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How to Design an In-App Purchase Paywall That Earns You Money -- Without Annoying Your Players

Posted on Posted in Blog - Insights
Royal Revolt

At Scientific Revenue, our first conversation with new game developer partners focuses on improving the design of their in-app purchase paywall, because it’s crucial to the success of their games.  Here are some of the starting insights we typically share. 

A good paywall achieves four core goals:

  • Quickly and clearly communicates IAP options to the player.
  • Simplifies the player’s choice between those IAP options.
  • Helps the player make the choice that fits her particular needs.
  • Doesn’t waste the player’s time.

Notice that there’s nothing here about specific pricing, or amounts of currency, or items that should appear in the paywall. There’s a very good reason for that: When it comes to paywall design, we tell game developers not to worry about IAP pricing until they’ve nailed down the user experience. If you make it hard for players to decide what to buy, you’ve reduced the chance of a sale.

Three Ways to Remove Paywall Frictions

It doesn’t matter how good your prices are, or what psychological tricks you deploy: If you make it difficult to pay by adding unnecessary frictions to the sales process, you’ll earn fewer sales. Here’s some ways to start reducing those frictions:  

Without all the options on the screen at once, it is hard for players to compare packages.

Display all IAP offers on the same screen:

Don’t assume a player will attempt to scroll through a menu of IAP items. Players may not even notice that they can scroll, while forcing them to scroll at all simply makes it harder for them to compare packages. Either way, you risk them missing all their IAP options, while making the choice harder than it has to be. Never make buying difficult.

Offer a Maximum of Four to Six In-App Payment Options

Screen space is limited for most handsets. You know from designing your mobile game that a phone screen quickly becomes crowded and confusing if you put too many objects on the screen at once. The same is true for a paywall. Displaying too many options makes them all harder to see, which makes buying more difficult. Once again, you should never make buying difficult.

Equally importantly, there’s substantial psychological research which suggests that forcing people to choose With nine options, this paywall requires a player to make 36 comparisons in order to find her ideal product. That's a lot of time and effort. between more than six options can itself lead to a poor user experience. People may regret their decision, which can then create negative associations with your game. A paying user is a rare gift. You should never let someone who paid you money regret their decision. So at most, show six choices on your paywall, but preferably, four or five.

Communicate Pricing and Discounts Through Clear Art & Labeling

It can be hard for players to compare different IAP options, so it’s important to convey their differences not just through price, but art and labeling.

Paywall art should reinforce It's clear from the art that we're getting more tokenshere by spending more money.the value of different packages: For instance, show increasingly larger stacks of coins,  diamonds with increasingly more facets, or objects that intuitively convey varying quantity (a knapsack versus a wheelbarrow, etc.) However you illustrate the difference, your paywall art should clearly reflect the differing value of your offerings. (Art is especially important if you are unable to localize your paywall text for a foreign market. )

Labels like “Most Popular” and “Best Value” should also be used to communicate item value - but use them judiciously. Ideally, a “most popular” label should be based on play analytics, but if your game is newly released, the label can be aspirational -- as long as it’s believable. It’s unlikely anyone will believe that your $30.00 pack of coins is also your most popular offer, and that little fib could induce paywall abandonment.  

Related to this, you should complement qualitative labels with quantitative labels. Some people just want to immediately know how much they’re getting by choosing the more expensive option, so make sure to point out the value of your quantity discount.  

For labeling discounts, we recommend expressing a discount in terms of the cheapest option, which usually has the highest IAP price. Again, our main motivation is simplicity of interpretation. Depending on the specific discount, you may want to show the percentage discount, or the amount of virtual goods a player gets for free by purchasing the more expensive option. Some developers do both, while others choose one or the other based on factors like platform or previous user behavior. It’s also important to remember that if you localize your prices or product offerings, you should localize your discount labeling as well.

There are many ways to describe a discount, but however you do it, be honest. Not only is bending the truth about your quantity discount ethically questionable, it’s also confusing for the customer. Remember, these quantitative labels are for people who want to see exactly what they’re getting for their money. If your claims don’t match players’ back-of-the-envelope calculations, you’ll either confuse, frustrate, or anger them. Never making buying difficult, and never make it unpleasant.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of paywall design, we’ll explore strategies for IAP pricing in future posts.

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