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How to tap into the promotion power of mobile apps

11th May 2015
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Mobile apps now represent a market of more than €17,5 billion Euro, according to the last report by European Commission, ‘Sizing EU App Economy’, which also highlights this sector remains one of the fields with the highest potential for growth and development.

It is a highly competitive field in which Europe can play at the same level as the US. In fact, today both regions take 42% of the business each. EU developers have successfully leveraged global app platforms as a way of reaching otherwise-hard-to-reach North American and global consumers.

The EU app-developer workforce will grow to 2.8 million in 2018. EU spending — including user spending and advertising — added up to €6.1 billion in 2013, representing 30% of the global total. By 2018 this will have grown to €18.7 billion, according to the European Commission forecast.

An ever-evolving environment

This market, which didn ́t exist until six years ago, has not only grown very rapidly, but it has also evolved in a particular way: In the first stages, the popularity and the quantity of downloads was the main goal of the app developer. Today, with mass adoption and huge download numbers in the industry (more than one million apps available in iOS and Android) factors like engagement and return on investment (ROI) have become far more important.

For a while, the market was dominated by systems that incentivised app downloads. The restrictions imposed, especially by Apple, on these models as well as on app discovery services, have brought about a radical change, which has also been enforced with the change in the App Store algorithm. With this, Apple aims to have its app ranking reflect more qualitative parameters, beyond downloads, such as user retention and user engagement.

Mobile app promotion - a smart investment

In this context, it is important to know what to do in order to reap the expected results from an investment in any app promotion. When trying to attract new users, it is not enough to be well positioned in stores rankings (iTunes App Stores, Google Play, Windows Play, etc.). Of course, it is important to cover all the optimisation basics inside the store, but now it is both possible and advisable to invest in mobile marketing actions to promote your app outside the store.

To ensure success of the campaign, it is important to set up clear objectives from the start, and to work with providers that can best align with those.

A very usual objective in app promotion campaigns is the ‘download’ or ‘install’ of the app. And there are a number of vendors who work on a pricing model in which they just charge when a user has downloaded the app and open it for the first time (what is known as Cost per Install). If the only goal is to get installs, this would be the ideal model, but be careful: often these CPI models, offering volumes sustained over time, can only rely on incentivised downloads, i.e. when users receive an incentive (i.e. points or extra lives in a game) in exchange for installing the app.

If the final objective is not the installation of the app, but for the user to interact and remain active, this is probably not the best model. Luckily, today it is possible to use tools that measure engagement with the app, as well as working only with vendors that maximize this engagement and avoiding ‘low quality users’.

CPI will not be the only KPI to determine the success of the campaign, then, but the Cost Per Engagement, where the advertiser defines what ‘engagement’ means.

Once you can measure what users do after installing an app, you might discover that there are users that have installed it but haven’t ever used it, or at least haven’t used it as much as you would like. If this is the case, new strategies and campaigns can be developed focused on these users with a call to action - retargeting campaigns. In this case, CPI is not relevant at all. The campaign is shown to users that already have the app installed and the cost per engagement is determined by the advertiser: cost per registration and cost per acquisition, etc.

App marketing in three steps

Metrics and analytics

Before starting to promote any app, KPIs should be established which when measured will determine the level of success of the campaign. To properly measure these indicators, tracking tools need to be inserted into the app in question, whether they are from a specific channel or from a specialised tracking provider which can measure in different channels (Mobile App Tracking from HasOffers, Adx Tracking or Kochava are examples of the latter).

These tools not only allow the advertiser to measure, but they should also inform the advertising channel in real time, in order to optimise the advertising process. Some tips:

  • Measure post-install events, so you can avoid traffic sources that generate lots of traffic with no engagement.
  • Work with tracking tools that can support retargeting actions: some tools attribute every post- install event to the channel that generated the install, so it is impossible to create campaigns focused on users that already have the app installed.
  • Depending on the kind of app, different sizes of attribution windows may be required. An attribution window is the time elapsed between the click and the user triggering a conversion (install or post-install event). Often a user clicks and downloads the app, but doesn ́t open the app until some days later, and that’s when the install will be counted. It is therefore important to work with tracking tools that are flexible around this point.

New user acquisition

To capture new users it is best to work with providers who can maximize the objectives of the campaign, and not just the volume of installs. The best way to identify these providers is to measure properly. Nowadays, there are programmatic buying platforms which can measure retention levels, engagement and interaction, and then use this information in real time, to make media buying decisions, improving the results of the campaigns as they go.

One further consideration before launching advertising campaigns to capture new users, is the importance of compiling enough information about patterns registered without campaigns, in order to have a base to compare with.

Loyalty and retargeting

Advertising campaigns don ́t need to be limited to new user acquisition. The same channels can be used to generate loyalty among existing users. Not every provider can support this kind of campaign, but those who can are able to allow advertisers to create personalised messages to different profiles of users, and to measure the return on investment of each impact. For example, you can impact those users that have already installed the app but have not registered with a specific offer.

The correct execution of mobile advertising activity, combined with proper optimisation in the app stores are vital to gaining attention, but remember this will only work when the app is good quality and brings real value to its users and is of good quality – an important consideration, but ultimately one that lies beyond the realms of advertising.

Noelia Amoedo is CEO of Mediasmart.

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