App Stores: The Macro & the Micro

Building Apps for Target Markets

I’ve long wondered if developers build apps almost entirely for the nerd market and not the consumer market. Justin Williams, creator of Elements and Today, clarifies the motivation and incentive to do just that for the iOS and Mac App Stores:

“I frequently explain to people that I don’t build consumer applications and instead target the nerds. The nerds are more than willing to spend money on quality software. Nerds have bought tens of thousands of copies of OmniFocus’s $40 iPad app, so I find it hard to believe they would struggle to part with a $5 bill to use my application.”

Forty dollar task management software makes sense to nerds and productivity types, but to the average consumer? It sounds like they’re parting with two $20 bills to make checklists on a tablet computer when a free notebook jacked from the office would work just the same. An identical mentality most likely follows for spending $5 on an app for text editing and notes management when one comes built-in with iOS.

The Micro and the Macro

More likely than not, this is what’s happening with these kinds of niche apps:

  • Developers who build these apps are nerds
  • Consumers who buy these apps are nerds

This is a nearly perfect micro-economy that may have existed in the background before easily accessible app stores, and now is the forefront of an extremely healthy ecosystem based off the notion of effectively building and delivering goods for highly specific consumer groups.

The above scenario works the other way, too. With thousands of apps to choose from, the average user is undoubtedly overwhelmed by the sheer selection from which to choose. Top ten lists and top apps by category are some of the first places to go (my Dad, purchaser of the recent Verizon iPhone, did just this with a random game at the top of some category list). General iOS and Mac users will see products in these lists, often arriving there through pricing adjustments (translation: fire-sales), and with greater visibility, apps like Angry Birds retain top positioning and will be some of the first apps purchased by this consumer group.

If you’re one of the long-tail advocates, app store marketplaces are nearly perfect examples of the theory.