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What could In-App purchases look like for SAP’s mobile apps?

Recently, I blogged about the importance of in-app purchases in mobile apps and the difficulties involved in supporting such commercial aspects in the SAP Store.

Usually, SAP – indeed many mobile SAP partners as well –  price their mobile apps on a per user basis.  The per-user price varies based on the characteristics of the apps (largely based on the assumed savings associated by their usage). Despite the critical importance of in-app purchases in their commercialization, I have yet to see any of these apps include in-app purchases. I found this absence interesting.

At first, I thought that in-app purchases were just restricted to games and more consumer-oriented apps. On closer examination, I found a whole series of business / productivity apps that use in-app purchases.

Here is a partial list:


Type of In-App purchase


Increase number of business cards uploaded to SalesForce. First two are free.

Cue: Know What’s Next,

Link app to other social networks beyond original 6+

SpringCM Mobile 1.1

In-app purchase of SpringCM cloud content service


Free app must be purchased after a trial period ends

orbit Mobile CRM

They can also save and protect their data using an in-app purchase called Backup My Stuff.


Increased records

NSDroid for NetSuite CRM

Upgrade to the Licensed Version (in-app purchase) to Unlock the Premium Features!

QuoteMaker Pro

PDF Attachment Support, Custom Splash Screen Logo, Advanced Data Export Formats Multiple Currency Support

Note: Before we continue, there is the need to discuss how enterprise users would pay for such apps.  In many enterprises, there are restrictions regarding which the mobile apps can access enterprise data.  Often, such apps are purchased in bulk and provided to end-users free of charge. For such scenarios, in-app purchases are probably not relevant because the end-user already has the full-featured app. I’m thinking more in terms of Bring your own application (BYOA) scenarios. Of course, there are governance issues (who can / will authorize specific in-app purchases?) that must be solved.

As I looked at the examples above, I became aware of the difficulty in designing effective in-app purchases.

In search for more information, I found a ReadWriteWeb article that described the following strategies for designing successful in-app purchases:

  1. The Bait and Hook: Lure in the customer with an all-too-accessible free download. With that initial barrier removed, developers then only need focus on creating a fun and engaging gaming experience. After those first few minutes (or hours) of play, it’s that much easier to get the customer’s buy-in to spend a little something to continue the experience
  2. Make It Easy: Make sure the initial engagement isn’t frustrating. Use techniques like tutorials and tips, then allow the user to practice and gain a few wins before she has to face any real challenges. Then as the game progresses, it becomes harder to achieve those same results.
  3. Timely Offerings: At key “choke points” in the game, when the developer knows the customer will need just the right tool to obtain a higher level of achievement, a friendly pop up alerts players of the opportunity to make a purchase that will keep the game experience going.
  4. Introduce New Items: In its game Tiny Zoo Friends, where kids manage a virtual zoo, the company introduces new farm animals for purchase every week.
  5. For A Limited Time Only: Once customers become accustomed to making in-app purchases, developers then introduce the limited-time-only scenario. Make the next purchase for half off, or at a reduced rate, but only if you buy before the offer runs out.

The challenge is applying these suggestions to mobile apps in the enterprise software space. 

Here are some possibilities that I thought up:

  • For analytic apps, start with very simple charts to display data. If a user wants to display data with more complicated charts, then the user must buy these additional charts as in-app purchases. Sets of diagrams could be possible.
  • For apps that display KPIs, a certain restricted set of KPIs are available free of charge.  Additional KPIS are available via in-app purchase
  • For apps that combine internal data with external data – for example, apps that deal with social media – each additional social media source (Twitter, Facebook, etc) must be purchased via in-app purchase.
  • An app might be free for a week and then the app must be purchased via in-app purchase for usage to continue.

What are your ideas about possible in-app purchases for enterprise apps? There are no wrong answers. Don’t forget that users are used to crazy in-app purchases. Use your imagination. 

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  • A variant of the first two bullets would be to allow users to analyze only a subset of their data (e.g., 500 records) for free. That way they get a sense of how valuable the app could be but can’t really use it until they “buy” an unrestricted license. 

  • We are currently working on a suitable concept for in-app purchases for SAP EMR Unwired ( This app designed to help healthcare professionals treat their patients even allows functional extensions provided by different vendors, role-specific configuration etc. So as you write in your blog there are many considerations to be made before a concept from the consumer app world can be used in the enterprise context.