February 7, 2014

The pros and cons of time-limited apps

Written By Martin Sandhu

It’s been a busy week, there’s been floods, a tube strike, the Winter Olympics and all of a sudden Valentines Day is just around the corner too! All of these things generated lots of talk on social media and there’s been a few notable real-time marketing campaigns that have made the most of these prominent events.

Such reactive marketing isn’t limited to social media or advertising though, it has been known to work for apps too. There are obvious limitations; due to the development and approval times needed, no one is ever going to be able to create an app overnight, so unexpected and short-lived events don’t work. Time-limited occurrences, which are planned in advance, like the tube strike, Sochi 2014 and Valentines Day do offer an opportunity though, but there are pros and cons to be aware of…


Mobile apps which tie into events are much easier to market, with the ability to piggy back on the buzz already being generated and the increased media attention. This makes it much easier for apps to gain traction through word of mouth or PR.

If you are going down the free app route, this means advertisers will be more interested than normal in getting their name on your app. Such a specific app will attract specific advertisers who are relying on the event to boost revenue – florists and chocolatiers for valentines day for example.


It can be difficult to justify a paid-for app when it has a limited shelf-life. Often advertising can take something away from an app, but in order to make money in such a short space of time this may be the best route. Apps that are simply a bit of fun like the Romantimatic app released for Valentines Day are best free with added premium content or advertising, it may be possible for an app based around the Winter Olympics to see success as a paid-for application, but without official endorsement the cost needs to remain low.

Unfortunately it’s very difficult to make a good app cheaply, the investment required is by no means minimal and when your app is likely to be useless and unused after just a short period of time, justifying ROI is not easy.

There are definite benefits to time-limited apps, but making sure ROI is achievable is key. Picking the right event, doing it well and having a clear understanding of how your app will generate revenue is essential before any development can begin.