November 10, 2022

All You Need to Know about Apple's In-app Purchases 

“Would you like to see it one more time just in case you blinked and missed it?” - Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.  

The app world is dominated by two super power brands; Apple and Google. In the software space, these brands explore, develop, and in the case of in-app purchases, force its need. Throughout this article, I will discuss everything you might need to know about in-app purchases. I will be referring to Apple iOS exclusively. 

How in-app purchases are used

In-app purchases allow users to quickly and efficiently secure access to app content. If you want to buy coins for a game, or secure a subscription to view app content, more often than not you will do so using your Apple wallet and in-app purchases.

There are two sides to Apple's in-app purchases; how it appears and how it is implemented.

The implementation of in-app purchases is quite straightforward; in very brief terms, code is used to link up the application with Apple's in-app purchase system, and we use this to allow purchases to be made through the application. From the Apple dashboard we can create the purchase information: whether it is a single purchase or a subscription, how much it costs, etc. 

This leads us to how it appears. When using an Apple device, if you want to make a purchase, you will be presented with a screen that showcases what you are paying for, the account you are using, and the price of what you are buying. We will dive more into the benefits of this now!

in app payments in the disney app
How in-app purchases appear on the Disney+ app. (Purchasely, 2022)

The pros of Apple’s in-app purchases.

It reduces the time between the user seeing what they have to pay and purchasing it.

Speed is a key factor when ensuring your users make a purchase. You want to catch them when they are motivated and in the moment. Presenting them with a quick way to make a purchase will reduce thinking time and make it easy by having the user fields already populated. 

Not everyone wants to spend 10 minutes finding their wallet, entering their card details, double-checking and then triple-checking, just to make a purchase. Users don't want to face line after line of data. This can lead to frustration for your users and might discourage them from continuing.

I also just want to mention that if you have a strong brand and good relationship with your users already, they are much more likely to be prepared to go through a lengthier sign up process, and you may get away with not using in-app purchases. 

It reduces development time when building out purchase functionality

As much as building out a fully-fledged customised purchase system may seem like the perfect solution to easing the burden on users, the development time associated with this can double the amount of time it would take to incorporate in-app purchases (if not more).

Here at Moonward we can also integrate with other parties such as Stripe and Paypal, however this does mean that you will take the user out of the app in order to make a purchase. 

Not using in-app purchases can sometimes cause the submission process to be unnecessarily lengthy. An application gets uploaded to Apple, we finalise the documents and information in the submission, and then we send it for review. Apple is usually quite quick to check that submission for any issues, and if you are asking for purchases to be made in the application, they will be checking that you have implemented in-app purchases. If they don't find those in there and you cannot provide a valid reason, they may reject your app. 

It is much easier for users to understand how to use it, and how to complete a purchase.

Purchase selection can be confusing. Add in too many buttons, too many pages, and too many fields, and users become overwhelmed. In-app purchases reduce the bloat and length of the purchase process.

In-app purchases could be likened to a user walking around a store and deciding to buy. During this process, the customer will find something they like, validate their potential purchase (this could be trying a piece of clothing on or looking at the specs of a phone), and then proceeding to a register or a sales employee to finalise the purchase. A consumer does not want to be bombarded with questions by every employee in a store before they even make it to the register. They simply want to make their purchase and go. 

The cons of Apple's in-app purchases

Apple takes a percentage of your earnings

Since Apple has simplified the users experience of purchases, they do take a cut of in-app purchases. Ian Campbell and Julia Alexandar (The Verge, 2020) noted “30 percent standard commission on apps and in-app purchases of digital goods and services; sales of physical products are exempt. Subscription commission falls to 15 percent after one year.”. Now, this is quite a large chunk, considering it is being taken from every single purchase.

There are some deals available to smaller companies just entering the app development space or companies wanting to introduce paid content to their current app. Apple provides a great resource to reduce that 30% down to 15% if the application meets certain criteria. You can find more information about Apple’s in-app purchases through Apple’s Developer page. 

Why Moonward use it and recommend it

Reduced development time, easier for users to make purchases, and speedy transactions are a few of the key reasons we recommend using in-app purchases. The point of purchase is important when deciding if a potential customer will be won or lost. We want to give them a great purchase experience that leads to an even better experience when they use the app. 

In-app purchases definitely don’t work for every business, but they may suit you.

We are app experts! If you have an ambitious app idea, book a 30-minute strategy call to find out how we can help deploy successful in-app purchase capabilities. 

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