By Ori Meiry, Head of Social Acquisition, yellowHEAD
Earlier this month, yellowHEAD had the pleasure of discussing user acquisition and retention for mobile games at Casual Connect USA 2017 in Seattle. Together with three leading players in the social casino arena – DoubleDown Interactive, Zynga and Playtika – we shared the latest trends we foresee developing in 2018 when it comes to maximizing acquisition campaigns.
Spotting User Acquisition trends for 2018
- Lifetime value is a driving force of user acquisition. The main strategy is no longer to optimize only the first user engagement with the game or the first moment the user becomes a depositor. Rather, we are now focusing on the entire lifetime of the user within the app.
- The power of the creative. Core marketing elements like optimization and targeting had an amazing impact on our industry over the previous years. Creative at present time is still somewhat a black box with a lot of power within. It awaits a proper deconstruction (e.g. breaking down creative into fonts, colors illustrations, animations) to figure out what’s working, performance-wise. I believe we will be looking at the science of effective creative in 2018.
- Holistic approach to the funnel. An essential part of success in 2018 for game developers will depend on their ability to look holistically at the funnel, being consistent with their messaging and combining the insights from paid user acquisition and app store optimization, as well as improving conversions from ASO.
- Artificial intelligence is here. The union of data, predictive algorithms and machine learning will supercharge user acquisition and help advertisers reduce wasted ad spend by focusing their budgets on the channels with strong results.
yellowHEAD has been investing heavily into developing our own predictive algorithms, and at Casual Connect we presented Alison – a revolutionary technology developed by top University mathematicians – that is already predicting performance for our clients.
Effective user acquisition in the user journey
Here at yellowHEAD, we see two pillars of a successful user journey: UA and ASO. When UA and ASO managers speak the same marketing language, the storytelling is precise and consistent for the benefit of the user – and ultimately for the advertiser. This makes the funnel for new users smooth and conversion rates higher.
Game marketers need to think of lifetime value throughout all campaign phases, from campaign launch to creative design, optimization, bidding, targeting, etc. – thus creating a much better funnel for new users.
Are we facing a future without campaign managers?
The role of artificial intelligence in UA
The way yellowHEAD sees the impact of AI on our industry is that it’s already having a huge influence. However, it’s here not to replace the campaign managers but to empower them. Campaign managers will play a more strategic role rather than a simply operational and repetitive one. They will help the BI and creative teams improve the algorithms that are already generating better results than a regular campaign manager. It’s less about the future with or without campaign managers – it’s about the future role of the campaign manager.
key values of integrating agencies into marketing mix
A common question these days, that was also brought up at the panel, is why large companies work with agencies when they have strong internal UA teams. I will only pinpoint the key things mentioned by other panelists as they did a great job in describing the way they see value from working with agencies:
- Broader view, richer expertise, tested approach: As Margarita Vasilevskaya, Head of UA at DoubleDown Interactive, mentioned, it doesn’t matter how educated and experienced your team is – there’s always someone who knows more and better. While app developers work with one portfolio or one app, agencies work with multiple products, multiple portfolios and multiple partners. It’s hard to have enough expertise for everything. No matter how much you have invested in your own team, there still will be holes that you have to address. And agencies are a great partner for that.
- Faster trend recognition: Agencies have more visibility of what’s going on in the industry – and are faster at recognizing trends in tech, media, creatives, etc. Jeet Niyogi, Marketing Director for WSOP, pointed out how important it is for companies such as Playtika to have these insights in order to understand if it’s your ad that is not performing or a common trend happening all over the industry on a specific platform.
- Partnership dynamics: These days, the nature of the relationship between the app developer or a publisher and an agency has shifted from being a client-supplier relationship to more of a partnership. It’s all about the partnership dynamic today, and Monty Kerr, Senior VP of Games at Zynga, has accurately noted that it’s not about finding a partner, handing off all the activities and forgetting about it until the next performance report at the end of the quarter. It’s about an active partnership with constant interaction.
Things that have direct impact on user acquisition
- The game economy and user acquisition are totally related. UA teams need to understand the monetization model and how exactly the users are reacting to it: which IPs are performing the best; if it’s a slots game, which machine generates the better revenue; in what part of the funnel do most of the deposits happen; etc. This is crucial for better targeting of the right audience. They need to understand the lifetime value model to better build the campaign structure.
- Localization is key. As Tier 1 markets are becoming saturated and more budgets are shifting to Tier 2 countries in order to find new users in developed markets like APAC, localization has become super important. Facebook offers an amazing capability of micro-segmentation to help advertisers find new, untapped audiences that might generate the same lifetime value but with much lower acquisition cost – but you need to approach them differently.
Main trends in ad formats
- Playable ads – We are already starting to see impressive results with this format on Google AdWords. The issue of scale is still present, but as this format will continue to evolve and make its way to Facebook, we are hopeful to see more inventory in the near future.
- Video ads – Videos almost replaced all other ad units and today it’s not video vs. static ads, but more about different dimensions of video, different durations, different orientation, etc.
Indie developers & the cruel reality of the industry
The industry has matured and it is a very cluttered space with over 2 billion apps in the app stores. It’s fairly easy to build and launch a product (unlike in the consoles industry), but the cruel reality comes when you have to deal with the issue of discovery.
Yes, you need to pay to get your users. Period.
Yes, you will have to compete with large companies.
But there are solutions for every advertiser that can help acquire quality users.
yellowHEAD approaches every client, big or small, in the same way – with the highest industry standards of services, best practices, methodologies and predictive analytics. If you have questions about UA trends in 2018 or would like to learn more about how yellowHEAD can help you get better results from your UA and ASO efforts, send us a message.