ComiXology, Content Restrictions and Customer Loyalty




Digital comics platform ComiXology recently made a very sudden change to its operating model. On Saturday April 26th 2014 the in-app storefronts stopped working, with absolutely no prior warning that this was going to happen.

Android users required an update, which replaced the old Google Play compatible storefront with one requiring their main ComiXology account have a payment method on file. Aside from the inability to use Google play credit anymore (which is a major issue for some) there was no real loss in functionality. As long as one is in a position to use the credit card or PayPal account.

iOS users, however, bore the brunt of the change. This was no mere upgrade. There was a new app that needed installing. This itself then required logging in with (or creating) a ComiXology account, to tie existing purchase to the account that would be needed going forwards…
…in the shiny new Reader-Only App.

Cue major outrage.

On a Saturday.

The poor PR and tech support (file migration was not always smooth) guys must’ve been working their socks off last weekend to deal with the aftermath of this one.

ComiXology have desperately been trying to put a positive spin on this as being ultimately good for the customers. Apple’s App Store does, it has to be said, have rather strict rules regarding in-app purchases. Apple automatically get a 30% cut of each sale. Also, there are rules regarding what kind of content is allowed to be purchased in-app. So technically this is a good change.
Only the web store was always an option before. So if people wanted restricted content then they could do. And if someone wanted to support ComiXology directly, they always had that option.

The problem now is that choice has been taken away. You must use the webstore if you are an iOS user. You must buy directly through ComiXology, regardless of tablet platform.
If you favour in-app purchases, or if you only run through mobile store credit, you no longer have those options.

Needless to say, it has been a bit of a PR disaster for them. Their App Store average ratings (depending on country) have dropped to between one Star and one-and-a-half Stars. People are deleting the app. People are unsubscribing from other Amazon services, or at least taking the opportunity to review whether they need those subscriptions at the moment or not. And the very people who probably would have been won over in a day or so have been alienated by the overall bad handling of the whole situation.

They have severely negatively impacted their customer loyalty. There’s a chance it may just be a case of “Nerd Rage” and that it will all settle down quickly. There’s always that chance, though, that this is going to leave people with a sour taste for a long while yet. Only time (and sales figures) will tell.