At today’s Google I/O developer conference, the company introduced several changes designed to make it easier for Android app developers to generate revenue via subscriptions, particularly when trying to reach users in emerging markets. In particular, the company said that it will now allow developers to provide users with the ability to sign up via prepaid plans that essentially provide access to the app and its services for a specific period of time specified by the developer.
Users will then be able to purchase in-app recharges when their subscription runs out and they have the funds to continue. Google said the feature would make sense in areas where pay-as-you-go cellular plans are standard. In those markets, consumers are already accustomed to the prepaid model, so expanding it to apps can help boost developer subscription revenue. However, prepaid subscriptions can also help target other use cases as well – such as non-subscription customers who are reluctant to charge running fees and who want more control over when and how much they spend on their mobile apps.
Google also announced expanded pricing options with the launch of “ultra low” price points to reach users in emerging markets.
In March, Google lowered the minimum price for products in more than 20 markets across Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, allowing developers to lower prices as low as 10 to 30 cents (in US dollars). At the time, the company explained that these “sub-dollar prices” would allow developers to reach new potential buyers by adjusting prices “to better reflect local purchasing power and demand.”
Now, Google says developers can cut prices to 5 US cents. This will also allow developers to run local sales and promotions and support various micro-transactions, such as in-app tipping.
While these changes will help better target Android app users in emerging markets, Google has made other improvements to app subscriptions as well.
The company said it’s making it easier to sell subscriptions on Google Play by allowing developers to configure multiple base plans and special offers, in order to reduce the overhead of having to manage a growing number of SKUs as developers adjust how subscriptions are sold with offers.
In this setup, the developer can create multiple base plans each with their own payment period and renewal type – such as monthly, annual, or prepaid monthly plans. Then, for each basic plan, they can create multiple specials across the subscription lifecycle. For example, they can create a buyout offer for a limited free trial, an upgrade offer to move from a prepaid plan to an auto-renewing tier, or even a downgrade offer to help retain a subscriber who might be looking to cancel because they aren’t using their full subscription benefits.
Google also offers an in-app messaging API that can be used to remind users to update their payment information when their payment method has been declined.
The company announced last year that it would start supporting other payment methods, including cash and prepaid plans. In the time, it expanded its Payment Methods library to more than 300 local payment methods in 70 countries, and added eWallet payment methods such as MerPay in Japan, KCP in Korea, and Mercado Pago in Mexico, Google said.