Read original story on: The Verge
Virtual goods, which include a wide range of digital products from audiobooks to in-app purchases, have mostly been non-refundable transactions. But Steam, the popular online games platform owned by Valve, might just change that with an updated Refund Policy that now allows its users to “request a refund for nearly any purchase on Steam — for any reason”, as long as the game was purchased within the past 14 days and played for less than two hours.
Compared to physical products, it is considerably more difficult to handle the return and refund of virtual goods due to its inherently intangible nature. Yet it doesn’t exactly stand as a legitimate reason for blocking purchasers from exercising one of their fundamental rights as customers. Steam is able to allow refunds partly because it can verify the usage of purchased games on its platform, and that could be easily expanded to other types of virtual goods through app tracking.
Yet, it is important to not that, while refund of virtual goods is certainly practicable, the complexity of implementation might just keep it from becoming a reality in the near future. Nevertheless, brands selling virtual goods need to be aware of its viability and actively work to improve after-sales service.
Instead of incarcerating in-app purchases inside the apps, Facebook has decided to break them out of that namesake prison by allowing its desktop games to sell virtual goods straight from ads in the News Feed or sidebar, with the intention to bring this feature to its mobile app in the near future. The move towards mobile, however, could turn out to be challenging, as both iOS and Android forbid in-app purchases to happen outside of their respective app stores, so as to protect their usual 30 percent cut on mobile purchases. Essentially, these would be Facebook’s existing re-engagement ads re-framed for driving immediate purchases, and how they could move over the hurdles to bring this to mobile would be an interesting development to follow.
For an example of effective mobile strategy, check out beauty supply store, Sephora. Less than three years after first launching a mobile application, Sephora has created two tailored mobile experiences, apps for iPhone and iPad, with different features and content, to encourage purchases. The iPhone app incorporates barcode scanning for in-store product research, while the tablet version features articles and branded content paired with product recommendations and purchase links. The tailoring of the experiences has been highly effective, increasing mobile traffic, orders, and loyalty subscribers dramatically.
On track to become a one-stop shop for cloud-based developers and publishers, Amazon has extended its in-app purchasing API to include games for Mac, PC and Web platforms. This functionality, which was launched exclusively for Android apps last year increases the reach of Amazon’s billing system and will encourage developers to produce more for Amazon-native platforms including the Kindle Fire. Developers also stand to gain additional marketing opportunities, with in-app purchase items now able to appear on best seller lists and in recommendation campaigns.