Horace Dediu on "the value of a customer"

Roger Stringer Roger Stringer
September 06, 2023
3 min read

Horace Dediu:

As I remember it, at least 10 years ago, I began to hear anecdotes from developers who built apps for both iOS and Android about their economics. The story is that they tended to have twice as many users using Android but that iPhone App Store revenues were roughly twice those of Google Play Store. From that I devised a rule of thumb that an iPhone user was about 4 times more valuable than an Android user. Half the users, paying 4 times as much means double the income.

Over the years I came across a lot more data about market development (the diffusion of innovations) and market creation (the innovation process) and applied it to transportation. Along the way I also became more aware that figures of consumption and spending are not normally distributed. That it turns out that the governing function of much of human behavior is log-normal. That is, it is skewed rather than balanced or symmetric around an average. Classic examples are income distribution and the distribution of travel distances.


So the picture becomes clearer. The iPhone customer is 7.4 times more valuable than the Android customer. This is more impressive than the 4× rule I had 10 years ago. The reasons are mainly that my anecdotes were from developers who sold products in the US or EU whereas expansion of smartphones to 7 billion global users has drawn in more lower spending customers.

But Apple’s base has also grown to over 1 billion users (650 million store users). This highlights that Apple has effectively grown and discriminated customers effectively. It obtained not just 1 billion customers but the best 1 billion customers.

How to discriminate effectively is the holy grail of marketing. The naïve approach is to keep prices high. But that usually only results in a “luxury” branding and a small base that tends not to grow. The alternative “premium” approach is to offer functionality and multiple tiers and distribution options and financing and merchandising. There is no simple formula.

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