Sales of Closeby and What I've Learned

A few months ago I released a small app called Closeby. What Closeby does is finds which of your contacts are nearby by using the addresses you’ve stored in your address book. Think of it kind of like “Find My Friends Houses.” Although everyone who tried it seemed to think the app was well done, and many offered great suggestions — which I’ve recently gotten around to implementing a lot of — the app hasn’t sold very well.

Since February the sales have looked something like this:


The launch was decent, and the next several days weren’t too bad either, but after the initial wave of sales things fell off in a pretty serious way, with several days of zero sales. Now, honestly, I don’t think the app is really for everyone and I didn’t expect to get rich off of it. I thought of it more as a fun idea that I thought I could execute well, and an opportunity to get a nice looking app out there that I could be proud of. In those respects it’s done great. Still, I’d like to look at what I can do better in the future in order to get my next apps into more peoples hands.

The Price Was Too High

The first thing is that I think I priced the app too high. I started off at $2.99, and I think that was a mistake. As of today I’ve lowered the price to 99¢, where I plan on keeping it. I don’t think most apps should be 99¢ — most apps I buy aren’t — but I do think this app should be. The reason is that Closeby can be a fun app to have on your phone, and definitely has utility for certain people, but that for most people it’s more of a novelty. If I like it or not the state of the market for iOS apps is that novelty apps cost 99¢, and $2.99-$4.99 is seen as more of a premium price point.

Has to Be Seen and Explained

The second problem I think is that while everyone who’s seen Closeby have had nice things to say about it, it’s just not an app that sounds that cool unless you’ve seen it, or ideally I’ve shown it to you. It’s also not an app that I think anyone is searching for. Thinking about it now, I really am not sure how you’d accidentally run across Closeby due to an App Store search.

With my future apps I want to focus on easily understandable solutions so that you know if you want it has soon as you see it. I think this is a big lesson that I haven’t really gotten until now.

Bad Update Strategy (Initially)

I don’t know what the direct impact on sales has been, but when I first released the app I got so many great suggestions from other developers and designers that I wanted to implement that I spent way too long trying to fit all of them into one release. This was a mistake, especially since I have a lot of other things I’m responsible for getting done. Since then I’ve started releasing smaller updates a lot more often. If I can spend a couple of hours and fix a bug, add a feature or make something nicer to look at, I just do it and submit. Even doing things that way, it’s unlikely that I’ll get my updates approved and in the store faster than every 10-14 days, so there’s really no risk of updating too often. I don’t know if there’s any relationship, but it does seem like I’ve had a small uptick at the end of the chart.

Going Forward

I think there’s a lot of lessons I can take from this. I’m still proud of the app, happy it’s out there and plan to keep updating it. To summarize the big things I think I can do better next time, they are:

  • Price what the market will bear for the kind of app you're releasing, not what you'd like to sell for.
  • Pick ideas that don't need to be explained and that solve a problem you know others are having.
  • Break up your ideas into smaller updates, rather than going a long time between updates.

And of course if you’d like to check out Closeby, you can find it on the App Store.

Collin Donnell @collin