How Contextual Mobile Ads Boost iOS 15 App Store Installs

There's a new buzzword in the industry: Contextual marketing. In this piece, a collaboration between Storemaven and YellowHEAD, we'll discuss context in Custom Product Pages, ad creatives and strategy.

This piece is a collaboration with our good friends at YellowHEAD – an AI-powered performance marketing company.

Contextual marketing is the new buzzword in the mobile industry, and it will continue to be in 2022. 

Mobile practitioners used to give their keys to networks to find users for them, and it was an easy trade that made sense when IDFA was part of the game. And then it was taken away, deprecated, and the keys given to MMPs and the networks are once again in your hands. You need to take responsibility, you need to better understand your users, know how to segment them and know who they are, why they came and what needs to be done to make them stay. 

Sorry for this basic description of the new reality, but it’s very simple: You now have full control of understanding your users and growing your business. In this article, as mentioned – a collaboration between YellowHEAD and Storemaven – we’re going to discuss how context will take center stage in your mobile marketing activities, looking towards the new features Apple is planning to release with newer iOS 15 versions.

We’ll touch on ad creatives, how to build a great contextual ad, and discuss Custom Product Pages – the anticipated feature Apple released in December 2021. Let’s begin:

App Store Product Pages: How contextual marketing works with (Custom) Product Pages?

In the mobile marketing world, a (paid) user journey to install goes through two major phases: the ad creative and then the App Store Product Page. 

When thinking about contextual marketing and App Store product pages there is one major question to ask yourself: 

When a user in a certain state of mind and in a specific context sees and taps on my ad, which creatives and messaging will maximize the probability that users will install? 

Let’s unpack that a bit. 

When thinking about the state of mind and context, you need to think first about what the user was doing when they saw your ad and what it tells you about that person. 

For the purpose of this article, let’s assume you are marketing a rich, social casino game that involves a few different game mechanics. Players can play a slot machine, win coins that they use in order to build a village, can sometimes win at the slot machine the chance to attack another player’s village, or steal their coins, and can also collect cards over time that gives them more in-game awards. 

Although this is an elaborate example (yes, I’m thinking about Coin Master) chances are your game or app has different features, and different game mechanics that would appeal to different users. 

GameRefinery published a short guide to what motivates different players to play games. Let’s take a look at that real quick:

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So if you’re marketing such a game, you first need to think about the context your ad was shown in. 

If it was shown in a home decoration game, it means the person that saw it is probably a person that likes to play games because of the “expression” and “mastery” motivation (they want to customize and decorate so they can express themselves, and they want to complete milestones and build a better and better world and progress). 

If the ad was shown in a PvP strategy game where they compete against others and fight, they might be players driven by the “social” motivation of competing against others. 

Lastly, let’s assume the game you’re marketing is currently featuring some famous IP like Pokemon. If the ad was shown in a Pokemon game it’s very likely that the user seeing it is a fan of that IP and that motivated them to play the game. 

So where the ad was shown has a huge impact on which parts of your game would motivate users seeing your ad in that context to actually install. 

The ad creative itself of course acts as a filter, ensuring that most people who connected with the core message of the ad would land on your product page. 

If the ad highlights that IP, or the competition feature, or the building feature or even the slot mechanics themselves and the excitement and thrill that comes with it, you already know a lot about the audience that lands on your product page.

You know where they came from and can deduce information on who they are, that they responded well to the offer presented to them via the ad to install your game. This means that that messaging is probably highly motivating for them. 

Now, these users reach your product page with a very specific mindset. They want to install the game so they consume the experience the ad promised to them. 

This is where a lot of paid user acquisition gets it wrong. If the user that tapped on an ad that showed the promise of “destroying” other players’ villages and demolishing what they’ve built before stealing all their coins, sees a product page that promotes friendship and cooperation with butterflies and roses, you would smash their expectation. And not in a good way. “What are all these butterflies? I thought this game was about exploding villages!”

Up until iOS 15, mobile marketers had only one App Store product page to set for all user funnels. But with Custom Product Pages (CPPs) you’re able to craft different product pages that promote and push different creatives and messaging that can be mapped to the different motivations users are landing on App Store product pages with. 

One product page for PvP strategy games, and another for home decoration games, and another one for social casino games, as well as funneling traffic from different contextual ads groups (each group targeting a different core motivation) to their corresponding custom product page. 

By achieving a holistic contextual funnel from sub-publisher to ad creative to product page, you can truly achieve contextual marketing and targeting and regain control of your growth. 

Did you identify that match-3 players have a very high probability of becoming paying users in your game? Analyze that audience and create a holistic funnel with a match-3 audience creative and custom product page. 

Better segmentation of the audience you care about will result in higher conversion rates across the board as you’ll minimize the number of users that experience a disconnect between the ad creatives and their context to their product page experience. 

Storemaven Labs researched how this might affect conversion rates on the App Store recently and found that the difference between the App Store CVR of matching, holistic creatives across the funnel, to mismatching ones can be close to double. Talking about demonstrating the impact of a contextual marketing approach. 

And how to implement it? Storemaven has put together four basic phases to plan and create your custom product pages (CPPs). 

  1. Research and Segment your Audience – first you must understand where your quality audience is coming from. Which sub-publishers? You have to understand it contextually by grouping sub-publisher to contextual groups (hidden objects/classical match-3/Story rich RPG/etc.) 

    Once you look at performance at a contextual sub-publisher group level, you’ll easily identify your top funnel opportunities for growth and which contextual groups you should focus on. 

    Sounds complex and cumbersome? Storemaven released a world-class tool that most of the industry is already using called Funnel Analytics, which does it all for you automatically so you can get viability to your funnels and create holistic ones with ease. 
  1. Hypothesize and Plan Product Pages – once you identify a funnel you want to focus on improving, it’s time to research that audience and hypothesize on what would truly motivate them to play your game. You can analyze the performance of different ad creatives and conclude which motivations within them worked best for that group of contextual sub-publishers. 

    Once you have a good idea on what might motivate that audience segment the most, form a scientific hypothesis. “If we will send traffic and users from home decoration games to a custom product page that highlights cooperation, customization, and building, conversion rates on the App Store will improve”. 

    Now it’s time to move to the fun part of designing. 
  1. Design and Deploy -Designing your product page requires both an understanding of how users behave in the App Store as well as how users consume information when landing on a product page. 

    About 70% of users never move past the “first impression” of a product page (the above-the-fold area that includes the icon, title, subtitle, and video OR first 1-2 screenshots, depending on their screen size). 

    These decisive users spend about 3-6 seconds glancing at your custom product page before deciding whether to install or to leave the page. 

    So when translating your hypothesis to a design brief, you need to take that into account so you are actually successful in easily conveying your point through your product page. If you’re looking for an on-demand team to design your product pages, check out the new Storemaven design studio.
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  1. Test and Iterate – After you have the design ready, you can deploy it and start monitoring your performance. Custom Product Pages can be monitored through App Store Connect by slicing and dicing your data with the CPP dimension. You can also easily monitor performance, get alerts on performance changes, and perform impact analyses of your creative changes within Storemaven’s Funnel Analytics. 

    Although Apple has announced their solution for testing organic traffic on the App Store (called Product Page Optimization – PPO) they did not announce any testing tool for custom product pages. 

    There are a few methodologies to allow you to A/B test custom product pages on the App Store, you can reach out to get started. 

    This is an iterative process of learning whether your hypothesis was right or wrong, taking in those learnings, coming up with another hypothesis, translating it to designs and monitoring it again for performance. 

    The value of engaging in product page creative optimization in a world based on contextual marketing is simple: instead of optimizing your marketing messages on the App Store to only one group of users, you can suddenly optimize for up to 35 different groups at each localization. 

Needless to say, the marketing teams that’ll employ this will have such an unfair advantage in acquiring users and growing their audience accretively in 2022 and beyond that, well, I wouldn’t want to be their competitors 😉

How to Create Great Contextual Ads

Great ad campaigns require even better creatives to capture the attention of busy users and convince them to install your app. 

Creativity and solid data are musts if you want any hope of connecting the right creatives to the right people at the right time.

The following is a rundown of the process it takes to build effective contextual ad campaigns.

1. Research

Great campaigns start with even better research. Do a thorough analysis of the specific vertical for the product or service being advertised. Analyze the user motivations as well, since they are a big aspect of designing creatives. Then analyze past data from similar campaigns you’ve run in the past. What were the major takeaways? No two campaigns are the same, so even if you’ve run similar campaigns in the past, your target audience’s preferences (and the audience itself!) will change and evolve over time.

yellowHEAD does this through its smart creative management platform Alison, which tags and pinpoints elements that reflect different user motivations and figures out which ones will bring the best results for that motivation.

2. Competitive Intelligence

The next step is to do careful competitor intelligence to better understand what kind of ads are working best, what kind of things are trending, and which user motivations get people to click an ad and install. Again, this is done in a smart way using big data through our proprietary platform Alison

3. Campaign Planning

Once you’ve gathered all you can from past and current data, identify the desired outcome and the main KPI that will demonstrate whether it has been reached. The KPI chosen must be both realistic and measurable, done with a good understanding of the full user funnel methods.

After that, choose a few more metrics to measure throughout the campaign and use MMPs to provide the data. Always check that the MMPs are working properly and that there’s enough data available for the metrics chosen.

4. Visual Concept and Design

The type of ad — whether it’s a video, still, carousel, playable ad, or something else — can also influence performance. That’s why it’s so important to understand the audience and platform as much as possible.

No matter the format, the best ad creatives are visually straightforward and easy to digest. 

The creative style will vary by brand and even by audience, but some principles hold true no matter what. For example, data from Alison has shown time and again that incorporating a CTA (call to action) button and company logo in every design boosts performance. For video and playable ads, the best practice is to show the brand logo and CTA in the first three seconds; with limited time to capture a user’s attention, these precious few seconds are the optimal time to get the ad’s most important message across.

5. Testing

Testing is constant, and professional UA managers are always in the process of testing out different targets, learning what works best for different audiences and market segments, then tweaking it. Each new ad creative restarts the learning process. Fortunately, the testing timespan is pretty swift, taking only a week or so. New insights are always coming to light, making it clearer whether or not the campaign is working right and reaching the intended audience.

Traditionally, testing was done by changing one element at a time, measuring the impact on performance, and culling the best ones. A campaign manager would first find the best-performing creative then optimize it with the best-performing copy, pick the top-performing ad creatives from this crop, then start the process over. 

The process is no longer so clunky thanks to AI-powered multivariate optimization platforms, like Alison by yellowHEAD, which pinpoint the elements that boost performance based on user and competitor data.

6. Identifying New Audience Opportunities 

New campaign opportunities can present themselves at any moment when ad performance is being closely monitored. There can be endless combinations of new target audiences to test based on interests, age, gender, geographic location, and remarketing.

In the world of paid user acquisition, one incredibly effective way to discover new target audiences is to identify lookalike audiences. Lookalike audiences have similar characteristics to a business’ existing valuable target audience (the Seed Audience) but have not been targeted yet.

7. Monitoring and More Monitoring 

Once a campaign starts, there is an ongoing process of monitoring, testing, and optimizing with new features and for new target audiences. The monitoring process never truly stops because audience preferences invariably change. There are always new ways to optimize because, after a while, even the best campaigns get fatigued. Ad fatigue is an ongoing struggle, which is why brands turn to tools like Alison that notify brands when ads or campaigns are starting to get fatigued, then provide actionable ways to reinvigorate it.


Conclusion

Contextual mobile ads are a great tool for every mobile marketer to have in their toolbox, even in this ever-changing landscape. Advertising on iOS now means having to do more with less data – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With 35 different ways to customize app product pages, businesses have more ways than ever to appeal directly to their unique audience needs and micro-customize product pages for those subsets in a way that will encourage installs.

The challenge is to figure out the right formula for each different subset without wasting time and resources unnecessarily. Fortunately, the tools for doing that are constantly getting more sophisticated by the minute.

It’s a delicate dance, but brands that start adapting now will have a leg up over the competition and be better prepared for more changes that are bound to happen in the future.

Jonathan Fishman
About Jonathan Fishman
Jonathan is Storemaven's VP of Marketing. Before joining Storemaven he spent ten years commanding tanks, working on Wall St., consulting high-growth companies, and exploring Black Rock City. In his spare time, he likes building things from wood, listening to Frank Zappa, and spending time with his daughter.

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