For many mobile developers and mobile entrepreneurs in the region, generating revenues from applications is the single most important thing. It is also one of the most challenging matter to figure out among many developers. Last week, 5th October at m:lab East Africa, a group of mobile app. developers and industry experts met to discuss and share thoughts about app monetization. The meet-up was held as a “Wireless Wednesday” event sponsored by inMobi, one of the fastest growing global mobile advertising networks.
The discussion at the meet-up whose participants included m:lab East Africa trainees, incubation clients, iHub community members and other industry experts was insightful. The lead discussant was inMobi’s Head of Mobile Ad Sales in Africa - Mr. Ankit Rawal. While not taking any firm position as my opinion, I will share below some 15 thoughts provoked throughout the discussion.
- “In-App purchases” is a growing revenue model - where virtual goods are purchased within the app. A local example is the Jikoni app which sells recipes from Kenya’s re-known consultant cook Ms. Susan Kamau. You can download the Jikoni app here (java).
- Developers and entrepreneurs need to “move out the technology” and become marketers - users are not as geeky as developers
- Developers very often have challenge of answering the question ”How do people discover your app?”
- It is wise for mobile developers/entrepreneurs to consider working with an Ad Network like inMobi as this outsources their marketing and revenue generation effort - allowing them to concentrate on “Building the Killer App.”
- Platform independence is important for increasing the reach of an application which is critical for maximizing advertising revenues.
- Operator billing, mobile payments and credit card payment options are options app. download payments. Carrier billing which can arguably help to make user experiences seem-less while paying for virtual goods is not implemented by mobile operators in the East Africa.
- A number of local mobile apps including MTL System's m-shop application make use mobile payment systems and this is an approach that is more viable than credit cards an other payment systems in the local context
- inMobi is coming up with a Mobile Money Payment option for its publishers in Kenya
- A trend was noted that people in emerging economies generally do not download applications that have to be paid for and that most downloads for paid-apps are being made outside developing countries
- Emerging markets do not have a culture of paying for digital/virtual goods and are inclined to free apps - hence greater viability for revenue models based on advertising
- Many of apps developed for the local market are getting more international downloads than in local market itself
- Human psychology may have much to do with whether people pay for app downloads or not.
- According to some participants, SMS and USSD revenue share models are not sustainable for the long term
- Developers need to get as much demographic information as is legally and ethically possible of people downloading their apps as this is valuable information for the Mobile Ad Network and other entreprises
- The lead discussant felt that Kenya's app developer scene is more vibrant than others in Africa
The Wireless Wednesday Event was concluded with an announcement offering who participate in inMobi’s mobile ad network a 50% discount on fees to access testing services at m:lab East Africa. inMobi is also a corporate partner of m:lab East Africa - currently sponsoring the Testing Room at its premises on Bishop Magua Centre - Nairobi.
Wireless Wednesday is m:lab East Africa’s way of encouraging mobile application developers and entrepreneurs to share insights with industry players on pertinent issues affecting their businesses. The event takes the format of a focus group discussion and is designed to maximize interaction with experts in the industry.
Nokia will sponsor a series of Wireless Wednesday Meetups themed “Mobiles for the Entreprise”, in November and December 2011 and January 2012. More details on this will be published in this blog in due course.