Mobile measurement post-IDFA: Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv on The Mobile User Acquisition Show

What’s great about SKAdNetwork? What are the biggest challenges of losing the IDFA? How does SKAdNetwork both reduce and increase the potential for fraud? What will MMPs do post-iOS14? What’s going to happen to marketing spend and ad CPMs in October? Can you do fingerprinting? What about customer pop-ups?

Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv answered these and many more questions on a recent User Acquisition Show podcast with Rocketship HQ’s Shamanth Rao.

Get the whole show in the links above, but here are some of the key quotes/

On fingerprinting:

We don’t think fingerprinting is going to pass the Apple test. By the way, just to clarify, every time I’m saying something about a method that is unlikely, it doesn’t mean I don’t like that method. I wish it would work, but I just don’t think it would pass the Apple sniff test.

On an attribution hash solution:

The challenge with that is it means that Apple needs to do us a favor and give us the IDFA. That means, it’s unlikely because they just killed it very publicly. Why would they have an appetite to give anyone that access again?

On building your own consent-requesting pop-ups:

Apple said, “If you do any form of tracking and fingerprinting is part of it, you have to use our pop up …”

On privacy and marketing measurement:

The challenge is that there’s a tension between preserving privacy and giving the advertiser flexibility. The more flexible the mechanism is, the less privacy friendly it will be.

On SKAdNetwork and building on top of it:

SKAdNetwork, as Apple proposes, in its current form is very bare bones. It’s okay, they gave us an API and said, “Go figure it out.”

On Singular’s SKAN proposal for how to implement SKAdNetwork:

What we propose, and we wrote a document called SKAN, which is short for SKAdNetwork, and it’s our proposal for how to implement that. We built it in a way that’s not Singular specific, it was actually benefiting every advertiser, ad network, and MMP. What we tried to do is say, “Here are some standard models …”

On the biggest hole in SKAdNetwork:

An ad network will report their spends, the number of installs, and their ROI — that’s insane. It’s like they can do anything, they can just report that it’s all whales.

Check out the entire podcast for more insight right here.

Prepping for iOS 14 and the loss of the IDFA: What Nebo Radovic, Growth Lead at N3TWORK is doing

If growth is your world and your mission is acquiring new users, the September launch date of iOS 14 might seem like doomsday. And it’s getting closer and closer.

But is that really true?

To find out, I spent some time with Nebo Radovic, who leads growth at the N3TWORK Scale Platform. N3TWORK, of course, is the publisher of Legendary: Game of Heroes, a perennial top-grossing game. Perhaps even more importantly, N3TWORK is one of a very exclusive club of game publishers that have become so good at finding, acquiring, and retaining new players that they’ve built a platform to grow other developers’ games as well — investing $50 million to make it happen.

Long story short: Radovic knows his stuff.

Nebo Radovic, Growth Lead for N3TWORK Scale Platform

We chatted about September and iOS 14, ranging from tech N3TWORK is building right now to code they’ll write after the IDFA dust settles. And from this is “the death of mobile growth” to “working off of aggregated data is not necessarily bad.” We also chat about whether Google will follow suit and deprecate the GAID, plus whether losing look-alike audiences is actually a big deal. And we also discuss what mobile marketers will need from the MMPs in the post-IDFA world.

Here’s the transcript, slightly edited for clarity:

John Koetsier: Let’s start here … how are you feeling right now about iOS 14 and IDFA?

Nebo Radovic: It’s been a month … I feel like I don’t know much more now than a month ago.

It’s probably best to prepare things that are obviously necessary, and wait for more complex projects when we know we need them. I did learn a few things about consent … which should be available.

We won’t be able to get full consent … but that’s not something we have right now either, and we’re still operating.

One possible scenario is that everything goes to mobile web. Developers move to the browser where they have more control, and you can do more. This is highly unlikely, but it is an option, as the app environment will be more restricted.

John Koetsier: You have a pretty unique thought about getting tracking permission in iOS 14 …

Nebo Radovic: Well, I was wondering … how can we get the most out of the current set-up?

We’ll probably get only 10% of people to give consent, but if we get the right 10%, maybe we don’t need more. I mean, by day 7 you lost 80-90% of users anyways. What you need to learn is where those 10% are coming from … if you could get consent from all the people who pay, then you’d be able to map where they come from and optimize towards those placements.

John Koetsier: What would tracking just paying players look like in your apps? How would you approach it with users?

Nebo Radovic: The example I like to use is Facebook Messenger location permissions.

For example, you come to San Francisco, and you want to meet a friend at the Ferry Building. So both of you want to share your locations. When you start, the app doesn’t have location permissions, but when you hit the Share location button, the app asks: do you want to give Messenger this permission?

So it’s opportunistic. Done at the right time, just like push notifications. You need to provide value in exchange for that permission.

You could also do what Twitter did: started to ask users permission for personalized ads. Twitter won’t let you see tweets chronologically before giving permission, so you get a better experience of the software in exchange for the permission. Developers could start testing this and learning when is the best point to ask.

For example, if you’re in idle games, maybe users get 2X more coins if they give tracking permission?

John Koetsier: So incentivizing the permission is OK?

Nebo Radovic: Well, hard incentivizing is not OK, just like you can’t incentivize people to rate your app, for example. But this is more like: to get extra value from the app or game, please give this permission. It makes the app experience better.

Maybe this won’t work, but it is one solution to try. And if you get really engaged users, you solve the problem of understanding where high-quality users are coming from.

John Koetsier: And data you’d get would be aggregated and non-personal …

Nebo Radovic: Yes, it would be aggregated: campaign and publisher data.

There’s an unspoken truth here: most developers work with aggregated data anyways.

You need more signals; you need a statistically significant amount of data. And you get to know who’s going to be a payer fairly quickly. Most payers convert in the first 7 days. That’s long enough for developers to understand who’s in the app.

At least, that’s my proposal. It’s not too intrusive, as long as Apple is OK with it.

John Koetsier: But what about finding more people like your best users via look-alike audiences?

Nebo Radovic: Well, look-alike audiences are becoming a thing of the past anyway. It’s actually not a big deal: the biggest ad network on the planet, Google, never really used them. And Facebook, the second biggest, is moving away from them.

They’re moving to App Acquisition Ads, and those don’t leverage look-alikes.

Look-alikes might not be as necessary as knowing where the best users are coming from in terms of geos, creatives, publishers, and campaigns. It’s not as big as a deal as not being able to attribute users to a specific campaign.

If look-alike audiences actually do become a thing, then many developers will move towards first-party logins, like Supercell ID, Machine Zone log-in, and so on. Tons of developers with multiple games that gamers like to play on multiple devices have them.

Ultimately, Google’s Game Center and Apple’s similar tech were not great ways to transfer games between devices. Big game devs have means of tracking users across platforms: email, phone numbers. So there are workarounds.

John Koetsier: What do you think about an IDFV strategy … acquiring other games and apps so a single publisher has a vast number of addressable users for promotion and cross-promotion?

Nebo Radovic: I predicted that people might go after hyper-casual games or build hub apps. The strategy is to acquire highly converting apps (conversion to install), drive users there cheaply, and then send those users to the better monetizing products.

This assumes, however, that there’s an overlap between hyper-casual and hard-core games. We will have to see if that works.

And If it does … Apple might go after those developers and ban IDFV for promoting apps.

What is possible is that you could use IDFV to target those users … it’s a pretty good strategy to retarget users. You could use an in-house DSP to do that, especially if you have multiple apps in the same category, like casino apps. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a gaming app: any app or a utility app could work as long as you have a valid IDFV.

John Koetsier: How much work will it take to get your UA and marketing teams set up for iOS 14?

Nebo Radovic: Internally, there are a few things we need to do, starting with the biggest: building the ability to work off aggregated data, not precise user-level data. All our tools need to work off that. Working off of aggregated data is not necessarily bad because, with more data, your machine learning algorithms learn faster and ultimately start performing better.

We also need a campaign mapping tool to map campaign IDs to geos, apps, etc. This is very important and will be something that each developer will need after the iOS14 launch.

But we’re also waiting to see what happens before we build something more advanced. We don’t know what exactly will be allowed, so it’s worth waiting, and thinking, and planning.

John Koetsier: Are you pretty comfortable with the guidelines from Apple?

Nebo Radovic: I’m not 100% sure, mainly because they haven’t covered many use cases in their documentation, which is why I think the best strategy is to wait and see before building any complex solutions.

Ultimately, most developers will try to come up with workarounds, and Apple will try to police everything and weed out the unethical strategies. But that’s why only tracking paying players and getting consent from them makes sense. Apple will be okay with that: we’d only be tracking 5-10% of users, with full consent, and those would be the users we care about the most.

John Koetsier: What are your thoughts about SKAN, Singular’s open proposal for common standards in using SKAdNetwork?

Nebo Radovic: It definitely makes sense, and I like how they selflessly shared it with the industry.

One of the ways to make this period as painless as possible is to work together. I think the only way MMPs can survive is by doing something like this. They’re building the probabilistic solutions, and that’s what the MMPs of the future will do.

What you need from your MMP is:

  • Getting the right tech and data set-up
  • Getting the right aggregation
  • Serving as a postback solution for sharing that data with 3rd parties (FB, Google)
  • Helping publishers optimize
  • Helping publishers make algorithmic decisions on where to spend and not to spend

John Koetsier: What about Google? Do you think Google will make GAID opt-in as well?

Nebo Radovic: I actually don’t think Google will follow suit, or at least their implementation won’t be as strict as Apple’s. Google is, first and foremost, an ad network. Performance advertising is one of their core products, so I think they will be way more cautious about how they do this. If you look at how they approached getting rid of third-party cookies, that might give you a better idea of how Google will handle it. They will likely give developers a year or two to build all the necessary systems before they go live with the update.

Another reason why I don’t think Google will follow suit so quickly is the fact that Google doesn’t mind the hyper-casual developers:

They’re making money there, and they are one of the biggest ad monetization publishers …

… that’s why they might be a little less strict. It’s in their interest to keep the app ecosystem growing.

John Koetsier: And Facebook?

Nebo Radovic: Well, Facebook will likely want you to use their conversion lift tools. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google and Facebook start working together. That’s just a guess. They’re definitely the most affected; this could have a massive impact on both companies.

John Koetsier: Thank you for your time!

2020 Mobile Economy Report: 3.7B app installs reveal opportunity in disruption

 

COVID-19 impacted history.

It also changed friction.

And now, it requires action.

COVID-19 is not just a single event. It is a global disaster that keeps on happening, daily, weekly, and monthly. In fact, six months into 2020, there’s still no end in sight. And we have to keep being proactive about how we function in a world that’s still dealing with this pandemic its many consequences:

  • That impacts our mental health
  • It affects our economic well being
  • And it affects how billions of people engage with the world: buying, selling, communicating

Since for so many of us that primary method is mobile (and, yes, Singular’s all about mobile measurement), we’ve been analyzing a massive dataset of almost four billion app installs over the past six months. That data helps us trace the impact of COVID-19 on our lives, our economy, and shows how mobile marketers need to adapt to this enormous disruption and radical change.

Now we’re ready to share those insights. But not us only!

We asked other top mobile companies for their insights as well. Tapjoy surveyed 14,000 people. ironSource shared what they’ve learned from 1.5 billion people whose lives they touch. Unity, the technology that powers half the games on the planet, distilled observations from the massive amount of data they see. Digital Turbine added insights from the 400 million devices they reach. Moloco drilled down into state-level data to share how marketers in regions most-heavily impacted by coronavirus are reacting. SearchAds.com gave tips for marketers looking to explore new and impactful channels. And Vungle shared insights on what marketers need to understand about their audiences in these uncertain times.

The reality is that even in an ongoing disaster, life — and the economy that provides all the necessities of life — must go on.

But everything changed.

What was once easy, like jumping in the car and picking up groceries at a local store, became hard. What had somewhat higher friction for many, like ordering your groceries for delivery in an app, became relatively easier. And that same friction addition and friction removal blew through almost every category of business — and every vertical in the App Store and Google Play.

(Including games, of course, where all of a sudden billions of people had excess time and attention, not to mention a new need for distraction.)

We’ve tracked that friction addition and removal in multiple mobile categories, showing what has grown as a result of COVID-19, and what has suffered. And we chart COVID-19’s impact so far through 2020 in both organic and paid app installs, revealing the complex interplay between what people wanted naturally, and what marketers pushed via advertising.

Perhaps more importantly, we also survey the future.

What tomorrow will bring is not clear, although we can make some educated guesses. However, more amenable to predictive analysis is what tools, technologies, and mindsets will help mobile marketers drive success for their apps and their brands, even in these crazy times. The actions that you’ll need to take to stay relevant and continue to grow.

It’s not the new normal.

It’s the new abnormal.

And this report, based on billions of app installs, insights from hundreds of marketers, and the distilled wisdom of millions of people will help you navigate these uncharted waters.

Get your copy of the 2020 Mobile Economy Report here!

App installs and coronavirus: 3 categories of disruption from January to July

Four billion app installs from January to July reveal three different categories of mobile app business responses to coronavirus:

  1. New abnormal (outsized growth)
  2. Making a comeback (growth resumed)
  3. Still heavily impacted (really challenged)

If you’ve been following the Singular blog, you’ll have noticed our updates on the app ecosystem and coronavirus. (If you haven’t, go here and subscribe to our newsletter – we promise not to spam you. Scroll a bit, you’ll find it.) We’ve chronicled the coronavirus 19% jump in app installs, the missing dip, the drop in retention during lockdown, the 7-team alignment challenge, and much more.

Now we’re looking at the big picture: almost four billion app installs from January 2020 through to mid-July. That’s almost five months of corona time, and it’s enough to give good insight into how the most disruptive global event in nearly a century has impacted one of the newest industries on the planet: mobile marketing.

TLDR?

Mobile entrepreneurs and businesses are really, really fortunate to still be the new, new thing … and to be the primary way most digitally-connected people engage with their friends, their colleagues, their brands, and in essence, their world.

Most are doing pretty well during coronavirus. And some are growing incredibly fast.

New abnormal (outsized growth)

Eight types of mobile businesses fall into the outsized growth category:

  1. Business services
  2. Streaming
  3. Gaming
  4. Health & fitness
  5. On-demand food delivery
  6. Retail
  7. Retail subscription
  8. Social communication

Gaming is the perfect example. Always hot and always a consistent presence in the rankings for top downloads apps on Google Play and the App Store, games started even faster organic growth in mid-March as lockdowns increased players’ available time. The biggest spike was in May, with 56% growth over the middle of January.

The reason: paid acquisition kicked-in as organic remained high, spurring another burst of organic uplift.

Growth has cooled somewhat since then, but it’s remained above pre-coronavirus levels and is trending up even farther in the last few weeks.

Health & fitness is another prototypical coronavirus growth category as people replace public gyms with home exercise equipment, tools, and services. It’s a little harder to tell in this chart because the health category always sees a January bump thanks to New Year’s resolutions, but growth skyrocketed in April and really hasn’t settled down since.

Interestingly, retail subscriptions have been a surprisingly strong category. We all know digital retail has been big, but retail subscriptions also benefited from a trend to avoid physical stores, to order-in, and to get groceries and products delivered.

Retail subscriptions saw a big early surge in late February and early March, dipped in late March, and have been climbing fairly steadily since, with 71% growth from February to July. In terms of revenue, that growth has been up to 145%, according to Recurly, which manages subscriptions for Amazon’s Twitch, Barkbox, Asana, and other companies in streaming and retail spaces.

Streaming, of course, is a no-brainer pandemic beneficiary (if we can say that) that we’ve covered well already.

Making a comeback (growth resumed)

The growth resumed category contains ten verticals: mobile-based businesses that have struggled at times during coronavirus, but are also seeing some real positives. Some are doing well, and some still have a lot of climbing to do to get back to normal growth rates.

This list does include some very surprising verticals, including betting, car rental, and travel search:

  1. Betting
  2. Sports
  3. Marketplace consumer
  4. News & media
  5. On-demand travel
  6. Dating
  7. Travel
  8. Accomodations
  9. Car rental
  10. Travel search engine

Betting is an interesting category. There’s a spike of growth right where you’d expect it, around Super Bowl in February. But there’s another spike in early March — probably anticipating March Madness, which was eventually a coronavirus casualty. But surprisingly, we’ve seen steady growth since early April.

Ignore the late-May early-June spike of paid: the key line to check is the blue line of organic app installs, which has been trending up since early March, with a little spiky-ness. It turns out that when gambling fans can’t gamble on sports, they find other things to bet on.

Travel is another very interesting category.

Clearly hampered by coronavirus, organic installs of travel apps dropped a staggering 83% from highs in January to lows in March.

But since then, travel has ever so slowly rebounded, almost doubling in organic interest from March to July without an accompanying spike in paid installs. The tragedy of doubling when you previously dropped by 83%, however, is that you still have a very long way to go to get back to your initial heights.

Long story short: travel still has a long way to go. But there is some positive momentum.

The car rental category is also seeing significant growth since April, getting close to its winter organic highs. Paid user acquisition, however, dropped off a bridge at the same time and has not really recovered since.

News and media is an interesting category. While organics drove growth early in the year, paid overtook organic in week 15: early April. The big rush of year-end, Super Bowl, and even coronavirus news dropped off — or, at least, people acquired the apps they needed to stay up-to-date. As media agencies found themselves with increased sessions and time-in-app, however, they decided to double down and acquire new customers, which they’re still continuing to do right now.

Still heavily impacted (really challenged)

The coronavirus-impacted economy is generating different outcomes in different verticals. While some categories are going gangbusters because they’re becoming part of our new abnormal and others are recovering as we attempt to piece our economy back together, some are still feeling the strong effects of the global pandemic on their businesses.

One of them won’t surprise you, but the other might:

  1. Financial services
  2. Ticketing

Fintech has actually done really well during coronavirus because, like other things where a mobile/digital solution can take the place of an on-premise/real-world activity, banking, insurance, and investment apps actually saw decent install and usage activity early in the pandemic.

In the beginning of April, however, fintechs turned the tap of paid user acquisition off, reducing activity considerably.

Interestingly for incrementality aficionados, however, organics have remained at reasonable levels: slightly down, but not horrific. However, until we see some positive action here, this category remains significantly impacted.

And ticketing: need we say more? Sports might be resuming, but live audiences probably aren’t coming back anytime soon so the need to innovate is still very real.

The future remains uncertain

We know reopening is happening. We also know coronavirus cases are up in multiple countries, and governments are rightfully cautious. There’s huge opportunity for growth in some verticals, but it that growth also comes with massive uncertainty.

That means agilility wins.

Companies that can pivot and remain relevant, or companies that are in areas of significant growth, have huge opportunities. While the ad monetization environment remains challenging — not least due to iOS 14 concerns — there remain both organic and paid customer acquisition avenues available.

If we can help you optimize growth, let us know.

Crushing mobile marketing during coronavirus: Learning from Riot Games, BetBull, LifeLock, Gas Pedal Growth, BEAT

2020 is a lot of things, and not many of them are great.

But one thing that 2020 is teaching us is that no matter what happens, we can work, collaborate, and win together … even when we are cities, countries, or even continents apart. Consumer behavior has changed and our new normal has some major downsides, but with Zoom and Slack, we’re figuring it out.

And with — for mobile marketers — Singular.

That’s a big claim, but the reality is that thousands of mobile marketers still need to run high-volume user acquisition campaigns while working from their home offices.

Or their kitchen tables.

I expected Riot’s first mobile game launch to come with a unique set of challenges, but I did not expect one of those challenges to be doing a global launch from my kitchen table. Having the Singular team acting as an extension of our own, being available non-stop for our support needs, and helping to make sure we are set up for success was crucial to the success of my team.

– Cody Christie, Senior Manager, Riot Games

Riot Games has more than 20 global offices and 2,500 employees. They run League of Legends, which has over 100 million players and is perennially a billion-dollar title in annual revenue, and many other games. This is not a small company, and the challenges of keeping multiple teams on the same page when you’re never face-to-face are real.

Keeping up the support is essential. But so is having a common source of ground truth for ROAS, costs, and the impact of your marketing campaigns.

Also important?

Simplifying marketing and streamlining the inevitable challenges of managing complex data flows. Which, of course, is critical for extracting intelligent insights from vast amounts of performance marketing data.

That’s something marketing agency Gas Pedal Growth is very familiar with and is still doing in our new normal post-coronavirus times:

Singular has helped cut down on data engineering needs to give speed-to-insights with a full-funnel performance of marketing analytics. It’s helped me streamline workflows and ease how we do reporting.

– Jason Dalrymple, Growth Consulting, Gas Pedal Growth

Gas Pedal Growth helps companies launch apps, optimize strategy, fuel organic growth through cross-promotion and retention marketing, and manage paid user acquisition that delivers results. Singular is one of the tools that simplifies and accelerates that process … even when there’s no office to go in to.

Speed is particularly important during the coronavirus shutdown when consumer behavior is changing so rapidly.

As we’ve seen in our coronavirus mobile marketing reports, the pandemic has resulted in wild swings in activity: fast bursts of organic growth, steep changes in paid marketing activity, and alterations in normal acquisition and retention behavior.

We’ve seen an increase in betting behavior on all sorts of different activities as sports shut down in the first half of 2020, and BetBull needed extreme flexibility in order to adjust in near real-time. Which is exactly what they got with Singular:

We wanted speed to insights so we could react quickly to shifts in performance and that’s exactly what we get with Singular.

– Paul Archer, Head of Marketing, BetBull

Of course, online betting and casino games were not the only categories that saw massive disruption. The “new normal” was even more challenging for transportation, ridesharing, and taxi industries, requiring even more frequent starts, stops, and pivots.

Just ask BEAT:

We’re currently running over 125 campaigns across a dozen sources on one client … automated alerts have been key in monitoring sudden changes in campaign ROI as the advertising landscape and world in general changes from day to day.

– Joey Hinojosa, Digital Media Manager, BEAT

125 campaigns over 12 sources is not easy to manage without significant technological help, which Hinojosa had with Singular. And, of course, that’s just one client among many.

Identify theft and security provider Lifelock, now owned by Symantec, needed quick insights on marketing results. That’s important at any time. It’s extra-critical — and extra high-pressure — during a pandemic, when it’s not clear where our entire global economy is going.

Singular helps us get our marketing analytics team up to speed quickly and gives us a great understanding of what is exactly happening with our marketing spend and what we’re getting out of it.

– Cole Mercer, former Director of Growth, LifeLock

Timely and actionable data is the key to managing a crisis.

And it’s also the key to not just checking-the-box, but actually being world-class. To have best-in-industry marketing results. To beating competitors in cost of acquisition, retention, and monetization. That’s what BetBull is focused on, and what we’re committed to enabling.

Working with Singular, we have a shot at being best-in-class rather than just finding a solution that works. We throw things at their team saying, “let’s try and approach this together” and they are very responsive.

– Paul Archer, BetBull

Many of us had plans for 2020 that didn’t include coronavirus. But by March, they were about as useful as tickets to a cruise in May.

Our hope and our goal is that Singular is the platform that enables you to continue to do your job with excellence and some degree of ease, even with coronavirus. We’re all looking forward to post-coronavirus times when consumer behavior returns to normal.

Until then — and even after then, of course — we’ve got your back.

Learn more about how Singular customers are succeeding, even during COVID-19.

Post-IDFA user acquisition: EA’s Jayne Peressini on iOS 14 and the future of mobile marketing

Is iOS 14 the mobile marketing apocalypse? Can user acquisition still exist? Or will the ecosystem survive the loss of the IDFA?

We’ve got some ideas about that, announcing support for Apple’s attribution framework SKAdNetwork almost a month ago now, releasing open-source code for ad networks, publishers, and advertisers, and offering SKAN as an open standard for implementing SKAdNetwork without destroying the marketing ecosystem.

But it doesn’t really matter what we say.

It mostly matters what mobile marketers say.

For some it will feel like the zombie apocalypse, but you can’t change it, so grab a weapon and jump in the Winnebego.

– Jayne Peressini, Electronic Arts

If you know mobile marketing, you probably know Jayne Peressini. She’s been a key member of teams at Glu Mobile, Razorfish, Reddit, Machine Zone, and DraftKings, and she’s now the Senior Director for Mobile Marketing and Growth at Electronic Arts. If that’s not insanely badass enough, she also has a master’s of science degree, focused on digital marketing, from the London School of Business and Finance. (Plus, she’s guested on a very, very prestigious mobile marketing podcast.)

Long story short, she knows what she’s talking about.

Like everyone else, Electronic Arts has been furiously preparing for life after the IDFA. But unlike most, Peressini’s had the chance to chat with insiders about iOS 14 and SKAdNetwork. And we had the opportunity to catch up with her afterwards.

Jayne Peressini
Jayne Peressini, Senior Director of Mobile Marketing and Growth at Electronic Arts

Big picture: iOS 14 and user acquisition

John Koetsier: On a scale of walk in the park to zombie apocalypse, how big of a change is this?

Jayne Peressini: It depends on who you are and what side of the business you’re on. For us as advertisers, we can leverage old school and new school. Old school as in media mix modeling and the “hi, how’d you hear about us?” surveys upon app open or landing page. And new school as in incremental revenue measurement.

For some, it will feel like the zombie apocalypse, but you can’t change it, so grab a weapon and jump in the Winnebego.

John Koetsier: Big picture: what do you see as the biggest challenges for mobile marketers with iOS 14?

Jayne Peressini: There are a few things I’d mention here:

  1. Moving away from granular user-level last-click attribution
  2. Adapting to new ways to manage fraud
  3. Adapting to less signal coming in, but still needing to optimize media
  4. Taking inventory of all the tooling you’ve built that uses IDFA and figuring out how to adapt tooling to the new granularity and postbacks
  5. The relationship between me and my team changes. I manage from a top-down media and title management perspective, and my team used to manage from a bottoms-up, and now we’ll all be looking at a more similar altitude
  6. Focus on contextual targeting
  7. Deferred deep linking is dead

User acquisition in iOS 14

John Koetsier: By all accounts, mobile user acquisition on iOS is going to be very different with iOS 14. What’s going to change most for you?

Jayne Peressini:  I’m not one to avoid change constantly so I’m treating this as any other adversity and business problem to solve for. I won’t get it right the first time, or probably even the second time, but I have the grit to get it right eventually. I think we have to create a new standard and work with other developers as well as supply side and MMPs.

I think we will have to stretch ourselves to look at performance in a less myopic way. It won’t be ”am I hitting my ROAS based on last click attribution.” It will be ”is my investment right for this channel? Is revenue increasing? How’s my paid monthly actives? Are my retention programs decreasing churn and stabilizing paid monthly actives?”

Strategically, nothing changes. Tactically, we will adapt.

John Koetsier: Your thoughts on SKAdNetwork? How do you plan to measure marketing efforts post iOS 14?

Jayne Peressini: Well, fingerprinting is out of the picture. It’s confirmed to be a trigger for consent required. If you’re using the user agent and IP address and you can derive a stable ID (even briefly!) it is considered a trigger for needing consent from the user prior to collecting the data.

So we are going to abide by that for the long term, and we aren’t going to try to find and use loopholes. For measurement we’re looking at: incrementality, media mix modeling, and multipliers from responses to “how’d you get here” surveys.

As far as SKAdNetwork goes, we will use it. We’re getting things in order right now but will be ready and using it before the September deadline.

John Koetsier: Any opportunity to do suppression lists or frequency capping in iOS 14?

Jayne Peressini: Only if you get consent, but universal and holistic suppression lists as we have today are going to die. You’ll need consent for suppression lists since, depending on opt-out rates, it will be all over the place on coverage. You’re more likely to be able to do frequency capping at the partner/IDFV level.

John Koetsier: Is creative optimization toast, or does it just change and get less granular?

Jayne Peressini: I’ll probably focus my creative testing on Android and roll out learnings to iOS. We will see how this changes creative. We can still see aggregated performance on creatives (how many users clicked), just not who.

I won’t be getting creative ID or the internal campaign IDs that a lot of UA teams use for additional metadata, campaigns strategy, or product. Also, at a tactical level this messes up a lot of programmatic setups where advertisers track creatives as their own individual campaigns.

John Koetsier: Are you worried about new sources of fraud on iOS now?

Jayne Peressini: I’m not necessarily worried, but it operationally changes how we handle fraud as advertisers. The industry was moving towards advertisers taking more ownership and responsibility in the process by cross-referencing and using click/impression IDs + IDFA to go back to ad networks with as evidence of fraud instances.

Now we don’t have that. We can check Apple’s attribution signature and transaction ID and not much else.

One risk is that the post-install conversion data is not signed by Apple. That makes it even more important to select your ad partners carefully. You’ll need deeper relationships with trusted partners like your MMP and supply channels to find a new standard.

John Koetsier: What tests or experiments are you performing now to get ready for iOS 14? Checking consent acceptance rates? Sign-in or sign-up rates? Testing different attribution windows?

Jayne Peressini: We’re working closely with our product management team on testing. Just like we would with anything: ensuring we’re compliant, transparent, and putting the user first.

Now I’ve heard some in the industry wanting to test incentive language and some that want to block content unless they consent — the old carrot and stick approach.

User lifecycle management in iOS 14

John Koetsier: Does this new model of user acquisition impact your onboarding? Do you know less about new users than previously?

Jayne Peressini: I was really looking forward to one day being able to tailor our owned communications based on user acquisition creative.

For example, if a user engaged with a particular character or sports player/team… being able to tailor their next experience for their preferences. Now we just have to create better mechanisms and give opportunities in more proactive ways for the user to tell us. We can’t passively infer any of that in iOS 14.

John Koetsier: Will you ask users to sign up or register with an email address or phone number?

Jayne Peressini: EA already has an ecosystem where you can sign in to our games.

John Koetsier: You’ve got a lot of experience across the industry … do you think casual games can do that?

Jayne Peressini: I think casual games get the leg up by getting users to come back and play more frequently to reset the clock/conversion value. And, I think apps and games that have a sign-up wall (that makes sense!) have a leg up with acquiring a persistent identifier without an all-or-nothing from either getting the IDFA or not.

But, it doesn’t mean much if the supply side can’t get an IDFA.

And I think casual games monetized through ads will have a tough time sending a bunch of requests for bids with null IDFA values. CPMs will go down.

John Koetsier: How will existing user info impact future user acquisition? E.g., lookalike audiences, etc.?

Jayne Peressini: Advertisers will be more inclined to do this in-house. And even potentially bringing API buying hooks in-house. That includes building or buying ad bidders.

John Koetsier: How does this impact retargeting? What will change? And, how will you measure your retargeting efforts… deep links?

Jayne Peressini: The deep link mechanics and signals we receive will change. I still haven’t tested this yet and don’t want to speculate. It will be an area we test and observe the pre- and post-OS update changes.

Our first port of call is understanding what the new postback looks like from Apple with SKAdNetwork. Then we have to modify our campaign naming conventions, keys we join data with, etc. Deeplink testing will be next.

Optimization in iOS 14

John Koetsier: What changes in how you assess the value of a user? Do you need to make that determination earlier? And, are you planning to connect predictive user value with SKAdNetwork conversion values?

Jayne Peressini: I can’t speak publicly about our monetization strategies right now.

John Koetsier: For single-sign-on (SSO) solutions, do you see challenges with tracking and measuring ad performance?

Jayne Peressini: Well, if you have Facebook SSO for your game – you’ll need a consent banner. That’s a big one.

What we’re hearing from the guidance we’re getting and the documentation we’re reviewing indicates that any SSO provider that isn’t for pure security purposes (security providers such as DUO or Okta) will be considered third party providers that you need consent from your users for.

John Koetsier: Any new strategies you’re thinking about with the IDFV? More cross-promotion? Acquisition of more titles?

Jayne Peressini: It’s great that EA has a network of apps that we can look more seriously at how IDFV can help us. We still need to do our due diligence on assessing all strategies.

Partners and technology in iOS 14

John Koetsier: Any changes you’re considering in your tech stack internally or externally due to iOS 14? Adding any internal or external resources?

Jayne Peressini: I can’t speak to this just yet. We are assessing what may need to be changed. Anecdotally, I know some developers that built some very sophisticated tech on IDFA that essentially have now over-developed their tooling overnight, come September.

John Koetsier: How is the role of an MMP changing? What do mobile marketers need from their MMPs in terms of support through this transition?

Jayne Peressini: MMPs have been dynamic in nature for years, trying to adapt to our changing industry. Whether they’re partners in fraud detection, cohort/segmentation strategies, investment management… MMPs are a bit of a pinch hitter to in-house teams.

John Koetsier: What do you need from your MMP in iOS 14 that you didn’t before?

Jayne Peressini: Collaboration across the industry. And testing, failing, iterating to get to a standard.

We have to have all three (supply side, MMP, and advertiser) in the room to set new industry standards for how we want this all to work.

Conclusion: the battle continues

My biggest take-away from Jayne’s answers: the apocalypse may have come, but the battle continues. Life continues, and mobile marketing continues.

There’s going to be a lot of work to prepare.

You probably won’t get it right the first time.

But if you’re a mobile marketer running user acquisition, you will have data, and you will have signals, and you will be able to continue doing your job. That might be taking insights from Android and applying them to iOS, as Jayne mentioned. It probably also includes a slightly messier, more probabilistic framework for decision-making.

But it’s not exactly the end of the world.

Here’s what we know now and how we’re preparing. But we’re getting more information by the day, so keep your eyes peeled. Better yet, join the Mobile Attribution Privacy Slack channel, where hundreds of marketers, adtech vendors, and MMP leaders are answering the hundreds of questions around SKAdNetwork and iOS 14 together.

Mobile Tutorial Series – What is an IDFA or Apple Identifier for Advertisers?

Join us for a special AMA (ask me anything) webinar about UA in iOS 14
on August 12th @ 10am PT with experts from Lyft, Homa Games, and ironSource

 

IDFA is the abbreviation for identifier for advertisers on Apple mobile devices (iPhones). You can think of an IDFA as somewhat analogous to an advertising cookie on the web, in that it enables an advertiser to get notified when a user of a phone has taken an action like clicking on their ad or installing their app.

Apple created the IDFA for ad tracking.

And now, with the release of iOS 14 in September, it is essentially killing the IDFA. (More on that later.)

IDFAs took the place of cookies in mobile advertising delivered to iOS devices because cookies are problematic in the mobile world, where people spend most of their time in apps, not the web. Advertisers want to know when their ads create results. The IDFA has helped them optimize ad campaigns, target people who are most likely to be interested in what they’re offering, and stop advertising to people who are not interested.

IDFAs (and the Android equivalent, Google’s Android Advertising IDs) help an advertiser identify the specific phone where an ad action took place.

Semi-permanent device identifiers

Third-party cookies, which are commonly used on the web for tracking, tend to have short life spans: anything from one to thirty days on average. By contrast, the IDFA doesn’t change unless a user decides to change it in their phone settings. Few consumers feel a need to take this action, so IDFAs can offer a better foundation for a persistent and anonymized consumer profile.

UDID and IDFA

Before IDFA, advertisers could track actions on iPhones using a permanent device identifier called UDID, or universal device ID. The big advantage that IDFA offered over UDID is consumer choice. A UDID was a permanent device number, and sharing it could not be turned off, whereas users had the option to limit ad tracking, or to change their IDFA periodically.

And, of course, they still do.

But in iOS14, IDFAs will only be available when people explicitly opt in to tracking. And the opt-in has some scary language that essentially ensures most people will not accept.

IDFA permission request iOS14

At the same time, IDFA is the only ID that Apple allows advertisers to use to understand the advertising actions on its phones. This reflects Apple’s commitment to the ideas of privacy and choice. And for iOS 13 and print, it also enabled a robust advertising industry in which brands target likely responders and drive revenue for app and mobile publishers.

Now everything is changing. Which is why Singular was the first MMP to announce support for Apple’s replacement technology: SKAdNetwork.

Using IDFA for ad tracking

If the IDFA is available, it’s very, very useful for advertisers.

For example, when consumers take actions because of ads, like clicking a banner, playing a video, or installing an app, media companies can pass the IDFA with information about the consumer action that took place because of the advertising. Most media companies do pass IDFAs. Some media companies, including some large social networks, do not pass device IDs to advertisers, but do allow you to target specific IDs within their properties. Many companies also leverage IDFAs as a tool for fraud detection. By monitoring the stream of ad actions and associated IDFAs, advertisers get important signals that may indicate advertising fraud.

As of iOS 14, however, advertisers will have to use Apple’s new framework, SKAdNetwork.

IDFA vs IDFV

You may also occasionally hear about an identifier called IDFV. This stands for identifier for vendors. An IDFV is assigned and shared by all apps from the same company. Sometimes companies with multiple apps base their marketing efforts and analyses on IDFV, because they only change if a user uninstalls all apps from a particular vendor.

The IDFV is useful, but can’t be used for ad attribution.

Using IDFA for mobile app install attribution

When the IDFA is available because consumers opt in, IDFAs and app attribution capabilities like those offered as part of the Singular platform is extremely helpful. Marketers can understand which campaigns, executions, and media partners are responsible for desirable consumer actions. Using these insights, they can calculate the ROI for every program and tactic and optimize their marketing to the most profit-generating tools. The IDFA also enables a marketer to target specific individuals that have taken actions in the past.

For example:

  • Target people who have installed and deliver advertising that makes them relaunch the app
  • Create an audience of lapsed users and advertise to them to get them to come back to the app
  • Identify the people who have abandoned items in shopping carts, and advertise to them to get them to come back and complete their purchases

This sort of individual targeting has become increasingly common as programmatic media and social media advertising grow in popularity.

SKAN and SKAdNetwork for mobile app install attribution

With the changes coming in iOS 14, however, advertisers need to find a new methodology of attributing mobile ad conversions. Apple has offered the SKAdNetwork framework, and Singular is building on that to offer a free and open standard for managing mobile app attribution using SKAdNetwork.

We call it SKAN.

While it’s evolving fast right now, the big picture is that SKAN describes how SKAdNetwork should be used in a standardized way by the ecosystem to overcome some of its limitations and enable its adoption in a scalable and trustworthy way.

Get all the details on SKAN here.

And, if you’d like some input on how to manage mobile marketing and optimize campaigns post-IDFA, please do get in touch. We’d love to walk through what we’re doing with our customers. Here’s a good place to get in touch.
 
 

Welcome to mobile attribution’s first-ever recession: What you need now

What do modern marketers need from mobile attribution in 2020?

There’s not a lot of history to guide mobile marketers on what to do in a global pandemic and a worldwide recession. Mobile is now a massive part of our lives and our industry, but it’s still incredibly young: barely more than a decade old. The App Store wasn’t launched until 2008, and smartphones didn’t achieve 50% penetration until 2014. Mobile attribution itself is just eight or nine years old, and the mobile growth stack as a whole is a very recent invention. 

That means mobile, mobile marketing, and mobile attribution have never gone through a major economic recession or depression. 

It also means that we have few precedents to understand how they’ll react, and that we don’t fully know how all this will impact modern marketers. The good news for mobile marketers is that COVID-19 has made mobile even more important for business, for connection, and for almost every other activity we engage in. That bodes well for mobile continuing to not just be a viable space, but doing well and possibly even growing, even if the wider economy shrinks.

The bad news is that if the quarantine and shutdown efforts shrink the wider economy enough, even a good news story will turn negative. Mobile can’t grow enough to stay in the black if the economy craters too hard.

Ultimately, like everything else in 2020, expect change.

What we’ve seen from mobile attribution

We know the historical impact. Singular customers have demonstrated the result that mobile attribution which unifies spend and return in a single platform can have.

One retail customer boosted sales 2X with attribution. Another boosted sales 72% with 24% less ad spend. A gaming customer doubled installs. Another saved 15-20 hours a week in data management. A delivery customer grew conversion rates almost 200%. The average customer that leverages Singular’s granular insights boosts conversions 2X.

All pre-Coronavirus.

All before the shutdown boost in app installs. Before working from home and a massive jump in gaming, retail, and social. And before we saw retention rates suffer from COVID-19 mobile trends.

What about now?

 

Mobile marketing: key challenges TODAY

Mobile marketing in general is hard. Mobile user acquisition at scale is one of the more challenging tasks in our modern economy. 

That was true long before anyone ever heard about COVID-19 or there was an inkling of Coronavirus, a shutdown, or a virus-driven economic recession. In 2019, mobile marketers told us the key challenges in their jobs included managing scale, understanding cross-platform measurement and incrementality, unifying siloed data, fraud detection, and more.

None of those challenges magically disappeared in the last four months. But now we have a whole new set of problems to join them. Finances are tighter. Funding is less certain. Monetization is less dependable. All bets are off when hundreds of millions of people globally are out of work or locked into their homes. 

In addition, post-Coronavirus, you’re probably getting fewer resources. You likely have less budget. You might have fewer people. And even if you’re in one of the categories that are way up, your CEO is worried about long-term financial stability and is therefore probably more risk-averse than ever before.

All of which is to say: for marketers, driving exponential marketing impact has never been more urgent or important. 

And, most likely, it’s never been harder. 

What you desperately need from mobile attribution now

It’s pretty simple, isn’t it? You need exactly what you needed before, but more.

And less.

You need the same boost in performance that got Home & Shopping a 73% increase in ROI on 24% less ad spend and a 15% decrease in cost per purchase. You need double the installs with 22% less cost. You need more automation and less busywork so you can save 15+ hours/week. You need 85% more growth with less time spent on marketing data management.

How?

Straight-up, it starts by being smarter than your competition. The best of them are marketing scientifically. They might be saving literally six figures monthly thanks to deterministic fraud prevention. They are probably using custom dimensions to tailor attribution and marketing analytics in real-time automatically to their specific vertical, business model, and company KPIs. They also use creative analytics to instantly tell which ads get the highest click-through rate and the best conversion rate across all their ad partners … without having to calculate a single parameter.

It is all about exposing opportunity and minimizing risk.

You need a fast and painless way to measure marketing activities at very granular levels in order to quickly identify top-performing channels and make optimizations. You need to reveal previously inaccessible insights on performance, so you can quickly shift budgets away from under-performing initiatives and optimize top-performing channels. You need to monitor marketing budgets across campaigns in real time to effectively track performance to goals and avoid overspending.

Report: 7 things your mobile attribution doesn’t do (but should)

Right now, every last dollar has to count. Everything that can be optimized must be. And anything that can be automated needs to be. If you’re not using Singular to boost ROAS and manage spend, now’s the time to try. There’s a free option for SMBs, and there are amazing plans for enterprise and at-scale marketers.

Here’s what you need now more than ever (get the full report here):

Make marketing data simple

  1. Automatic collection and combining of your most important datasets
  2. No more tedious data transformation tasks
  3. Marketing data that matches every time across all your ad partners
  4. Unified upper-funnel campaign data with lower-funnel attribution data
  5. Standardized and normalized data
  6. Comprehensive ROI reporting at all dimensions
  7. Accurate, timely and actionable insights
  8. ETL to get your data wherever you need it, ready to go

 

Unlock granular and aggregate analytics

  1. Pockets of profitable growth identified quickly
  2. Less wasted spend
  3. High-level snapshot of all your data at once
  4. Ad creatives side-by-side with metrics 
  5. Creative clustering to automatically group similar ads across sets and partners
  6. Holistic view of ad monetization
  7. Better decisions about campaign performance and channels 
  8. Easier scaling of marketing efforts efficiently and intelligently

 

Customize data views automatically

  1. Unique analytics for your unique KPIs
  2. Easy custom grouping of data by dimensions that matter (to you)
  3. Simple breakouts by geo and market
  4. Automated custom reports
  5. Business unit breakdowns
  6. Funnel stage breakdowns
  7. Custom metrics including aggregated metrics and calculated metrics
  8. Custom events

 

Connect cross-platform web-mobile journeys

  1. Unified cross-platform journeys
  2. Connected spend/return on every dollar on every platform
  3. Touchpoints for custom MTA models
  4. Digital and non-digital platforms
  5. Retargeting

 

Prevent fraud

  1. Deterministic, not probabilistic fraud prevention
  2. Proactive, not reactive days, weeks, or months later
  3. Real-time
  4. Transparent: you and ad partners get user-level decision logic
  5. Built-in, no extra cost
  6. Customizable, not hard-coded
  7. Most powerful in the industry with documented savings for named clients in the six figures per month

 

Activate near-real-time segments

  1. World-class audiences capability
  2. Precision generation of specific audiences
  3. Automated distribution of audience segments across all media sources
  4. Regular and automated syncing of audiences
  5. Highly customizable

 

Inspire trust

  1. Used by top-10 global companies
  2. Trusted by the best data-driven marketers on the planet
  3. Used by top brands who are winning in their categories

For more details, get the full report or talk to us

It’s about survival. And it’s about winning

Your category has a lot to say about your results right now. Gaming’s up. Retail’s up. Business services and social media are up right now too. But travel has challenges — with some recovery. And other categories are feeling the impact of COVID-19.

So you might be focused on just surviving right now.

Or you might be doing fairly well, all things considered, and focusing on beating the competition. 

Either way, you need to simplify marketing data and rationalize different datasets from partners. You need clean data that’s standardized and collected for you to make your team more efficient, and to make testing new partners relatively easy and painless. You need to expose full funnel performance metrics that are custom to your business. You need to optimize each channel and each campaign, and shift budgets from poor performers to top performers.

Ultimately, that’s going to result in positioning yourself best in tough economic times, if they persist, as well as in recovery, as it continues. 

Get the full report here!

7 teams marketers need to keep aligned even when we’re all in our home offices

My home office is great. The snacks suck, but the upside of the downside is fewer pounds on the scale.

But there are other challenges. More important ones, like staying on the same page with the teams I work with. Not shockingly, that’s exactly the same challenge performance marketing teams are facing right now.

Slack is good. Email still works. Zoom is also wonderful. Google docs and spreadsheets are simple and collaborative. But for modern marketers, the key thing that they need everyone on the same page about is the ground truth that undergirds and supports everything they do: their data.

“Double down on your data … the room for error here has gone to zero.”

 – Lauren Vaccarello, CMO, Talend

What’s CAC? What was it last week? Where’s it trending? Where’s our ROAS? Our overall ROI? Is LTV edging up or down? Is retention suffering since the last product update? What’s changing over the past weeks of lockdown … or reopening? How is engagement trending over recent cohorts? How much are we spending … how fast are we recouping that cost via monetization … and it goes on and on and on.

Without ground truth to align all teams, everyone can easily work at cross-purposes. But with the same basic understanding, even remote teams can seamlessly sync to achieve group goals.

And that makes a system of marketing record like Singular essential for at least seven teams:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Monetization
  3. BI/Analytics
  4. Finance
  5. Creative
  6. Retention
  7. Product

One: Acquisition

Acquisition is the most obvious team to start with. 

They’re on the front lines of new user and customer acquisition. And whether your “team” means a single person or multiple groups, Acquisition needs to know how much you’re spending, what’s trending more expensive or less, what results every campaign is generating, and where you’re sourcing the greatest return.

For teams with marketing scale, aggregating spend is critical. Understanding the relative value of new users or customers from different channels — paid and organic — is essential. Seeing how individual channels are trending over time and being able to test new channels for better spend efficiency is important.

“Focus ruthlessly on acquisition costs.”

 – Carly Brantz, CMO, DigitalOcean

The challenge is that when everyone is at home in their own space, it’s harder to operate with the same ground truth. The last thing any company needs is multiple user acquisition specialists with diverging plans and random results. Being able to do it all with customized views of the unified data available to everyone just makes everything that much better.

It’s not just about being conservative and staying safe. Thanks to COVID-19, there’s unfilled inventory in the ad markets that’s resulting in downward pricing pressure. And that means user acquisition specialists need to consider re-trying channels they’ve looked at before and abandoned.

What was too expensive before … might be perfect now.

Two: Monetization

Acquisition and Monetization are the Yin and Yang of mobile growth. While they don’t stand alone — there are the other five teams that are essential for modern marketing — they’re the most obvious and the most directly engaged in the act of growth … with the possible exception of Creative.

Depending on the vertical you’re in, there are major opportunities in mobile right now.

“There is a windfall right now and a window for a lot of folks to really accelerate market share.”

 – Grant Harbin, CEO, Headlight; Former VP Growth, KIXEYE

Monetization needs to connect to acquisition: what’s coming down the pipe in terms of new cohorts? Monetization also needs to connect with Finance: what are our revenue trends, and how quickly can we cycle cash back into acquisition?

And the same is true with almost every other team: BI/analytics helps monetization understand if they’re trending in the right directions. Creative provides raw material for offers and upsells. Retention helps extend the monetization time frame. Product tweaks user and customer experience in ways that — hopefully — benefit monetization.

Three: BI/Analytics

Data is a big part of the core of everything the modern marketer uses to inform strategy and adjust tactics. So your BI team, data science group, analytics people, or whatever you call your data team is critical. BI’s job is to get and maintain canonical data which others can access at need, as well as to generate insights off the most accurate and complete data possible.

That means BI works with literally everyone.

One option from Singular that can help: ETL. 

Singular ETL helps BI automate data pipeline management and delivers data in a schema that works for you. It pushes data into analysis and presentation tools you already use, and lets you use predictive analytics, LTV models, ROI models, retention models, cash flow models, and any automations you’ve already built.

It’s about having a single source of marketing truth in every vertical, especially those that maybe haven’t had it in the past, like retail:

“COVID has kind of exposed retail … retailers have to really start getting a single source of truth from this data so that they can get better customer insights around consumers’ wants, needs, and desires.”

– Tom Litchford, Head Worldwide Business Development – Retail, Amazon Web Services

BI/analytics needs to ensure that campaigns, costs, conversion rates, ROI, ROAS, and revenue from every source, including subscriptions, IAPs, and ad monetization is accounted for and baked into every team’s models. Getting the right slices of that same reality-of-record dataset to every team — including both aggregate and user-level where available and appropriate — is critical to keeping everyone on the same page.

Four: Finance

No finance person ever has wanted to be out of the loop of costs, revenue, profit margins, and regular up-to-date reporting. Especially in a time of rapid change.

Which, spoiler alert, is what we’re in.

This is especially important right now, because there’s increased complexity. Every country has slightly different regulations and timetables around Coronavirus and COVID-19, and that means every country is in different phases of lockdown and reopening. All of that significantly impacts marketing costs, results, and ROAS.

“Every market is really different. During the COVID times we have these very different restrictions. You need to answer these separately: you can’t answer them all in the same way with one central strategy.”

 – Michael Wicke, VP International Marketing, Delivery Hero

Five: Creative

We know that creative is critical for user and customer acquisition success. And, thanks to the black boxes of advertising optimization that most self-attributing networks have built, it’s one of the last levers marketers have to impact growth.

Your creative team needs data on what creatives are working for: what images and messages are resonating with potential and existing customers. They need to be able to run creative reporting independently — give them the keys to the car — as well as to get more in-depth reports from BI/analytics teams. 

 

With accelerated change right now, this is more critical than ever, and the Acquisition teams depend on rapid and in-sync learning from the Creative team’s side. 

“Our instinct has never been less equipped to help us through this. So we’re really doubling down on the data.”

 – Rebecca Nackson, CEO, Notable

That’s not just about growth, it’s also about brand safety. Creative doesn’t just age, it also communicates different things based on what’s happening in the world. A message that is fine one day is tone deaf the next simply due to current events. Backlash in the case of a seriously out-of-place message could derail your growth or even seriously threaten the survival of your company.

So it’s critical that your Creative team has the tools it needs to stay current and effective.

Six: Retention

Everything you do is impacted by retention. How many new users or customers you need to acquire, how valuable the ones you did get are, and whether you can maintain cost-effective growth is all dependent on retention.

And when paid acquisition is slow because cash is in short supply, both organic acquisition and retention becomes even more important.

“A lot of marketers are in a zero-budget space now. So we have to be very creative.”

 – Justė Rastenytė, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Trafi

Whether this is a team, an individual, or a collective responsibility, whoever is focused on retention needs accurate cohort data on longevity and monetization. Insights into which cohorts from what sources perform better needs to get back to Acquisition. Data on how users or customers respond to revenue-generation attempts needs to be available to Monetization. Insights on product changes needs to go back to Product.

Mess up retention, and pretty much nothing else matters.

Acquisition can’t fill a bottomless bucket. Product can’t deliver improvements to users who are already gone. Finance can model revenue curves, but without engagement and retention, they’ll just be a fantasy.

Seven: Product

Honestly, product should probably be first in this list. Without an app or product that creates a customer experience, there’s nothing that marketing can even onboard users or customers onto. And without the right user experience, no-one stays.

But mobile product development teams need to be extremely in tune with acquisition, retention, and monetization efforts. With shutdown, many gaming apps found that users traveled through the stages and levels of their apps much quicker: if in normal times it took a week to go through three levels, with COVID-19 it took less than a day.

Similarly, customer acquisition funnels and customer journeys have been shortened for retail apps, fitness-related apps, even news apps.

Ensuring that all teams stay synced up is critical. Monetization might come faster. Disillusionment with the app experience might also come faster. And we know that retention has been a challenge during Coronavirus. The acquisition funnel is important. But the growth loop, which product is a key part of, is essential.

Maximum marketing alignment

If aligning your marketing teams is both critical and challenging in the best of times, how much harder is it now when we’re stressed, separated, lonely, and physically siloed? LinkedIn, Lyft, Poshmark, and Calm use Singular to align their teams around common KPIs, metrics, and goals.

If it works for them, chances are it’s going to work for you as well.

Actionable insights in a single view. Creative reporting for all your ads. Scalable attribution for 100% of your user and customer acquisition. Reliable piping of data wherever you want it. And full transparency into normalized outcomes as well as costs and revenues. Growth, Design, BI/analytics, Design, and Finance: all on the same team.

Here’s how to achieve it …

Our economy in apps: Tracking coronavirus impact from January to the future

Whoever invented the backhanded curse “may you live in interesting times” must have seen the year 2020 coming. As I write this on June 1, protests over the terrible death of George Floyd in the United States have been raging for a week and questions of equity and justice, and Rodney King’s “can’t we all just get along” are on the front burner. All the while, global health is still very much an issue.

As we’ve been doing here for months now, I want to trace and track what coronavirus has been doing to both global and local communities.

What we’ve seen so far:

App use is changing
Digital marketing spend is changing
App installs — especially organic — are up
Change is accelerating
Lockdown is bad for retention

As we’ve looked at the hard data, we’ve gotten advice from 250 CMOs and marketing leaders on what to do now, and we’ve looked at 7 massive reasons why, especially now, you need to monitor marketing ROI maniacally.

So now I want to take a larger view. I want to look at 2020 in apps and mobile and see what the big trends over the last five months reveal, using a data sample size of about 2.5 billion app installs. And then we’ll do something new: we’re going to pull out our crystal ball and attempt some predictions for where things will go in the near future.

 

Where we’ve been: Analyzing 2.5 billion app installs

We lost the dip

Traditionally over the last three years, there’s been a New Year dip in app install activity. January has still been relatively high with the Christmas and New Year’s hangover, but February has typically dropped significantly.

This year, there hasn’t been a dip. Paid acquisition continued at January levels and then began a faster rise. Traditionally after a recovery in March, there’s a long slow slope into summer where user acquisition accelerates. This year, paid acquisition accelerated in early and late February, then increased significantly in late March and early May. Organic grew as well.

Betting is back, baby

Sports or no sports, betting is back. 

There was a Super Bowl spike in February, and then a massive drop due to sports cancellations. There was another spike in March — probably in anticipation of March Madness basketball action, which of course never ended up happening — and then growth in April and May even though there were no professional sports going on.

Apparently, bettors are more into betting than they are into sports. They’ve found new things to gamble on: weather, the stock market, eSports … and once-obscure sports from countries that haven’t shut down completely, like Ukrainian table tennis.

Sports news is toast

While gamblers seem to have been able to transfer their passion to new activities, sports fanatics simply have had nowhere to go. Sports news has just been happening for most of the last two months:

There is a ray of hope, however. 

Sports news app installs are up 5X in the last week — and yes, that’s off of a very low base — probably thanks to rumors and early returns about sports reopening. The Bundesliga is playing soccer (football) again in Germany, the NHL has announced plans for how it will return when able, and the NFL has never backed off its intention to play its season on schedule.

Streaming entertainment got hot, stayed hot, and is still (pretty) hot

When you’re hot, you’re hot. And organic installs are a wonderful thing, as the streaming entertainment industry is finding out.

Streaming has cooled off just a little in the last few weeks, but the interesting thing is that streaming media app installs are still 88.34% organic. Paid acquisition has remained much at the same level all year so far, but the lockdown caused total installs to basically double.

Reopening will depress these numbers somewhat as people are able to resume their normal day-to-day activities. But those who didn’t finish binging The Office or are waiting to find out what happens at the end of Grey’s Anatomy might need to choose which streaming apps to stick with coming out of quarantine.

Gaming is still King Kong

When all human life leaves the planet and nothing but cockroaches can survive, mobile games will still be here. Gaming is always huge on Google Play and the App Store, and the global pandemic just accelerated and increased that dominance.

Even reopening isn’t stopping gaming, or even really slowing it down.

Health & fitness: New Year’s all the time

Health and fitness always spikes in the new year thanks to New Year resolutions. But after a dip in March, we realized that our gyms were not opening any time soon. 

And that means that consumer health and fitness investments are back up to traditional January week one and two levels, which is (yes, here’s that word) unprecedented. Anyone who has recently tried to buy fitness equipment knows this from personal experience.

Retail and mobile commerce: essential service?

Imagine a Coronavirus world without Amazon or other retailers that are just a tap in an app away from delivering toilet paper, supplies, food, electronics, and more. It’s challenging, and consumers agree. Retail rose in March, spiked in April, and is still high in May.

What about subscription boxes? Subscription retail is not quite as hot: seeing money drip away monthly for non-essentials is less appealing, likely, for people who aren’t certain about their financial futures. However, it’s still up.

Up and down: dating, social, travel, news

Social communication apps are still up. Dating apps saw a big surge in mid-March that has since cooled.

Travel remains a very challenging category to be in, of course. Travel apps and hotel apps are markedly still down, of course, though car rental has seen some interesting spikes at times. Travel search engines, interestingly, spiked in mid-March and, to a lesser extent, in mid May. Part of that is likely due to rescheduling and cancellations, but part of that is also due to reopening and a rush to go somewhere, anywhere. 

In addition, with pricing yo-yoing all over the place, there are some fabulous deals on flexible travel that consumers opted to take a chance on.

And news, which spiked early in the year, slowed, then spiked again in March, is still high and is on an upward trend in May.

Looking to the future: mid 2020

With lockdowns and reopening plus civil unrest and potential second and third waves of pandemic all happening at the same time, it’s challenging to predict the future.

But here are few thoughts on what is likely to impact the mobile, digital, and offline economics of the next three to six months:

  • Reopening is happening, like it or not
    • That means travel is going to slowly recover. Expect that to be mostly regional for now, as international travel will still have challenges with different regulations and quarantine periods in different countries.
    • Mapping apps and utility apps will slowly grow as well.
  • Some percentage of people will stay mostly locked down
    • Delivery and on-demand services for food and meals will still be important.
    • Mobile and e-commerce will remain critical.
  • Remote work is here to stay
    • Some will go back to offices, and others who can’t work remotely never left.
    • But many will continue to work at home, and they’ll still need tools and products to enable that. In fact, those who are now realizing that this is their new normal will continue to invest in home office hardware and software.
  • Unemployment is high, and will only slowly decrease
    • Monetization will stay challenging.
    • IAPs will take a hit as people look to save money.
    • Free is going to continue to be a very important price point.
  • Advertising is down about 20% to 30%
    • Freemium models will have to run leaner as ad-based monetization gets more challenging. 
    • IAPs won’t be able to pick up the slack (see above).
  • News will be big
    • “Interesting times” means interesting news means downloads and installs.
    • And, don’t forget, it’s an election year in the U.S.
  • Social and communication apps will remain hot
    • We need to communicate, so the standard tools will stay hot.
    • But we’re also bifurcating into different reality bubbles, and that’s going to fuel different social networks mostly focused on people who think and feel the same way.
  • Big in-person events just won’t happen at scale

Overall, life is going to continue to get more digital. That means opportunity for mobile players, but also challenges. And while a rising tide lifts all boats, a sinking ship drowns everyone. There’s a lot of hard work in the future for builders and marketers and publishers to grow, to pivot, to serve, and to prosper.

Just as importantly, there’s a lot of work to be done to bring everyone together so that all benefit from the rewards.