit and Doctors on Demand. For developers, one of the most requested types of apps is an Uber-style app. Essentially, the model involves connecting a resource to a demand, handling the transaction and then taking a percentage of the transaction.

  1. User Acquisition

If you look at WhatsApp and Instagram, they practically had no revenue model before being acquired. What they had were a lot of users. At the time of acquisition, WhatsApp had 600 million users and Instagram had 30 million users. Their apparent strategy was to acquire a lot of users then get acquired. WhatsApp was acquired for $19 billion and Instagram for $1 billion. Not bad for businesses with no revenue model.

If developing an app is part of your business strategy, then hopefully this article has helped you consider the right monetization model for your business plan and pitch.

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