Growth Summit (October 25, 2018)

I recently attended the App Growth Summit (October 25, 2018)  in San Francisco at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center. Games and apps of all types were the focus — providing a pretty cool mix of attendees, verticals and topics throughout. The day went by surprisingly quickly and there were lots of options in terms of allowing attendees to discover useful talks, fun activities and ways to network.

Much of my background is in the game industry, digital media and mobile apps. I’m an entrepreneur, product leader and overall design thinker. I’ve been in charge of user acquisition for several products. So all of this stuff combined largely informs my observations. Presented in no particular order, here are some tips, insights and best practices that for one reason or another resonated with me in terms of designing, managing, measuring and evaluating a user acquisition and growth strategy for products or a product or as part of a portfolio strategy. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

1) Utilizing Web Channels to Drive App Installs

For mobile apps, up to 10% of mobile app user acquisition is derived from using web channels to drive user acquisition. I believe this 10% number could be much higher in the case of branded IP and, in particular, popular games or game sequels vs. more run-of-the-mill (yeah, boring!) apps. Mobile apps still present some challenges compared to the web in terms of tracking, retargeting and attribution. Sometimes creative workarounds are necessary.

2) Useful Data Points on the Benefits of Localization

Anyone involved in making great software, services, games or mobile apps knows that localizing products — including ones with ongoing live operations components — requires more than just rote translation. Regional, cultural, aesthetic and linguistic differences impact every aspect of product design and user experience, whether in terms of interactivity, tone, narrative, monetization or look-and-feel. For apps with a strong international footprint (for example, an on-demand ride-sharing mobile app service) considerations around localizing the product may also mean having product and growth teams in place on the ground in key locations to lead these efforts while staying true to the company vision. For games, full localization might mean adjustments to gameplay, player progression and win conditions.

In spite of this, sometimes localization is sometimes treated as an after-thought. Providing some key data points that might sway any recalcitrance on this front, Joanna Escueta, Sr. Manager of Analytics, at AdTech company Aarki noted that mobile game developer Playrix saw CTR increase upwards of 75% upon localization into Chinese and Russian. Pretty compelling example of the importance of not skipping this step for those overseeing products with an international roll-out strategy.

3) Messaging Tailored to User Journey is Key

Escueta also went into detail to demonstrate one approach to tailoring user acquisition messaging based on player types, in this case defined as spender profile and also the engagement style of the player. All of this serves as a good reminder of the inter-relationship between game design sensibilities and method for improving overall user engagement, whether for games or non gaming mobile apps. After all, even the dreaded term “gamification” is just another way that a lot of people not in the game industry understand and talk about levering game design thinking for a product, app or service.

4) Snapchat Makes Good Use of Augmented Reality

Now that Instagram is, well, undergoing so many growing pains” — I have to wonder if it’s extra fun being a part of Snapchat in all of its quirky splendor these days. I’ve been intrigued by Snapchat since the beginning and was even interviewed for a radio segment for PRI’s Science Friday to talk about how they incorporate game design thinking into their user engagement and community features. Dave Egan, an App Install Specialist at Snapchat insights regarding their dedicated moves into augmented reality, and how that is used to drive storytelling, community and engagement. Direct response advertising can work well with augmented reality experiences, including those provided on the Snapchat platform. One trillion Snaps are taken in Snapchat every year — totaling more than iPhone camera captures. Much like Instagram but for very different reasons, I realize Snapchat has had its own bumpy ride but there’s no denying they have tapped into some unique ways to leverage community, expression and — increasingly — augmented reality.

5) Release the (Snapchat Puppy Dog Lens) Hounds

Egan also shared the following data point about the Snapchat Puppy Dog Lens: Seven thousand years. No, we’re not talking about when the cultivation of wheat and barley was perfected in Mesopotamia. In this instance, seven thousand years is how much “playtime” Snapchat attributes to players interacting with the Puppy Dog Lens since it rolled-out. Does that number give you paws?

6) Users Acquired Through Cross-Promotion Have Unique Attributes

Henry Oh, VP of Operations & Partnerships at Tenjin presented on how growth managers can reallocate resources towards high-yield products as part of an overall product and growth management portfolio strategy. By taking the entire product portfolio ecosystem into account, it’s possible to potentially even use inevitable churn to benefit the bottom line as far as maximizing revenues and optimizing ad spend. Oh also said it is a good idea to look for patterns or other useful attributes that may characterize audiences that are acquired through these cross-promotion efforts as it might expose useful information about your app or mobile service.

7) Save the Last Click for Me

Although there has been an enormous amount of innovation within the adtech space, including an increasing reliance on artificial intelligence and exploring new expressive platforms such as augmented reality — some things have remained relatively constant. For people involved in user acquisition, last-click attribution still seems to be the primary way in which advertisers are credited with a sale or conversion. Only the last referrer is credited with that conversion — even if a user might have visited ten previous referrers before arriving at their final destination. Savvy direct marketers are experimenting with branching out beyond last-click attribution, which may be a more straightforward prospect on the web, where services such as Google AdWords give advertisers the option to define an attribution model within their platform.

8) Granularity

Another notable trend that bubbled up from the App Growth Summit is the notion of applying granularity to targeted marketing. Gadi Eliashiv, CEO & Co-Founder, Singular highlighted methods for approaching granularity in user acquisition efforts.

Put briefly, and as the name implies, granularity is all about focusing on finer details to paint a larger picture. The more tailored a strategy is — using the myriad tools available to growth experts — the more powerful the outcomes derived from the overall ad spend may be. To me, the Facebook ad platform is the prime example of adtech that allows advertisers (some would say to an objectionable degree) to go really granular in terms of targeting potential users for acquisition. This granularity requires diligent oversight and tweaking — and takes into account things such as geographic location, attitudes and beliefs of the narrowly targeted group, anticipating needs.

A few years ago, I learned the notion of granularity first-hand. I had a total ad budget of $100,000 for a product and, while that sounds like a lot of money, it can go fast in the dog-eat-dog world of user acquisition. I became very adept in finding places to advertise to niche, but highly qualified, audiences that allowed me to really stretch my ad budget. It can be hard to scale if the audiences are too niche (i.e., small) but they often turn out to be the most loyal users and long-term engagement with your mobile app, game or service is key.

9) We Need to Have “That Talk” — Cyber Hygiene

At one point during the Summit, this reality became abundantly clear: Based on all of the amazing things marketers and user acquisition specialists can do with tech, data science, AI, and a design thinking sensibility — it’s critical for all of us as citizens in this digital world to really think about our digital footprints.

Here’s one actual scenario that was discussed to really underscore this point: If a dating app advertises to users on an adult website in order to drive these users to install their mobile app (ok, logical), then guess what? That individual is going to be tagged (“last-click”) with this referral information (uh-oh!) and then this data, which any person may believe to be private, may be correlated with more publicly front-facing information about them (e.g., their Facebook profile). The potential clash between public and private spheres could be damaging if that data was exposed somehow. Considering the regular security breaches that have besieged platforms like Facebook, this possibility is not so far-fetched. Cyber hygiene, friends, it’s as important as flossing. (Bad pun intended.)

10) Lunch Matters

Adperio Mobile sponsored the lunch buffet and, no, they aren’t paying me to write about the lunch at the App Growth Summit. That would be silly! However, the sponsored lunch was healthy and delicious — sustainable salmon, roasted cauliflower, wild mushroom rice, fresh salad. Sure, it’s totally superficial for me to include lunch as a talking point in reference to a mobile growth conference, but bear with me. Conferences are, at minimum, all day events that often run late into the evening. Boxed lunches can be, at best, inconsistent and usually leave attendees feeling hungry, hangry or generally dissatisfied. Feeding people wonderful food sets a tone and has the ability to uplift moods, invite conviviality. This one of those rare times I’d say there’s no need to “beware the free lunch.”

To conclude, I really enjoyed learning about how other product leaders (especially those not in the game industry) address their growth, acquisition and engagement strategies. I am constantly amazed how much innovation still happens in the game industry, however. We truly are a sandbox for exploring all sorts of technology, social interactions, user experience and best practices. It’s fascinating to discover how much some of these practices that have been pioneered in games have moved into other mobile app verticals.

Stay tuned as the mobile app growth landscape will continue to evolve. We’ll see more consolidation through acquisitions and more innovation in the areas of applied artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

Thanks for reading. I welcome any thoughts/comments. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Keywords: #apps #mobileapps #growth #ar #games #saas #marketing



Also published on Medium.