Category Deep Dive: User Acquisition Platform
User Acquisition is an essential part of marketing in a profit-driven business. Together with engagement and retention, it creates a cycle that sustains the business and can facilitate its expansion. After all, without users, there’s no business; and without new users, there’s often no viable path for growth.
While user acquisition practices differ from company to company, patterns emerge when we zoom out. In the mobile marketing industry, user acquisition is often the most substantial post-launch marketing investment every year. Frequently, it’s the single largest number on the books for the entire company.
With the expenditure so high, one would expect there to be some framework to govern it. And herein lies the biggest challenge of user acquisition: consistency. Audiences move from channel to channel, each with its voice and best practices. The breakneck speed of innovation ensures there’s always some new growth hacking workflow to attempt before the entire market finds out about it. Siloed data streams and disjointed KPIs hamper the ability to analyze the entire activity.
The consistency challenge is what User Acquisition Platforms like Bidalgo are here to address. Their purpose is to bring order to the chaos of user acquisition. These platforms maximize the value of each dollar spent, and each person-hour invested, by creating an orchestration layer for activity management, automation, and analysis above the different channels and measurement platforms.
User Acquisition Platforms, also referred to as Campaign Management Platforms, enable marketers to manage, optimize, and analyze their activity across multiple channels using a unified interface, often with at least some level of automation. There’s also the added benefit of cross-source insights, unavailable when looking at only one component of the activity. That is why the largest companies, even with their own robust BI, turn to dedicated platforms for user acquisition.
The Three Pillars of User Acquisition
To understand what User Acquisition Platforms do, we must break down the process of user acquisition into distinct components. One popular way of doing this is to look separately at the managerial, analytical, and creative aspects of UA. For each, you’re likely to find some solution within a mature User Acquisition Platform.
- Campaign analysis is the ability to glean actionable insights from individual campaigns and holistic results across all your app activity. Some of these are straightforward (“how much do I pay on average for an ad click?”), while others require processed and cross-referenced data (“who actually saw my ads?”).
- Campaign management is the operational toolset of a User Acquisition platform, enabling UA managers to launch, stop, edit, and refresh campaigns. Although most UA channels provide their own ads managers with robust and easy-to-use interfaces,having a centralized platform to manage dozens of campaigns across several channels is much easier and more effective, leaving UA managers more time to focus on strategic tasks
- Creative management is pretty much everything that has to do with the ad creative. Here, there’s no baseline capability level. While some platforms offer limited creative-related functionality, very few have full analysis, insights and auto-production— the capability to generate creative assets based on past successes.
These three pillars often have another ingredient mixed in — automation. It’s worth remembering that there’s no intrinsic value to automation; what matters is the value derived from it. Still, we live in an age of big data, and UA platforms often find a way to create some value by automating parts of the User Acquisition process.
Deep-Rooted Problems Require Bespoke Solutions
As we’ve mentioned at the beginning of this article, User Acquisition Platforms are not merely tools of convenience for mobile marketers. These toolsets are in a unique position to help maximize your advertising ROI, address real pain points and remove growth bottlenecks as efficiently as possible.
The Data Conundrum
Is there such a thing as too much data? Yes. Ideally, you work with as much data as you can process efficiently. Ingest less than that, and you’re missing some potentially valuable insights. Collect more, and you will find yourself bogged down by all the noise.
In fact, marketers often handle an average of 10-15 ad networks simultaneously, resulting in hundreds of subsets and thousands of manual actions they need to take in order to maintain their campaigns. That’s a hugely time consuming and inefficient activity.
But above all, their ability to monitor performance, make correct bids, and take actions in real-time is very limited. It ends up hurting their ability to successfully scale their activity and maximize ROAS.
Modern UA platforms significantly increase the data processing capacity of a marketing department, especially cross-referenced data from multiple channels and sources. Cross-referencing is essential for precise, actionable insights, as these can be generated more efficiently by combining channel data with attribution data available through attribution providers like AppsFlyer.
Attribution providers are necessary for smart decision-making, as they can provide accurate and granular attribution data. When done correctly, it’s a complex yet immensely-valuable process, designed to avoid uncertainty in cases such as competing credit claims by media partners. This data is also important for its portability. User Acquisition Platforms such as Bidalgo, for example, integrate with AppsFlyer via its campaign management integration to enrich their analysis and automation capabilities.
Data processing capacity is also of the utmost importance when a company decides to implement a multi-channel User Acquisition strategy. Even with a BI system in place, importing all of the data and processing it in a way that’s conducive to truly actionable insights will require a very significant investment.
How Can You Scale Creativity?
Ad creative, together with bidding and audiences, are the main ingredients in every UA recipe. The latter two are very numbers-oriented, and easily digestible by algorithms. As a result, they were the first to be impacted by the shift to a more automated campaign management. Every step taken in that direction had the added benefit of removing friction from UA workflows, and opening up the market to new players.
Ad creative, on the other hand, is still the purview of human marketers. Working in tandem with designers, they have to translate creative endeavors into concrete numbers and KPIs. Without understanding what makes a creative asset successful, it isn’t easy to replicate that success. And even with the winning formula in hand, creative production is a labor-intensive process.
Within Bidalgo, Creative Management encompasses the entire lifecycle of an ad—from production to evential fatigue. Here, the ability to analyze data from multiple sources comes in handy yet again for creative-centric analysis across campaigns and channels. And at every step, it’s the combination of data from the marketing channel with attribution data from a measurement platform like AppsFlyer that makes building a bridge between creativity and productivity possible.
Bidalgo features such as creative auto-production, which generates asset iterations at the click of a button, rely on having accurate data about the past performance of “parent” assets. The ability to assign predictive creative rank to an asset before it had been tested wouldn’t have been possible without analyzing vast amounts of data to “understand” creative success. And in order to recognize the earliest signs of creative fatigue, UA managers need access to accurate, cross-campaign performance data of an asset over time.
Efficient Management Drives Effective Growth
We live in an age of audience fragmentation. The meteoric rise of TikTok throughout 2019 and 2020 is just the latest example of an exciting upstart redefining what’s cool and where the users are. So while a single-channel activity can still prove effective, a broader, multi-channel UA strategy generally leads to greater opportunities for efficiency, growth and diversification — especially if your audience is relatively narrow.
With each new marketing channel, a new layer of complexity is added to UA workflows. This includes budgets, now split between different accounts on different platforms, as well as management and analysis flows. Moreover, most 1st party campaign management interfaces aren’t built with power users in mind, as their explicit purpose is to make online marketing accessible to all. The most advanced tools are often hidden or obscured.
User Acquisition Platforms simplify this process and unify multi-channel campaign management under one roof. Not all platforms have the same set of features, but you’re likely to find some bulk action capabilities, streamlined campaign creation and replication, bulk analysis, and maybe automation.
Who Needs a User Acquisition Platform?
Extolling the virtues of UA platforms is easy, but we must add some context: not every mobile marketing activity requires such a toolset. There are many marketers for whom first-party ads managers and a spreadsheet are more than enough. If you’re not trying to scale your activity and are satisfied with your current return on marketing investment—there’s a good chance you’re not missing much.
It is when there’s a nagging sensation that current tools are inadequate, that a User Acquisition Platform can help. Even then, it’s essential to try and understand where growth bottlenecks are, and whether they’re technological in nature. If they are, there’s probably a platform for that.