this posting was originally written at http://kwiksher.com/blog/2013/12/23/crossing-the-chasm-with-mobile-apps/ in 2013

Reading my emails this morning, I was surprised with a particular one coming from Moglue, a long time competitor of Kwik. After three years promoting and selling their DIY (do it yourself) storybook tool, they just announced they are closing the business due to lack of continued funding (according to CrunchBase, Moglue has received a total of $990K in the period of 2 years).

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 10.59.49 AM

Although the announcement is really surprising (I wish Kwiksher had the almost $1M in investment as well), there are a few indications happening in the market at this moment that may explain some of their reasons. Just to make things clear, my words below are just assumptions as I never talked to anyone from Moglue to learn more about the “real deal” behind their decision. Again, it is just my thoughts on what I have seen and heard operating Kwiksher.

Crossing the Chasm

In 1991, Geoffrey A. Moore wrote a book called Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, which became a reference for marketers around the world. Moore’s focuses on the specifics of marketing high tech products during the early startup period. The chart he used to describe the several phases of a product adoption timeframe is still used and can be easily adapted to the current mobile app business (and too for tools like Kwik and Moglue):

chasm

Not wanting to describe each phase in detail (besides not being an expert on the topic, I strongly suggest you read the book), let’s quickly take a look at each segment of the chart:

  • Innovators: are the people who “jump” into products and/or companies who try to address situations and problems not perceived before. These products cannot only target innovators because they are a few consumers. However, innovators are the first ones who will try the product, provide feedback and promote it (if the product makes sense). Due to the nature of playing with the unknown, and the usually higher costs, due to the absence of demand for sales, innovator products promptly confront their first chasm (a big barrier that is the first “make or break it”). Many innovations don’t succeed their smaller chasm.
  • Early Adopters: are a bigger group of users. They are the ones who will create long lines to get a new gadget. Products in this category already succeeded their first obstacles and now try to get space with the majorities. Sales pick a lot for early adopters products but still, due to the size of the market, they are not enough to sustain large operations, especially when the big chasm strikes. Here, it is the moment of truth for the product or technology: will it become mainstream or not? Do users really need it? Is the price affordable to the masses? Are the competitors (yes, there are competitors in this phase) better?
  • Majorities: this is pretty explainable. They are the average consumers, who get the product because they are seeing it in the stores and their friends are talking about. If a product gets the attention of the majorities, being really useful for the masses, their developers will enjoy the explosion in sales and everything that money brings 🙂
  • Laggards: are the worse type of customers a product may have. They will only spend money after years of marketing activities, usually when the product is already dying or being reinvented. Everybody knows something that still use a VCR, right?

Sorry to spend time bringing the basics of the chasm chart, but I really think it may explain what is happening with Moglue, with Kwiksher and with YOU and YOUR apps.

As you may notice already, NOBODY is making big money (ok, there are a few exceptions here and there but, in most cases, they are companies who were already dominant in other segments of the technology industry – for example, the big game studios) with mobile apps. The same applies for tools for creating mobile apps. The reasons may be many but I really think they can be compiled into a single one:

It is still an Early Adopters market

Even with the Apple AppStore being launched in 2008, things are changing constantly. Price points for all categories of apps are not yet defined (which clearly affects YOUR sales and consequently OUR sales). Also, the cost of app creation is still relatively low, which somehow explains the low quality of the majority of apps and their ridiculous price points, varying from free to $0.99 – what, in real world, can you purchase or build for less than a dollar? 

Crossing Our Own Chasm

As mentioned earlier, because the development costs are relatively low, anybody, not necessarily prepared, can create an app – check how many templates, free SDKs, DIY tools with revenue sharing, and even things like Kwik, costing a few hundred dollars do you know.

Across history, any technological development required skill and expensive tooling. I am not saying things should be really expensive but, in comparison, would you use and pay the same for a car made by your neighbor baker, with cheap tools or one safety tested by a professional automobile company? Before you say this comparison is not valid, what about a book: would you allow your children to read an educational book with a metal binder falling apart and with “non-revised” wording?

Like the crossing the chasm above, I think we, the ones creating apps or tools for app creation, are facing the big scary chasm at this moment. While some may blame others (low prices, low quality, too many apps, <add here any other excuse>), I strongly believe we must stand behind our products, our audiences, and our values.

Since I launched Kwiksher,  I have noticed a constant change of users. Most people who purchased Kwik 1 did not update to Kwik 2 and so on. Talking to some of them, I learned they thought just a nice app would be enough for automatically sales. As the money never came, they went back to their regular lives.

To them, to YOU and, every day to ME, I say: “stand behind your products”! If your product is not ready yet, finish it first, instead of trying to sell it for $0.99 or giving it for free. Do your self-evaluation. Although some people can be totally blind and believe they have a masterpiece, even when others say “it is bad”, they are exceptions. Most people can really find by themselves their illustrations are not that good, or the story is not perfect yet.

If your product is really good, it cannot cost $0.99 (which after the store cut will be only $0.70). When you sell a quality product for $0.99, you are helping to set the market for crap products (you put yourself in the same category of those ones doing almost nothing) – you will never be able to charge more in the future! It is better to sell one unit for $3.99-7.99 (it depends on what you are selling) than a few for less than a dollar. Again, WE ARE THE ONE’s BUILDING THE ROAD!

In sum, as an Early Adopter, remember the road to that amazing, solitary, beach or mountain of your dreams will have bumps. You may stop at some tolls without the money. Your tires will be flat. You may not even get there. However, when doubt come, remember you are there for the entire ride, not an instantaneous prize.

I sincerely wish a great holiday season and an amazing 2014! Let’s make this journey together!