Posted By Paul Kafasis on February 10th, 2017
Kapeli, makers of the developer tool Dash, recently posted about what happened when their app left Apple’s App Store. You may recall hearing about Dash due to the uproar that followed Apple’s decision to remove the well-loved app. Fortunately for Kapeli, the product was already set up for direct purchase, which meant they still had a way to sell it to customers. It turns out that in the first 100 days of Dash being distributed solely by Kapeli, it actually earned more revenue than when it was also sold through the App Store.
There are undoubtedly multiple reasons for this result. Dash received a good deal of publicity as a result of Kapeli’s dispute with Apple, which likely brought in new customers. As well, it seems possible that professional developers are more willing than the average user to look outside the App Store for software. Still, it’s interesting to see how the App Store impacted Kapeli’s revenue.
With the exception of our audio editor Fission, all of Rogue Amoeba’s Mac apps are distributed and sold exclusively through our site. Popular tools like Audio Hijack and Airfoil provide concrete proof that products can thrive while never being sold through the Mac App Store. However, we have one application that followed a path similar to Dash’s. Our charmingly simple audio recording app Piezo was originally distributed in both the Mac App Store and via direct sales, but it has since left the App Store.
After seeing Kapeli’s chart, I was curious about the App Store’s impact on Piezo’s sales. The restrictions and limitations of the Mac App Store ultimately led us to remove Piezo on February 12th, 2016. We’ve now been selling it exclusively via our site for a year. This has provided about as perfect a real-world test case as one could hope for. Piezo’s removal came with minimal publicity, the price has remained constant at $19, and we’ve had no big updates or other major publicity for it in either 2015 or 2016.
So what do the numbers tell us? Here’s a chart showing unit sales for the last four quarters in which Piezo was sold through both the Mac App Store and directly via our website, as well as the subsequent four quarters when it was sold exclusively via direct sale.1
Piezo Units by Quarter
The Mac App Store previously made up about half of Piezo’s unit sales, so we might have expected to sell half as many copies after exiting the store. Instead, it seems that nearly all of those App Store sales shifted to direct sales. It appears that nearly everyone who would have purchased Piezo via the Mac App Store opted to purchase directly once that was the only option. Far from the Mac App Store helping drive sales to us, it appears we had instead been driving sales away from our own site, and into the Mac App Store.
While this chart doesn’t provide specific sales numbers, you can likely see that unit sales did drop slightly in 2016. Piezo’s removal from the Mac App Store does seem to have cost us a small number of sales. However, unit sales are far less important to a business than revenue. Let’s look at another chart, this time showing our revenue for the four quarters before removing Piezo from the Mac App Store, and the four quarters since.
Piezo Revenue by Quarter
In each of the four most recent quarters, Piezo brought in more revenue than it had in the corresponding quarter a year earlier. We earned more revenue when Piezo was available exclusively through our store than when we provided the App Store as another purchasing option.
This result might seem counterintuitive. Piezo’s price remained the same, and unit sales went down, so how could we have earned more revenue? The key to understanding this is remembering the cost of being in Apple’s App Stores — 30% off the top of every sale. Despite making slightly fewer sales, we earned more money by avoiding paying that oversized commission to Apple. Direct sales cost us just a few percent, so each direct sale of Piezo earns almost $5 more than a sale through the Mac App Store. As you can see, that really adds up.
I certainly won’t state that every developer will have this same success if they remove a product from the Mac App Store and distribute it exclusively through their own site. Your mileage will undoubtedly vary.
In our case, however, it’s clear that we were serving Apple, rather than Apple serving us. By removing Piezo from the Mac App Store, we stopped paying a commission to Apple for the many customers who had found Rogue Amoeba on their own. Better still, we were able to improve the quality of the product while simplifying our work considerably. Ultimately, that alone was enough to convince us that leaving the Mac App Store was the right move. The subsequent revenue increase we’ve seen is merely a nice bonus.
All eight quarters consist of exactly 91 days, to avoid 2016’s leap day skewing anything.↩︎