Lessons from Pouch at 1000 Sales

by Chadwick Wood
September 26th, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, Pouch passed the 1000 sales mark! And so far, I think I still have a happy (and growing) customer base. I couldn't be happier about how the app is doing, and I figure that this milestone is a good occasion to tell you some things I've learned during this process.

It's Hard to Get Ratings

The vast majority of people who use Pouch have never rated it. Out of over 1000 sales worldwide, Pouch has been rated 73 times, with about 53 reviews: about 7% of customers bothered to rate it.

But, this percentage would have been even lower if I hadn't included a ratings request screen in the app; the 3rd time a person launches Pouch, a picture of me pops up with a request to rate the app in the App Store. The user can tap "Yes", "No", or "Maybe" (which means the request will come back again later).

I use KISSmetrics to track people's response to this request. In the past 30 days, the ratings request screen has been shown 164 times, and 21 of those people tapped "Yes" (13%)! And, 46% of people tapped "Maybe", so I think the inclusion of that option is very important. I guess that if people were presented with only a Yes/No option, most Maybe's would be No's.

Right now, the average rating for both the current version of Pouch and all version is 4.5 stars. I don't think I could ask for better, as it's just about impossible to avoid the occasional unhappy customer who gives you a 1-star rating. My most recent 1-star rating came with this review:

"I did a search in the app store for 'basecamp' and saw great ratings but did nit [sic] notice it was for backpack. Yes, bad user but why did it show up in the search with that keyword? Not sure who's fault this is but certainly this is not the key driving all the success on this platform."

So, the guy searched for a Basecamp app, found mine (titled "Pouch, for Backpack"), and decided I was to blame for his confusion. Oh well, can't please everybody.

And next, here's what I think has been the key to good ratings (aside from having a good product!):

Make It Easy to Get in Touch

Early on, I included a button within Pouch titled "Support" (now it's got an icon instead). When tapped, it brings up an email form addressed to me, pre-filled with info about the customer's version of Pouch, iOS, and whether they're on an iPhone or iPad. I get an average of 1 email per day thanks to this button.

This Support button has served so many purposes: Some customers have told me about bugs. Many customers suggest additions to Pouch. A few people write to just tell me how much they like Pouch (and then I ask them to leave a review!).

Without that button, I probably wouldn't have heard half of this stuff. When I first considered adding the button, I was concerned about how much email I'd have to deal with. And I have to admit, there have been a couple of times where it was hard to keep up with. But I think it's been crucial to the success of the app, and it's taught me a lot.

It's Both Wonderful and Frustrating to Sell a 3rd-Party App

Pouch is a 3rd-party app for using Backpack, made by 37signals (if you've read this far, you probably know that). Being 3rd-party has been a blessing and a curse:

I've done almost no marketing. Pouch has a built-in customer base: everyone who uses Backpack and has an iPhone or iPad. And the Backpack website has an Extras page where most of that customer base is going to look when they need a Backpack app. I think the Pouch link on that page is responsible for most of the sales I've made. So I have to say a big thank you to 37signals not only for making Backpack and its API, but for giving me so much traffic! It's been awesome. On the other hand:

My hands are tied with regard to many features. This is the "curse" side of things. People would like to be able to upload files, manage picture galleries, leave comments on things, read their Writeboards, and more. And hell, I would love to make that possible! But I can't, because none of those features are available via the Backpack API. That means that a lot of requests I get from customers have to be answered with "I'd love to add that too, but I can't, because...". Luckily, most customers are understanding about that (even if they don't know what an API is). But it is a little frustrating.

Moving Forward

I hope I can get to 2000 sales! Moving forward, I'm going to keep working to make Pouch faster and more full-featured. And along the way, I'll be happy to share what more I learn with you. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.