During last week I saw a number of Indie developers posting their sales numbers and indicating that achieving success on the App Store is getting tougher each day. I thought this would be a great time to share my personal experiences, which will hopefully help other indie developers in the community.
First, let me make one thing clear that I am *NOT* an indie developer. I worked on all of my apps during my spare time as a hobby and because of the passion I have for iOS development. Although I published my first app on the app store in 2010 I will only cover the year 2013 since it is more relevant.
In October 2012 I started working on my first non-game app (I have 9 apps on the app store) called "Vegetable Tree - Gardening Guide". The app aimed at gardeners and helped them keep track of their vegetable garden. It had over 50 (now it has over 70) vegetables with the sowing, growing and harvesting instructions. Vegetable Tree also allowed the gardeners to add vegetables to their garden and track their harvesting time. The app also allowed the gardeners to take picture/text notes and share them on Twitter and Facebook.
Vegetable Tree was released in November 2012 in the App Store. I quickly realized that it was not such a good idea to release a gardening app in the month of November. The sales during the course of November and December 2012 were depressing but I knew that it was because my app is a seasonal app. It was like releasing a valentine app in the month of August! No one would buy it since they don't need it.
I continue working on the user interface few hours a week and making it more compatible with a gardening app (Green Color as the Primary Color). In March 2013 I saw a spike in the downloads/sales. I logged into the App Annie account and was delighted to find out that Vegetable Tree was featured in the App Store "Life Style" category.
During the course of 2013 I experimented with the pricing of the Vegetable Tree app. Vegetable Tree was initially introduced with the price of $1.99. I bumped up the price to $2.99 and saw no decrease in the downloads. I bumped it again to $3.99 and witnessed no difference in downloads. Finally, I bumped the price to $4.99! At this price point I started to see decrease in the downloads/sales. I reverted the price to $3.99 which is the current price of the app.
The formula I used for pricing Vegetable Tree was very simple. The narrower the niche the higher the price. Also 95% of my customers are females who are willing to pay high price for quality products.
I never got an email or a review from a customer saying that the price was too high. Actually on the contrary I received emails from customers requesting new features and paying for them.
I started with free marketing by distributing the app promo codes. Later during the Spring and Summer months I contacted different gardening blogs and advertised on their website.
I was also lucky enough to be featured on the BGGarden website. Bren is such a sweet!!
Overall in marketing I spend around $120 on different blogs and websites. I spent more money in 2014 on marketing but did not see the expect results.
Apart from marketing expense I spend small amount on images and icons. I already knew the value of a great icon so I hired a professional and got an amazing Vegetable Tree app icon.
The cost of the above icon was $200. Apart from the icon I spend around $60-$70 on the vegetable and pests images.
I concentrated on the important features instead of amount of features. The Plant Now feature in Vegetable Tree is a unique feature which instructs the user what they can plant in their area right at the moment. Apart from the features the Vegetable Tree looked much more polished than all of its competitors.
I believe this is the part you are most interested in. Here are the details for year 2013.
Vegetable Tree - Gardening Guide:
This includes all the downloads at many different price points including free downloads using promo codes.
The total revenue of all of my apps (9 apps) on the app store was $3629.94. As you can see that Vegetable Tree was the huge chunk of the total revenue.
Some might see this as a disappointing figure but keep in mind I did this app as a hobby on the side, during early mornings, late nights and weekends. One of the biggest mistake I made is not to offer in app purchase. I should have given a portion of the vegetable catalog for free and charge through in app purchase for the rest. I guess we all will learn from our mistakes.
In the end I had a great time developing Vegetable Tree app. My fortune was in the form of emails that I received from my customers. Vegetable Tree has consistently received high ratings (4.5/5.0) on the App Store and is considered the best vegetable gardening app.