The term “mobile marketing automation” tends to be everywhere these days, used by many companies to refer solely to app re-engagement and retention. If a user hasn’t opened an app for three days, a “traditional” mobile marketing automation platform might simply send that user a notification urging them to come back. Pretty standard stuff, and not very intuitive.

Peter Dille is the CMO of Tapjoy

Above: Peter Dille is the CMO of Tapjoy

Image Credit: CastAR

But lately the technologies for automating marketing campaigns have evolved and are now being applied to monetization as well.

Take, for instance, a user who has never made a purchase in a specific app before, but whose behaviors, when compared to historical data of other users, indicate a willingness to do so if the right offer came along at the right moment. That is obviously a compelling opportunity to turn a non-spender into a spender. The good news for app developers is that mobile marketing automation technologies have gotten to the point where they can help identify that user, figure out the right offer, and deliver it at the most opportune time.

Some of this is already being done by many of the top game and app developers. And not just to increase IAP promotions, but also to deliver advertising offers, engagement campaigns, cross-promotions, app updates, and a number of other messages that increase the overall lifetime value of each and every one of their app users.


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Of course, in order to work most effectively, these campaigns must be implemented and executed in a thoughtful, methodical manner.

Below, we have identified a six-step process that freemium app developers can use to take advantage of today’s burgeoning mobile marketing automation tools in order to increase app engagement and monetization.

1) Understand users’ behaviors

For any type of campaign to succeed, developers must first understand their users’ behaviors and the motivations behind them.

What price point is likely to get a certain user to make a purchase? Which items or services are they most likely to pay for? What is most likely to trigger their first purchase? Their second? Their tenth? What kinds of rewards (free coins, extra lives, unlocked content) do they want most? How likely are they to refer a friend? Why or why not? Which features do they use most often, and what new features would they most like to see?

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The answers to these questions and others like them will give developers a foundation for knowing what kinds of campaigns will resonate with which users and create a more clear path forward.

2) Build advanced user segments

Not all users are created equal. They must be treated as individuals, and in order to do that at scale, developers have to divide their user base into distinct segments.

These segments are often called cohorts, and there is a practically infinite variety of ways to create them, using factors such as users’ in-app behaviors, their country of origin, referral source, app version, device type, operating system, friends count, and other characteristics. A cohort could be as broad as “All users in the U.S.” or as narrow as “Users in Thailand who came from a specific ad network, have completed level ten in the game, and have made at least two purchases worth $4.99 or more over the last four weeks.”

The more specific, the better.

3) Set up custom messages and campaigns

Once cohorts are created, developers can start targeting those groups with custom messages and campaigns.

For instance, the more complex cohort described above might be interested in purchasing an app’s more valuable (and expensive) items, since they’re regular buyers, or “whales.” Other buyers — those whom we might consider “minnows” because they don’t tend to buy very often or spend very much — might be interested in a promotional campaign for a discount on an app’s more affordable items or in the opportunity to engage in a rewarded advertisement.

To those users who are never going to make an in-app purchase, developers need to stop sending them IAP promotions altogether.

Depending on what type of user they are, developers would be better off monetizing them through targeted advertising offers, or forgetting about monetization altogether and simply focus on trying to increase their engagement, virality, or retention.

4) Deliver messages during contextually relevant moments

The next step in perfecting a mobile marketing automation strategy is to pick the right moments to serve campaigns.

Consider a non-paying user who’s been targeted to receive a rewarded video offer. If the offer is served when they first open the app, there is no relevancy to the context and the ad is only blocking them from doing what they came to do. But suppose that ad is served right after the user has lost a “life” at the end of a great run in an endless running game, and they are offered the chance to revive their run by simply watching a 15-second video.

The offer actually adds value to the context of their experience, which makes the user happy while the developer earns additional revenue.

5) Select the right channel

In-app messages aren’t the only way to promote campaigns.

Push notifications are a great way to reach users who might not have used an app for a while. Although push tends to get used most often for re-engagement campaigns, it can be an especially great way to drive monetization among the various groups of minnows, dolphins, and whales — or those free users who are predicted to become purchasers. Developers should segment their users the same way they would for in-app messaging and then try testing the impact of notifications to promote virtual items or currency discounts.

6) Track, measure, and optimize

The final step, as with any campaign, is to continually improve upon your results.

Be sure to track what effect each campaign has on overall monetization, how certain cohorts are engaging compared to similar groups, which types of campaigns are most effective for specific cohorts, and so on. At the same time, it’s important to test, measure, and optimize every variable within a campaign, such as the text and creative, the channel, the offer itself, and anything else that affects performance. There is practically no end to the data developers should be tracking and the questions they should be asking themselves in order to optimize performance of their campaigns.


Mobile marketing automation represents the future of app engagement and monetization. It allows app developers to forge one-to-one relationship with their users in order to deliver more personalized app experiences, and to generate more engagement and value from each and every user.

While the solutions that enable mobile marketing automation are beginning to mature, many app developers are still learning the best practices to make the most of the tools at their disposal. Acting on these tips should be a good start for any developer looking to increase their app’s engagement, retention, and overall revenue.

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