What People Pay For: In relation to web apps.
An important part of building an web app, is figuring out how its going to generate revenue. If you fail to ignore this step, your app risks becoming a hobby as opposed to a business.
And It's all to easy to just throw up a bunch of ads and hope for the best. But in reality, advertising doesn't provide much of a return for the smaller web app. So instead of giving into advertising, ask yourself this question:
What Will People Pay For
You would be surprised just what people are willing to pay for. That's not a negative statement. We live in a consumerist society. People have this thing called "money" that they want to give to other people.
So lets take a look at what people pay for and how it can relate to your web app.
People Pay For a Feature
I am looking at two televisions. They are both similar but one has a couple of additional features. I am more than willing to pay a little extra for that additional feature. I can see myself maybe wanting to use the Picture in Picture option someday. And so I buy the more expensive one.
People pay even more for unique features. How is your app unique?
It often just takes one or two unique features to win a customer.
People Pay For Quality
Why do people buy a BMW? Sure they might be "cool" but certainly aren't considered one of the coolest cars. So why are people willing to pay a premium for a BMW when they could buy a similar sized car for much less - quality? BMW has built a brand around quality - people believe that a BMW is of much better "quality" than say a KIA.
BMW isn't the only company to build a brand around "quality" -- I have a habit of dropping my Macbook when going through Airport security (trust me, its a horrible feeling when you hear it drop against the hard ground). On one occasion, after dropping the laptop, the sympathetic security officer said to me "lucky it's a Mac". It was then I realised that Apple products were considered to be of better quality - of which I do (whether foolishly or not) believe to be the case.
People will pay a premium if they believe they are getting quality. How can a web app deliver quality? In many different ways - what is your uptime like? Does your site break when it gets a flurry of visitors? Does your app have a "quality" interface, that looks professional, and delivers a predictable experience? These are just some of the ways to inject "quality" into your web apps brand.
People Pay for Service
Have you ever shopped at Harrods in London? Its quite an experience, and I could personally (and have) spend most of the day in the food hall. I tried to pinpoint why it was such a draw for tourists and locals alike. Partly it is due to quality (you expect Harrods to do an incredible job sourcing only the best), but I think service plays a more important role here.
At Harrods the service is good. You might call it "old fashioned", but I'm too young to make that call. I'm willing to pay somewhat ridiculous prices for food, just because I was getting treated so well while shopping there.
Why do people pay more for Zappos shoes? You can buy shoes cheaper elsewhere online. But they deliver their famous brand of customer service - in fact I'm sure people are drawn to Zappos, just to experience the customer service.
So people will pay for Service. Integrate amazing customer service into your app. If someone clones your app, you can always deliver better customer service - there is no limit or roof on how good your service can be.
People Pay for New
Why did I just buy a new iPod Touch. I don't need it. If I was to analyse my usage on my touch, I would find that I do little else than play music, check in on Foursquare, use the calculator and the odd app. My new iPod Touch can do all of these things. And so could my old one. So why did I buy the new one?
I can't figure out exactly why - there is no one feature that caused me to spend a few hundred. So I've come to the conclusion that "new" was the cause. A new one is shinier, lighter,faster - all of which sound amazing, but none of which actually caused me to buy the product.
So people will pay for new. Be on the edge of technology - by that I mean pushing the boundaries as to what is possible. Come up with new ideas, don't follow trends. Be the company that creates the "new".
People Pay for Simplicity
This is what I'm all about - simplicity.
One of the most common things I hear "your app doesn't do this, and this. Competitor does and they are cheaper. Why should I pay for yours". In this scenario, competitor has chosen to build a brand around "features". They have done very well out that. But I've chosen to focus on "simple".
My theory is that people will pay for a simpler experience.
Why the hell do we buy McDonalds? Sure its addictive but it isn't that good - and we all now know that its really bad for us. Why do parents feed their kids this crap? Because its simple. Its predictable and easy. No matter where you are in the world, no matter what language you speak, you know that you can walk into a Mcdonalds and walk out 2 minutes later with some food (if you can call it that). Its just simple.
McDonalds simplified food and made billions. They don't have the best food, they don't have the most expensive food, the coolest food, or the most extensive menu. They do have simple food.
People pay for simple. Why not take a problem and make a simple solution. Why not cut some features. How about you look at a competitor, see how they are doing it and beat them buy making your solution ridiculous simple.
Taking the simple approach, you will be at the mercy of the press. "Why would anyone use this product if they could use competitor which does this and this". But don't worry - they have to write this. And if they don't, I'm disappointed in you for building a an app that is too complex -- build something worthy of criticism.
So that is just some of the things people pay for. There are many others - what do you think?