John Gholson, Director of Creative Development at Rocksauce | MARKETING | 02.08.2011 @ 1:38 pm
For 99-cents I can enjoy a King Sized candy bar, five chicken nuggets, or a large sweet tea from a fast food drive-thru. I’m paying a dollar for about five minutes worth of fleeting junk food pleasure. 99-cents is the perfect price for an impulse buy, and it rarely feels like a loss because a little digging in your couch cushions or car console means another dollar is right around the corner.
Why then, do I balk at 99-cent applications? What is it about apps that turns me into a picky buyer? To put this in perspective, when I’m hungry and armed with a dollar, I don’t pore over user reviews for potato chips before I make my purchase — I simply pick a flavor. When an app is anything more than free, I check star ratings, peruse lengthy reviews, evaluate the design and research the promised features. I put more work into getting my dollar’s worth from an app than any sane person should.
What needs to happen to make me consider the app as expendable as a snack? One way to get me to make that impulse purchase is design. If an app looks slick (read: expensive), then I’m more likely to take a chance on it. An artistic, thoughtful design with less features is more likely to get a buy from me than a feature-heavy app that looks cheap. It’s all psychological — if it looks like the developers spent some money making it, then I must be getting my dollar’s worth, right? I might even be missing out on some great apps that just happen to be ugly, but until they get a facelift, I’ll never know. Shiny gets a buy.
I’m also more willing to spend 99-cents on fun over function. I’ll take a chance on a one dollar game before I’ll spend the same amount on a personal organizer. I know I’m not the only one who spends this way. A quick glance at the current top ten paid apps in the iTunes store reveals that nine of them are video games. In that way, apps and junk food have a lot in common — they both provide quick moments of gratification, with no real lasting substance.
A dollar shouldn’t be a stumbling block; it’s meant to be a no-brainer. I should be more willing to take a chance on budget-priced applications, but there’s an element of mystery involved that I just can’t seem to get over. I know what that 99-cent bag of potato chips will taste like, but I don’t know if I’ll get my money’s worth from an unknown app. The truth is that, even at a dollar, there’s something to be gained from most any application — even at their worst, the bad apps can inform our opinions on why certain apps are better. If you use it for a couple of minutes and never use it again, then it’s just as fleeting as a snack.
Let’s give in to our impulses, stop over-thinking the purchase, and spend that dollar anytime we’re curious about an app. Think of them as digital snacks. I’m sure we’ll discover some hidden gems, as well as unearth some useless stinkers, but we’ll always walk away informed.