I imagine that sounds like a very strange statement, but it’s one that has been occurring to me more frequently lately. Apple was fairly slow off the gate to provide any sales/trend information about how my application was doing, and it was frustrating as hell. I would get the periodic “support” email from someone who had clearly purchased the application, but I had no idea who I was selling to let alone how much…
I’m very glad that Apple has put together a sales trends setup for iPhone developers deploying their applications. Not surprisingly, I wish it was a little better – in particular, I’d love to have an API where I could get that data programmatically. I’m more than happy to store it and do whatever additional analytics I like – but right now getting it out of the system is a very manual process. I think I’m going to set aside some time to knock out a script with twill or mechanize that will do this work for me and automate it.
I suppose in a sense, it does not matter “who” for any individual customer. But frankly, that bugs the crap out of me! I’m a big believer in the potential power and influence of the individual, so knowing my “customer” is a philosophical imperative. When I look across the road at my Mac developer compatriots who know with fair detail who their customers are. It’s an aspect of working through the iTunes AppStore that I never considered, and now find frustrating.
I would love to be able to contact my customers. I’d like to send an email to everyone who’s purchased my application, let them know about updates that are available and proactively ask for feedback. Craig Hockenberry talked to this a bit in his blog post Listeners found this review helpful. The closest the AppStore provides are the reviews – very much a one-way street. In a very sense, I feel I’m barred from communicating with them outside of the application that I produce. I could put something in the application description on the store itself “Would like feedback, please email me” but that seems rather lame and very impersonal. Likewise I don’t want to bind in a “feedback” link in the application itself – getting me feedback is not something I think the application should be focused on. I’m very certain that I want the application to be laser-focused on it’s particular task. I don’t want to trip that up with extraneous bells and whistles, and a “feedback” link seems like exactly that.
I’m incredibly grateful for folks who have written into my “support” email address to date. I’ve received some great feedback and been able to help a number of folks. I wish and hope that Apple will come up with something to solve this frustration of mine, but frankly I kind of doubt it. I think some (someone) within Apple perceives it’s in Apple’s best interests to “own the relationship” with the customer. They do at least pass along a link to our websites and an email address, but I don’t expect that to change. I fully expect we (iPhone developers) will continue to be at “arms length” from our customers.