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How to Make a Subscription-Based App?
08 NOV 2022

A subscription-based application is a convenient modern business monetization model. The main advantage of a subscription-based application is that users do not make a one-time purchase but pay for a service or content constantly, for example, once a month. Subscribed users may have access to additional or all options in the application. There are a lot of big names in the subscription app space that you’ve probably heard of: the streaming service Netflix, The New York Times, and Adobe’s suite of creative tools.

In this article, we will try to figure out what difficulties are encountered when creating a subscription-based app and how they can be avoided, as well as what important features are in such applications and who are the market leaders today. Go!

What a subscription-based app is, and how it works

If you paid to read this text, then you subscribed to content from Brivian. Of course, our expert articles are available to everyone for free, but that’s how the subscription model works. Users pay — companies provide access to their services.

Subscription-based apps tend to have a more loyal audience, as clients are used to paying only for what they trust or are genuinely interested in. This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can test various hypotheses and offer the audience new scenarios for interacting with the application while maintaining customer loyalty. On the other hand, user trust is a fragile thing that can be easily lost with one wrong step. 

For example, since the beginning of 2022, Netflix has lost 48% of its shares. One reason is that the subscription is too expensive, causing users to create one account and share it with friends instead of paying for an even more expensive family plan. The streaming authorities have already announced that by the end of the year a cheap subscription with ads will appear in the application.

In addition to user loyalty, subscription-based applications have other problems. One of them is content moderation for adults. The popular content subscription service, OnlyFans, faced this problem. 

OnlyFans positions itself as a platform for content creators to earn money from subscribers per view. You can make a one-time payment, leave a tip to the creator, or pay monthly for a subscription to an account. The service is popular among photographers, food bloggers, and fitness trainers. However, in addition to content for any age, adult content is often found on the platform. By subscription, you can get access to erotic photos and videos.

In 2021, OnlyFans was at the center of a scandal. Due to problems with 18+ content moderation, prohibited erotic materials appeared on the platform. Then OnlyFans banned the posting of explicit content, except for the one that does not violate the rules of the platform. Moreover, due to problems with moderation, the mobile application of the service works differently than the desktop version. There is no paid content in the OnlyFans TV app, and accordingly, there is no content for adults. It has not yet been possible to solve the problem with moderation in the mobile app. 

Anyway, there are many advantages to a subscription-based application, but the main one in our opinion is that a company can predict its monthly income. The fact is that the monetization of a subscription-based app depends directly on the number of users. The more paid subscribers you manage to attract, the more income you will receive. In the same way, the company has the ability to regulate costs because unsubscribers are also taken into account.

With a subscription business model, it is easy for an entrepreneur to make financial plans and take into account the costs of promoting the application, as well as the costs of support and further improvements. It should be understood that we are not saying that a subscription-based application will increase revenues, but at least help you keep a close eye on them. It is also convenient for clients to pay a small amount each month instead of paying more money at once for using the app.

Perspectives of the subscription-based app market 

Despite some problems with content moderation, subscription-based applications still have a lot of potential for development. In 2021, annual revenue from non-gaming subscription apps increased by 41%. The State of Mobile 2020 report showed that on Google Play, 79% of the top 250 US apps by spending were monetized through in-app subscriptions in 2019. For iOS, it was an impressive 94%. 

The top applications to which users subscribe include services from different areas: dating, streaming, cloud storage, and messaging. Subscriptions have also become the dominant means of driving app store revenue. In the fourth quarter, 90 out of the top 100 top-grossing U.S. apps included a subscription.

How to Make a Subscription-Based App: The percentage of top grossing apps on the Apple Store

The percentage of top grossing apps on the Apple Store.

Companies are moving from a one-time purchase model to a subscription model in order to retain the audience. In recent weeks, for example, the Fantastical calendar app has ditched its $4.99 to $49.99 upfront cost in favor of a $4.99 recurring monthly subscription. 

This statistic shows that a subscription-based application can be in any field and still be popular among users. If you have an idea for such an application, feel free to write to us. At Brivian, we will help you conduct market research and develop an application so that users can subscribe to your services or content.

Build a subscription-based app step by step

It is necessary to start mobile app development with market research and creating a list of features. Let’s see what options a subscription app can’t do without. In addition to default features such as authorization, chat and notifications, an app should have special options.

✔️ Free trial period

To draw users’ attention to the application, you need to give them the opportunity to use it. Provide a free period of several days, a week, or a month. During this time, customers will understand whether they need a paid subscription. Don’t forget to send a push notification that the user will be charged soon. Nobody likes to spend money just like that.

✔️ Subscription plans

Your application may have several tariff plans that include different options. The more expensive the subscription, the more features are available to users. Create a separate screen with information about each tariff plan at the design stage.

✔️ Safe payments 

Since subscription-based app development is directly related to purchases, the payment system in your application should be as secure and feature-rich as possible. Add all possible payment methods, except perhaps cash, because users are unlikely to want to send you cash by mail.

✔️ Great support 

The support in the subscription app should be top-notch. Most likely, users will constantly have questions about how to pay for a subscription or how to return money for accidentally purchased access to content or services. In addition, you should always be ready to help content creators with any issues related to the platform. Most likely, many of them will relate to the problem of monetization, but there is nothing to worry about. Tip: to avoid answering the same questions, make a list of frequently asked questions and their answers. Sometimes users will be able to find a solution to the problem themselves, rather than waiting for a response from the support team.

✔️ Technical stack to develop an app like OnlyFans

Developing a subscription-based application requires choosing a proven technology stack. For example, there are the technologies used by the OnlyFans platform:
  • Programming language: JQuery, Node.js, Swift
  • Framework: Flutter
  • OnlyFans Database: MySQL
  • Cloud solution: Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services.
For mobile app development, you can choose native or cross-platform. Cross-platform development is cheaper and faster. This option is suitable for developing an MVP to get feedback from users. And native mobile app development is simply created for those who want to build a full-fledged mobile application immediately, and scale it up in the future.

We at Brivian propose to make a subscription-based application using React Native. This way you can save time and money on development and get two versions. Cross-platform development will allow you to test the application on different audiences and better understand the market your product will enter in the future.

How much does it cost to make a subscription-based app?

To develop an app like OnlyFans, you may pay roughly $20,000 to $30,000 for an MVP. The finished application will cost about $50,000 and more, depending on the app scale and features. The cost of a subscription-based app is influenced by many factors: the complexity of the functionality and design, the platform (iOS, Android, or both), and improvements after the release of the MVP.

It is important to understand that we give an approximate cost of the application. To get a detailed assessment, leave a request on our website. Our experts will contact you and help you estimate how much time and money it will take to create an app.

Summing up 

An app like OnlyFans development or any other subscription-based app development is a lot of work and should be trusted to a proven company. Before launching applications, you need to think about the moderation process and support, as well as make tariff plans for different price categories.

Do you want to make a subscription-based app? Contact Brivian! Our team of experts will help you to turn your idea into reality. 

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