If you’re thinking of launching  your own app in 2016, you may want to know what apps topped the charts last year so you can take notes on what made them successful.

While many of these are either games or music streaming apps, they offer some lessons that can help guide you as you develop an app for your audience.

coc2Clash of Clans

What app stole so many people’s free time and money in 2015?  That would be the renowned Clash of Clans game, published by Supercell and grossing roughly 1.7 billion last year.  Despite the fact that this game is free, people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on it to get ahead.

 

Supercell had the perfect strategy: Start out free so that everyone can play.  After you’ve spent some time creating your very own beautiful village, you become so attached to your creation that you’ll do whatever you can to defend it.  Before long, your precious time and skills simply won’t be enough to protect your walls and troops.  You’ll have to keep up with the enemies, who are spending hundreds to millions of dollars to be the best.

 

What you can learn from this app: Start free — no one wants to pay for a gaming app upfront.  Allow your audience  to create a solid base with this free option, but then make it impossible to progress without spending money.  Keep the buyable options inexpensive, but offer many of them.  A little will add up to a lot in the long run.

 

create top grossing appSpotify

Spotify’s battles with class action lawsuits don’t seem to matter to its subscribers, considering it still made it to the No. 2 spot.  Apparently $10 a month is just the right amount of dough for music streamers to fork over before they opt back out to illegal downloading.,

 

The free version of Spotify throws in commercials every five to six songs in “shuffle play” mode, while premium members get to listen without ads.  Spotify’s  paying subscribers went from 2.5 million in 2010 to over 15 million in 2015.  Since it offers its paying customers a larger library of music instead of just a pre-made playlist, the app’s  popularity and revenue continue to increase.  This tactic offers consumers a little of what they really want for free, and a lot of what they want at a rate that will save them money from purchasing one thing at a time.

 

What you can learn from this app: Make sure you understand your value vs. what consumers are willing to pay.  If you can offer a reasonably priced monthly fee for a bundle or unlimited amount of product, customers will see this as a way to save money and will  more likely  become monthly users.

 

kate uptonGame of War-Fire Age

Machine Zone did one thing right that Supercell didn’t do with Clash of Clans, and that was make the busty Kate Upton their spokesmodel for Game of War. Other than that, the company pretty much ripped off the Clash of Clans’ gaming model and threw in some dragons. Obviously it worked, because this game is in the No. 3 slot of top-grossing apps.

 

What you can learn from this app: If you are going to re-create an app, you have to do everything you can to make it better than, or at least keep up with, the competitors.  That may mean spending a little more money on design, content or advertising, but sometimes that extra money spent pays off.

 

create top grossing appCandy Crush Saga

Candy Crush, the sweet and colorful new age version of Tetris, ranks No. 4 in 2015’s top grossing apps list.  This addictive little game of matching candy figures until they explode is still too sweet to put down.  As each level gets a little more challenging, you run out of lives, in which case you now have two options: Ask friends on Facebook for their help, or purchase tools to help you get further and gain more lives.  Once you’ve sent 15,000 Facebook requests and everyone on Facebook has blocked you, you’ll be forced to spend some money in order to progress in this game.

 

What you can learn from this app: The more colorful and interesting looking your app is, the more it will stand out from the others.

 

create top grossing appPandora

Although Pandora’s audience seems to be shrinking over the last two years, it still ranks in the top five top-grossing apps of 2015.  Chances are, if you signed up for Pandora years ago, the incessant repetition of annoying commercials forced subscribers to upgrade to Pandora One.

 

What you can learn from this app: Pandora’s tactic is pretty key to most free apps — offer something great for free, but insert ads that will drive people crazy and force them to spend money to get rid of the ads.  Don’t over estimate your value, though. It’s not uncommon for people to just delete your entire app because of ads and try a similar one with fewer ads. However, Pandora is great because it offers new artists and songs similar to the ones you already like, so as you consider creating an app, think of  giving people what they know they like, as well as offering them something new and similar to  keep them coming back for more.

 

Even though these styles of apps may not be what you are trying to pursue, there are some lessons to be learned.  Create something that’s entertaining, useful or provides value to your customer. It helps to start out free and offer just a taste of what people want, then either make it impossible for them to see the full benefits of the app, or annoy them with ads until they feel the need to upgrade.

 

Photo By: Microsiervos