The end of the year is always the time to take stock, see what worked in Mobile Growth and plan for the coming year.
What happened? What changed? What worked? What didn’t? It seems we have all the questions but none of the answers, until now.
I decided to pick the brains of the best ASO people I know to see what they have to say about the coming year. From changes to trends, it seems ASO is becoming more and more dominant in the overall marketing makeup.
Pour a coffee, sit back and have a squizz, here are a few things to think about in holiday season break before Q1.
From conversion to growth
Historically, conversion rates were seen to be the metric that could surface the exact points of failure in the acquisition funnel but it can often be responsible for simply creating noise and panic.
Like any other team, ASO teams want to be measured on quantitative impact and that’s usually been based around conversion rates as opposed to product KPIs. But they belie the truth as conversion rates are volatile and affected by so many different factors (and different teams). Consider a change to your app store creatives, conversions can be increasing steadily because of the change but revenues can still decrease.
Being able to isolate the impact of ASO efforts on conversions or any other metrics requires a broader outlook, turning ASO into a central piece of the growth puzzle. Companies that successfully drive sustainable growth have built sophisticated and diverse ASO teams. They are capable of quickly executing a series of creative conversion tests, managing UA spend, planning and monitoring keyword experiments, and evaluating an app’s conversion rates on pre-launch and concept phase. It’s a simultaneous and multi-pronged approach and looks at various metrics for success.
The focus should be on what actually moves the business internally, not just from an acquisition perspective but from other metrics like engagement and revenues. And it mirrors the trend we’re seeing in the industry of the switch from Chief Marketing Officer to Chief Growth Officer. This move signals an industry-wide move towards a more performance-orientated marketing philosophy. One that knows that singular metrics can be deceiving.
The changing face of UA
One of the things we’re going to see this coming year is UA becoming leaner. Automation means that the manual tracking and calibration of campaigns will be a thing of the past and the role of a campaign manager is going to look very different in the near future as they move towards more strategic tasks. CPIs are going to rise as more and more companies can begin to advertise without significant overhead and UA teams will have to figure out how they diversify their contributions.
User acquisition is being democratized. Automation levels the playing field by automating the campaign management expertise so midmarket players that have budget but small teams have the most to gain.
The key role will be trying to best understand the platform algorithms and zooming into the factors that are entirely in your control such as budgets, bidding, creative optimization and onboarding within the app. There will be a need to feed the platforms creatives at scale.
In many ways, this could be an opportunity to stop and really focus in on creative experimentation and deeper analysis of what is and isn’t working within your funnel. Analysis tools are going to become more prevalent as work begins on trying to understand how creatives perform on ad networks, their effects on return on ad spend (ROAS) and building a holistic picture of how advertising in one network impacts another.
Great UA managers have always seen the holistic picture. They had to understand their apps, the way it is used, what benefits and value it holds to the users and understanding what triggers them. The role of UA teams will evolve from one that is more technical to one that is more strategic and more holistic, paving the way for further investment in big-picture strategy and the interconnectedness of all the various marketing efforts.
App Store Developments
2020 will be the year when the battle around the 30% fee will intensify with more companies joining Epic Games as they lead the charge to find workarounds. This might draw certain countries, most likely in the EU, to start looking into the matter as an antitrust issue.
The Google Play and the App Store will continue to try and differentiate themselves from one another by creating more platform-specific value. The introduction of Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass will continue to grow and support a completely separate business model for mobile games and apps where select developers won’t need to think about monetization in the way that once was as higher-quality games will challenge the existing paid games market. More users will opt into experiencing apps with no ads or in-app purchases creating a business model based on factors such as engagement with the app, session time, and more.
This is the platforms’ way of focusing on better user experience and the current monetization models are an obstacle in the way to that better experience. Both platforms will continue to reward apps that provide their users with the best experience possible. These apps will rank higher on the charts, be featured more, and will rank higher in search results for the most relevant keywords. In this same vein, I envision a more personalized experience in both stores with more personalized search results based on previous searches and preferences.
The focus on personalization in ASO (like Google Play Custom Store Listings) means that new opportunities will arise for smart marketing teams to leverage their strongest messaging strategy per audience through their product page creatives.
Any new platforms? The Huawei store (AppGallery) won’t take off in the West as users will continue to have trust issues and Western focused developers won’t see the right risk/reward profile in order to invest in this new distribution platform any time soon.
Trends to get right in 2020
The biggest strategic ASO development will be a more intentional cross funnel optimization strategy. By matching UA to ASO and to product efforts, it will create across the board targeting strategies so that your ASO efforts reinforce the overall company strategy.
This means optimizing messaging across the funnel to reduce drop rates within the stores and increase retention rates thereafter. If UA is doing a big push to reengage lapsed users, you’ll want to update your app store creatives to speak directly to those even if it means ignoring newer users for the time that the campaign is running.
Retention can also be bolstered by priming users for promotions and specific new experiences that the product team is planning. Priming users through the app stores’ messaging builds a much more cohesive user experience and enhances engagement for the lifetime of the user.
Regarding trends, it seems like more and more teams are playing in the dark mode space. In iOS specifically, there seems to be a trend towards darker images, more black and navy forming the backgrounds to creatives to better transition between the modes and reduce friction and stark contrast when changing between them. Screenshots are popping up in landscape mode more often in the non-gaming sphere, notably productivity, food and content streaming verticals. Panoramic images are also having a moment again as well as a strong focus on social proof messaging.
Trends come and go and should always be assessed and tested for the merits they bring to your specific user base and industry.
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