Mobile user acquisition is still a hard slog. Listen to what the experts say about it.

Kakao Talk

Above: Kakao Talk: One way to get people to play your games in Asia.

Image Credit: Kakao

GamesBeat: What do you think of using a mobile messaging network to get your users for you?

Birnbryer: Why not? You look at the Korean and Japanese markets, they basically just build apps for Line and KakaoTalk. You look at Tango here in the states, they originally made games just to play with someone while you’re messaging with them. Now they have games you can build on their platform. It’s a cool idea. It’s the same idea as to why we’d market your games for you, in messaging apps.

One of our largest sub sets as far as publishers is messaging apps. We work with them because they have this great reach. They have people coming in and out of the app on a regular basis. They’re used to seeing messages. Here’s a message to go download something. I believe very strongly in working with messaging apps to get your message out.

Peng: It depends on your strategy and your goal. Is your goal revenue right now? How much control do you want to have? It varies by region. For example, in Korea, you might find it difficult to distribute yourself because a lot of relationships need to be built there. It’s a very agency-focused area. Kakao is an easy way to make a buck and get your apps distributed.

Working with these platforms, though, they also demand a lot of control, exclusivity, and things like that. You have to figure out if it aligns with your business goals and strategies.

GamesBeat: What would you say is your best tip for the audience?

Peng: One big thing, developers are very conscious of fraud. They’re very careful of where things are coming from. My biggest tip is, only use vertical channels, vertical networks, and sources that you understand. When we work with third parties, especially AppLift, we know they vet every partner that they work with. They screen them or whitelist them. They have a process that we understand and that we both agree on.

Things can get out of control. You might not know where certain things are coming from, why something is happening, why these clicks are coming in when you didn’t buy them. Always know what you’re buying. Make sure there’s a strong level of trust with every partner that you work with.

Bruch: One of the things that’s helpful for the developers we work with is understanding our audience. Why do they come to our site? Do they engage with our site on a level that will translate into your app?

We’re a bit different from AppLift in that we’re just a suite of sites. Publisher’s Clearing House has a lotto game, a blackjack game. We create our own content, and within that site we have tons of users coming in each month. To an earlier point, we’re very transparent. We’ll show you the properties. We’ll show you what the user experience is, the ad units, things like that. We’re in a different position there.

If you can, get to know the place where your ad’s going to be placed. If that user seems like it’s going to be a great fit — we’ve had a lot of success with social casinos. Our users come and enter for chances to win sweepstakes. They play lotto cards. It seems like a natural fit that a social casino would do well there. We drive high CPIs for those partners. When you look at the backend, they say, “Wow, you’re one of our top quality providers” because it’s a very natural fit.

If you do your due diligence and find partners that might have a fit with your game, based on the audience that’s going to see those ads, in those cases you’re going to have good opportunities to achieve success. I vet out each opportunity differently. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. You have to go in and test the waters each time.

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Birnbryer: I say this a lot, but build an app that’s fun and cool and exciting first. Build the experience, and then focus on monetization later. To touch on what James said, it is about trust. This is a relationship. When you’re looking to find UA, it’s about constant contact. It’s about working in lockstep with that partner to drive those users for you. You want someone who’s out in the market on your behalf. Have that open conversation with them. Talk to them every day.

Some people are like, “I’m getting calls night after night.” That’s great. I always want to talk to you. I want to know exactly what your pain points are and what your successes are, so that I can help maximize the successes and minimize the downfalls. Have open communication. Trust that partner. Build that rapport. That’s going to help drive your business long term.

Share data. If you’re asking me to go out and find you a user that’s equal to X, then share those in-app events with us. Let me know that this channel is driving this, this channel has this many in-app purchases, and then I can go out and optimize for you. The more you make this a partnership rather than just a client relationship, it’s going to pay off. You can work with 150 different people, or you can very successfully work with five, or even one or two. Working with a handful of people, you can get so much more out of a deep relationship, as opposed to a very shallow, but wide relationship.

Question: What do you think about the optimal payback period for what you measure? Obviously, if you’re willing to get paid back in two years versus a year, you can spend more to acquire a customer. But your retention rates, your ARPPU (average revenue per paying user), might decay a little bit. When you guys are doing it internally, how do you think about an optimal payback period?

Peng: That varies by game. It’s sort of a BS answer, but that’s how it is. We run a portfolio of games across a lot of different genres, from puzzle and social casino to mid-core games. Each of them has a different payer profile. Some of them are front-loaded in terms of per-payer revenue. Bubble Mania has more than 400 levels, so we expect a longer time frame — more than six months — to reap that revenue. We also have users who play multiple games. So it’s difficult to say that there’s a very specific time you expect to recoup.

It depends on your game design. If you want to structure your mechanics to recoup in three months, then you should optimize towards that period. But it depends on you. When do you need to have your money back? If you can stretch out the player life cycle, I would offer more engagement and deeper gameplay than an up-front monetization period. That’s what I would aim toward when designing a game.

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