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How AI apps make money

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the pricing strategies of 40 leading AI-native startups, including marketing tools, productivity apps, and vertical-specific products. It highlights five key findings:

  1. Limited pricing innovation - Most companies (71%) have adopted traditional SaaS subscription pricing models, with few offering pure usage-based or pay-as-you-go pricing.

  2. Most companies charge based on the number of users, consistent with the notion of AI apps as "copilots" assisting people rather than digital "workers".

  3. Free versions are extremely popular for initial adoption - 50% of companies have a free plan, and another 16% offer a free trial.

  4. There is a "Good-Better-Best" paradigm in terms of pricing packages and tiers.

  5. Varying degrees of pricing transparency - two-in-three companies have public pricing information on their websites.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Pricing Trends for 40 Leading AI Apps

1. What are the key pricing models used by the 40 AI apps studied?

  • The majority (71%) have a traditional SaaS subscription pricing model.
  • 26% have a hybrid model with both a subscription cost and a usage fee.
  • Only 1 company (3%) has a pure usage-based pricing model.

2. Why is there limited pricing innovation among these AI apps?

  • Keeping pricing simple and familiar for buyers is a priority to drive adoption.
  • Implementing usage-based pricing is technically challenging for many startups.
  • It's still difficult for these companies to quantify the exact value they are delivering.
  • Startups are focused on growth over profitability at this stage.

3. What value metrics are these AI apps using?

  • The primary value metric is still focused on the number of users or seats.
  • Some companies also incorporate usage-based components like credits, characters, minutes of video, etc.
  • A per-user model may become less effective as AI replaces human labor over time.

[02] Freemium and Packaging Strategies

1. How prevalent are free versions and trials among these AI apps?

  • 47% offer a "forever free" version with limited capabilities.
  • 16% offer a free time-bound trial, usually 7-14 days.
  • Free versions and trials help drive initial adoption and usage.

2. What packaging strategies are common among these AI apps?

  • Most follow a "Good-Better-Best" paradigm with 2-5 tiers.
  • Differentiation is often based on product capabilities and usage limits.
  • Packaging strategies tend to evolve as the product matures.

[03] Pricing Transparency

1. How transparent are these AI apps about their pricing?

  • Around two-thirds of the companies have public pricing information on their websites.
  • Transparent pricing is more common for individual/prosumer-focused apps than enterprise-focused ones.
  • Enterprise-focused apps often keep pricing hidden for competitive reasons and to maintain flexibility.


Shared by Daniel Chen ยท
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