This morning, I came across an infographic published by AppPromo, which suggests that only significant marketing attention and spending will help an app to gain commercial success. Among the published numbers that are presented, the top app developers devote about 14% of their time to marketing their app and budget about $30,000. In contrast, 59% of apps do not generate enough cash to break even, and 52% of developers do not budget for marketing expenses even if 91% know that marketing is essential for the success of their app.
It’s not a surprising scenario in a world where app developers are competing with hundreds of thousands of other apps for shelf space. Apple’s App Store is at about 620,000 apps and Google Play at about 440,000 and as time goes on, it will be increasingly difficult to attract visibility. Despite climbing overall sales volume, it is likely that the trend of 5% of apps bringing in 75% of all sales will continue. Marketing, social marketing, more elaborate techniques such as gamification or plain advertising are the common strategies, but there is one more interesting idea you should be aware of: Microsoft’s “Application Name Marketplace”.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application filed by Microsoft in November 2010 that lays out a scenario in which application stores not only sell application themselves, but also their names. The idea: A better name will gain more attraction. From the patent application:
“As previously described, application marketplaces may include hundreds and even thousands of applications. Therefore, it may be difficult to locate a particular application of interest, making it a challenge for application developers to drive attention and traffic toward their applications.
An application name marketplace is described. In one or more implementations, the application name marketplace leverages application names to drive attention and traffic to particular applications. For example, in an application-based and post-website era, application marketplaces are slowly but surely replacing search-based actions because many of the actions that may be desired by a user are taken up via applications on mobile communication devices, e.g., smart phones, tablets, and so on. However, location of the applications in a marketplace may be difficult due to the multitude of applications that may be made available to the user.
Accordingly, a name marketplace may be provided. The name marketplace may be used to market rights to purchase terms for use in naming an application. Therefore, applications that are provided via an application marketplace may be named using one or more of the terms purchased via the name marketplace. Thus, the names of the applications may be used as an intention-engine and monetized by the name marketplace, further discussion of which may be found in relation to the following figures.”
While a patent application merely reveals the idea of a certain invention and not an intent for actually implementing it, Microsoft’s app name store is an interesting approach, not just with the idea to deliver an additional revenue generator, but especially with the note that app names could be replacing website URLs down the road.
There is a bidding market place for URLs with prices that reflect a potential to direct web traffic, so it appears to be reasonable to assume that app names could step into a similar role. According to Microsoft, a search for apps is not based so much on keywords, but has taken a much more vertical approach and the names of apps may become much more important and critical in determining the future success of an app, but there are significant challenges as app name changes will be rather confusing to app users as the owners of names change.
However, let’s also remember that the idea to replace the URL with more common names is not a new idea and was something Google explored in 2011. One of Google’s Chrome “experimental features” was a UI change that removed the URL/location bar entirely and allowed users to target websites simply via web apps that were stored as icons on a launch page of the browser. The feature instantly devalued 95% of the Internet’s websites and all those sites users would find via searches – and Google’s primary revenue source.
Google abandoned this feature, which grew out of the idea to maximize the screen space (for apps) especially on mobile devices. But there is no doubt that there will be more ideas on how to change the URL as the dominant way to reach online destinations and it is a good idea to track these efforts. Microsoft does not have the largest app market place out there (about 70,000 apps), but its store is growing at a decent pace. Given its benefits, an app name store has a reasonable chance to see the light of the day.