App stores don’t have a primary customer

Matt Lacey
Sep 6, 2016 · 3 min read

“The way I see it, _developers_ are Windows Store’s customers and app users are customers of those developers, not Windows Store.”

I wonder how many other developers see it this way.

This describes the store as an intermediary, re-seller, or purely a distribution channel.

To me, an App Store is a perfect example of a multi-sided platform (the intermediary) in a two sided market.

Both the developers and the people acquiring the apps are customers of the store. One is not more important than the other and both are necessary.

To say one is more important than the other (which is implied by stating that one is the “primary” customer) says the other is less important.

To say the developer is more important risks a situation where things are done for their benefit but at the detriment of what is good for the user. If such occurrences become common it will put some users off and they may leave the platform. This in turn would hurt both the platform and the developers as they’d have fewer (potential) customers.

To say the customer is more important would probably mean cheaper or more free apps which would hurt developers and make the creation of apps less appealing, so fewer would be made. This would disappoint and frustrate users and so again cause them to look at other platforms/OSs in the future.

There are many more examples of ways that prioritising either developers or users hurts the other and the platform but I won’t detail more of them here.

Aside: Yes, an OS is different from an app store but when it comes to mobile devices the two are inextricably linked.

There is a symbiotic relationship between developer and user and this is enabled by the store. To keep both customers happy requires compromises on both sides. It is not possible to always give developers or app users everything they might want at the expense of the other. It’s also the case that not all developers or users are the same. There will be times that the store will need to make changes that are beneficial to some users while hurting others. Or all developers may be asked to make changes (or have changes forced upon them) that make things harder for some while potentially benefiting others.

Because app stores are essentially the same as traditional retailers, this allows us to draw a simple parallel. If a bricks-and-mortar store decided it’s suppliers (equivalent to developers) were more important than it’s customers (app users), or vice-versa, you’d soon end up with a business not making any sales. The shelves would end up with no products on them or be filled with products that customers didn’t want to buy.

  • To try and view the whole system from a single perspective will lead to an imperfect view.
  • To try and argue that the system should be changed can mean that you miss out on opportunities based on how things currently are.
  • To say that either developers or users are more important to a store than the other is wrong and will eventually mean ending up with neither.

Like this? hate it? Think it’s stupid? or missing something crucial? — I trust you’re smart enough to know how to recommend, share, comment, etc. ;)

Matt Lacey

Written by

I help people create better apps. Also writing a book about it:

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