As a parent, one thing I wrestle with on a daily basis in my son’s access to technology. Once he realized it was possible to play games on a mobile device, he would constantly ask my wife and me if he could play on ours. That was fun for about a minute, until the requests came at us at all waking hours of the day.
I recently got a new iPhone, and to keep that little monkey off my back, I game him my older phone, stripped of all the unnecessary apps, but leaving some of his favorite games and puzzles. This has worked out wonderfully, except for the time he spent over $50 on game upgrades, without my knowledge. Apparently I forgot to add password access to purchases.
I remedied that mistake quick, and let him know that if he wanted to buy something, he had to ask first. I even went through the games, and told him all the different places where the apps were trying to steal my money. He doesn’t get to buy stuff at random anymore, but this created a new byproduct.
Because he’s getting more adept at the games, he’s starting to hit the pay wall within the apps more often. In an effort to generate more revenue, these game developers make it so you can only get to a certain point in a game, before a purchasable upgrades is necessary. It’s both insidious and genius at the same time.
I don’t know which app was the first to incorporate this freemium aspect into their technology, but the first time I saw it was in Candy Crush. If anyone has played that app, you know the frustration that comes with trying to pass certain levels, and you know how that Buy Now button taunts you to play on. You may think to yourself, “It’s only a $.99 upgrade," but that one leads to others, and before you know it, you’ve spent your entire trust fund on candy jewels.
Today, there were still plenty of games that go with the more straight-forward pay model, letting you purchase the ad free version for $4.99. Over time though, app developers noticed that the companies making the biggest money were the ones using freemium model with an internal pay wall. It didn’t take long for many of the traditional app developers to switch their thinking on how to generate revenue with their apps. Even the hugely successful Angry Birds made the switch with every aspect of their games franchise.
The concept is pretty simple. You bring people in with the free stuff, get them hooked on it, and then force them to a point of needing to pay, or quit. Since we all have worked ourselves into dopamine addiction with these devices, we’re more likely to plunk down $.99 at a time in order to get our fix. The amount is so low, it’s hardly noticeable, until it’s time to pay the mortgage. Soon enough, you’re offering to go down on your landlord in exchange, just so you can keep playing Angry Birds.
This article is not really about the predatory practices of game developers though. No matter what you think of these methods, it’s hard to deny the fact that the game companies have struck upon huge opportunities to make money, and all it took was one successful app to question the status quo about how to get paid for their work.
Now imagine what would happen if someone in your business segment started questioning the status quo of how they were paid. What would that look like?
In the last decade, the opportunity to get paid for the work we do has grown at exponential rates. We now have more doors to the shopping world than their are stores in your city. There are literally thousands of ways to sell your stuff, but I’m willing to bet, the way your business gets done today is essentially the same as it was fifty years ago.
You make a thing, you put that thing in a place for someone to buy it, and they give you money in exchange for that thing. That’s commerce since the beginning of time, and it’s not going away anytime soon. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to best get my art out into the world, and although my opportunities are near endless, the process is pretty much the same with all of them: Make a thing, share a thing, and sell a thing. Does it have to be that way though?
Is there an opportunity for me to put art in the hands of people in a new way, that serves the customer well, and also allows me to maximize my profit, while minimizing my effort a bit?
- Can I digitize my products to make it so I can deliver them without having to do the work directly?
- Can I arrange a drop shipment situation that let’s other people do the work for me?
- Can I offer a freemium opportunity, turning customers into subscribers?
- Is there a way to license or lease my work to consumers for a limited time?
Furthermore, would I be devaluing my work overall by offering these new opportunities, or increasing the value, because original work would be worth more?
These questions are nothing new, truthfully, but none of them have been experimented with deeply enough to create a new wave of commerce for small, creative businesses. I don’t know how any of this actually plays out in my own work yet, but I’m open to the opportunities.
One thing is for certain; someone, somewhere, is going to break new ground with how goods are provided to customers, and they are going to get rich from it. We can either let someone else start the trend, and play catch up later, or we can be the one breaking new ground.
So, I ask you, can you change the world with what you do, and how you do it?