You’ve built a great app. Every feature works perfectly. It’s slick, and downright pretty. Even your Mom thinks it’s cool.

There’s just one problem… No one is buying anything.

Your app or digital product is stuck in one of four scenarios:

  1. You’re seeing some downloads, but no in-app purchases.
  2. The free product is booming, but you can’t sell an upgrade to save your life.
  3. Your site has steady traffic and a strong social presence, but leads never convert.
  4. Competitors are killing it and the market is growing, but your product can’t keep up.

I’m guessing you’ve already tried Facebook ads, marketing campaigns, and PR outreach. Maybe you even had a splashy launch party.

Before we talk strategy, I’m also assuming that you’ve found the right Product-Market Fit. That’s essential – and none of the following tactics will help if you haven’t solved a real customer need.

If you have found the right niche, here are seven techniques that can increase your sales.

Each change is helpful on its own. Tackle them all together and you should see good results.

1. Simplify the onboarding

Many products ask new users for a huge amount of upfront data.

We’re talking birthdates, locations, phone numbers, gender, and even social security numbers.

Instead, people should be able to sign up and use your app in guest mode before completing a full profile. The same goes for SaaS products. Users should have the ability to onboard after completing even a bare-bones registration.

how to build a social media app

As you design (or re-design) the onboarding, try to make it feel less like filling out a form, and more like actually using the product.

Slack does this beautifully. Users onboard by interacting with the messenger bot, which organically demonstrates how the app functions and begins their product journey.

Streamlining the signup keeps people engaged, while getting them to that all-important “a-ha” moment even faster. That’s the point where they understand the value of your app or product. It’s also what makes people more likely to buy.

Remember: onboarding is an essential part of your monetization strategy.

2. Lower consumer risk through social proof

Every interaction has an inherent pleasure to pain and risk to reward ratio.

At Appster, we imagine that anyone who encounters a new app or product will assume that it’s a scam.

The apps we build are not, of course, but we try to maintain that mindset as we create the design, user flows, interactions, and supporting details.

Think about your own buying behavior.

The first time you ordered takeout on your phone or paid for a productivity app, you weighed the risks (lost money, private data, and no-show deliveries) against the potential rewards. If you completed the purchase, you decided the benefits outweighed the risks.

What tipped the scales?

Knowing that others have gone before you affected your decision – whether you (consciously) knew it or not. Social proof is essential. It de-risks the transaction, and nearly every successful product does it well.

Show a well-traveled road to your product or service

Airbnb is the master of social proof. Each listing has candid reviews and host ratings.

Before you book a waterfront condo in Vancouver, you can see photos, view the general location, and read what other people think of everything from parking options to the bathroom towels.

The same goes for travelers. Your strong user profile tells hosts that, “hey – this person won’t trash my kitchen.”

Providing the right social proof depends on your business. For example, we’ve learned that the top concern among potential Appster clients is a fear that we’re going to steal their Intellectual Property – that we’re going to grab their idea and run with it.

We’re not. But how does a new visitor or potential customer know that? We try to ease their fears by addressing it upfront. Right below the “get started now” CTA button, our homepage tells visitors: “your idea is 100% protected by our non-disclosure agreement.”

Under “how it works” in the navigation bar, our first promise covers idea protection. We’re dead serious about it, and we need our customers to know how and why they’re safe.

It’s important to understand what scares or annoys people when they first explore your product. Tackle those issues head-on. Then, fill in as many gaps as possible. Helpful social proof can include:

BigCommerce is another company that nails their social proof. From a visual client list to customer sales stats to an https (secure) homepage URL, visitors can relax and trust that they’re in good hands. Major, legitimate businesses use this service, so it feels like a safe bet.

As you consider what’s necessary for your business, stand in your customers’ shoes.

What are the first questions that spring to mind? Where can you poke mental holes in the offering? What could go wrong?

Make a prioritized list and then address each concern directly with your design and copy.

ux history

A final note about social proof and startups:

Customers want to know the people behind new apps and products. It’s a natural source of curiosity – and that’s why Apple recently re-designed the App Store to focus on founder stories.

Don’t miss this opportunity to shape perceptions and open wallets. Minimizing the inherent risk in your product can dramatically increase conversions.

3. Demonstrate real, inherent value

I recently saw a startup that was charging hundreds (and in some cases, thousands) of dollars for… emojis.


Maybe the creators hit the jackpot with a few excitable buyers, but in my experience, emojis don’t have enough perceived value to warrant big prices.

While everyone who builds a product assumes it’s valuable, make sure that each tier matches the price tag. Add-ons should reflect what they’re actually worth to buyers. And if you have a premium version of a free product, make sure the upgrade is fully differentiated.

Make it something that people are happy to spend their money on.

Remember that perceived value will vary

Knowing your audience is critical. In a 2014 study, researchers found that company size directly affects B2B buying decisions.

For example, small to medium-sized business owners and decision-makers usually buy things that help them earn more money, like marketing automation tools and other revenue-driven services.

Products that promise to save time, however, don’t have the same impact. Small business owners are already slogging it out and putting in the time. They might be okay with long hours, but that effort should translate into higher profits.

The opposite is true of large businesses. Owners, managers, and decision-makers at big companies want to save time.

They’re looking for efficiencies. They might even be trying to postpone a new hire or to hit a target, so productivity-based results are compelling.

Clearly, your audience (and their needs) should dictate how you position and sell your product. Make sure you’re hitting the right notes.

4. Appeal to hearts and minds

People buy to meet emotional needs, but they justify their purchases with logic.

Think about that for a moment. It’s human nature – and you can probably see the proof in your own choices. Every emotional sell also needs a logical comparison.

For example, a fitness app can help you feel strong and confident. At just $3 per month, it’s also way cheaper than hiring a personal trainer.

See how that works? It’s a natural way to demonstrate value, but startups often miss this powerful combination in their sales and marketing efforts.

Here are a few more examples:

BigCommerce can help you realize your dream of creating an e-commerce site. You can manage shipping and payments, list your products on major platforms, and make money while you sleep. It also costs a quarter of most on-premises solutions.

Airbnb helps you make connections, travel to cool places, and stay in off-the-beaten-track locations. It also costs less than a hotel.

Demonstrate your value, show how your product satisfies an emotional need or solves a frustrating problem, then back it up with logical proof.

5. Ask what’s not working, instead of making assumptions

If your app is a financial echo chamber, talk to customers and ask why they’re not hitting the “buy now” button.

I know this sounds like common sense, but in my experience, very few founders actually reach out and get the answers they need.

in-app purchasesSurveys can be helpful. Give people an incentive (like an Amazon voucher) and ask open-ended questions about their purchasing decisions.

A few years ago, Josiah and I wanted to know why people didn’t contact us about their projects. What prevented them from starting a conversation with Appster?

That’s how we learned that IP theft was their top concern. Maybe it sounds obvious now, but we were surprised. We thought that media coverage and case studies were enough to eliminate any perceived risk, but we were wrong.

If you’re not converting customers and users, don’t give up. Find out what people really think when they first encounter your product or service. Use their feedback to shift your messaging.

6. Don’t forget to follow up

The decades-old Rule of 7 and Effective Frequency marketing theories suggest that people need to hear your message 7-11 times before they buy.

We also know that about 50% of mobile users won’t return to an app after 24 hours.

Successful products consistently bring people back into the loop. They have re-targeting strategies and outreach plans.

Too many people build websites and digital products without designing sales funnels that follow up on users. These can include:

When it’s your product, it’s easy to assume that people will see your offer and pounce right away. But, we’re all busy and distracted – and that’s not how we operate as consumers or business owners.

Products need to pop up, repeatedly, on our radar before we take action.

7. Match your product to the platform

Mobile and in-app purchases are growing every year. People are increasingly willing to enter their credit card digits and buy online.

Big, complex purchases, however, are still done primarily on the web, on a computer. Most people feel comfortable ordering food, calling an Uber, and downloading an app on their phone. When it’s time to buy a TV or research a car, they shift devices.

If people aren’t buying, it’s worth asking if you’re selling the right thing on the wrong platform. Is there a disconnect?

Make sure your product hangs out where your customers spend their time.

Listen, learn and continue to refine

It’s not enough to create an awesome product. You also need to relieve the fear of the unknown.

Minimize risk and maximize the potential rewards. Show people why you have a secure, reliable solution. Appeal to their emotions and satisfy their logical side.

If you have any other questions about increasing conversions, let’s talk.

After all, your IP is safe with us. But you already knew that, right?

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