App Monetization Strategies - Which Is Best For My App?

The complete guide to mobile app monetization strategies. And, how to turn your app into a viable business.

 

Mobile app monetization in 2017

App monetization is pivotal to your mobile app business strategy. The revenue generated from your mobile app must outperform the cost of your user acquisition. If it doesn't, then you'll start to run into some serious problems.

That's why it's crucial to stay informed and to understand different app revenue models. One of the biggest challenges of creating a successful mobile app is figuring out which app monetization strategy best suits your app.

There are many different ways to monetize mobile apps. Ultimately, you need to figure out two things to form an effective app monetization strategy:

  • What value does your app provide to your app users and what is the price?

  • Which types of revenue will you pursue?

Understand your app monetization strategy in the context of your wider business model. We'll talk more about this late on. For now, let's look at some of the most common monetization strategies out there, as well as some that you might not have heard of.

 

No monetization strategy is the same

Your mobile monetization strategy is a constant balance between app revenue and user experience. In this balance lies the opportunity to propel your app to success. There are many theories on how to monetize an app effectively. But no particular method is inherently better than another. 

What's the difference between android app monetization strategies and iOS app monetization solutions? Some app monetization models do provide different results on different platforms. It seems that iOS apps find it easier to monetize their audiences, but it isn't exactly clear why this is.

As you might have realized by now, there's no reason why you shouldn't adopt different monetization strategies for your app. Make sure you're aware of the effectiveness of each model on each platform. And always remember to put yourself in your user's shoes when considering app monetization trends.

Anyway, let's get onto the different app monetization strategies for your app.

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Advertising

It's a topic that generates much debate amongst developers, users, and brands. But, for now, it's here to stay. Mobile advertising has grown at an incredible rate in recent years. It's a common response when people ask how to monetize free apps.

Mobile ad spend is set to reach $50 billion by the end of 2017. Mobile advertising as a percentage of digital advertising spend is also increasing year on year. This trend is predicted to continue.

Many apps head along the in-app advertising strategy. There are some app monetization challenges along the way. But, it can be one of the easiest and quickest way to monetize your audience.

 

In-app advertising

This is by far the most popular way for apps to generate extra revenue. Without advertising revenue, many apps wouldn't exist.

There are a few ways that you can monetize apps with ads. There's a huge variety in CPM and there are not that many guarantees on exact income until you get stuck-in. In-app ads are developing and aren't as intrusive as they once were.

  • Third party ads within your app experience. These include everything from banner ads to third-party push notification advertising. Income can vary depending on your audience and your partner.

  • Build your own network of advertising space. This app monetization strategy requires a decent sized budget. Of course, once you manage to get to this stage you'll reap the benefits of 100% of that ad revenue.

There is a lot of noise in the mobile ad space and it can be difficult to understand which solution is the best for your app. For a app network to advertise with, you'll struggle to find a better list.

 

App push notification advertising.

You could be receiving significant income from your mobile app by allowing third-party brands to reach your users with third-party push notifications.

This monetization strategy is a two birds one stone solution to the monetization problem. If you ensure that the content delivered to the user is valuable, then you can also engage your users whilst monetizing your app.

With mobile monetization there will always be challenges. In-app advertisers often come across a pretty big one. 

Users hate ads.

There's no getting around it. If you go for this kind of app monetization you are more or less signing up to decrease your UX.

Now if you have a mobile game app then this can be fine. But for other apps, it can become problematic. You need to think long and hard about your app's function. Think how important experience is to the success of your app before implementing this monetization strategy.

You can always set limits to the amount of in-app advertising - many successful apps find a nice balance between the two.

  • Pros: quick and simple - pretty much any app can implement.
  • Cons: User experience is almost certainly lessened.

 

Monetize app data

One of the best ways to incorporate a free app monetization strategy is to leverage the huge amount of data generated from your mobile audience. It's also another great way to monetize free apps without passing on the cost of the app directly to your users.

If you have built up a large mobile audience then big data around these user's habits are extremely valuable for other companies. Their interests lie in understanding customers, and apps can help with this.

There's huge potential for revenue here. This is a mobile app monetization trend that's improving in popularity amongst developers.

CPMs are much higher than in-app advertising. There's also the added benefit of not compromising your app experience. Data monetization takes place entirely in the background, ensuring that you can focus on improving the app experience. Rather than pestering users with in-app ads.

This method works well as a social app monetization strategy. But, it's also effective revenue generator across most of the categories in the app store.

It's important that you find yourself a valuable partner when embarking on this monetization strategy. You should ensure that your users are clearly opting into data monetization services. The key is explaining the process to your users. As with any mobile app monetization strategy, there's always a trade-off for the user.

Ensuring an opt-out is important for any strategy. If done properly, this method can be one of the most lucrative app monetization templates.

  • Pros: best app monetization strategy for revenue and user experience
  • Cons: Requires reliable partner to implement.

 

Affiliate marketing and lead generation

Affiliate marketing is a method of app monetization that involves earning a healthy commission when your audience downloads, buys or engages with another product or service. If they do this through your app, then you'll get generate revenue every time this happens.

This isn't too dissimilar to mobile ads, and in some cases, it can appear just as blunt.

 
An affiliate in-app ad in cut the rope

An affiliate in-app ad in cut the rope

 

But many other apps do this well and in these cases, it rarely affects the app experience negatively.

There are networks that help with affiliate marketing. The reward is much higher if you have the capacity to negotiate these partnerships yourself.

  • Pros: less negative effect on the user experience.
  • Cons: requires potentially lengthy relationship building with partners.

 

Transaction fees

Your app might include a marketplace or include many audience transactions. If this is the case then a transaction fee monetization will most likely be part of your app's business plan already.

This app monetization strategy scales really nicely. Unlike listing fees, this encourages users to use your app service. The more transactions that go through your app, the more income you receive. That kind of information is helpful when forecasting app revenue and setting clear app growth KPIs.

 

 
Etsy charges app users a fee

Etsy charges app users a fee

 
  • Pros: Scalable and easy to predict monetization income
  • cons: Requires an engaged audience using your marketplace/service

 

Freemium

The freemium app monetization model is one that has gained a lot of popularity in recent times.

The model is simple. You offer users a free, basic and useful version of your service. Simultaneously, you educate and entice your users to upgrade to the paid version with advanced features and capabilities.

The most common example of this app monetization is SaaS-based apps. 

 
Headspace makes certain features available to premium subscribers.

Headspace makes certain features available to premium subscribers.

 

There are a few different freemium models:

  • Time-based - the users get the entire version of your app including all of its features. But, this lasts for a set period of time. This is similar to the free trial model that many non-app based SaaS providers offer.

  • Feature-based - in this app monetization model the user has access to only a select few features. To unlock the full range they must subscribe or upgrade their membership.

  • Limits - the user has access to all of the app features but they are given a usage limit. When they hit this limit they must upgrade their membership to keep using the app.

Some apps adopt just one of these methods but some have been known to mix two or even all these methods. Again, it really depends on which aspects of your app will entice your users to pay for the whole shebang.

  • Pros: Can be applied to the majority of mobile applications.

  • Cons: you must really focus on creating a useful and well-liked product.

 

Virtual currency

Generally one for those games apps out there but increasingly seen in other app categories. Many successful app monetization strategies involve offering a virtual currency to users. This can then be earned by playing/engaging with the app.

The users can use this currency to get ahead in the game or unlock certain app features and services. The user can then purchase this currency using real money.

You can really get into app economics here and there are many companies that offer expert advice on how to get the balance right. There's actually a surprising amount of psychology involved.

Ultimately, you must understand your user's motivations. As well as give audiences sufficient opportunity to earn the virtual currency themselves. Either way, there are a huge number of people that are willing to get their credit card out if what they are getting in return is good enough.

  • Pros: can provide large amounts of income and scales nicely.
  • Cons: Some of the app stores take a huge cut for in-purchases.

 

Which is the best app monetization platform?

Wouldn't it be helpful if you could access these strategies all from within a single platform?

There are a few solutions for this - especially the mobile ad monetization platforms.

But some of the data platforms are quick to integrate, simple to use and provide you with a great overview of your mobile monetization strategy in real-time.

You can see exactly how your monetization strategy is performing. This allows you to forecast potential income streams. It also helps to predict how much of your mobile app budget you can allocate to other parts of your mobile business.

 

In conclusion

So that's it, the main ways the world's apps are generating money from their mobile app audience. There might not be a single best way to monetize your Android or iOS app. But there are many app monetization ideas out there to ensure that you get the best shot at generating app revenue for your business.

  • You must understand your audience to be able to monetize your app effectively.

  • No single monetization strategy will work on its own. The majority of apps looking to succeed as a viable business will consider all the options and implement more than one to their strategy.

  • Put your user first = if your app relies on a beautiful and seamless user experience then don't overdo the ads.

  • Don't expect overnight result - use feedback and data to understand and learn about your app and its users.

  • Every app is different - what works for your app might not work for others and vice-versa.