If you’re sitting on a mobile app with a healthy user base, you might be stuck at the “how do I monetize my mobile app” phase, or scouring the Web for ways to increase mobile app revenue. Lone and behold, there are dozens upon dozens of monetization strategies that mobile app developers can choose from – many of which you might not have thought of outside of in-app purchases, in-app advertising, and paid apps.
To help you with your strategy, we’ve listed the 40 different ways that mobile app developers can monetize their Android or iOS apps..
1. Paid apps– Selling an app for upfront cash in an app store like Google Play or Apple’s App Store crosses all developers’ minds at the beginning of the app monetization life cycle. The benefits of selling an app in an app store is the up-front cash you’d be receiving per download, minus the 30% app store fee. But there’s one problem. Paid apps, even at just $0.99, is a mental barrier that’s fueling the decline of paid apps. In its place is the growing popularity of the freemium model. In fact 90% of apps in the app stores in 2013 are freemium apps, an increase from 84% of free apps in 2013.
2. $0.99 app – However if you’re convinced that the paid app route is your poison, there are a couple of extra strategies you can employ. The first option is selling a mobile app for a cheap price of just $0.99. Generating satisfactory revenue even for a one dollar app is an uphill battle since you’ll need a high volume of downloads.
3. Niche, premium paid apps – If your app has a proprietary algorithm to help detect medical illnesses, or claims to help law students pass the bar exam, niche apps such as these might be worth selling at a premium.
4. Alternative app stores – Google Play and Apple’s App Stores aren’t the only mobile app stores available to developers. These alternative Android app stores, and alternative Chinese app stores, are additional channels that might help you net more downloads.
5. In-app purchases – Offering users in-app content that can be purchased opens up an extra avenue for generating revenue. Typically, these purchases can be separated into different types of in-app purchases that include the following:
6. In-app upgrades – App users can offer a paid character or environment upgrade to unlock new levels and next-generation content in a mobile game.
7. In-app consumables – App users addicted to a mobile app – especially mobile games – can spend thousands of dollars on consumable items. In-app consumables may include new or improved characters that mobile gamers can purchase, additional features in a productivity app, or single use virtual goods that temporary enhance your in-game abilities.
8. In-app currency – Along the lines of an in-app consumable, you might offer in-game currency that can be purchased in bulk quantities. These can be used toward extra playing time, or for the purchase of rare virtual goods.
9. Mobile partnerships – Securing partnerships, whether for the purpose of producing paid and branded content or simply to have your app sponsored by a major brand advertiser is an auxiliary monetization channel that major app developers will employ. However, mobile partnerships with major sponsors will typically only come about if your app has both quality and a large quantity of traffic.,
10. Create co-branded games or apps – Often times if you’ve developed a successful game, brands will not only come to you, but will also entrust your expertise and resources with developing a re-skin of your app that leverages and promotes the brand. For instance Angry Birds launched its Star Wars version, while Temple Run was re-skinned for Temple Run Oz to celebrate the debut of “Oz the Great and Powerful.”
11. Sponsored content – Content sponsored by brands, including in-app virtual goods, or “limited-time only” characters is an effective way to generate an additional source of revenue that plays off the brand’s recognition without expending too much of your resources. Temple Run 2 did a great job by offering Usain Bolt as a branded in-app purchase.
12. Subscriptions – Ideally, you can convert new users into lifetime paying users. Most paying users will make an in-app purchase or two and never return, while the users that the app industry calls “whales” will spend thousands or even tens of thousands to advance their in-app or in-game objectives. To monetize those paying users who aren’t necessarily the biggest of spenders, selling monthly subscriptions for additional timely content is may be a strategy for monetizing the “fish.”
13. In-app mobile advertising – Promoting an ad within your mobile app, is by far the easiest and fastest monetization strategy that just about every mobile app developer (gaming in particular) employs. You can select an ad network, download their SDK, deploy a mobile ad of your choice from the ad formats provided, and monetize the traffic you deliver to advertisers. Fortunately, with the maturation of mobile ad networks, there are plenty of ad formats to choose from.
14. Interstitials – An interstitial ad format might not have the highest eCPMs and CTRs, but it’s by far the most profitable compared to other formats. This ad format fills up an app’s screen at strategic times – before you exit an app or after a “Game Over screen” for example – and tends to generate high impressions.
15. Banners – We’d be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t familiar with a banner ad. And the format’s reputation comes off as spammy. The one advantage the format has is that it’s quick to deploy, however unlike interstitials, banners tend to generate the lowest revenue compared to other ad formats.
16. App walls – With multiple apps advertised in an app wall, CTRs and eCPMs tend to be higher with panel and list ad formats (both app walls) than other types of display ad formats like interstitials and banners. However the number of impressions that app walls generate pale in comparison, so revenue may not necessarily catch up to interstitial earnings.
17. Video ads – With Facebook and Twitter jockeying to implement and launch video pre-roll ads, the companies have started a frenzy over TV ad spend dollars. Because video ads are generally a strategy employed by brand advertisers, and video ads tend to run on CPM campaigns, video ads attract the highest eCPMs and the biggest ad spend.
18. Rich media ads – Rich media ads attract a high level of engagement. With the customizability of rich media to mix and match interactive elements like an in-ad game or even embedded music and video, advertisers can not only generate higher ROI but also collect invaluable feedback and user behavioral data that can be used to optimize your ad campaign to better monetize your users. For instance, an advertiser might gauge user sentiment of two or more different types of app avatars by asking viewers of the mobile ad to click on their favorite.
19. Geo-targeted advertising – Not quite living up to the hype of geo-targeted advertising just yet, wearable devices will usher in a new wave of advertising that will redefine “targeted” ads. But until wearable tech reaches maturity, providing geo-targeted ads on mobile to your users is one way to increase mobile advertising conversions by serving timely ads.
20. Optimize existing mobile ads – As tedious as “optimization” sounds, optimizing your mobile ad formats and monetization strategy is an essential approach to improving your earnings. These techniques may include boosting eCPMs, or even troubleshooting eCPMs. Of course seeing as how eCPM isn’t the end-all metric, other ways to optimize earnings may include A/B testing multiple ad formats, and even switching off the poorly performing advertisers.
21. Cross-promotion network – Cross-promotion might not be the most talked about subject in mobile advertising, but mutual in-app ads will help you make more money simply by saving ad spend. You might not be actively generating mobile ad revenue with this strategy, because you’re not collecting the bid cost per install, however you’re acquiring users for free. Besides, you can always monetize the users with in-app purchases. If you don’t have an advertising budget, and willing to forgo revenue for the sake of acquiring users, you’ll want to check out AppFlood’s Exchanger program.
22. Incentivized installs – Apple might have banned incentivized installs, but if you’re an Android developer, offering game currency or virtual goods in exchange for an install is a monetization model that ad networks like Tapjoy and its customers have profited from. At the other end of the spectrum from the advertisers’ perspective, incentivized installs tend to attract low quality users.
23. Promote your app – While app promotion isn’t exactly a direct strategy for monetizing an app, it’s necessary to attract more users and guide more potential customers down the monetization funnel. There are plenty of different ways to promote your app, and we’ll cover a few more traditional, but effective strategies.
24. Email lists – Email lists are marketing gold, and tends to convert readers into users far more effectively than other online promotional channels like social media. In fact email is a great way to get users onto your app in conjunction with promotions or deals on “limited time only” virtual goods, especially if you’re promoting a top-performing advertiser.
25. Social media – A few mobile games like Candy Crush Saga have ridden the social wave thanks to Facebook. Studios have capitalized on the social format to accrue hundreds of millions of dollars. While few developers have managed to reach a profitability a that’s on par with Candy Crush using social media, in an ever-increasingly virtually connected world it’s almost expected that an app will include social game mechanics if not Facebook Connect.
26. Guerrilla marketing – With online and social media marketing, you might often forget that sometimes promoting a good or service can get quite civilian. It might take a freebie, on-the-ground event, or other means to attract new users (namely passerby on the streets) and get them to download your app. Just make sure that the cost of acquisition in a guerrilla marketing campaign fits your budget, and you might want to target major tech events where there are a high volume of eager early adopters. We’d suggest that you check out South by Southwest for inspiration.
27. Get your app press coverage – Whether you’re Google or an indie app developer, your app needs press to survive. And press coverage in many cases can provide a high ROI, granted that you’re investing in a stellar PR team or manage and execute the press outreach yourself. As for whether bad press is good press… well you can come to your own conclusion.
28. App localization – A great way to monetize your mobile app is to extend your app’s reach abroad and monetize international traffic – including emerging regions, which is actually worth more than you might give it credit for. But to monetize this international traffic, you’ll need to break out into international markets by localizing your app. This might mean offering region-specific content that regional users can purchase, or simply adding additional language support for your app.
29. Funneling freemium users to a paid app – Who doesn’t like “free?” Freemium apps outnumber paid apps in the app store, but if for some reason a paid version is the only way that you’re going to make money from you mobile app, why not offer a teaser for free? The free app is bound to outperform paid, looking at downloads alone, and this strategy just might do the trick in converting users from the free demo to your paid version.
30. Web apps – With search traffic on mobile skyrocketing, it’s smart to develop a Web app (or Website) for the purpose of getting indexed by Google’s search engine and snagging a piece of the growing organic search traffic to drive in new users. This might mean creating a mobile-optimized version of your website or a HTML5 version of your iPhone or Android app. And to funnel Web users to your mobile app, you can always add a pop-up or landing page that encourages Web users to download the official app.
31. Develop auxiliary apps – Developing new auxiliary apps that funnel new users or jump on new trends – similar to what Twitter attempted with Twitter Music or Facebook strategized with its in-house development of Poke – isn’t a strategy geared toward smaller developers with limited resources. Larger developers can create auxiliary apps to capture new users (who might have different interests than those that use your existing app) and cross-promote between apps to increase your user base and engagement with your product suite.
Sales and Merchandising
32. E-commerce – E-commerce (or m-commerce as it’s called on mobile) might not be the first mobile monetization strategy that pops into your head, especially amid this mobile ad-centric app and in-app purchase economy. However there are plenty of apps like Gyft that have managed to build a business around the sale of tangible goods (and digital coupons) on mobile. If m-commerce fits your business model, you can start with m-commerce API providers like Tap2print, which delivers prints of images, or ElasticPath, a mobile commerce solution.
33. Affiliate sales – If direct m-commerce isn’t your cup of tea, you can let the tried and true experts in selling goods online do the heavy lifting in sourcing and shipping goods. Instead, by participating in an affiliate program, you can sell products by adding links to the products’ purchasing pages. In exchange you’d receive a percentage of each sale that’s made through your app. Amazon for instance extended its Amazon Associates affiliate program to mobile app developers.
34. Merchandising – Granted that your app has reached the mobile gaming heights that Rovio’s Angry Bird or PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies enjoy, your app is likely a franchise by this point and selling your app’s IP in the form of soda cans or plush toys is an extension of your revenue model to pad your company’s bottom line.
35. Donations – For most developers, asking for donations isn’t the most ideal strategy for earning income from your app. Then again Jimmy Wales does it, not to mention that crowdsourcing is “in” right now. So if you’re inclined to believe that you have an app that benefits society, why shouldn’t you get compensated? At the least you’ll want to recoup the sweat equity that you’ve put into developing the app.
Selling App Data or Source Code
36. APIs – If your app offers a value proposition that’s got your peers’ attention, not to mention press-worthy, you’ve probably been approached about the availability of your API once, twice, or more times. While it’s a great idea to make your API free-to-use and integrate, there’s a business opportunity in making the meat of your API available to developers for a price.
37. Selling your data to analytic companies – This tech-centric world revolves around the flow of information, and in many instances information holds considerable value. Take Facebook, Google, and Amazon for instance. These companies can tell you where you’ve been, what your interests are, and what your purchasing habits look like. Behavioral data like this is a gold mine for marketers. So if you happen to have a popular app, there’s a good chance that you can extract value-worthy insights about your users that a marketer is willing to pay for. One warning to keep in mind is to be mindful your user’s privacy. Lately there’s an understandable apprehension toward using apps that monetize user data.
38. Sell your app off – If you’re planning on moving onto bigger and better apps and maintaining your existing app or game is no longer in your best interest, selling your app’s IP and code is a quick solution for upfront cash. Apptopia for instance is a marketplace that facilitates the buying and selling of mobile apps.
39. “White label” your app’s code – If you’re concerned about generating quick revenue and prefer not to have to go through the process of acquiring and monetizing your users, you can always sell your app’s source code. In this example you wouldn’t be selling off your IP, however you’d be putting multiple versions of your source code with slight tweaks onto in a marketplace like Chupamobile, where other developers can purchase the code and re-skin the app to their liking. This way you can earn money, while the buyers wouldn’t have code the mobile app from scratch.
Mix and match
40. Mix and match any one of these strategies – If you’ve managed to read to the end of this list, you’re certainly seeking ways to monetize your iOS or Android app. There’s no one strategy-fits-all solution to deciding on the perfect monetization strategy for you. In fact, the best-fit may require A/B testing or even mixing and matching multiple strategies outlined above. Whatever the case may be, there’s really no excuse for not being able to make money from your app, as we’ve outlined as many as 40 strategies for making money with your mobile app.