App subscriptions are an intriguing business model for developers. Subscriptions promise reliable income, but also challenge developers to be more creative. A new survey shows just how developers feel about this emerging paradigm.
In MacPaw’s annual Mac Developer Survey, there’s a section dedicated to subscription pricing. Overall, 80 percent of developers have chosen not to try subscription pricing for their apps.
Of the 20 percent who have adjusted their apps and services to the subscription pricing scheme, 52 percent say it had a positive impact on their business; 37 percent aren’t sure if it’s worth the trouble, while 11 percent say a subscription model isn’t worth it.
All told, this means only 10.4 percent of developers consider subscription pricing valuable to their business. The remaining 89.6 percent either haven’t tried, or just don’t see what the fuss is about.
Of the 52 percent who enjoy using the subscription pricing model, 81 percent say revenue increased – up from 60 percent in last year’s survey. Some 65 percent say their user-base is actively growing, while 54 percent say they enjoy a better relationship with their customers. Meanwhile, 46 percent of developers say their products are better as a result of switching to a subscription.
The remaining 48 percent of developers who have tried the subscription model, but dislike or aren’t sure if it works for them, have a different take: 57 percent say they now have a worse relationship with their users, and 43 percent say revenue decreased. The same percentage (43) report stalled user-base growth.
It’s entirely possible many developers who have tried and failed with subscription pricing have apps that don’t warrant it. Around 42 percent of developers who side-stepped the subscription model did so because they didn’t see their app as a good fit for that model, while 33 percent just didn’t want to disrupt the good thing they had going; 28 percent say they’re just not sure how to make the move to a subscription model.
Furthermore, some of those who did make the move had trouble: 57 percent say they had an issue deciding on price-points for their subscriptions, while 54 percent couldn’t figure out how to explain the value to users.
If we take a step back, we find the subscription model to be enticing, but still confusing for many. We’ll also note MacPaw’s survey is geared toward desktop developers, and we know the Mac App Store is still a work in progress, so a large part of the concerns expressed here may stem from developers feeling unsupported by Apple. Only ten percent say a subscription-based app is valuable, and a total of eight percent report that revenue increased; if the aim is returning to a time when a developer could make a living from the App Store, these numbers should raise some concern for companies as well as independent developers.