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How Agencies Use Data to Help Gaming Apps Level Up

Florence Broder May 18, 2016

Our Performance Series has explored the challenges of various publishers in different verticals like eToro, Softonic and Aviasales as well as an ad network, IronSource. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include the agency perspective in this mix. So many in the industry turn to agencies with a specific expertise in user acquisition, retargeting or engagement. Not to mention there are many agencies that have a niche in certain verticals.

We spoke with Phil Shpilberg, President of GameChangerSF, a mobile marketing agency focused on free-to-play games and apps. The company’s raison d’être is making their clients more money. They engage in the highest ROI paid user acquisition. While they are data driven, they are also as Phil puts it, “decidedly un-programmatic since we have smart humans do stuff.”

Florence: Thanks so much for agreeing to participate in our Performance Series. Tell us,

Why do so many marketers say ROI is not yet measurable on mobile? Is the data unavailable, or are marketers not using the right tools? Is it true of all app verticals?

Phil: While there are still challenges to measuring ROI on mobile in some scenarios, we track ROI for our free-to-play mobile game customers. Source tracking services, like AppsFlyer, help us do that with a simple tool.  We engage our clients early and make sure they have the right tools ready. With the right preparation, ROI on mobile advertising is mostly measurable. See dream tool comment for scenarios that aren’t easily measurable today.

For most, Facebook is a major, sometimes essential, component to most paid mobile user acquisition efforts. How do you measure the ROI of your Facebook campaigns?

We use AppsFlyer and, other Facebook Measurement Partners, to measure ROI on Facebook. AppsFlyer’s toolset is particularly well suited for Facebook ROI measurement because we can see KPIs at the country, platform, campaign and ad-set level and can figure out exactly what targeting is working best for us.

How do you measure user lifetime value for your clients? What elements are do marketers miss when calculating their user LTV?

Most of our clients derive 90% of their customer value from in-app-purchase (IAP). Measuring LTV is a function of understanding the monetization curve and average user lifetime. We can usually get a good idea of LTV after a few weeks and refine the model as we get more data. Interestingly, we see great variation between channels and even targeting within channels, so constant measurement and iteration is very important.

How do you connect the dots across your customer journey? What are some of the challenges of measuring the customer journey in various verticals?

Being an agency focused on ROI, we have a simpler task than a developer. We focus on getting users into the games, that are more valuable than the baseline (which is often organic installs). That is our job, to maximize every dollar spent in advertising and our main tool is user source tracking, with monetization events tracked to source.

A burning industry question is usually about Retargeting vs UA. Please talk about your budget allocation (if allowed), degree of connection between activities and which pricing model do you most commonly?

In the first few months we launch a game we typically focus almost exclusively on acquisition. But as a game matures, we find a lot of value in bringing users back. We can spend up to 30-50% of the advertising budget on retargeting. The pricing model is channel specific, but we are generally thinking about the value of bringing a particular type of user (one that paid vs. one that was just very engaged).

What are 3-5 KPIs you focus on with your clients? Do you measure them with rich in-app events? How do they vary for each vertical?

We are ultimately focused on ROAS (ROI). We track spend and return and maximize the ratio. When we get the best ROAS for our clients, we are doing our job. Some games may not yet be profitable and there we focus on quality users, as measured by retention. For any KPI, we establish a baseline and aim to outperform it. As marketers we don’t have direct influence over an app’s monetization/retention/in-app KPIs but we are responsible for bringing in the best available users. So we aim to beat the baseline user, which is often an organic user. Organic users, are the ones that find the app themselves because of needs, and those users tend to set the high bar for all KPIs.

What’s your dream KPI – even if it’s not yet available

We would love to know the full value of a user, not just the in-app-purchase value. Because some users bring in others (virality) or generate value in other ways (like viewing ads), we would like to know the full value of every user we bring in.