Episode #52: Alternative UA Channels and Strategies with Vladimir Alov

For this episode of Mobile Growth and Pancakes, we sat down with Stoloto's Head of Growth Marketing to hear more about mobile performance, organic traffic and the TikTok effect.

In this episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes, Esther Shatz is joined by Vladimir Alov, Head of Growth Marketing (Mobile) at Stoloto. They discuss the effect of mobile performance from TikTok, the growth of organic traffic via alternative app stores, and how to tame a mobile agency.

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“It’s really important to find and work with an agency that understands your product, your app, and your goals”

Vladimir Alov

Key takeaways:

  • Exceeding three billion downloads, TikTok is one of the highest performing social apps that offer great potential for user acquisition. What sets TikTok apart is the ability to make creative ads that are not recognized as ads by TikTok users.
  • Setting precise targets on TikTok can get you more high-quality traffic.
  • You also have the opportunity to easily direct users to your product landing page with a web-to-app solution. When doing that, set up TikTok Pixel correctly on your landing page to track every conversion better. 
  • You can use app store alternatives to Google Play and AppStore, like  Huawei’s AppGallery, which offers great features. But setting up campaigns for alternative stores comes with some optimization issues. However, you can solve those issues with web-to-app.

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Full transcript:

Esther: Welcome to Mobile Growth & Pancakes. I’m excited to be joined today by Vladimir Alov. Vladimir, do you want to introduce yourself?

Vladimir: Thank you for having me here. My name is Vladimir, I’m working with mobile marketing. I’ve been working here since I think 2016. I have been working with different kinds of mobile marketing, today I actually work with a lottery, betting, and casinos. Should I talk about my background, I think yes?

Esther: Yes. Give a little, give us a little.

Vladimir: Yes. If to talk short, it was like 2016 when I started to think about what kind of area should I dedicate, like what should I do? I have no clue how mobile marketing works and to say the truth, mobile traffic just is starting to be a trend at that time in the market. My first experience started from working as a CPI and traffic manager and the company who worked with how to say that seller carrier services, who are some kind of seller carrier like Vodafone for example, they had and now they also have some special services and they provide these services to the people, some paid services by subscriptions.

This was my first experience when we run campaigns with specific target services, geographic in a special country to acquire users to these subscription services.

I have been working in this area for one year, then I decided that I need a more specific I went to more mobile marketing and I started to work on the developer side as a user acquisition side. Mostly I had experience with buying traffic from plenty of sources, networks networker networks. I worked with. They were apps with social casino games, At that time I worked in Karma Games, maybe heard about this company with social casino games applications. After this experience, I started working in a lottery company. It’s actually quite an interesting industry. The lottery industry position itself in entertainment. It’s not about gambling and getting money. It’s about choosing managing numbers from your dream or somewhere in the lottery tickets and then you just wait for the drawing on the TV with family and friends. It’s about emotion. Everyone knows that to win the lottery is a very big luck. That’s why when you are buying tickets, you like, okay, let’s see. Maybe I dreamed yesterday about these numbers and I decided to buy the tickets with these numbers, and if I’ll win, wow, okay, let’s see.

Esther: Interesting. You’re saying basically the lottery, it’s not the main pitch. It’s not winning a lot of money. It enters this experience, take your inner, then what’s in you give it a chance, see if it happens, enjoy with your family and friends, that kind of a twist?

Vladimir: Yes, exactly. It’s a kind of entertainment. Even if we’re to the app store ranking, app store position, mostly lottery is an eyeing the entertainment side. It’s not gambling, it’s not a casino, but most should I think an entertainment because it’s more about emotions. You bought this ticket with this number so, which about you dreamed yesterday, for example, you had a dream with this number. So something like that, and maybe it’s your birthday and you decided, okay, let’s see what if I will shoot this one? And if even you win a little bit of money, yes, it’s also emotions. You are just waiting for this drawing to get these emotions. That’s why I like lotteries.

Esther: Interesting. I never thought of it that way, and that’s super interesting. I was just really interested by looking, you know, it’s really not something I would’ve considered, but now it makes a lot of sense. You’re right. They’re almost all entertainment apps, not casino apps or gambling apps. I’d love to talk about something that definitely wasn’t around when you started your career in growth and acquisition, which is TikTok. I know that’s something that you’ve handled and I have to say, I think it’s a pretty sensitive network for a lot of developers of kind of understanding we should be in TikTok. It’s the thing the kids are on these days, but how actually do we look at TikTok as an acquisition platform?

Vladimir: Exactly. TikTok, actually, it’s quite a big deal today with performance, especially mobile marketing and yes, let’s talk about why? Firstly, because of their manner of the content there, like there a use UG content, user-generated content, and this why when you are doing TikTok, when you are watching something, sometimes if their creatives were made correctly, you cannot understand is it advertising or not if you will not of course to see that this is ads. This kind of advertising works perfectly because people who use TikTok to watch videos there, they’re like scrolling, scrolling, and they see your creativity. If it’s the same as the other videos they watch, it works perfectly.

Esther: So you’re like not really trying to create an ad. You’re creating a TikTok video. That’s the goal. The goal is to create a video that people will watch. It just happens to be advertising a specific– You know?

Vladimir: Yes, you are actually to do the creative in the manner of TikTok content. It works also it’s important to show with your creatives, that you have something free be that something people can get in free from your content from your product because mostly your audience in TikTok it’s people who are housekeepers or I don’t know, maybe your even students somewhere else.

Some of them they used to get some– It also depends on the counter. Of course, it depends on the girl, but these people are used to getting some freedom, they pay attention to some things which are free or some things which are very unusual. That’s why we definitely need to put in their creative, some things like maybe promo codes, maybe some information which can be free for their users using or something like that.

When we show it in our creatives, like for example, it can be creatives like say a girlfriend and boyfriend talking about something and she showed him, oh, let’s see, there is a special promo code or I got this phone by winning a lottery or something like that. We see that this content creation is the same as the other videos, and movies on TikTok, which people actually posted and this type of advertising works very well.

Esther: Interesting. Do you worry about when you’re promoting free or kind of these initial promo deals as the main source, do you worry about what that means long term for the user revenue? Do you see a difference in quality between your users who come from TikTok and users who come from other sources?

Vladimir: Yes, of course. It’s a good question because if to say the truth, that if we actually don’t use specific targets, if we work without any narrow targets, we see that the net world is not the same as in for example like you can say ads for Facebook. Then it’s a bit long maybe because of their specific codes there, but if we do special targets, we actually get quality traffic there. We have the traffic which we want from there.

Also about the TikTok, about the strategy to work there also, it’s already popular their web to app, from TikTok like, for example, if you need to tell more about your product and you cannot show it in just one creative, you’re actually, it works like people see your creative, they click them, they go into a special landing page where there’s a more information about your product, about your position, which can really acquire the users.

This strategy actually works perfectly even better than the ordinary, because also there’s a better to track this audience, especially on the iOS. Actually, I tried this way and I witness how did perform among the articles and it showed amazing results, but the main thing which I would like to advise everyone would like to test this, don’t forget to set up properly TikTok pixel in your landing page, and then you can enjoy the results.

The thing is that TikTok has a special pixel, which you can put on your landing page and they will start to track every conversion you want. Why do we need this? Yes, first as I mentioned, we have more instruments to track the traffic and you even get rid of the limits of running kiosk campaigns to the one app. You can run also campaigns to the alternative stores, which have no optimization traditional way of acquisition, like Huawei AppGallery, Xiaomi GetApp, or if you have your app in Galaxy Store and others. This is one way that really helps you to track users, to give them more information about your product, and then acquire them and it works even better.

Esther: Wow. Okay. I really want to drill into this. Yes, sure.

Vladimir: I can tell what do we need to start with Web to App, but I think it’ll be a bit boring for the audience

Esther: First of all, I think super interesting because traditionally, I think you try to think of the funnel as making it as narrow as possible. We want as few steps just so we can get the user in. What you’re saying is that we create an additional step of this landing page, but that actually enables us to, first of all, continue converting the user instead of throwing them into somewhere where they’re not ready to actually complete that conversion. You’re both retaining the user by using it as additional messaging.

Then the tracking side is super interesting. First of all, let’s drill into the alternative app stores for a minute. Huawei or Galaxy, or what have you, do you see success from using those devices? How do you start even thinking about, is it worth me investing in these alternative stores? Should I be thinking about what I’m putting there?

Vladimir: Yes. Actually, what are alternative app stores? What is it? Alternative stores despite seeming unknown to most marketers have begun to penetrate mobile marketing quite a long time ago. The first time when I released the App and App alternative store, it was Huawei AppGallery. It was like two years or even three years ago. This is our store for the Android of course, and it is an alternative to Google Play. The first time developers started to use them, they had some issues with the Google Play, for example, maybe they got a banned or something else, or they just wanted to scale with traffic and they started to find a way how to use this alternative way, and they found it.

To say the truth, the alternative stores, if we’re talking about Huawei AppGallery, they actually developed it very well. They have been developing, and I see now that today is possible to feature in care, for example, to yes, to change banners in the Huawei AppGallery of your app or something like that. It’s quite interesting, excited to be here.

Esther: Do you have a good amount of traffic coming in through these stores? Do you have good sample sizes?

Vladimir: If we’re talking about different gears, yes. It’s actually a nice way to scale your traffic organically. Also if you can get three features, it’s also quite good. For example, if you had some product activity and you want to show about this, you can ask the Huawei AppGallery team and they will put your special banner on the must-have banners as YouTube does, and you will get some uplift of organic traffic. Yes. I can actually approve it.

The biggest one, yes, of course, Huawei AppGalleries, Xiaomi GetApp, then also Amazon, I heard, but I didn’t use it. Each of them has its own infrastructure, and traffic possibilities. Organic traffic and paid as well. I have a good experience with Xiaomi Ads. It’s quite an interesting source. It has really no traffic and I would say it’s a cheap one. Maybe if you use Xiaomi, or you maybe heard that you can when you use your smartphone, you have a lot of advertising there. Something suggests you download and such. For example, you’re clicking on the alarm and they suggest downloading a new alarm or something like that. It works very well, but they have a problem. They have a problem with attribution.

The moment I talk with the Xiaomi team, with their also MMP teams like we’re talking together about it. I hope we will find a way how to fix these attribution issues, for example, yesterday, I decided to check my link because I saw that some of the traffic from the sites to the Xiaomi GetApp is going down, and I’m just what is happening. Let’s see. I noticed that when I clicked on the link, which is supposed to go to the Xiaomi store, I saw that, okay, I come to the Xiaomi store from this my website link with the device, and I see that there’s a link on the app in Xiaomi GetApps, which actually goes to the Google play.

I’m like, “What? How is it possible? I’m in Xiaomi GetApp, and I was supposed to download this app from the Xiaomi GetApp, and why I–

Esther: I purposely didn’t want to go to Google play.

Vladimir: Yes. Now the Xiaomi GetApp actually moved me to Google Play, where there is no app. It’s just the issue, and well, what? Actually this, it makes angry sometimes because, so you have a lot of traffic and if they go to the, just sometimes nowhere, it actually spoils a lot of things. I hope they will fix it because Xiaomi Ads is quite interesting traffic. If you would run a campaign today there, you will see results. You’ll see the results with cheap CPA, but yes, having these issues, it’s a bit problematic. We have a problem with this.

Esther: I want to ask a tactical question. When it comes to setting up campaigns for alternative stores, are you able to set up one campaign and then redirect users through your landing page to different stores? Or do you have to set up one that’s specifically targeting each store individually?

Vladimir: Yes. Actually, there is a problem because no one network has optimization for the specific alternative store. We solve this problem by Web to App, as I said, because when you are set up Web to App for your pixel, for example, TikTok pixel or Facebook pixel, they actually attribute to any conversion of this, then you grow well. It works and it actually helps. Yes, as I said, there is no optimization from the ordinary specific networks, like even in-app like Unity Ads or Rangle. That’s if want to run our campaigns to their alternative stores and the better to use Web to App.

Esther: You said with iOS as well, you’re using the same– Every time, huh? There’s I think a delay when I hit my unmute button that it doesn’t hit you right away. You mentioned also for iOS, that this helps you resolve your tracking issues because you’re sending users into the Web, which enables you to keep your pixel tracking. What happens when users actually get to the app store? How are you able to continue to track them past that stage? Are you able to continue tracking them past that stage?

Vladimir: Yes. You’re able to do it by our– You actually see their all Web conversions, things which they did by their pixels. Then if you, for example, use one link from some MMP like AppFire, you can get all the data from this conversion and there is no problem.

Esther: My question is, when it comes to this Web to App conversion, you mentioned it specifically with TikTok, but is it something that you’re doing with all of your networks now?

Vladimir: Actually, only with TikTok and Facebook.

Esther: Any reason why just the two of them?

Vladimir: I have no time to use the other sources, but also I’m not sure that the pixel or that some, or any network has a pixel or has a better pixel than have a Facebook and pixel, this conversion pixel, which actually attribute traffic and conversions.

Esther: I’ve known the Facebook pixel, especially for a long time. I don’t think there’s much that compares with that level of sophistication. I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about agencies and how you work with agencies because I heard you use the phrase “untamed mobile agency” before, and I want to drill into that and find out what it means, and if you’re looking for untamed or tamed, and how you can reach that.

Vladimir: Yes, it’s a specific word. I actually wanted to describe that it’s really important to find and work with an agency that understands your product, your app, your goals, and everything because today most the agencies– They’re a lot of them. There are plenty of small agencies and not small agencies who actually work and they’re chasing only aim for them to earn more money and nothing more.

This is a problem of today and nowadays, I think, of the market and you need to do something about this. Who needs to do this? We need to be on the client side. Marketers who work for the company, are actually looking for agencies who get traffic from them. We need to do something with that. What can we need? What can we do? In my opinion, we can actually, we need to find a deal, and we need to motivate not only with money but only with our like, new cases with new goals, with new– with some– where we can gain benefits with both of us, me like a developer and the agency.

For example, we can test new traffic, for example, alternative sources of traffic. Web to App, who does it? Not so many, many buyers, not so many agencies and so many developers, do it today. We can try this test, then we see the results. So we do some optimization and then, we can show this to the market. We can show this, we can, participate in different conferences with this so we can show this market how that we found something new. We got the results.

By this not only developer will really enjoy all these results, but also the agency will be more known. Like people will see, okay this agency, they got this results with them. Let’s work with them and such kind of work should be first. Then I noticed that most of the agencies really don’t pay attention to product activity. For example, we’re talking about the lotteries, every day we have some, new product things, we have new prices, we down prices, dump prices, go up, some things change, but the creatives, which actually, agencies wrong are the same. They don’t really change them because they found some, they got some money and they don’t– They really don’t pay attention to something else.

Our aim is just to find special product activities, special, even words, special things. To show it to the agencies, to show that you can use this creative, you can use this special case. We can try this. In this way, too, of working, we both will get the growth. We both will find an excellent way to user acquisition.

Esther: You’re saying that basically money, just signing a contract and paying a specific contract value, all that will get you is some level of, we’ll call may be a stable and not exciting level of activity, right? Like they’ll do what they say they’re going to do, but they’re not going to have the creativity, maybe the excitement, it’s a little bit more going into the machine. If you’re able to create a trade-off of saying, we make your agency better, we give you new strategies. We give you something new to talk about when MGU or whatever comes out and you’re trying to convince other people to work with you instead of this agency, you have an interesting strategy to the share.

Do you find that it’s something that you’re able to make the pitch well? When you’re in that stage with an agency, are they responding to that? Is that something that you sense that they’re picking up on or is it really a battle to kind of force them, to try it your way or try something new?

Vladimir: I always try to find some alluring proposal for them. I found some new traffic possibilities, like, for example, ads. I started to work on it two years ago and, I tested it and see the results. I asked a lot of agencies. I asked them, oh, they’re just starting to write me like, “Whoa, we can provide you with traffic,” and I asked them, “What if you got ads?” They were, “What? What are ads?” I told them, “Let’s work together. I will teach you, I will show you how we can, acquire users there.” Then your task will be to scale campaigns there and to do it because I have not a lot of hands to do it every time. I need agency sometimes.

They started to do it. Then I see that they started to do it with others, power clients, and they started to know ads. They started to work with it and they started to be even professionals in this. With such kind of thing, we have all benefits. They work with us more precisely. We got the knowledge, not only the money, money, yes, of course, they got money, but also the important things, as I believe it is knowledge, and we need to share this and we need to motivate them. We need to find something about this, and it helps.

Esther: I like the philosophy of like, it’s like a democratic knowledge. A lot of companies sometimes try to be very, very protective over their strategies and maybe wouldn’t want to share it with an agency because they don’t want it distributed, but then you don’t have that incoming flow from the other side of benefiting off, you know, the other sides. It sounds to me like I want to see if I get this right. The way you look at the role of an agency is you’re still in that realm of innovation. Like it’s on you to take these initial strategies and then you’re using the agency to scale and to run after that initial step. Is that correct?

Vladimir: Sometimes yes. Sometimes, for example, we are currently the company has no internal in-house bank and that’s why sometimes it’s really better. There’s a manager who actually rules out the traffic and finds a list of agencies who actually run campaigns with our benchmarks. For example, we tried first to find a benchmark for CPI for specific views and specific targets. We have actually established this CPI, for example, like $2 for the install.

Then we handle this, CPA thesis, this benchmark to the agency, like we are ready to pay for the install $2 because we did, we test it, we actually enjoy by this result and we want to scale it. We have no actual employees who would, scale it in-house and work with this. We are also got that sometimes working with an agency it’s even more profitable because some agencies have their own department for creating creatives. In mobile marketing, you need to do a lot of creatives. You need to find every day something new and there are also managers who investigate the market.

Also, they’re supposed to find new sources, but sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes they have, no, I don’t know the vision for this or no time for this, and this is our new work to find new sources, to find something new, to test it, and then for scaling to handle it to the agencies, to do the same with our benchmarks. It works. This kind of strategy.

Esther: You’ve tamed, the agencies. I can call you the agency Tamer.

Vladimir: If we can say it like this, I’m trying to find some motivation for them. Some kind of benefits, which can be even, better than in mine, because most just agencies, they, talked, oh, we want to, can you please raise the CPI? Can you raise the CPA? Can you raise the payments? We say like, let’s optimize that you will get mine, but that’s, let’s find a special, we have some product activity and your user acquisition, a little bit cheaper and you’ll earn money by this. We can provide you with new sources, and new traffic sources. We are trying to if it’s possible to say tame agents, by this and it works.

Esther: To say, you have a nice theme here that from start to finish, which starts with the lottery is not just about money. It’s about an experience and the process and entertainment and with agencies, it’s also not just about money. It’s about knowledge transfer and creativity. So, you’re a guy who’s not just about the money. I like it.[laughs]

Vladimir: [laughs]

Esther: Vladimir, are you ready for the quick-fire round?

Vladimir: Yes, that is good.

Esther: First of all, if you could give just one tip to, an aspiring mobile growth marketer, what would it be?

Vladimir: An aspiring growth marketer. It should be one person?

Esther: Any. any, you know, somebody could even be a classroom of, kids fresh out of college. They’re looking to enter mobile growth. What’s the one tip they should keep in mind?

Vladimir: It’s hard to say I actually, if we’re talking about marketers, mobile marketers teams, I would like to talk with a mobile marketing team of Telegram because, maybe her, they, as of the Telegram said, they, he has never got the paid traffic from Telegram. So they actually growing organically. This fact is amazing. I would like to talk with them, like, how did they get this result or what kind of things they actually– what is the philosophy of them, to actually to get and to grow only by organic.

Esther: To say I also, like a lifetime ago, I spoke to a SoundCloud who for their initial, maybe until like last year, two years ago, they also hadn’t spent a single dollar anyway. It was entirely organic in those early days. So rare.

Vladimir: That’s amazing.

Esther: so rare. It’s a-

Vladimir: They’re growing career.

Esther: -If only we could all pull it off, right? Like, I think, you know, it’s a very special thing. Your favorite resource for growth ideas news.

Vladimir: I have a list, with, plant health resources and I trying, several times per week to look, what if interesting they’re and, mostly actually it’s about, different mailing from, the business, of course, Storemaven, of course, also MMP services like, they actually provide with– They have a special hub and I also use it.

Of course, it is networking. When you are around people who love mobile marketing and you share the results and you share the new cases, this is very important I think. You even share the news. [chuckles] Sometimes I cannot read the news. I just post it on my channel or somewhere and it’s like, “Wow, what is it?” For example, recently I got the news there’re will be a new in-app network which is the audio in-app, audio advertising. It seems interesting because when you’re playing for example a game, some advertising really annoys you. This will be audio advertising. You continue going on playing the game and then you hear some audio and actually it can work. I think it’s interesting.

Esther: Interesting. I wonder if that at the beginning of this call, when I kept hearing that little kid voice over and over was somebody trying to secretly advertise on my, network without me knowing. I have to say, I think it’s one thing that I’ve heard a lot, speaking to people and mobile growth. It’s maybe the friendliest industry that everybody really is just really into learning from each other. People share a lot and look to each other. It’s I think a lot less competitive maybe than some old-school industries out there that don’t share the same philosophy. The most important question. Are you ready?

Vladimir: Okay, let’s go.

Esther: What’s your favorite type of pancake?

Vladimir: Now, I love all of the pancakes.

Esther: Every pancake?

Vladimir: Yes. One which my mom cooked, I remember it’s called Napoleon pancake.

Esther: I don’t think I could say that.

Vladimir: Napoleon.

Esther: Got it. Got it. What is a Napoleon pancake?

Vladimir: Oh, it’s with the cream between a slice, oh my God. I’m afraid to describe it in the wrong way until you will not try it.

Esther: Do not do it just, as I try all pancakes as a rule.

Vladimir: You definitely need to try this. I think because it’s quite popular in France maybe because of the name of their–

Esther: Good. Their Emperor. Thank you so, so much for coming and for sharing. This was incredibly informative and I think it be super useful for a lot of people.

Vladimir: Thank you very much for having me here.


Esther: That was Mobile Growth & Pancakes. To find out more about Storemaven and how we can improve App Store performance, visit storemaven.com and then make sure to search for Mobile Growth & Pancakes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google podcasts, or anywhere else podcasts are found and click subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. On behalf of the team here at Storemaven. Thanks for listening.

About Ron Gordon
Ron is Storemaven's Head of Marketing, the one person you would have guessed will know what this mobile growth talk is all about. A misguided law student and journalist, Ron brings to the table some lack of seriousness the Hitech realm is desperately in need of. In his spare time, he's mainly trolling Whatsapp groups.

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