supersonic-logoThe mobile advertising system has exploded — but it’s also left many overwhelmed and confused. In this series titled “Maximizing Mobile Ad Monetization” and presented by Supersonic, publishers learn how to take back the reins and navigate the intricacies of mobile advertising. See the whole series here.

The reality is if you build it, they are not guaranteed to come. According to a recent Venturebeat Insights report, nearly 70 percent of apps in the app store collect less than 5,000 downloads and 60 percent never see an update after launch.

Clearly, releasing your app is only half the battle. Getting people to use it ultimately determines whether you have a success or just another dud.

Here are six steps to kickstart your acquisition funnel and set you on the right path to generating ROI positive users:

1. Lay a foundation

Imagine your app store page as the face of your funnel. It’s perhaps the most important gateway a user engages with before installing your app. Ensure your presence here is optimized and compelling. This entails having a catchy app title (don’t forget the app icon!), a detailed set of screenshots, and a description copy that is concise and utilizes keywords your users are searching for. Also consider adding video creatives in your app store page. “If a picture says a thousand words, then a video is worth a million.”

Virality and social proof are also important prerequisites for a strong acquisition funnel. Set the stage by providing a creative outlet within your app to generate word of mouth. Whether you reward in-game tokens or remove ads momentarily, encourage users to share in-app content and invite friends.

Apps live and die by their reviews and ratings. Pay close attention to this area in your app store page by addressing all customer complaints in a timely and professional matter. Neglecting this will reflect on your app, tarnishing its ratings and turning away installs.

2. Consider a soft launch

Soft launching presents invaluable awareness for product validation. But moreover, it provides key insight around pricing metrics preemptive to jumping into your primary market.

For instance, if you harbor any reluctance in your UA strategy for the U.S. market, launch in a region with similar characteristics like Canada. Observe your incent to non-incent traffic. Which ratios worked best? What did you pay per user segment? Did it generate a return? How long did your campaign run before experiencing diminishing value?

Create a comparable checklist like the one above and test the waters to build buyers’ confidence. Extrapolate what works and apply in your desired market.

3. Focus on performance channels

Traditional methods like PR, social, and ASO (App Store Optimization) are cost-effective ways to attract organic users. These strategies, however, are standard to every developer’s marketing plan and often not enough to warrant high volume growth.

Extend your reach by supplementing with performance mobile marketing. Mobile advertising will be the biggest contributor to app installs and can kickstart a much larger flow of organic users to your app.

If your goal is to reach top charts or rank in a specific category, burst campaigns are your best bet. Burst campaigns, structured purely around user volume, increase your app’s discoverability in the app store resulting in significant organic lift.

If your goal is to boost user engagement, compliment your paid acquisition with a series of sustained campaigns. Performance advertisers will explore sustained campaigns with no specific volume goal but rather user ROI. These are typically carried out on weekends (when the app store is the most active), after an app update, or when engagement is in a lull.

4. Scrutinize the user LTV

User LTV (lifetime value) is a pivotal metric to know inside and out before you begin marketing your mobile app. Understanding this will define the elusive break-even point and help plan your acquisition budget around profitability.

Start with Lloyd Melnick’s unofficial formula for user LTVs:

  • Monetization: how much revenue each customer segment spends or generates over their lifetime in the game or app. This includes KPIs such as ARPDAU (average revenue per daily active user), ARPPU (average revenue per paying user) and ARPU (average revenue per user).
  • Retention is how often people come back to your game, how frequently within a certain period of time (for example, every day, every week, every month) and how often they stay in the game when they play.
  • Virality is how many additional (free) users each user will bring in (also often measured over a specific period of time).

To generate ROI positive users, work strictly in a model in which each user segment’s LTV exceeds its correlating CPI (cost per install). As long as this differentiation is made, continue advertising this segment, frequently adjusting your CPI around its return.

If CPI’s begin exceeding the lifetime value of a particular user segment, the profit margin is lost and no longer sustainable. At this junction you have one of two options: optimize this channel by adjusting rates and formats, or stop this campaign altogether.

 5. Utilize high performing ad formats

When deciding on ad formats, it’s important to prioritize each based on the user quality output. Focusing purely on click through rates or engagement is dubious and does not guarantee a delivery of ROI positive users.

Once you recognize that install ads are an extension of your apps onboarding process, the better you can prioritize your budget. Banner ads, although economical and easy to scale, generally deliver bottom-of-the-totem-pole type users with low LTVs. These formats are considerably disconnected from the app experience and do not say enough about your app to provoke a quality install. Conversely, formats such as video app trailers and HD interstitial ads are much more enticing and informative, delivering a higher percentage of quality users.

Every format has their perks and price. Determine a mix that makes sense for your budget.

 6. Optimize and scale

Before committing your entire UA budget, strongly consider running a test campaign. You’ll typically want to run these for a minimum of 20 days to gather enough behavioral data. Observe these results to scale only the well-performing ad sources while adjusting the poor.

The best partners and campaign managers will work closely with you to optimize your user traffic and adjust rates on the fly. Using post-install metrics, they can automatically white or blacklist ad sources ensuring your budget is spent wisely.

As always, A/B test your ad creatives and CTAs to present only the best-performing combinations. These will ideally be carried out during the test period, maximizing your install performance come game day.

The myriad of variables involved make mobile user acquisition quite enigmatic, and something only experience and testing can solve. Industry veterans know there is no one size fits all and as the ecosystem evolves, so must their strategies.

At the end of the day, every user has a price. It’s up to you to determine if they’re worth it.

Got other tips to add? Share with us in the comments below or on Twitter @SupersonicAds.

Terry Koh is the Content Marketing Manager at Supersonic. Supersonic is the mobile monetization and user acquisition platform of choice for the app economy.

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