webOS Developers Rejoice! The App Catalog Gets A Promo Code System

If you’re an app developer in the mobile world, promo codes (that is, one-time use codes redeemable for a free copy of your app) are amongst the most important tools you can have in your marketing handbag. Want an app review site to give your app a spin? They’ll probably want a promo code. Want to give away 50 copies of your app on Facebook to kickstart word-of-mouth? Unless you’re going to eat the cost of all 50 installs, you’ll need 50 promo codes.

Alas, most mobile platforms to date haven’t bothered to give developers any sort of promo code system. Android Market? Nope. WP7 Marketplace? Nuh uh. The webOS App Catalog? Nada — until today. webOS’ new promo code system has one glaring fault, though…

First, the details on how it works: with each major update to an application, developers can generate up to 1,000 promo codes that expire after 60 days (By comparison, Apple’s App Store promo code system generates up to 50 promo codes per build, which expire after 28 days.) Developers can give these codes out as they please, then use the campaign manager to track which codes have been used, revoke codes, and browse through their code history.

Now, on to the glaring issue. As our buds over at PreCentral point out, the button that the user presses to redeem a code is in a rather unfortunate location: the purchase confirmation screen.

Why is that bad? Because it presents the user with a moment of pause — at the very last second before purchase, no less. Let’s say a user has already decided to grab your app. They tap the buy button, and up slides the confirmation drawer. There’s an option to confirm the purchase… or there’s the option to use a promo code.

“A Promo Code? I can get promo codes for this? Why don’t I have a promo code?!”, they wonder.

So the user then turns to Google in search of a promo code. Maybe they’ll return to buy your app. Maybe they won’t. It’s like if the person working the register at the grocery store said “You know, you could get this for free if you had a coupon!” after every single item. You’d want a friggin’ coupon.

The solution? Just do what Apple does: put one “Redeem Promo Code” button in some inconspicuous place in the store, and have that single button serve as the redemption mechanism for all promo codes regardless of which app it’s for. Users who obtain codes will figure out how to use’m, while users without’em won’t be driven to hunt one down as opposed to actually buying the app.