5 ways in which top app developers make the most of Play Billing

Improving reach, retention, and relationships with your users

Scott Gordon
Google Play Apps & Games
6 min readApr 7, 2022

Google Play’s billing system allows businesses to easily and safely transact with millions of people worldwide using their preferred form of payment. But it’s more than just a payment platform — it enables developers to select from multiple monetization strategies, and helps them grow and retain their user base.

Google Play partnered with MTM, an international research and strategy consultancy, to understand how leading app developers are maximizing the impact of the commerce platform on their business. MTM interviewed 15 leading app business from various categories across business, dating, health & fitness, audio, books, and family entertainment:

This article summarizes findings and explores ways in which these developers make the most out of Google Play’s billing system and its functionalities. The full report dives deeper into the details, with additional developer benefits and case studies to help you discover the range of possibilities offered by this solution.

1. They leverage Play’s tools to tailor and iterate on pricing & promo strategies

Google Play billing offers a variety of tools to support your app regardless of your business model, monetization strategy, product offering or user base. With Google Play billing, you have the flexibility to set and execute the pricing and promotional strategies that you deem appropriate for your business.

PicsArt, an all-in-one creative platform of photo and video editing, appreciate the flexibility that billing provides around setting up prices, packages and SKUs for products and promotions. This enables them to continuously iterate their monetization strategy at speed and provide users with new packages and discounts.

“Google Play’s billing system provides you with the flexibility around setting up prices, packages, SKUs for products and promotions — whatever I need.” Anna Gasparyan, Product Operations Manager, PicsArt

Maple Media develop a broad range of mobile apps, from weather forecasts to podcast streaming — Google Play billing allows them to implement the revenue model that works best for each individual app. In this way, they are able to take a tailored approach for each app and user experience and optimize for success.

2. They utilize acquisition tools to drive conversions and grow their user base

Google Play billing has a vast suite of tools to support developers in user acquisition and Free Trials are one of the most popular choices among developers. Muslim Pro, a comprehensive Islamic lifestyle app, have used Free Trials to convert monthly subscribers into annual subscribers. In addition, they have noted that users have come to expect a free trial, and that the ability to provide one is crucial to new user acquisition.

Another tactic to drive acquisition is setting a lower introductory price. Joyride, a dating app, have significantly increased conversions from sign up to first purchase since implementing Intro Pricing. Furthermore, they see that users acquired through this way have a higher total LTV than those acquired at a standard price point.

Effective acquisition tools become increasingly important as developers enter new markets and want to adjust their pricing according to user purchasing power. With Localized Pricing developers can maximize growth in a given market, while balancing adoption and revenue. It has had a critical impact on Any.dos ability to acquire users in new countries and grow their user base outside their core markets:

“Localized Pricing is critical for us, it’s had a big impact on our ability to effectively acquire users in different geos.” Omer Perchik, Founder & CEO, Any.do

Any.do, a productivity platform, combine Localized Pricing with Google Ads to improve their CAC and match it with a geo-specific price point that works for both users and their business.

3. They boost retention rates and build long term relationships with their customers

Top developers also leverage Free Trials and Intro Pricing as a retention tool. Before a subscriber cancels, they can choose to offer them a discount on their subscription in the form of a Free Trial or offer a discount through a lower introductory price. But Google Play Billing has retention tools that are specifically designed to help developers reduce rates of voluntary and involuntary churn and build a strong, long-term relationship with their users.

This starts with Grace Period, which enables users to continue accessing subscription benefits for a short time after a renewal payment has failed (e.g. as a result of credit card expiration) while Google Play works with the user to resolve the issue. Implementing Grace Periods has helped Komoot, a route planning app, boost retention rates by giving their customers more time to resolve a payment failure while continuing to get full access to the app. Providing their users with ample time to update their card details before revoking access has allowed Komoot reduce involuntary churn instances and helps create trusted relationships with customers.

After a Grace Period expires, Account Hold kicks in. During this time users lose access to subscription benefits, but Google will automatically restore access once payment failure is resolved.

Finally, there’s Subscription Pause, that allows the user to control how they wish to engage with the app — users can pause their subscription and re-engage at a time that suits them. Ubook, a subscription-based audio streaming service, use this feature to retain valuable users. A user may have budgetary restrictions that prevent them from paying that month or may be on holiday without internet access — allowing users to pause rather than cancel means they can easily restore their subscription.

4. They leverage insights on retention to win back users and improve their subscription offering

Play allows you to better understand what drives user cancellations through User Cancel Surveys. Developers can use this information to further improve their product and, if relevant, amend their pricing strategy. PicsArt uses insights gathered from User Cancel Surveys to better understand the reasons behind subscription cancellations, whereas Any.do use the feedback they gather from departing customers to improve their premium subscription offering and optimize their pricing.

Insights from cancellation surveys have immediate actionability for developers as well, as they can target lapsed users with relevant offers in Winback Campaigns. In addition, developers have the ability to improve Winback capabilities with contextual user messaging and tailored pricing offers. Apalon, a mobile development company creating ‘essential apps’ from wellness to weather, have seen considerable success with reacquiring lapsed customers through Winback Campaigns. They use them to understand a users’ rationale for canceling — if a user appears to be price sensitive, they can offer them a discount with the aim of retaining them.

5. They manage their subscriptions more effectively with RTDN

Real-time Developer Notifications is a powerful tool that enables you to better understand the status of a subscriber and to more effectively manage subscriptions across the user lifecycle.

This feature has significantly improved Mobills workflows and enabled them to better manage their subscriptions by providing them with real-time information on every subscription change. The team behind Mobills, an expense tracking and budget planning app, are more in control and better informed of their subscribers’ status.

Other frequently called out benefits of RTDN include the ability to:

  • Respond to subscription events instantaneously, when implemented in conjunction with Google Play’s Developer API
  • Reduce the number of request on the API, by automatically validating subscriptions and cancellations
  • Fight abuse by verifying all purchases server-side before giving users access to content or services

Eventually, RTDN allows you to communicate more effectively with your users and resolve any issues that arise. It has enabled Muslim Pro to reduce involuntary churn by 20% by providing them with real time notifications when a payment fails, allowing them to immediately contact the user and resolve the issue.

“We love RTDN, it’s the most valuable tool. It allows us to probe on renewal cycles, payment failures and to see if anything’s gone wrong with our subscriptions.” Pablo Cantu, Head of Product, Muslim Pro

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Overall, Google Play’s billing system is straightforward to implement and use, both from a technical and a business perspective. You can decide yourself which features are most suited to your business needs and goals. Hopefully this article has been helpful in outlining opportunities to make the most out of this developer solution. For more, see the full report or visit developer.android.com, Google Play business site and the Play Academy.

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