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The Truth about Reskinning Apps

Published January 17, 2014

How profitable is reskinning apps really?

Maybe you’ve heard this saying: If you marry for money, you’ll end up earning every penny. The same is true of apps. Reskinning apps is hard work no matter how you go about doing it. You can work hard to create quality and value on the front end, or you can work hard to squeeze profits out of crappy apps on the back end. The choice is yours.

The truth is, reskinning apps is not easy money.

Meet Tasnim Ahmed, an iOS Developer from Bangladesh.

Tasnim has an interesting take on reskinning: he believes that reskinning is simply the least expensive way to try a new market.

He tests his ideas—or, “minimum viable product” in startup parlance—with app store optimization (ASO) and launch tactics. Reskins enable him to fine-tune his app icon, screenshots, keywords, app name, description, app size, and to experiment with the right mix of reviews, launch days, and marketing activities.

As a result, the more sophisticated apps that his team releases later have a much better chance at profitability.

Tasnim’s Story

By November 2012 Tasnim’s apps were bringing in more money than his job, so he quit to focus on apps full-time. In his words, “It was the best decision ever!”

He assembled a small but talented team of three creatives. Tasnim does all of the programming himself, and he employs two designers/architecture students from his university. The trio has been able to hit five figures in a single month with their reskinning experiments and other apps.

Tasnim has used the freedom created by his fully passive income to help three friends get started in the app business. It just doesn’t get much better than that!

Case Study – Santa Claus Merry Christmas

Though people take many different routes to appiness, Tasnim has earned his luck.

I heard about Santa Claus Merry Christmas (SCMC) because Tasnim purchased a Multi Use license of my Mustache Bash photo booth source code last fall. He is one of my customers.

SCMC is proof positive of something I learned awhile back: If you save money on development by buying a source code and pony up the dough for solid design, then you can make a killing. If you save money on development by buying a source code and also save money by paying bottom-dollar for design, then you will still probably lose money.

Tasnim took the former route, and to date, his teams Christmas booth reskins have generated $9000 in revenue. Here’s an older screenshot:

reskinning apps 2

How did Tasnim monetize the app?

He would tell you that people love to spend money, and app developers simply need to provide enough opportunities.

Tasnim’s team started by reskinning Mustache Bash with a Halloween theme. The app had two in-app purchases (IAP), got 47,889 downloads, and made only $567 from in-app purchases. The average revenue per user (ARPU) from IAP was only $0.011.

halloween reskin of Mustache Bash

By contrast, SCMC had six in-app purchases, got 99,263 downloads, and made $3387 from in-app purchases. The ARPU from IAP was 300% higher—$0.034!

christmas reskin of mustache bash

The in-app purchases in SCMC weren’t cheap: $2.99, $3.99, $4.99, $5.99, $6.99, and $19.99. People love to buy stuff even at high prices!

expensive in-app purchases

 

Last but not least, Tasnim opted to not use ads aggressively. Most reskinners run the opposite direction, using obnoxious double and triple pop-ups in an attempt to get more clicks. In so doing, they drive users away.

What was Tasnim’s secret sauce?

Beta Versions
Tasnim’s team launched a beta version of SCMC to get some data about market demand, session time, number of photos shared on social media, and other “events.” Not only did the beta version yield valuable insights, but it also got nearly 50,000 downloads.

Social Sharing Functionality
The Mustache Bash photo booth source code has built-in Facebook, Instagram,Twitter, and email sharing. You can include a link with Facebook sharing so that other people can discover this app.

People also love to share on Instagram. The code lets you auto-populate a pre-set hashtag, which enables you to track which people are sharing and communicate with them. Instagram has less viral potential because the link in the shared post is not clickable, but if you want to create a brand, Instagram will definitely help you.

Localizations
Localizing the app title, description, keywords, and screenshot captions helped Tasnim in terms of the app’s discoverability all around the world. He localized for Russian, Spanish, French, and Portuguese, and then re-used those localizations for Mexican Spanish, Canadian French, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Press Releases
Tasnim worked through the Appiness section on crafting a great press release, and paid for extended distribution through prMac.com. He was really pleased with the exposure that resulted.

App Store Optimization
Tasnim’s invests a lot of time identifying strong keywords. He took advantage of lots of resources now available.

For example, Gabriel Machuret focuses exclusively on ASO and has a pretty involved process that includes using the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to search for high-volume keywords, Google Trends to spot regional interests (which is helpful for localization), and Straply to search for long tail keywords of competitors.

He then recommends refining those terms by making sure they are also deemed good terms on SensorTower and Searchman. (Appcod.es is good too.) His ASO course on Udemy—App Store Optimization – App Store SEO—has a step-by-step overview on how to find the best keywords. If you are interested, do a quick Google search for a Udemy discount code. You can almost always find a 50-75% off coupon. You can also check out some of Machuret’s YouTube videos.

And of course the Appiness app marketing guide for iOS developers that has lots of easy-to-understand and implement information on choosing the right keywords.

What Didn’t Pay Off

photo booth source code

  • Twitter – Though Twitter had the highest CTR for images shared from SCMC, Tasnim didn’t invest the time in leveraging his followers.
  • Facebook ads – From Tasnim: “Such a waste!” Though Facebook ads did help SCMC rank #6 for iPad in the Photo & Video category, they didn’t bring a huge chunk of downloads.
  • Pinterest ads – “Waste of money because I didn’t know anything about them!” Tasnim didn’t know much about Pinterest, so he hired an oDesk contractor to help. She did the job well, but Pinterest itself doesn’t allow custom URLs for tracking click-throughs.
  • Review campaign – Tasnim set up a review campaign on Gnomeescape.com. The 3-star reviews offset the 5-star reviews, and the results of the campaign as a whole were disappointing.

What Tasnim Didn’t Try

  • Approaching photographer bloggers
  • Approaching mommy bloggers
  • Submitting requests to review websites
  • Contacting niche websites

Tasnim’s 7 Tips For Reskinning Apps

  1. Buy only high-quality source codes. Photo booth, racing, and endless runner codes are performing well for Tasnim.
  2. Choose a relevant theme based on the top grossing apps, highest grossing advertisers, or current trends.
  3. Give users plenty of in-app purchase options, including pricey ones.
  4. Follow the 48-hour launch date rule: http://www.gameacademy.com/blog/insider-tip/.
  5. Test different launch days. Friday, Saturday, and Monday have worked well for Tasnim.
  6. Make strategic category choices: http://thechocolatelabapps.com/downloads-app-store/.
  7. Read the Sensor Tower, Apptamin, ASO Professional, and iPhone Dev SDK blogs.

In Closing…

Reskinning apps is like most other things: you get out what you put in. Hopefully, you’ll follow Tasnim’s example and invest a lot of time in beta testing and experimentation. You might just get to quit your day job!

Comments and Support:

    theappmedia

    Its a great case study, can any one please recommend some good places to buy source code of apps.

    Patrick

    Nice article Austin. Thanks for the case study, very helpful.

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