When you get swept along in the shininess of the App Store it’s easy to forget that you no longer know who your customers are. You don’t have any of their details, you can't even respond to them when they leave a review on the App Store. The fact of the matter is they are really Apples customers, not yours.
When you sell directly outside of the Mac App Store you get the contact details for every single person that buys your products (and rightly so), this is often overlooked but it’s key to running a healthy and sustainable business. Lets take a look at three of the reasons why not limiting the availability of your software to just the Mac App Store is a sound business decision.
Pay less in fees
There’s a huge market out there that is happy to buy away from the Mac App Store, and if you’re developing Mac software you should really take advantage of this. Do you really want to give Apple 30% of everything you earn? I know I certainly don’t.
Imagine if your app made $30,000 in the first month it launched. That’s great, apart from the fact that you have to give Apple $9,000 of that. Is the service they provide really worth that much? I’m not so sure it is. Now lets look at a real world example, RapidWeaver has been on the Mac App Store since it opened in 2011 and has generated over $2,000,000 in revenue. Apple has taken $600,000 (USD) of that in fees. Ouch!
For the recent launch of RapidWeaver 6 I decided to sell the upgrade directly, and I’m glad I did. The amount FastSpring take per transaction is nothing compared to what Apple takes. You can see the numbers from that launch here. I’m not saying you should always launch directly on the Mac, but in this case I think I made the right call.
When you look at the real numbers you start to realise that Apple taking 30% of everything you make is way over the top, thankfully on the Mac you can soften this by also selling directly. From my experience I know a lot of people actually prefer buying directly from the developer, and it’s in the interest of your business that they do.
Earn extra revenue from bundles
I’m specifically talking about bundle deals run by StackSocial, MacUpdate, and MightyDeals. I used to love bundles, then I got convinced they were bad for our customers. I stopped participating in them for awhile and missed out on a lot of revenue because of it. I’m now fully behind bundle deals again and am glad I changed my mind.
Ember for Mac was in four different bundles in the last half of 2014. It earned an extra $80,000 (USD) in revenue, not only that it also brought in a lot of new users. If Ember was only available in the Mac App Store I wouldn't have been able to do this and Realmac would have been worse off because of it.
If you have a Mac app and you’ve not considered putting it in a bundle deal then you’re missing out on extra revenue and customers.
Know who your customers are
Here’s the biggest and most important difference of all, by selling directly you get to know every single one of your customers. When building a business your customers are your most valuable asset, but yet when you sell on the Mac App Store you don’t know who they are.
When you have a new product coming out you’ll want to let your existing customers know. They’ve already bought from you once and trust you, so they may be interested in buying from you again. If you’ve only ever sold on the Mac App Store you have no details for any of your customers. When you sell directly you can simply email them and say “Hey, we know you bought X and we’d love you to check out Y, you’ll even get 20% off because you’ve purchased from us before”. This is a big deal.
Here’s another example, when App Store customers email me asking for a refund I have to say “I’m really sorry but you’ll need to contact Apple directly, we can’t issue refunds”. However, Apple does’t always give refunds, and this often results in unhappy customers and bad App Store reviews.
When someone has purchased an app directly from Realmac and contacts me for a refund I can say “No problem, I’ll do that for you right away!”. When you can give someone great service, even if it is for a refund then they are much more likely to recommend or buy from you again in the future.
The advantages of selling directly are overwhelmingly positive. If you’re trying to build a sustainable business then you need to know your customers and selling directly to them is one of the best way to do this.
I'm not suggesting you pull out of the Mac App Store and only sell direct, I'm recommending you sell in as many places as possible. The more channels you use to reach potential customers, the more revenue you'll generate. If your app is only available on the Mac App Store, you'll only ever be able to reach Mac App Store customers.
There's a big market outside of the Mac App Store with plenty of great opportunites for indie developers. I'd urge you to start selling your products directy as soon as you can, in a years time you'll be glad you did.
One more thing…
If you're interested in selling your app outside the Mac App Store, then Christian Tietze's Make Money Outside the Mac App Store is essential reading.
"In a few hours, you’ll have in-app purchases, a trial mode, and piracy protection all set. The book includes fully functional sample projects and code to ready to be copied into your app."
Just to be clear, Christian was kind enough to give me a kickback on every copy of the book that sells via the link above. Even If he hadn't offered this I'd still be recommending his book.