How subscription offer codes work in iOS 14 and later
Starting in iOS 14, Apple adds a feature that allows developers to tempt customers and potential customers with subscription offer codes.
What are subscription offer codes?
You use these to share or access free or discounted prices for auto-renewable app subscriptions. The idea is that developers can distribute these codes to tempt lapsed subscribers back, or build new ones.
What did Apple say about the feature?
Apple announced the new feature to developers as follows:
“Later this year, you’ll be able to acquire, retain, and win back subscribers with subscription offer codes: unique, alphanumeric codes that provide free or discounted prices for auto-renewable subscriptions. Provide your one-time use codes digitally or offline at physical events, alongside products, and more. Customers on iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 and later can redeem offer codes on the App Store, through a one-time code redemption URL, or within your app if you’ve implemented the presentCodeRedemptionSheet API.”
What kind of codes are supported?
The system Apple provides lets developers choose to distribute three kinds of offers:
- Free offers, which let subscribers access a service for a specific duration. This is useful to provide free trials.
- PAYG: Subscribers might pay a discounted price each billing period for a specific duration before the cost returns to the normal price. You might pay 99-cents a month for three months for a $4.99 service, for example.
- Pay up front: Subscribers pay a one-time price for a specific duration — for example, $9.99 up front for the first six months of a subscription with a standard renewal price of $39.99 per year. Once the duration is over, they’ll be billed at the standard renewal price.
Developers can offer introductory, promotional and offer subscription codes. They can also target customer categories (new, existing, returning) from within their app.
How Apple sees these codes used
Apple thinks developers will primarily use the codes to generate new customers, retaining existing ones and winning back lapsing users.
You can also promote introductory offers on the App Store to reach more potential customers. Such promotions will appear on the product page and may appear in search results or be featured elsewhere on the App Store.
How to create a code
Developers create these codes in App Store Connect. They can select the appropriate offer type, duration, pricing and other parameters there. Developers can also target these codes at particular geographies. Apple says developers must ensure their servers are ready to validate receipts generated by these codes.
Do these codes expire?
Yes. Offer codes expire after a maximum of six months from the date they are created.
How can these codes be distributed?
Developers can distribute these unique, one-time codes any way they like, including both offline and online. This means developers can share them via emails, add the codes to printed literature at a trade show or other event, and hardware makers can include these codes in product packaging.
How can codes be redeemed?
Codes can be redeemed at the App Store, using a one-time code redemption URL, or within apps that have implemented the presentCodeRedemptionSheet API.
Customers must open the App store and tap their account icon. On the next page they tap Redeem Gift Card or Code, will be asked to sign in, and then asked to enter the code using the device’s camera or manually enter the code.
What management systems are available?
Apple has built several management and performance monitoring solutions to help developers look after these codes, particularly as they find customers enjoying access to their apps on multiple deals.
These include details subscription summaries, in-depth data on current subscriptions and events, and data on conversion rates for the different offers. The company also provides daily reports for download.
How will this impact consumers?
The overall impact should be a positive for app consumers. Not only does it make it possible to easily distribute promo codes for apps, but may also open up alternative ways to trial them, while developers will be better equipped to understand and reach out to customers. In conjunction with App Clips, this could kick start new use of apps across the iPad and iPhone ecosystem.
Where can I find more information?
Developers should visit Apple’s developer pages.