Neither 2020 nor 2021 were particularly easy for mobile growth professionals. Like a Mike Tyson right hook, Covid-19 hit in March 2020. However, the industry was strong enough to not only get back up — but managed to thrive.
In 2021 Tyson circled back wearing Apple-branded shorts, and punched again roaring “iOS 14.5!”
Even after that third punch, we managed to stand firm. Finally the big guy took out his mouthguard to whisper “iOS 15 is coming, baby.”
In 2022, we predict new-gen mobile marketers like yourself are going to experience huge growth and be on a trajectory where you will thrive for years to come. But how, exactly, when targeting is messed up now that networks have zero access to user-level data, and measurement is broken?
All you need to do is read a few public companies earnings call transcripts to understand what’s at the top of every C-level executive’s mind at every mobile company these days… how they can ensure they’re able to grow their apps and games audiences accretively.
For the past six months, the Storemaven team has worked closely with many industry leaders to put together a mobile app growth strategy (powered by Storemaven technology) that helps mobile marketing teams grow their audiences in this newly formed data landscape.
- Using Mobile Audience Data & Finding Your Mobile App Target Audience
- What is the Audience Growth Stack?
- Building an Audience Growth Stack Strategy
- Implement Audience Growth Stack with Storemaven
Using Mobile Audience Data & Finding Your Mobile App Target Audience
Let’s think about yesterday’s reality when your audience grew month-to-month, quarter-to-quarter, and year-to-year. You probably relied on:
- Using user-level data (IDFA most likely) to enable extremely high-quality campaign targeting on social platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Tiktok, and other ad networks.
- Measuring the performance of specific ad creatives and campaigns using an MMP, which led to a Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) centric mindset as the IDFA enabled deterministic attribution.
- Optimizing your product page for a specific audience you cared about or aimed it at the lowest common denominator thanks to only having one product page per localization/country.
In that long-gone reality, what actually happened was this: you “outsourced” the function of audience growth to ad networks and paid for it with user-level data, when that exchange was still OK by the platforms (Apple & Google).
Since iOS 14.5, the exchange is mostly impossible, especially with social ad networks. There are still ad networks out there that engage in server-to-server fingerprinting with MMPs, trying to replicate some of what was possible with the IDFA. But as Apple made clear, this is going away soon, and any party engaging in such fingerprinting is playing with fire. Apple would probably start banning this type of practice by knocking out an SDK or two and imposing sanctions on apps/games that use them.
Welcome to today’s reality:
- You’re now in charge. No more outsourcing audience growth to ad networks that used massive user graphs to find you a constant stream of high-quality users.
The ad networks can still provide you with inventory and some targeting, but you’re mostly responsible for telling them what to do that will result in quality users seeing your ads. The networks simply don’t have the information on who a quality user is for you anymore. You must now give the networks other signals to produce great results.
- Instead of measuring deterministic ROAS through the MMP, you have only two sources to rely on, really:
- SKAdNetwork (Apple’s StoreKit Ad Network) is still extremely unreliable and produces mixed signals. This is due to “privacy thresholds” and other issues, some by-design, such as a limit on how much downstream information you can associate with user source (very little, through the limited conversionValues model).
- App Store Connect is expanding its data offering to provide a much more reliable, though aggregated, view of the value you’re getting from each “source.” This is in the form of sales, proceedings, and average proceedings per user. As App Store Connect can’t report on campaigns, it reports on referrers in the form of sub-publishers, the app from which a user got to your product page, most likely through an ad.
- With these data sources, you need to employ tools such as incrementality and media-mix-modeling to understand the performance of different channels and sub-publishers, and inform your user acquisition strategy.
What is the Audience Growth Stack?
So the audience growth methodology is aimed at achieving accretive audience growth in today’s reality.
In a nutshell, it has three pillars:
- Providing frictionless access to data
- Providing the ability to quickly see what impacts audience growth
- Which results in your ability to invest and deploy capital and time in avenues that grow your audience accretively.
This audience growth stack framework was the same framework that was used for years across mobile marketing, web marketing, and every type of marketing in the world to measure app growth rate. But in 2022, the audience growth stack that you’ll use to achieve success with this framework has completely changed.
Download the full app audience growth stack for 2022
Let’s explore what it contains now.
Building an Audience Growth Stack Strategy
1. Unlock frictionless mobile audience data access: Create an audience growth database
The following are the most relevant data sources you need to access now that the MMP can no longer present accurate data (besides aggregating SKAdNetwork data if you’re not collecting the postback data yourself.)
The role of MMPs has changed forever. They do still offer valuable capabilities, such as managing conversionValue sets and logic, but looking at them as your sole performance dashboard won’t do the trick for real audience growth.
- App Store Connect Data – this is the only place in the world to get reliable Sales and Proceedings, downloads, and re-downloads data per source (Search, Browse, Explore.) Plus per sub-publisher (the source app that drove a user to your product page.) It simply does not exist anywhere else.
If you want to understand the value of your efforts, this is the only source you can trust.
No, it’s not the type of user-level, campaign-level, segmented data you’re used to. It’s aggregated, and instead of campaign-level, it’s at a sub-publisher level. But don’t try to recreate the past, unless you want another Tyson punch.
- Google Play Developer Console – similar to how App Store Connect is one of the most important sources of truths, viewing the Android alternative is crucial. On the Google Play side, mobile audience data is organized in a different way with Google Play third party referrers for example.
Bringing this data to the same place as App Store Connect is imperative for a holistic view of your app’s performance.
- Apple Search Ads Console – to understand your search funnel, you must break down the organic and paid search. Unfortunately, App Store Connect includes only total search figures. To break it down, you need to calculate organics by subtracting paid search from total search.
Moreover, App Search Ads data includes valuable data on the performance of keywords (through the Keyword Popularity Score) which will allow you to understand the impact of marketing activities on things such as branded search volume.
- SKAdNetwork – SKAN has many issues in terms of reporting full postabacks for every install, and failing to report on conversion Values until you cross a certain “privacy threshold” with your campaign. These issues might be fixed in the future, and the data here is valuable, but it can’t be viewed on its own, it must be combined with data from the consoles if you’re to get a good grasp of performance. Take this data with a grain of salt.
- App Store Intelligence Data – keyword ranking and chart ranking is valuable to understand over time how to measure the impact of your marketing activities later on, as well as collecting data on events such as featuring on the App Store.
- Ad Networks Data – getting data from the networks, either through the MMP who’ll collect it for you, or directly from them through APIs, is crucial. You need to understand cost over time and understand campaign performance, especially when looking at data at a sub-publisher level. This will allow you down the line to understand the real profitability of your ad network spend as well as ensuring you’re purchasing inventory from the right sub-publishers that you concluded drive the most value to you.
- Marketing events – data without context is very limited in its ability to tell you the story of what’s really going on. When analyzing any type of performance data, you need to have a clear timeline of every relevant event to your mobile marketing performance, such as changes to your paid user acquisition (new channel, budget changes, bid changes, ad creative strategy changes), featuring events in the app stores, industry changes (algo changes), TV campaigns, Influencer campaigns, competitor changes, and more.
Taking all this data and creating an Audience Growth Database is quite the feat, and anyone who has tried to do it in the past has the scars to prove it. A vast majority of this data is hidden inside platforms with tough-to-navigate UI’s, and a big chunk has no public API at all.
I’m a marketer like you, albeit in a different space (B2B). The more time I spend trying to engineer my mobile audience data and create the right views for analysis = less time I have to think about solutions to marketing problems, or better – come up with ideas for growing our audience and executing them.
Marketers shouldn’t be spending even one minute solving data engineering problems. That’s not going to make you a great marketer. You should be thinking about mobile app growth or executing on growth 24/7 (not really 24/7, learn when to stop, your family is more important than installs.)
You deserve a platform that does everything I’ve described, that allows you to avoid waiting months for a data engineering team to put together half a dashboard just to add some data-driven thinking to your day.
Storemaven solved the problem so you don’t have to. Even before building world-class solutions for audience growth, we made sure we could enable you to have your own audience growth database. So we developed an App Data Management Platform, a hassle-free, code-less integration with all these data sources, as well as enriching the data with an automated marketing event timeline.
2. Identify quickly what impacts audience growth
Now that you have frictionless access to all relevant real-time data, you need applications to quickly see what impacts audience growth.
Here are the key technologies and capabilities you need to achieve it:
- Contextual audience segmentation & finding opportunities with campaign agnostic install-cohorts based revenues
As the campaign-driven view of your data is broken, you need to change the paradigm (without access to user-level data it’s impossible at worst, or highly inaccurate at best to try and associate user revenues to campaigns and ad creatives).
With data coming in from App Store Connect and Google Developer Console, you can change the way you look at audience growth sources from campaigns to sources at the sub-publisher level.
What does it mean? You can measure the performance of each sub-publisher in terms of impressions, downloads & re-downloads, sales, and even retention together with the ad network mix that’s driving the traffic from that specific sub-publisher.
One of the most exciting innovations in this area by Apple, is the additional ability to see install cohort revenues over time at a source and sub-publisher level. For example you can:
– see the D7 Revenues figures for each source and sub-publisher.
– then group sub-publishers by context (think story-rich match-3 games, hidden object games, social casino slot games, etc) and
– measure their performance as one unified funnel.
You can also segment your search audience by the types of keywords that are driving traffic and whether they’re branded, competitor-oriented, or genre specific (think “puzzle games”.)
By segmenting your audience and studying each one’s performance, you can easily see which audience drives the most value to your app and game. This is crucial information that’ll allow you to design holistic funnels (ad creative -> custom product page) to maximize growth for each audience segment.
You can of course regain control and give the ad networks better targeting signals by setting up specific campaigns via whitelists of sub-publishers and direct your ads at each of these segments.
By studying the value each segment generates through looking at Sales and retention figures from the store consoles, you can identify opportunities for mobile app growth, such as increasing spend with specific sub-publishers that seem promising. Or even expanding campaigns with similar sub-publishers using the same context (like finding more hidden object games for your hidden object funnel).
So with contextual audience segmentation, you’re regaining critical knowledge on who your top audiences are, where they really come from, and which are impacting mobile growth.
- Native and lab product page testing
So, after segmenting your audiences and grasping who your top audiences are plus the context that drives them, you need a way to quickly see what type of product page creatives can impact growth.
With new App Store capabilities, this can be achieved through native testing for your organic funnels, or Custom Product Pages for specific audience segments (powered by Storemaven Custom Product Page testing technology).
Want to gauge how specific audiences respond to a new game or app idea? Want to dive-deep on the impact of how different creatives and messages impact user behavior on your product pages, as well as conversion rates?
You need a robust replicated App Store product page testing technology.
With this technology in place, you’ll have everything you need to understand how creatives in the App Store impact audience growth.
- Monitor all paid and organic install funnels & perform intelligent pre/post analysis & forecasting
From day to day, week to week, you must have a way of monitoring all your paid and organic install funnels over time, and also the changes to your marketing input. This means keeping track of the impact of important changes in your industry, the world, or how your marketing activities are impacting growth.
These marketing “events” should be tracked on a timeline to allow you to identify how they relate and correlate to changes in your audience growth.
This can be done by running intelligent pre/post analyses. Measure a KPI performance X weeks before & after a marketing event), taking into account external and internal events that happened around the time of the marketing event. Also, leverage data-science tools to determine, with a high-degree of confidence, the true impact on your KPIs and audience growth.
Doing all of this will allow you to answer crucial questions such as:
- What was the effect of the featuring placement? How many sales did it generate? Does it make sense to put the investment back in to attempt another featuring placement?
- How did the keyword changes in your app’s metadata affect organic search and browse volume through top charts ranking improvements?
- Did your new Apple Search Ads campaign create an incremental lift to your search install volume and quality? Or did it cannibalize your organic search install volume?
- What was the impact of the new app/game feature around user invites on branded search?
In order to achieve intelligent, event-driven monitoring and run smart pre/post analysis, you need a platform that does all of it.
It can be done by wiring together a stack of BI tools and a lot of Excel or SQL/Python work, but there’s an easier solution.
Storemaven’s Polarbeam and Funnel Analytics solution allows you to do all of it with no code, no hassle, by just a few clicks of a button.
3. Make investment decisions that are proven to fuel mobile app growth
Now you have frictionless access to all your relevant data. And you have capabilities and methodologies to quickly see what impacts audience growth. Now, you can take data-driven actions that’ll boost your mobile app growth.
Instead of doing what every other mobile marketer (and your competitors) are doing, you’ll be working to get insights that others probably don’t even understand.
Perhaps you’ve seen it before? An app or game in your category that blew up out of nowhere, and you still don’t understand how that kind of growth was achieved. Well, by nailing the first two pillars of the Audience Growth Stack, you’ll have the closest thing to superpowers any mobile marketer can get.
You’ll be the only one with clarity, smashing your KPIs like never before because you’ll know which avenues you should be investing in to improve your KPIs. It’s that simple.
In the “make decisions” pillar we cover four main areas you can work with.
- Improve your funnel conversion rates & reach your best audiences with Data-Driven Designs
After you’ve segmented your audiences into funnels, and identified the ones that drive the most value, it’s time for further investment to improve their performance.
One of the most effective ways to do this is by improving funnel conversion rates through contextual creatives. Meaning, ad creatives and product page creatives match the core motivations of a certain audience to install an app/game. These creatives will convey different motivations for these users depending on the funnel (match-3 funnel, hidden-object funnel, endless runner funnel, etc.)
So one of the most effective components in the “investment” pillar is to deploy a data-driven design process that goes through:
- Research: who are the people that make up the audience in your top funnels, what drives them to install, where are they truly coming from?
- Hypothesizing: for this group of people, what is the most likely messaging and creative they need to see, and interact with, in order to be convinced to install your app/game?
- Design: translating hypotheses to ad creatives and product page creatives by guiding designers through world-class design briefs. These are based on data that has proven to have worked in the past, what’s working in the category, and how users interact with ads and product pages.
- Deploy and iterate: a great deployment process that allows you to smartly monitor the impact of these new creatives, and a robust testing mechanism that allows you to test different hypotheses to find the most effective one. This is through native App Store & Google Play product page experiments, Storemaven install Product Page A/B testing, as well as custom product page testing powered by Storemaven.
If you’re thinking about ways to scale such a creative process, our in-house Design Studio can help. We’d love to connect you to our team of expert designers who’ll provide high-quality designs on-demand to help you execute your data-driven design operation.
- Create holistic funnels by Scheduling & Dynamic optimization of product pages
Another important avenue is drawing up holistic contextual funnels to these top pages by creating CPPs that are effective to your top funnels. Envision a custom product page specific to a funnel made up of dozens of “story-driven match-3 games.”
This includes implementing these custom product pages as the destination users will land on after they tap on an ad from specific sources, or find your app through organic search or browsing.
You can compare this process to “mining” your audience. Before, you had one product page for all funnels, and you converted a certain audience you optimized for, losing the rest. Now you can have the perfect messaging on your custom product page to maximize conversion rates for each funnel.
- Increase investment and spend in the top channels driving audience growth then double down (paid search, organic search, ad networks, SANs, etc.)
As the world quickly finds out that performance on self attributing ad networks such as Facebook is deteriorating, more and more budgets will move to ad networks and chase sub-publishers that drive great value in the form of high LTV users.
After gaining access to sub-publisher level data and analyzing which ones are contributing the most to value, in the form of installs and revenues you can quickly identify the top ad networks that are driving most of your audience growth, and invest more in them.
You can also identify non ad network channels that are driving a lot of revenue and allocate your time and resources to improve them (for example, identifying that organic search coming in from specific keywords is driving a lot of sales — so double-down on increasing search visibility for these keywords.)
- Optimize your ad network bidding and direct your UA at the source apps (sub-publishers) that drive the most value in terms of installs and sales
You know which sub-publishers are driving the most value because you can easily see the average revenue per user coming in at a cohort level (D1, D7, D30 and more). So you can aim your UA budgets at these sub-publishers, and increase the traffic coming in from them by adjusting your bid to match your profitability target and ROAS targets.
You can also identify sub-publishers who are “eating up” your UA budget but aren’t driving high-quality users. Block them by uploading specific black lists, or use white lists to target only specific sub-publishers from a certain contextual group.
This will allow you to significantly increase your paid growth and more importantly, grow your audience accretively at the maximum growth rate possible.
Implement Audience Growth Stack with Storemaven
2022 is going to be a monumental year for the mobile industry. We will be characterized by smart teams moving away from user-level data being at the core of growth, towards the audience growth stack.
Storemaven has launched the only platform in the world that enables you to implement the audience growth stack with ease, whether you’re in UA, ASO, or mobile marketing.
You can check out the platform here and book some time to see it live.