From 15 to 55,000: a 24 hour experiment on the App Store

From 15 to 55,000: a 24 hour experiment on the App Store

April 6, 2011

Just when you think you know a thing or two about the App Store, something like this happens.

We’ve been working on a pretty big iOS project for the last few months and haven’t been paying too much attention to sales figures. So when I logged in to iTunes Connect the other day and saw that our nifty iPhone app Gift Plan had reached an all-time low of 15 sales in a day, worldwide, I thought maybe we should try shaking things up a little. What did we have to lose?

So we decided to do two things we’ve never done before:

  • Trial a new regular price of 99c, and…
  • Make it free for 24 hours to hopefully give the price change a bit of attention.

The entire extent of my marketing plan for this little experiment was posting this tweet. Amazingly it was retweeted by about 60 people, (thanks to TiPB, Mac Stories and Desktop Magazine for being among them). Then Cult of Mac wrote a nice review, and as far as I know that was about it.

So anyway, I wake up this morning and reach for my iPhone to check the figures out. I’m glad I was still in bed or I would have fallen over. In 24 hours, Gift Plan went from 15 downloads in a single day, to 55,290. That’s right, read it again if you have to – I did.

But that was just the first shock. The USA App Store only accounted for a little over 5,000 downloads. It was France which drove the numbers through the stratosphere, with over 38,000 downloads on the French App Store. I wish I’d been able to see it yesterday, but I found out through an app ranking website that Gift Plan was the top free app in France yesterday, even beating the untouchable Angry Birds.

So… What have I learned?

  • Firstly, I knew this already, but I’ve been reminded how immensely different the free app market is, compared to paid – even at a measly 99c.
  • Secondly, I simply had no idea that the French App Store was so strong. We will definitely be thinking more seriously about localisations from here on.
  • Thirdly, even really good apps can sell poorly if no one knows about them. Obviously I’m just a tad biased, but I really like Gift Plan and I think it deserves to sell well for all of the finesse we’ve put into it. But these days, standing out from the other 300,000+ apps is a very tough gig.
  • Fourthly, I’m more confused than ever about charting well on the App Store. If I ever tell you that I’ve got it figured out, you’re welcome to punch me in the face.
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  1. That is extraordinary.

    How have your sales been now that it is 99c?

  2. Interesting, thanks for sharing the information. But I’m more interested in knowing what the numbers are once you starting charging for the app again. Will you share those?

    • Hey Randy, yes that’s the important part but as I mentioned to Tom, it’s back in the charts which is what we hoped for. Unfortunately we won’t be sharing any more statistics though from here on.

  3. We just made a similar experiment and had similar results. Our app usually sells 10-30 a day, but during the last weekend we got on average 6000 downloads a day, 25000 total through 4 days :) US&China mostly…

  4. Hi!

    I’m french, and I can tell you why France has so many iPhones : at the beginning, the contract between Apple and Orange has been broken by the authorities, so the iPhone was available with all carriers without Jailbreak. Also, if we have the cheapest internet, we have one of the most expensive 3G network. So iPhone’s packages were as afordable as others. Finally, french carriers subsidize a lot mobile’s prices when you take a package : I had my first iPhone for 99€ (with the cheapest package at 40€/m) when it was twices much in UK.

    And… We love gifts :-)

  5. Michiel Houtman

    Interesting write up.

    What caused the enormous sales boost in France ? I don’t think it is due to the fact the French love presents (as somebody stated above) we all love them. Sure France has probably many Iphone users but so have the Germans, Spanish, Italians and even we the Dutch.

    I guess it is a coincidence: the right people read the right info at the right moment. Perhaps Twitter is more selective here….

    Now we know what a free can do (we have seen more examples in the past) it is more interesting to know what the app will do aver the price cut. There is evidence that this helped App staying under attention at higher ranks.

  6. Great to see that I’m one of the 60 retweeters :)
    Thx for sharing your stats in this blogpost, very interesting.

    Good luck with future sales!

  7. whoooppee..
    Same thing happened to me , but it was not France Store it was Taiwan Store any one believe that.!!!

    The full story is here:

    Due to some reasons we had to migrate the App to some other developer account:
    Currently app is here:

    But it was that memorable moment when your first app being listed in New and Noteworthy , Top the Charts and bit some most popular apps.

    We also bit Angry Birds for a day or so. And these days I am seeing disgraceful numbers.

  8. You are the man! Thank you for sharing your findings.

  9. heh, the French were also the top beneficiaries in my promotion. with a huge margin ;)
    also heard the same from others.

    French love free stuff!

  10. You may want to focus on a Japanese and Chinese version. Both big gift giving cultures.

  11. “French love free stuff!”

    Heh, I think this is the real moral of the story.

    But seriously, I’m guessing the app was featured on some kind of “daily free deals” website in France?

    • Not so fast on that conclusion! Yes I’ve since heard that it was featured on a few French daily free app sites, but since it moved back to being a paid app it continues to sell well on the French App Store. 24 hours after the free promo ended, it was ranked 2nd in it’s category and 60th overall in France.

  12. Very nice write-up and I must say, I’m impressed!

    I can tell you though that while I’m quite a fan of Apple and the App Store – along with *never* being hesistsnt to pay for a quality app – I can tell you that I downloaded your app when I saw the retweet by TiPb.

    It’s not that I’m always looking for a deal or simply a free app, it’s the fact that during my day I don’t have a lot of time to peruse the App Store looking for something I may or may not need. Quite often I see apps or reviews posted/retweeted by someone (because I do get most of my news in general from Twitter) and I check out the write-up real quick and if I’m impressed, I buy it. Often times, I won’t even use the app right away but it always comes back down the line and eventually I’m so impressed with it I am almost inclined to donate to the developer.

    For someone like me I rely on “word of mouth”. It’s simply impossible for me to stumble across great apps with the app store being so huge now. I may have passed your app in the past and thought “Why couldn’t I just write my gift ideas or something down in Notes?!” However, after downloading the app when it was free, tinkering around a little bit and realizing how cool your app is, I could now *more* than justify a $1.99 price tag – probably even more.

    Bringing me to my next point of a Full Trial (1 or 2 weeks, whatever it was) when Rock was around for jail broken apps. I can’t tell you how many apps I ended up happily paying for after that trial period was up (and vice versa). I’m not going to started on that tangent though.

    After my long winded response, I hope this gives you a little more insight as to why a 24 hour free app is/can be a great thing for me. Also, cheers for a wonderful app – I appreciate it. Contact me if you need anything – I’m happy to discuss from a “regular user’s” point of view.

    BSmith4832 @gmail

  13. Nicely done!
    The perspective from a french app developer about localization and markets. French is really a small market compared to USA. I’ve got an education app that is selling well – there are two versions : a french app and an english app – and there is no comparison between thoses market even if you take into account that there are 60M french and 300 US people (and I don’t take into account CA/UK/AUS/NZ/…). I’m profitable thanks to USA and not France even if ranks are 4 times better in France (revenue are 3 times better for the english version if I take only into account USA and CA)
    So localization could be a good thing but don’t forget that you need to market your app to the targeted market and that’s a lot of work as usual (you are not always lucky to be mentionned in a leading french website even if you put it free for one day!)


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