Episode #37: Mastering UA Globally and Locally with Veera Ala-Kaila

In our latest episode of Mobile Growth and Pancakes, we sat with Wolt's User Acquisition lead Veera Ala-Kaila to discuss UA strategies and location-based decisions.

In this episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes, Veera AlaKaila, User Acquisition Lead at Wolt, joins Jonathan Fishman, VP Marketing at Storemaven, to talk about user acquisition and retargeting tailored and localized markets.

Check out all the other episodes of Mobile Growth & Pancakes here.

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“If you don’t have a good product, it doesn’t matter what you do with UA. But if you have a good product, you can drop people in there, and they will have a good experience.

Veera Ala-Kaila

Key takeaways:

  • Veera has been working as the User Acquisition Lead at Wolt for three years now, where she leads a team of UA campaign managers, taking care of online growth and ASO. Wolt is a tech company that makes it easy to discover and get the best restaurants and shops delivered to your home and office. Wolt works with over 55,000 restaurant and retail partners and over 125,000 courier partners across twenty-three countries and more than 210 cities.
  • Apple’s latest iOS 14.5 comes with several updates in IDFA, which will require mobile app publishers to ask for user permission for tracking and accessing device identifiers, such as the IDFA. To deal with this challenge, Wolt built their probabilistic model to do the attribution and optimize on a campaign level.
  • Making decisions on budget allocations implies the internal probabilistic model. But Wolt also relies on blended numbers on higher levels to make sure that they have incrementality for their investment. In terms of targeting users, the company relies on geo-targeting.
  • When Wolt enters a new market, they build the physical location of the company, the local team, and the operational side. To attract users, the team starts tactically with UA. Eventually, they continue up the funnel.

Five things you must know about Custom Product Pages

    Full Transcript:

    Esther Shaz: Welcome to Mobile Growth & Pancakes, a podcast by Storemaven, we break down how and why mobile apps grow. In each episode, we invite a mobile growth expert onto the show to break down a specific mobile strategy, how it worked, why it worked and what they would do differently. I’m your host, Esther Shatz.

    Jonathan: Hey everybody and welcome to another episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes. I’m your host, Jonathan Fishman. I’m VP of marketing here at Storemaven. Today, I’m really excited to be here today with Veera from Wolt. Hey Veera.

    Veera: Hello, nice to be here.

    Jonathan: Thank you. Do you want to tell us a bit about your role at Wolt and what are you responsible for?

    Veera: Yes. I’ve been at Woltz now for three years. I’m currently working as a user acquisition lead, so I lead a team of UA campaign managers, taking care of our online growth in the different markets that we are in. Also, I’m responsible for ASO, so also have some team members working with that as well.

    Jonathan: Awesome, and I just have to say congrats because Wolt just got acquired. It was announced I think two weeks ago which is pretty amazing and you had the front row seat to see this is growth today or like 23 countries. Is that right?

    Veera: Yes, we are now in 23 countries. Mostly like Europe and middle Asia and then Japan. Definitely has been great to see that I think when I started, we were in like 10, 12 markets, something like that. Definitely like we’ve seen a lot of country launches since then and Japan and Germany also being one of those. Definitely nice to see us being appreciated also elsewhere and that we built this great company.

    Jonathan: For sure, I remember when you entered Tel Aviv, which was the best thing that happened to me taste-wise, but the worst thing that happened to my–

    Veera: Yes, a lot of people in there would say’s in at least based on what I hear.

    Jonathan: I order way too much Wolt, like all of us at the store we team. It’s amazing, you took everybody’s storm. I remember when Wolt entered like I was from the other side, like it was the consumer seeing Wolt enters a new city and it was like, in a matter of weeks, it was like everybody knew what Wolt is and downloaded the app, which was insane.

    I’m really excited to talk a bit today about what you guys are doing and what’s your methodology when entering a new country and how really you tailored the marketing message in terms of the UA creatives and the product pages in the app store and Google play to the local market.

    Before that, I just want to start with something I chat about a lot with folks which is changes with the, [unintelligible 00:03:41] deprecation, everything that happened after iOS 14.5. Just in general, like what type of challenges or what are you guys seeing with regarding that?

    Veera: Yes, well, I think the challenges are probably the same as everyone else, not knowing who is who and as a company, we also decided not to ask for the IDFA content at all, so basically that means that we like after iOS 14, we lose all the usual level tracking, so of course, that’s a big challenge we’ve been now since it happened to build our own probabilistic modelling to try to cover for the loss in the data, we use the like, well, basically any data source that we have mainly scan data for like feeding that model. Then based on what we know the user behavior, and so when we try to do our own attribution to be able to optimize on a campaign level for iOS.

    Jonathan: Cool, and that’s something that you’ve built in-house, this model.

    Veera: Yes. We have our own team marketing tech team who’s behind this, so they’ve been working a lot on it and of course, still we keep improving it. I think something that has also affected us, like in addition to the iOS that we’ve had to also build into the model is the deprivation of [unintelligible 00:05:16] attribution from several channels. Now, I think Facebook, TikTok.

    That’s also then something that now we’re trying to incorporate into the, well, not exactly the same modelling because the data source is different but building overall modelling to try to cover as much as possible of these different reasons why we lose user-level data.

    Jonathan: Got it, and in terms of SKAdNetwork, like just what went behind the decision of, first of all, not asking for like not using the ATT framework, not asking for users to track them, and are you using SKAdNetwork? Is it’s one of the signals that your model gets?

    Veera: Yes. We are using SKAdNetwork. We build our own logic to it to try to still get as much final data as possible. Then the reason why we decided not to ask for the consent, it was a discussion between us and then product trying to weigh in on what do we see as like what’s the probable opt-in percentage, how much does it affect the user experience because that’s still our main thing that we compete with is the user experience and the app and how it is, so how much does it then interrupt that experience if there’s a lot of popups coming up and trying to weigh all of these different viewpoints and then, in the end, this is what we decided to do.

    Jonathan: Got it. Yes, I see you’re not allowed that decision and see this with a lot of teams, basically, in order for the ITT framework to be even remotely effective, a user needs to provide consent twice, once your app and once to the app, or they saw the add for that to work. The percentage is there like if you multiply the two percentages, it comes to make a very low number, like less than 5% from what I saw.

    The value there can’t be big because that segment of users do not represent all of your audience. Making decisions based on that is really tough, so how are you making decisions to add budget allocation decisions these days, all based on your internal model, like it’s on the probabilistic model?

    Veera: Yes, so now we are starting to get to a point with the model that we can start also making decisions based on that. However, we also look at, for example, blended numbers on a higher level to make sure that we have incrementality for our investment. I think that’s probably something that we will keep looking at for a longer period of time, just to make sure but then, like as I said, on a campaign level or more a granular level when doing optimization, it’s the only way for us to go with, so we have to trust what we get from the scan and what we model out of that.

    Jonathan: Got it. That’s on the measurement side, on the targeting side, you see, did your channels change on, like, what type of like basically what is targeting a very broad audience. Is that right or is it more?

    Veera: In a way, yes, very broad but then again, in a way, it’s quite limited because we are limited by our delivery area, so in a lot of markets, we are not in the whole market. We are only in specific cities and even inside the city, we could only cover a certain area, so we have a lot of restrictions in terms of the deallocation targeting which we want to keep of course, because our user makes their first order if they are not in the delivery area.

    It doesn’t make sense to target outside of that, but then with that, of course, comes like already a little bit smaller audience. The more you start to split it into pieces after that, then the higher the CPMs like you, you start to see inflation quite fast, so of course, we do testing also with a further segmentation of audiences, but we quite heavily rely on the geo-targeting.

    Jonathan: Got it, and you saw like after June this year, did you see any impact on your targeting or your abilities to target or in different channels?

    Veera: Not really in terms of UA. For UA not that much but then of course for retargeting, we do that because we’re not asking for consent. It means that we simply cannot target any iOS users on it based on usual level data or share that data with third parties. That’s something that we are unable to do at the moment.

    Jonathan: Yes. Got it. Was that a big part of your UA I don’t know, budget or efforts?

    Veera: Not necessarily. I think overall, the retargeting part is something that is growing over time, but since we are still growing really fast so the main focus for us is still getting new users but depending on the market, then some markets are more mature than of course we start to shift more and focus into retargeting on how to activate the existing user base we have.

    Jonathan: Cool. Let’s move a bit into localization, which is something that I know is somebody that is responsible for UA and ASO. It’s something that you put a lot of effort into. Can you walk me through your process of how do you approach even entering the new markets from a UA perspective, from a creative perspective, from an ASO perspective?

    Veera: Yes. Maybe one thing that is relevant to know for entering a new market is that we are physically in all the locations where we operate. The first step for our company is always building the local team, building the operation outside. We can’t do any UA, we can’t get any users, we don’t have restaurants if we don’t have couriers. Those are the main focus for a new market in the beginning, but then once we have the basic setup we have the core team in place locally, then we start to look into what is the actual launch date for users, and then when it comes to UA over there, often we try to if we have launched any similar markets, we probably try to get some learnings from there.

    I think overall the main strategy that we have is to not start from the assumption that, okay, we need to build a brand. We really, I don’t know, like the top of funnel make sure that people know who we are, but we actually approach it more from the perspective of starting with the tactical angle. Let’s see if we can already get users in with UA which actually often works. Then only if that’s not possible or there’s something broken in the funnel, do we start going up in the funnel and starting to fix those different areas. That’s the main approach for UA.

    When it comes to the localizations, the main responsibility there in our internal, we have our own brand team who’s producing the assets, then in the local markets, we always have a marketing manager who’s then responsible for the localization. Basically, they work together to make sure that everything is localized in a way that we want so we don’t localize in with an agency or anything like that, but it’s super important for us to be local, not only in the language but also with the feel and what brand we want to build in that market.

    Jonathan: Yes. I want to talk a bit more about that, but before, or I just like you talked about brand, and it’s a really interesting case because what it has is a network effect that is extremely powerful, like when you get into a market, and again, I’m talking from the perspective of a user. The first thing that I saw was a delivery person with the Wolt box and bike. You started seeing more and more and more of these people. Everybody started asking, what is this? What is Wolt? Nobody, we didn’t know the brand. The next thing that happened is a friend of mine texted me, “Hey if you download this app, you get 30 shekels.” That’s the currency here in Israel, but 30 shekel in credits if you buy something.

    There was also this invite loop that was working and I really liked this approach of, first of all, sitting it with UA. Once you have a critical mass or core, I don’t know, a community of people or a group of people that are using Wolt starts to expand itself through, first of all, the physical placement of all the Wolt delivery person. When you now go to the street in Tel Aviv, you see dozens and dozens of those every second and with user invites. I think that also probably makes UA easier afterwards because people start recognizing the brand naturally so I really like that approach.

    Veera: No, I think also at the core of all of that is the product, which has from the beginning been the main focus of the company, and still if you don’t have a good product, it doesn’t matter what you do with UA, but if you have a good product, you can just drop people in there and they will have a good experience, as you said, they will keep inviting other people. They will keep coming back so that’s something that’s you can’t do without you can add as many layers as you want on top, but you have to have a great product.

    Jonathan: Yes. Well, 100% like the, one of your competitors here in Israel, which is a very I don’t know, this company’s been around for a decade maybe. It existed, nobody used it because it’s a horrible product and a horrible experience. I won’t say the name of the competitors. They won’t be mad at me, but just a horrible experience. You have no idea, they’re always late. You have no idea where the delivery person is. They don’t really work with the restaurants that you want to order from, and when you use Wolt, it was so much, it was like more than 10 times better than people started talking about it.

    I really agree and I just wanted to like I think one takeaway here is that having a great product and having all these loops the user invites and the brand that starts to pick up organically in the main market for you, it really makes you way more efficient.

    If you don’t have these pieces, it doesn’t matter how well you set up your campaigns and create ad creatives that are really good. The product won’t grow at the end of the day. I want to go back into the assets, and you said taking learnings from new markets, what do you do when you enter a market? Let’s say Japan, which is very different from the markets that you were serving before. How do you approach, like studying or learning what messages and creatives even would work for this audience because everything is very different?

    Veera: Yes. I think we have maybe two angles, as I said, we have the local team, so we have a nice way to get local insight. We work really closely with the local marketing team in all countries and they know their market obviously so we can get certain insights from there, of what they have seen to work, like what’s the culture, and that things. Then also we still want to not go with the assumption that something that works elsewhere would not work so we always want to go with this approach of having something very local and then something that is more central looking more like the generic creatives that we have and testing a mix of these two.

    Then from there, we can already see usually some directions of what sites to work and we can start going more towards that.

    Jonathan: How do you approach testing by the way for product pages, you’ve been using [unintelligible 00:18:28] to AB test but how do you approach testing ad creatives?

    Veera: Often, we also have to do this on a country-by-country basis. We’ve tried to run or do testing on a global level, but how it always ends up is that there’s no correlation between the different countries from tested. It’s really hard to build paths, okay, this type of thing works in this group of markets or something like that. We still do that in some cases when it comes to, for example, what formats do we want to be producing, and things like this prioritization on the central brand production side, but then when it comes to more details in the creatives, it’s always up to, the campaign manager of that market.

    Everyone in our team who’s managing campaigns, usually have two markets that they take care of. They take care of all channels and both UA and retargeting, so they have this full overview of the market of what works. They have the freedom to allocate budget, wherever it works the best, how can we grow as fast as possible? Then they are also of course the best people to do this testing.

    Jonathan: Cool. Do they work? How do they work with the ASO function? Do they work with an ASO partner, which is a different person in the team that they work with on localizing the product page?

    Veera: When it comes to localizing the product page usually, we have certain people who do also ASO. Then these people usually are the ones, first of all, to pick the countries where that we want to prioritize. Of course, if it’s a new market, we want to localize that for sure. Then when it comes to testing in existing markets, we have certain rules, how we prioritize them.

    Usually, then it’s this person approaching the local marketing team and then also depending on the case, the UA manager for that market for insights to collect the initial ideas for testing.

    Jonathan: Cool. Do you have any cool examples for things that you learned or that surprised you with the results of tests of what messaging worked in different countries? I guess that the different foods that people like in different countries is a big part of it, but do you see anything surprising?

    Veera: Yes, I would say, burgers do work. That’s one learning [laughs] it’s surprising. That’s most likely can apply to every market but then, of course, there are also some really specific things that work and I think it has also been fun to see over the years, getting to know the different cuisines, I think, for example, Georgian food. Now since I’ve been there, it’s really good. It’s-

    Jonathan: Oh, it’s amazing.

    Veera: The best cuisine I’ve tasted but it doesn’t really look that appetizing or-

    Jonathan: Appealing. [laughs]

    Veera: I don’t know [crosstalk]. It’s often like a mush of different things like vegetables and some sauce and something. It’s just like a, I don’t know, like a lump. You don’t know what it is then it looks a bit weird, but it does work really well. That’s, for example, one thing that I was before I knew what the food I actually am, what it tastes like, it just looks, “Okay, I have no idea what this is.” It works really well.

    Jonathan: Wow and creative-wise, you’re going back to Japan that has an extremely different, I don’t know, standard in how do people design ads? The ads in Japan are crazy to me. When I travelled in Japan and I looked at these ads and I said, “Wow, this is so different and so crazy with them– for so many reasons.” In your creatives in Japan ads and in the product page, it looks very different from how it looks in the west. What did you learn there?

    Veera: I think there, we are trying to find the balance of what our identity is as a Finish or Nordic brand because that’s also something that’s considered to be very positive in Japan. We don’t want to lose that but then also, of course, we also want to conform to, what the local visual aesthetic is. We are constantly testing with that balance and I think to know for example trying to go a bit crazier and see what has– but yes, I think it’s always trying to balance between these two and how-to because it’s a good differentiator also for us to maintain a little bit of that Nordic clean looking thing.

    Then of course it’s the complete opposite of the basic Japanese ad style. It’s been very interesting and I think there’s still a lot for us to learn there.

    Jonathan: Awesome. Yes, you’re definitely teaching the world what is the benefits of having a clean and Nordic UI [laughs] and designs. It’s really cool. Do you have any two, three tips for somebody that is thinking about localization of an app and starting to enter into new markets? Three learnings that you have that they must take into account when thinking about localization?

    Veera: Yes, I would say the first one is to if you, in any way, have the possibility have someone local to look at your content make sure, it can even be if you’re using a translation agency or whatever it is. Then having one piece of something that is produced by them checked by a local, just to get an understanding of what vibe do you have? What feeling and style does the copy have and the visual because there’s a lot to do there.

    You have to somehow make sure that you are conveying what you want to convey. Not only with words but also with what’s behind them. I’d say that would be one. Then not to make assumptions as I said, it could be something completely different from what you’re doing that works, but it could also be the same exact thing that you did in some other market works. Not ditching either angle but testing both and finding what’s the ideal in-between.

    Jonathan: Awesome. Thank you. That’s really valuable. We are running a bit out of time, but I want to ask you a question we ask all guests. First of all, if you could give a tip to somebody that wants to go into mobile growth marketing or user acquisition, what would it be?

    Veera: I think my main tip would be to learn to look at a lot of numbers and not only the UA numbers but try to get an understanding of businesses. That’s what’s going to get you further than just managing a campaign and looking at how that campaign is doing, but actually understanding how does that affect the company. What can you maybe do in what you’re doing with the UA side to really have a bigger impact in the company, to be more efficient, something like that? I think it requires a lot of understanding of other business metrics as well as only the UA.

    Jonathan: Oh, that’s awesome. I learned that the more you can tie the work that you’re doing to revenues at the end of the day. That is interesting to leadership and the sea level of the company, the better you are. You just have to find how the things that you’re doing now are affecting revenues.

    Veera: Yes, exactly. I think the same applies also in other teams for some other team, it might not be revenue, if it’s product team, it might be something else. Also understanding what’s the priority for each and that makes you better in collaborating and prioritizing things with different teams.

    Jonathan: For sure. For content recommendation, do you have a certain person that you follow or newsletter or something that you read that you would recommend fellow UA folks to read?

    Veera: I’d say my main source for things to read is actually LinkedIn. I just follow certain hashtags there, for example, and then I think now over time, I’ve been able to train the algorithm to show me quite a lot of stuff that I want to look at. Finding some relevant keywords, it could be just UA performance marketing or something that, or if it’s a specific industry, for example, slide ups, anything that.

    Then slowly try to train the algorithm to find content that you look at but I think for me that has been a good way to actually find something that I probably myself wouldn’t search for.

    Jonathan: Cool. I think LinkedIn is becoming more of a place where you can train the algorithm to consume the content that you want and it’s been working great, and because the name of the podcast is Mobile Growth & Pancakes and because yesterday I order a pancake on Wolt. I want to ask you, what’s your favorite flavor of pancake?

    Veera: I would say plain pancake and then banana and whipped cream on top. Nothing else. That’s the perfect way to do it.

    Jonathan: It’s almost the pancake I ordered yesterday, but it had blueberries as well.

    Veera: Nice.

    Jonathan: Yes. [chukles]

    Veera: Blueberries, I think that’s a good addition too. I wouldn’t mind blueberries, but if I had to only pick one, then I would leave those out.

    Jonathan: Cool. If anyone wants to chat with you, ask you anything about work-life, anything where they can find you.

    Veera: You can find me on LinkedIn with my name which might be hard to spell, but it’s there Ala-Kaila, I don’t know if it’s going to be in some description of–

    Jonathan: Yes, we’ll write.

    Veera: This episode, but also if you search User Acquisition at Wolt, you probably will find me.

    Jonathan: Awesome. Cool. Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure and I’ll talk to you soon. I’m off to order some lunch at Wolt.

    Veera: Great. Have a good lunch.

    Jonathan: Great. Bye-bye.

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      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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