Amazon launched its app store in the US amidst fanfare and hope in March 2011. The catalog quickly grew as the company expanded internationally (starting in the US in early 2011 then expanding to UK, Germany, Italy, France and Spain in mid-2012 and Japan in late 2012) , extended its apps from Android phones to Kindles, and offered innovative new business models such as in-app purchasing of physical goods.
Despite this, Amazon’s store has suffered the same growing pains as other third party app stores. In order to better understand the current and long term prospects of Amazon we asked developers about their distribution of apps in our recent Developer Survey. The data herein focuses on developers that stated they were primarily supporting Android this year. Of those respondents 25% currently distribute through Amazon’s store compared to 97% which distribute through Google Play.
According to the survey much of Amazon’s growing pains have been self-inflicted and can provide a lesson for Amazon and other third party stores on how to succeed.
1. Freely share penetration information. The most cited reason (17%) why developers are not distributing through Amazon is the lack of insight into the reach of the store. Amazon has not shared download figures or the number of Kindles sold. The lack of clarity on market potential has clearly dampened enthusiasm for the store. Despite the ease of re-deploying existing Android apps via Amazon developers are still shying away from doing so because they need to understand the upside.
2. Developer relations are critical to success. While Nokia and BlackBerry have worked hard to build a global developer relations team, Amazon has been comparatively quiet. In fact, 16% of respondents didn’t even know Amazon distributed apps while another 14% didn’t know how to distribute apps via Amazon. Couple the 30% of respondents cited above with the 9% of that felt Amazon did not have strong enough developer outreach and suddenly the pool of interested developers could quickly grow with improved marketing of the store.
3. Being global matters. In order to be a viable platform developers are seeking a broad audience. More than 20% of developers cited lack of a specific country’s availability or limited audience scope of the store as reasons they were not currently distributing via Amazon. Perhaps Amazon’s slow and steady global expansion could yield long term dividends but seems to be a short term detriment.
4. Deliver Revenue. When developers were asked to cite from which store they were generating the most revenue, Amazon performed woefully. More than 61% of developers (again – those developers that said they primarily support Android today) stated that they generated most of their revenue from Google Play. Amazon earned just over 5% of respondents. Amazon is not offering enough financial upside to offset the time necessary to port apps and support updates.
However all is not lost. Of the developers not currently distributing via Amazon, a full 42% said they plan to support the store in the future. However after nearly two years in the market, a wealth of discovery expertise and e-commerce success Amazon should be a bigger player by now. Amazon’s ramp up goes to show that a big brand name is a good start but clarity, developer relations and a broad audience that buys apps are critical to win developer support. As developers continue to strive to find ways to make money there’s hope for Amazon and there is hope for other channels but in order to win customers they first must win developers.