All your revenue comes from it, or at least through it. But is your in-app store getting the love it deserves? Chances are the answer to that question is "no", and there's a good reason for that: the fact that we've only just got around to the idea of selling within the app at all. But in industries that have been playing this game for a while - basically anyone who sells, either bricks and mortar or online - the design of a store is the subject of a whole heap of research and even more investment. The goal is always the same - make it as easy as possible, mentally and physically, for potential customers to buy.

That sounds obvious. But the techniques and approaches that are commonplace in the online world are still infrequently adopted in apps and games that rely on smart store design for greater conversion and lifetime value in particular. That's going to change - there's no doubt that in the space of a couple of years all those online techniques (personalized recommendations, optimized purchasing journeys, social proof and so on) will be adopted within apps. So smart organizations should be looking to get ahead and start maximizing their in-app revenues now. Here's a few ways to go about it...

Consider The Context

The absolute number one consideration - promote items or purchases (whether real money or virtual) that are going to appeal to the specific user, at the specific moment in time or situation they find themselves in. "Promote", in this context, can mean nothing more than bringing these items to the top of the store menu. But it can also mean delivering interstitials on session start to users in that target group. That is up to you. In terms of what this recommendation means, consider the following examples and work through the same logic in each scenario:

  • For new players, who are likely to have a decent virtual currency balance, promote items that aid discovery and engagement. Leave real money buy-ins for later.
  • If you've identified players in your endless runner who just love resurrection power-ups and have bought them previously - give them a simple prompt when their balance of those items goes below a certain number. They'll be back into your store in no time!
  • For VIP customers - who have already displayed a willingness to buy in at substantially higher levels - don't waste time promoting items at way below that level of spend

The general lesson should be clear. Make sure you are answering 'yes' to the question: "am I promoting the right item for this particular person, at this particular time?"

Sell The Benefit

Look up a common purchase on Amazon and you'll see a whole lot of content and information that helps overcome the mentalhurdle in making a purchasing decision. In a typical app or game, you'll see almost nothing. Now clearly screen real estate is an issue, but there's still no reason not to include clear, concise explanations of the benefit behind any particular purchase. There's a number of ways to do this, but amongst the most beneficial (and again stolen wholesale from the online environment) would be:

  • A/B testing of content. If you haven't got much space - make sure every word counts. The right way to do that is to test, test and test again until you know that your supporting content is doing the job in terms of driving conversion and revenue
  • Social proof. Wherever possible, let people know that others in their situation, or indeed other people that they know, have made the purchases they are considering
  • Call out the what real-money buy-ins can deliver in the most tangible way possible. Don't be afraid to itemize what popular items or short-cuts a purchase can open up, particularly if you've already seen demand for those items

Mix It Up

Be careful in this area - because no UX designer will ever advocate change for change's sake - but it's important to avoid users getting stuck in a rut in terms of their in-app purchases. If menus are static and never-changing, this can damage discovery and limit both the user's enjoyment of the app or game, and your own revenues. So within the parameters you have created (which should mean that the store changes as users progress anyway), build in a certain amount of 'random' change as well.

It's also worth thinking strategically about how you use seasonal sales to both drive short-term revenues but also introduce users to new item categories. So for example, promoting and discounting decorations to certain users at Christmas can help create a long term ‘decorations’ customer after the season has ended.

Embed The Store

It’s a mistake to imagine the store exists behind a button marked ‘store’ and nowhere else. Smart apps give their users the opportunity to buy when the time is right. Again, this is one to be careful around, but there’s no reason not to test some approaches and see what works.

A couple of possible approaches include:

  • Using promotional interstitials, either on session start or indeed any relevant point in the game, that drives the user toward a specific purchase or promotion that you feel is right for them at that time
  • Prompting users to ‘top-up’ all the way up the chain - from soft virtual currency, to hard virtual currency, to real money. In that way, an attempted purchase using any currency can end up with a real-money buy-in

The goal is to present buying opportunities in the right place, and at the right time - without ending up on the wrong side of the equation that is the hard sell (which benefits nobody).

Good luck!