With last Friday's release of Brili's update, we’re introducing a new, simpler way to get Brili and to use it on all your family’s devices. In a nutshell:
- You can buy a Brili Basic (USD $29.99) or Extra (USD $49.99) annual subscription on our website.
- We'll offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on new subscriptions purchased via our website.
- You'll be able to download the iOS, Android and Pebble apps for free on the respective app stores for as many devices as you need.
- If you purchased Brili for iOS or Android after December 5th 2015 and prior to this change, congratulations: you’ll have Brili Basic in perpetuity, since that’s what the app purchase came with. It won’t expire.
- If you install the new version of Brili on your device without first creating a paid Brili subscription, you’ll be prompted to create one, or be limited to minimal evaluation functionality (1 child, 1 morning routine).
Why the Change?
Brili exists because my family experienced the relentless stress of difficult daily routines with learning and behavior challenges. It exists because we had an idea to fix the problem and it exists because I had the skills and knew the right people to make it happen. It exists thanks to the many wonderful people who helped out along the way.
As altruistic as our mission is, Brili would not exist without money. A lot of it. Software development of this calibre is not cheap. I wince as I admit most of it came out of my life savings. Most people (even really nice people) can't work for free forever.
Despite the many stories of life-changing results, the revenue our current product generates is very modest. Not enough to live on yet; not by a long shot. There are at least a thousand valid reasons for this – believe me, I’m always finding stuff we can improve. But here are the biggest problems we’ve faced:
We Competed with Apps
Brili is not an app. Yes, you can access it with an app that we made. But it is a highly sophisticated software-as-a-service (SAAS) platform that works in web browsers, wearables and mobile devices. The more devices you use it with, the more powerful it gets. Yet, most people still think of Brili as an “app”, so in their mind we get lumped in with the free and $1 single-device offerings on the app stores.
It hurts sales when you’re 7-10x more expensive than offerings in the same marketplace that claim to fix the same problems. It doesn’t matter that they’re not as effective. People have simply become accustomed to cheap apps; offerings that cost more than two bucks are considered pricy.
Using Brili Requires a Bit of Thought and Commitment Up Front
In late 2015, we went from a model where you could download Brili for free on app stores and then upgrade to a paid account with more complete functionality. Before this change, we had a lot of downloads, but not much engagement or upgrades because Brili is the sort of product that requires a bit of planning an thought (“What activities does my child need to complete in the morning? How long should each take?”) Many users accustomed to rapid-onboarding apps with less functionality abandoned it without setting up a routine. We iterated for months on usability improvements. This helped, but not enough. All our effort was going into making parent mode easier to use until we realized we should just charge up front. Yes, we’d lose some downloads, but the customers committed enough to pay a bit up front would be more likely to engage, use the product, see positive results and recommend it. Sure enough, our plan worked: the users who did buy Brili were much more likely to put it to use. But this caused new complications.
Brili Was Weird to Buy
Charging up front, at the time, meant setting a price to download the iOS and Android versions on the app stores. The “base” version you got with a download had more features than the earlier free version and it became cheaper to upgrade overall with the new model. But we had no control over the app store environments. Any family that had both iOS and Android devices had to pay at least twice. We provided links to set up the Family Sharing plan from iTunes or Family Library from Google Play, but both schemes worked awkwardly at best and the Google Play one was limited to family members above the age of 13. Families who wanted to use Brili across multiple devices had to jump through hoops or pay for the app download multiple times. The fact that basic functionality was perpetual and the upgrade was annual was weird to some. Parents who purchased the Extra plan through our free web version wondered why they had to pay for the app on the app stores. When someone asked me what Brili cost to buy, the answer was neither simple nor clear. I began to cringe at the question.
App Stores Take a Big Cut
With app stores as the primary method of selling Brili we gave up 30% of each sale to Apple or Google. That’s all I have to say about that.
App Store Rules are Complicated
I won’t get into too much detail because it might be construed as complaining about the app stores, which would in and of itself place me in contravention of app store guidelines, which is grounds for having an app pulled. Which we don’t want.
What I will say is that it only recently became possible for us to offer freely-downloadable apps for which a subscription is necessary for them to work. Indeed, until late 2016, every free app had to offer some utility to users, if a subscription was required to unlock extra functionality. So we couldn’t offer a free “client only” version of Brili to go along with paid subscription plans purchased elsewhere. We’ll have that option going forward, but we are still required to allow customers to sign up and purchase a subscription in a manner that allows the app store to get 30% of something.
We Had No Clue Whether Our Marketing and Promotion Efforts Were Working
With any product sold online, business owners theoretically have an immense ability, through codes embedded in URLs, coupon codes, referrer URLs, etc, to figure out what we did online to attract a sale.
Not so with app sales. At least, not in any easy manner.
You see, if we paid for a Facebook campaign with a link to our website, we could track who clicked to go to the app store, but had no idea if they bought the app. If we sent them directly to the app store, there was limited (and in my experience, unreliable) reporting on which incoming links resulted in purchases. And then, app stores don’t divulge who did what, so there’s no ironclad way to figure out if those same customers upgraded later.
Now, take this problem and double it because you’re dealing with two different app stores with two sets of reporting tools.
This made it very difficult (pretty much impossible) to calculate an accurate “cost per acquisition” (CPA) to compare to an “average revenue per customer” (ARPU). These are elemental metrics needed in order to not run your business into the ground.
Sure, we could see the click-through rate from online campaigns, and know what each click cost us, but without knowing if the click actually resulted in a sale, we were making expensive bets, blindfolded, with no ability to learn from mistakes or successes. Going forward, with all marketing directing traffic to our website (not to the app stores), and with most transactions taking place in a system we oversee, we now have much clearer visibility to help steer marketing efforts.
We Weren’t Focused Enough
Brili is a premium product focused on helping families with an acute pain point that has them seeking professional care, often costing thousands of dollars and requiring many, many hours of time researching, reading, or in therapy. Families, like mine, who have experienced this would gladly pay double or triple what Brili costs for the quality of life improvements it offers in return for so little time investment. It’s not to say that families with less severe challenges won’t find Brili useful; but the current version of our product is a professional-grade solution to a painful problem affecting 5-10% of the population. As such, our Basic version needs to be priced accordingly so we can stay in business and focus our efforts on the needs of families who need it most.
We'll never let pricing get in the way of families who need Brili and can't afford it, though. Low-income families who struggle with this problem can contact us directly and we will make sure they're taken care of.
The Truth about Being in Business to Help People
When I started this company, I had hoped to devote most of my creative efforts to making Brili's Kid Mode even more fun and engaging, giving parents new and useful tools and leveraging the innovative technologies. The reality has been quite different; probably 90% of our time and effort has gone into relatively boring things, invisible to our customers, aimed at ensuring the viability of the business above all else. It’s my hope that with this change in our revenue model we’ll be empowered to grow Brili’s sales with less resistance so we can finally return to building our talented team and turn our attention to the fun stuff.
As always, I love to hear your questions and feedback about this or anything else that's going on with us.