Are you ready to sell your app? Whether you have a web app, desktop or mobile app, it’s time to think about how to package and distribute that app, how get the word out and, of course, how to get paid for sales.
In this #longread blog post, we’ll walk you through preparing your app for distribution, offering your app on your website and in app marketplaces for sale, as well as first steps to marketing your app.
When designing a commercial app for sale, an important thing you need to consider is how you will get the app to people who buy it.
Packaging Your App for Distribution
Desktop and mobile apps will need to be distributed, whereas a web app usually requires the user set up a log in and sign up for a subscription and is not distributed separately.
To package your iOS app you’ll need an Apple Developer account to generate the certificates and provisioning profiles required by Apple. After that is set up, go to the iOS Build Settings and turn on the switch for Build For App Store and Build your app. This creates a special ipa file that can be submitted to the App Store using App Connect. You can read the steps in more detail here: Submitting to the App Store
You can also read this earlier post on how deploy iOS apps to your devices without an Apple Developer Membership.
You’ll definitely want to use an installer to distribute your Windows apps. We’ve previously blogged before about free and paid options for Windows installers in detail.
On macOS, many apps are distributed as simple ZIP files that you can create from the Finder. Or you can use Disk Utility (or another utility such as DMG Canvas) to create a DMG (disk image). If you need an installer on macOS, which is not often the case, try Packages or PackageMaker (included with Xcode).
On Linux, you can also distribute your apps as ZIP files or you can take the more complicated route of creating a specific distribution file (deb or rpm) for the versions of Linux you target.
Demo Mode or Limited Free Trial
People like to download and try out software before purchasing. We highly recommend that you offer some features of your app for free or for a limited free trial to entice people to give your app a shot.
For iOS apps, the App Store does not have great support for demo or trial apps. One option is to make two versions of your app: one that is a free demo and one that is a paid app. Another option is to make your app a free download and to use in-app purchase to unlock the full version.
Desktop and web apps offer more options regarding demos and trials so think about what will work best for your app. Do you want a free demo version? Will you limit the demo by time (14 and 30 days are common) or by number of uses (4 free uses)? Another common option is to limit the app to running with some feature limitations if no license key is entered. You can even combine the two so that a trial reverts to a demo after the trial expires.
Regardless of what you choose, you’ll need to make sure this is all designed into your app before you release it.
License Keys & Serial Numbers
Often, an essential part of commercial software is generating license keys or serial numbers. When a customer purchases your app, you can provide a license key to unlock the full features of your app or stop the timer on a time-limited trial. You can build your own license key generation and verification functions into your app. This is relatively simple to do by creating a web service with a Xojo web app. Two solutions that can help you get started are AquaticPrime and RegCode.
If you are need to save time, look into developed solutions offered in the Xojo Add-Ons Store such as the GuancheMOS Plugin, a cross-platform serial number creation and validation engine, for Windows check out Quick License Manager for licensing trials for perpetual or subscription licenses.
Selling Your App
Once you have your app packaged to distribute, you’ll need places to sell it and ways to get paid.
Selling on your Website
You should definitely have a Web site with a specific landing page that talks about the product and shows the price. This makes is easier for your page to be found when searching the web. A landing page is a stand-alone page that includes highlights of what your app offers, your demo video and a call to action. (Learn more about landing pages.) Make the page’s focus your “call to action”, whether that is to watch the demo video, download or purchase the app, or to create an account.
Even if you only have an iOS app that is sold via the App Store, a landing page is useful, some say essential, making it easier for people to find your app and for you to share it on social media.
Selling at a Marketplace
In addition to selling on your website, you may want to investigate getting your app into an appropriate app store. App stores are often where people look first for apps, plus most app stores make it really simple for users to install and upgrade apps. And they make getting paid a lot simpler. However, App Stores can take a percentage of the sale (commonly 30%) and may have significant restrictions and a lengthy approval process before your app can be ready for sale.
If you are selling a macOS app, you might want to make it available in the Apple’s Mac Store. Here are some examples of Xojo apps in the Mac Store. For iOS apps the only option is the App Store and we’ve blogged about how to get your Xojo iOS apps in the App Store.
To sell something in either the App Store or Mac App Store you need to be a member of the $99 Apple Developer Program. You also have give Apple 30% of each sale, wait for them to approve your app for sale and wait for approvals for any app updates. The App Wrapper tool can help make it easier to package your Mac apps to sell in the Mac App Store.
Of course there is the Windows Store for your Windows apps. If you use Advanced Installer, the Desktop Bridge Setup Converter can be used to convert an installer to one that is compatible with the Windows Store. More information is available in this article: Build an AppX Installer for Microsoft Store with Xojo.
If you are selling a Xojo-related tool, library or plugin, another option is to sell it in the Xojo Store in the Add-On Product section. There is no charge for this and you get to keep 70% of the sale. Contact us if you are interested.
With apps sold in the app stores you’ll get paid by the store guidelines, usually once a month for the previous month’s sales, though some store may set a minimum payment before they pay up.
For desktop apps or web apps that have subscriptions you’ll need a way to handle payments. Rather than setting up your own merchant account and dealing with that, it’s increasingly common to use an existing payment processing service like PayPal or FastSpring.
If you are not already familiar with how PayPal works, you can learn more here. FastSpring lets you create a “store” with your products, pricing, a shopping cart, currency conversion and will take payments from credit cards and other means. FastSpring takes 8.9% per transaction with a minimum order fee of $0.75 or 5.9% + $0.95 per transaction; PayPal is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (rates from July 2018).
Regardless of the service you use, you will need to hook it up to an account to receive payment. Typically you hook it up to a checking account or PayPal. Other services you might want to check out include: Gumroad, Stripe, Paddle, and 2CheckOut.
Marketing Your App
Now your app is packaged and available for sale on your website and an app marketplace or two. How do you get the word out? Here are 3 musts when it comes to app marketing:
You’ll need a Press Release that announces your app, explains what your app does and why people should buy it – here’s a template and example.
For a small fee, services like PR Newswire will send out your press release to a wide variety of websites for you. We also want to help promote your #XojoMade app! Email your press release to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post it on the Announcements channel in the forum and share it on Twitter.
Yes, you should definitely have a demo video! Either more of a traditional software demonstration, a commercial that lists your app’s top selling points or some combination of the two. Keep it short and sweet – feel free to follow up with a longer, more in-depth video, but to grab perspective users you’ll want something less than a minute. Video is much more digestible and easy to share than the written word and you can create a good one on your own.
Outside Listings & Reviews
Get your product listed on app download services, such as MacUpdate or Download.com. Once listed, you’ll want reviews because one of the most trusted forms of marketing is word of mouth. You believe the word of a colleague over that of a commercial, right? Ask your users to post honest reviews of your app in app marketplaces and on third party sites. If your app is new, or just needs the reviews, think about offering a discount or swag for a review.
Now What? More Marketing Tips from Dana and Alyssa
Here are some great posts to explore simple and often free options for marketing your apps: