I’m David Mowatt, a program manager on the Office Store team. By now, you’ve probably read that we’re offering great opportunities to reach millions of users inside their Office experience. You’ll either have an existing service/app that you think would be valuable to users, or you’ll have been inspired by Elisabeth and Russell on how to write a great app. You’ve hopefully started with the mechanics of building your first apps for Office and SharePoint. Now that you have the idea behind your app, I want to get you thinking about how to get those millions of users to download your app, and in particular I want to tell you how to go about deciding which business model is right for your app?
This post covers the capabilities of the Office Store that give you flexibility to attract customers and build a great business. It considers several questions: Should your app be free? If not, how should you monetize? How do you evolve your app? What is the ‘end of life’ story for your app?
We’ll cover the following:
You’ve just written your amazing app — now what? Should you give it away for free? Show ads on it? Charge money? How much money? Well, it comes down to a few factors:
It’s worth noting that you don’t have to know all the answers up front. You can list your app, use metrics to see how it fares, and then tune your business model appropriately.
We built the licensing service to make it really easy for developers to sell and users to buy from the Office Store.
There may be scenarios where you want to sell your app for Office or SharePoint in the same way you’re selling your existing service (if this is the case, list your app for free and ensure that it has some intrinsic value before asking the user to pay money on your site). We’ve designed the licensing service to be attractive to developers and users, and to meet a wide range of scenarios.
Note also that purchase support (including the licensing service) is currently not available for mail apps. We are working on rolling this capability out in future releases.
The options in the Seller Dashboard are simple. You can list your app as Free or Paid. If it is paid, you can also set the following:
Like other marketplaces, we automatically convert the price into other currencies and work out the taxes. We do this so that users across the world can buy your app.
Note that with apps for Office, you just set a price. With apps for SharePoint, you set the price per user and state whether you want to support site (unlimited user) licenses. We’ll post soon about how you can buy apps for SharePoint for an entire organization, and how you can deploy free apps for mail and apps for Office to your organization.
You’ll be able to use the statistics in the Seller Dashboard to monitor page views and downloads (of free, trial, and paid). This will tell you how well your app is faring.
You can also implement your own service-side logic to count the number of unique users hitting your site. To do this, look for the unique user ID in the Licensing token—our upcoming post on how to use licensing will give you a sample for this. This can help you differentiate new users from old.
To allow you to find the strategy that’s right for your service/business, the Office Store offers you the flexibility to update your license type at any time, and to change the price point at any time. This includes switching from free to paid (or vice versa), and it also includes your deciding on what trials mean for your service. For example: Is the trial experience identical to the paid experience, except that it ends after 30 days? Is the trial experience a subset of a richer paid experience? It’s up to your code and what works to drive the best conversion rate for your app and most success for your business.
There is one app binary for free, trial, and paid modes—it’s your code (either in the app binary or in your externally hosted web service) that determines the users’ experience. The SharePoint and Office platforms won’t automatically stop the app working on the thirty-first day of a thirty-day trial – instead, the platform will empower your app to do what you program it to do.
To achieve this, you must parse the Licensing token and classify the user. We’ll post a code sample for this very soon, but here’s the overview:
Another important call-out is that during this Preview period, we don’t support taking money for apps, but this capability is coming soon. If you submit an app during Preview that you want to charge for, you’ll want to follow this model:
The Office Store will automatically extend Preview users’ trial expiration dates so that those users can stay in trial mode until we’re ready to take purchases.
There will come a time when you decide that you don’t want to support your app any more. Here we struck a balance between the motivation of the developer (who wants to stop immediately) and the interests of customers (who often buy software with years of support). The minimum withdrawal period for apps in the Office Store is 90 days. This doesn’t stop you from offering more support if you want (just state this in your app’s description).
When you withdraw your app, you’ll need to follow one or two patterns—the case where your apps has a web service, and the case where it doesn’t.
If your app doesn’t have a web service component, this may be pretty straightforward. Simply go to the Seller Dashboard and withdraw your app. It will be hidden for all new customers. Existing customers will be notified in the app launcher that the app is withdrawing soon, and they’ll have three months to transition their business to use another app and to extract their data. As the developer, you have no further obligations.
For apps (for Office or SharePoint) that do have a web service component, there is an additional requirement that you must maintain the web service for 90 days. You are contractually liable to customers if you fail to do so.
If there is a sustained period of outage for your service (for technical, legal, or other reasons), we encourage to you to reach out to us through the Support link on http://dev.office.com so we can best help you and your customers.
I hope you found it interesting to read about how the Office Store helps you grow your business with apps. While there are a lot of dimensions you can consider, nothing beats submitting your great app and using real user feedback to tune and improve the business model.
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