How User Acquisition Changed in 2013 – A Look Back

by GameHouse

In this weeks App Marketing Conversations: Ryan Morel of GameHouse, Robi Ganguly of Apptentive and Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ discuss the changing landscape of mobile user acquisition. Watch the video, or read the transcript below!

Ryan:  Good morning, and welcome to another edition of App Marketing Conversations. I am Ryan Morel with GameHouse. As always, I’m here with Robi Ganguly of Apptentive and Ian Sefferman of MobileDev HQ. So as we close out the end of another year of App Marketing Conversations and [inaudible 0:21] conversations, the app market in general, I wanted to take a look back at what’s happened over the last year, and then next week will talk about what to expect in 2014.

One of the things that we saw, at least from my view, is a shift in how marketers think about how they’re going to actually acquire users, right? So for a large part of 2010, ’11, ’12, it was really about, “I’m going to spend as much money as I can to go out and to buy users on either an incentivized or un-incentivized basis to just rise up the ranks as fast as possible.”

And 2013 feels like the year when we started to move away from that, and developers and marketers especially got a lot smarter about the long-term user acquisition strategy. So Ian, from your perspective what was the biggest change, especially to app store optimization obviously being part of that. So was that the biggest thing you saw change from a marketing perspective?

Ian:     No. There are a bunch of factors going into it, in my opinion. One was simply it just cost a fortune to do that now if you want to do it. To compete with a Candy Crush is very costly. So that’s one piece. I think another piece is the platform owners don’t want that happening, and they’re trying to figure out ways to stop that from happening. They’re including ratings in the rankings and things like that, and three, marketers are realizing, “Whoa, hey, do we want to do this at all costs?”

The answer is no. They want to do this profitably. So those things all coming together has created this nice convergent zone of, “We just don’t want to spend money to acquire users at all costs.”

Ryan:  Yeah. Your point is interesting. This is the year we really heard about cohorts and finding the right users and driving as much LTV as possible. So from your perspective, how have developer and marketers behavior changed as it relates to making sure we’re targeting the right people, acquiring them and retaining them?

Ian:     Well, I think one of the things I have seen is that the team responsible for mobile has grown. A couple of years ago if you had a couple of engineers and a PM you were lucky. Last year you started seeing marketers get into the game. This year there’s users acquisition, there’s somebody doing LTV modeling, there’s a business owner, there’s an actual PNL that’s folding back in to the general corporate strategy for the parent company, and so the sophistication of the questions that people are asking has become much larger, especially as they have been asked to spend 10X what they were spending two years ago.

So just the maturity of the organizations that are in the mobile space, I think, has led to people asking harder, tougher questions, and then thinking more about what else should we be doing? As we’ve seen more of the search engine optimization skill sets move into the marketing function for mobile, or at least assume some of that role, I think they have necessarily brought some of their viewpoints that it’s not just buying traffic.

Ryan:  What I have heard you say that I think is an interesting point is that as mobile got big enough and the dollars became real, the businesses started to care. We just went through a normal business process.

Ian:     It feels that way. I mean, you work with a lot of that

Ryan:  I do. I think that’s true. It’s really interesting, and especially watching the other thing is, like we talked about before, this wasn’t just the year of games, right. As you branched out of games, games were easier to play that role, but as you branched out of games people had to think about it in different ways, and it also meant that the teams coming into it were more seasoned teams on the marketing side, as you were talking about. So all that stuff coming together and making it happen.

Ian:     Yeah. So now what we see are marketers who are going out to acquire users, or just marketing their app in general and taking a wholistic approach in looking at all of the different avenues that they can go down for app store SEO to potential engagement, users acquisition and just SEO in general.

Ryan:  A lot of them are actually starting to think about what are the partnerships I get so that I can actually drive installs through other sites, or I could drive installs through OEM deals? How do I get on handsets? The notion about a decade ago of trying to get installed on the [neck] hasn’t gone away. It has morphed a little bit, but I definitely see marketers looking at interesting ways to get creative installs with manufacturers on the phones, or with packages, or with software too. That’s interesting, right? People are looking around and saying, “Where is a good fit for me?”

Ian:     Yeah. So that’s an interesting divergence of IOS and Android. So there is no OEM pre installed on Apple, but there is on Android. Let’s be realistic, if you’re not a name brand or have something really interesting you’re not going to get an OEM installed, so don’t waste your time on that.

Ryan:  But if you are one of those guys, how do you think about who is the right OEM to target, who is the right carrier to target with your app or your offer?

Ian:     I think a lot of that has to do with geography. So if a carrier is really strong in the geography where you’re strong, and you are in some way tapping into their strategy, their interest in being localized, or actually using very specific geo fencing to offer carrier bound, like, push text and marketing opportunities then you start to help them push for their strategy because the carriers are all looking for ways to differentiate.

So that’s definitely a place, and if you have a big name brand, whether you’re a retailer or you’re an entertainment company, I’m seeing that some of those folks, some of the carriers would be really interested in buying just because they want to have some unique apps.

Robi:   For those people who have never done this and don’t know the first thing about it, do you want to go to the carriers or do you want to go to the handset?

Ryan:  So I’ve done these deals before. The carriers always tell you to go to the handset manufacturers. The handset manufacturers always tell you to go to the carriers. They’re hard. Ultimately what goes on the deck is defined by the carriers in most cases. You just have to find the right person the carrier is going to champion. But be aware of the difficulty.

One final question I have. What other differences have you seen come up this year between IOS and the Android, and how marketers can go about acquiring [inaudible 7:35]?

Robi:   This is something that people definitely talk about on the other side as well. Personally, I think that Google Play has done all of the innovation this year. I haven’t seen iOS do almost anything. We will see what the Topsy deal is. That’s interesting. I have no idea what they actually want that for, but Google Play, they are changing a lot, they are doing interesting things. The biggest change that Apple made was applying ratings to the rankings.

So it seems like Google Play is incrementally getting ahead of Apple in terms of innovation and uniqueness in the app stores.

Ryan:  Okay.

Ian:     I would layer on to that that the innovation in the app store space that Google is leading is definitely waking developers up to it more. I’m hearing a lot more developers say it’s easier to develop for them, or they have these good things, and then also seeing more work on the Microsoft Nokia side of things to make their app store more interesting to developers, and this program called [Develop] that’s really cool.

There is the awareness in the space that Apple is complacent, and Google is definitely taking advantage of it in some ways. But Amazon, Microsoft, Nokia and other folks are paying attention and saying, “What can we do?” I think ultimately that’s good for developers and marketers. The marketplaces actually have to complete with one another with features and helping each other out.

Ryan:  Okay. Good. I would probably disagree that Apple is complacent. But that’s another topic.

Ryan:  Okay, so thanks for watching very much. Thanks for watching very much? Thanks very much for watching. Make sure to like this video. Subscribe to our channel and check out the other segments from Ian and Robi.

By Ryan Morel

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