Someone at WebcampKL asked for help with regard to his mobile budgeting app. Initially the discussion was about validating assumptions, but later on an important issue was raised: why would someone want to use your app, and what would make the user come back for more?
There is, in fact a very simple way to get your users sticking by the your product during alpha without alienating them later on when you are ready for launch: make them pay a token amount, and once your product gets gold, waive their fees (for life, if it’s a subscription). Why does this work?
There are many subtle psychological triggers in effect here, but the most powerful would be the Sunk Cost fallacy. Asking them to pay even just a token amount (my suggestion was $1) is powerful enough to make them want to continue using your app and forgive its faults. This is also very similar to Cialdini’s Commitment and Consistency.
Somewhat related would be the Anchoring effect. By not making the alpha release free for testers, current and future customers are now used to expecting that the app is not for free. When the product launches, future customers are more likely to pay for the usage of the app.