How gaming companies can weather the economic downturn leveraging preload campaigns

By Tal Inbar
How to leverage preload campaigns for gaming apps - featured

While debates continue as to the extent of the marketing downturn in which we find ourselves, it’s no secret that the ecosystem is drastically different from what it was only six months ago. 

Specifically, the mobile gaming sector, which enjoyed large growth over the pandemic and has since seen a dip in demand, is tasked with weathering this economic storm, amid negatively impacted consumer spend combined with  20% less budget

Many market leaders argue that now, more than ever, is the time to invest in branding. When analyzing trends of company performances over recessions, the Harvard Business Review notes “Building and maintaining strong brands—ones that customers recognize and trust—remains one of the best ways to reduce business risk.”

While we don’t have a silver bullet for you, we do recommend  leveraging preload campaigns, the mechanism that pre-installs your app onto devices.

All eyes on you: Preload and the brand appeal

Preload campaigns offer a unique branding (and potential revenue) opportunity for your app, as users will see your logo directly on their home screen, without ever having to be directed to the app store to download your app. 

This is huge because 95% of gaming app users install apps within the first 48 hours of owning a device.

While it usually takes a user between 3-7 brand exposures before becoming loyal users, preload campaigns significantly help move the needle by ensuring that eyeballs gravitate toward your brand each time a user’s phone is unlocked. In fact, 32% of users that came from preload sources continued to regularly interact with the preloaded app one month after they initially engaged with it. This is especially impactful when compared to the mere 14% of users that do not come from preloaded sources and continue to engage with an app a month after install

As if you didn’t need any more convincing that preload campaigns were a solid bet, we’d also like to point out their massive scale. You can opt to preload your app on devices across countries and state lines, for every potential user that purchases a device you’re operating on.  

User Acquisition through preload campaigns is a game-changer due to its  scale that you can’t find anywhere else. Preloads became a must campaign for gaming apps

Ben Holmes, VP, Performance & Brand Revenue, Digital Turbine

While preload campaigns are prime real estate for branding, not all preload campaigns are created equally, and a winning preload strategy can separate the cost-effective from the less efficient. Some companies will innovate beyond the general frameworks of preload to push the boundaries and offer marketers the greatest amount of insights possible, so that they can truly measure everything and make good choices. These aspects include clear and concise views of both the app launch and app conversion rates

The innovative and unique preload attribution that AppsFlyer has spearheaded, has enabled Glance Lock Screen & Home Screen platform to offer performance marketers the ability to effectively measure across the user journey by providing a comprehensive suite of integrated tools to gaming studios as it goes beyond game discovery, enabling marketers to reach, acquire, and re-engage consumers throughout their user journey.

Vinay Uttamchandani, VP, Product Management, Glance

Game on: Moving acquisition to the next level

gaming apps leveraging preload campaigns to drive retention

Despite the market conditions, global smartphone ownership grew by more than two percent in the last part of 2022. 

Android globally remains the leading operating system, maintaining a 70% market share of the European market, and growing their reach in Asia as well as Latin America. Android devices globally offer many preload options with various OEM carriers, which you can leverage to reach your ideal users. 

When selecting which carriers to run preload campaigns on, there are a few factors you should consider:

  1. The demographics of your ideal user persona can determine the device that you would like to run preload campaigns with. For example, women in North America between the ages of 35-40 may be more likely to buy a specific phone type than men between the ages of 18-25. Analyzing the ideal user persona of the games you offer will help grow the effectiveness of your preload campaigns.
  2. Specific regions that you would like to grow your userbase in. Say, for example, you’re interested in growing your user base in Great Britain or Japan. Google Pixel is experiencing leading popularity in those regions and could be considered a great avenue for preload campaigns.
  3. The market conditions also come into play when determining which providers to choose when running your preload campaigns. For example, the outbreak of COVID saw a slump in consumer demands for smartphones by 20% in Switzerland, Italy, and Spain. During a marketing downturn telecom companies that are cost effective climb in popularity.

Next level completed: leveraging preload campaigns to drive retention

Gaming app growth trends show that focusing efforts on maximizing returning players, as opposed to generating new ones, proves to be much more effective for significant app growth. 

Some gaming apps have navigated difficult economic climates in the past by prioritizing the ‘enjoyability factor’ to ensure that, once their users open the app, they’re having a great experience.  

However, what many gaming companies have failed to crack is how to ensure users return to their app to begin with. It’s excellent when the game experience is great, but if a user doesn’t remember to relaunch the app, it doesn’t help much. 

Despite the fact that gaming apps know they need to maximize their budget by focusing on user retention, only 10% of mobile app marketers remarket on Android and iOS.

Preload campaigns offer a new channel to drive users back to your game app, as they enable UA managers to send notifications on the device to drive re-engagements. For example, an acquisition manager can send a push notification to all users that have completed level 5 but not yet made an IAP (in app purchase) to unlock level 6. 

Jumping to level 5: agility and preloads

Use preload campaigns with completing levels pushes

While market conditions remain unclear, agility and adaptation remain the primary forces that can help gaming companies weather this uncertain climate. 

New methods of preload campaigns enable UA managers to opt for their app to automatically be preloaded upon connection to wifi or based off of a recommendation list when the app undergoes standard updates. 

In this sense, UA managers are able to move quickly and iterate within the methods that work, as opposed to being locked into preload campaigns, which is the case for preload upon factory install. In fact, data shows that this new variation of preload campaigns can increase conversion rates by 20%, as compared to the static form of preloads. 

Tailoring preload to level up your app

When defining the preload strategy that’s right for your business, there are customizations that can fit the unique characteristics of your app. However, depending on the characteristics of your game, preload metrics may need to be evaluated in a different way.

Compared to traditional UA channels, users acquired through preload campaigns have a distinctive engagement experience which means performance advertisers need to look at KPIs differently. Unlike traditional UA channels, in which, users are exposed to thousands of low impact ads within one game, preload campaigns offer enable measurement  from the first touch on a new device, before any other platform can find them and before it gets crowded with continuous exposure to the app – as users see the app icon repeatedly on their device home screen. Given the unique characteristics, performance advertisers are required to look at longer attribution windows in order to see the true value of a preload campaign. Optimal results for preloads campaigns will be achieved after 30-60 days.

Ryan Cook,  RVP, Performance Sales EMEA, Digital Turbine

When defining the backend of your preload strategy, you can customize both the lookback window, as noted above, and the priority preload attribution receives when determining all the factors that drove users to engage with your app. Some gaming companies will opt to always keep preload attribution as the highest drive for a user opening their app, due to the branding and enhanced visibility that preload offers. Other gaming companies may choose to select flexible priority so that other efforts, such as investment in PPC ads, can be identified, when evaluating the winning effort that led to the app open.

Making your next move in an uncertain climate

While it can be difficult to weather unstable times, consistently looking for new channels for growth and optimizing existing ones are key. Looking ahead, it’s critical to leverage preload as a channel that fits into your wide acquisition strategy. Looking at your wider user journey can help companies of all sizes cut through the noise and develop impactful relationships with their customers.

As gaming companies buckle up for an epic journey ahead in this current economic turmoil – enhanced measurement capabilities are critical.  Glance and AppsFlyer have collaborated to launch the industry-first transparent preload referrer attribution methodology. With this methodology, gaming companies can achieve precise attribution results while protecting user privacy. This is because it relies on independent referrer matching, ensuring accurate measurements without compromising privacy. As the world embarks on the ID-less attribution techniques in the Android ecosystem – this method provides a clean, cost-effective, and deterministic approach that’s powered by OEM and Telcos.

Vinay Uttamchandani, VP, Product Management, Glance

Leveraging a diversified strategy that includes preload, as well as multiple other touchpoints can be critical to growth in an economic downturn, and beyond. As we look toward the rest of 2023, we’re optimistic that a clear, yet agile strategy can be the mobile gaming industry’s key to a bright and sunny future.

Tal Inbar

Tal Inbar is Director of Product at AppsFlyer. Over the past 6 years, Tal has devoted himself to helping marketers gain a holistic view of their growth engines by providing real-time attribution and measurement. Currently, Tal focuses on building solutions that continue to help marketer’s thrive by pushing the boundaries of what technology can offer to help solve business needs.

Follow Tal Inbar

Ready to start making good choices?