In this episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes, Esther Shatz is joined by Matej Lancaric, UA & Marketing expert.
They discuss mobile gaming KPI’s, differing strategies for soft vs global launches, and app monetization strategies.
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00:50 – Matej’s Introduction
01:50 – KPI optimization in the mobile world
03:00 – Optimizing for revenue
04:30 – Tricks for creating creative content
08:00 – Implementation of creative strategies
12:00 – How to get functional creatives for the next month?
14:00 – KPIs for idea execution
15:00 – Role of a creative archive
16:00 – How to compensate for failed ideas
17:20 – Which trends have changed over the years?
19:30 – Soft launch strategies for mobile games
20:40 – How to cope up with unforeseen circumstances
24:40 – How to define and understand your audience
26:20 – How should UA work with other departments?
28:40 – Rapid fire round
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- Matej has been a part of the gaming industry for seven years. He started his career in Slovakia at Pixel Federation, where he worked for five years until he stumbled upon User Acquisition (UA) whilst working at SuperScale
- Matej got into consultancy due to his drive to gain holistic exposure to the gaming industry
- Lancaric.me focuses on optimizing LTV, PLTV, and monetization KPIs when working with clients. There is no generalized set of KPIs as different games require different measurements
- The soft launch stage can be referred to as the retention stage. Metrics such as first-time user experience, retention, and on-boarding flow metrics are a focussed on over monetisation metrics
- To optimize revenue, you have to understand your target audience. Study their demographics (age, gender, etc.) and their interests. The interest may include, what type of shows the audience prefers or a recent pop-culture hype within that population
- To design the creative part of a campaign, create a fake app store page. There you can pick the components that you want to incorporate
- Knowing your consumers is important… but not enough. To make your research more effective, you need to know your competitors as well. Look into how they are working, compare your work with theirs… but stick to your goals
- The creative production process requires brainstorming that in the virtual era can be easily done with Google Drawings. This helps bring ideas together and prioritize the best one
- It is important to have a creative archive. When nothing works out, you can dig into evergreen ideas that have worked previously
- Workplace cohesion needs to exist between UA department, product and the behavioral insights (BI) team. Everyone needs to be on the same page
“Instead of just spraying and praying, you have to know the interests of your target audience. It will make your life much easier”Matej Lancaric
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Matej: Thank you very much for having me.
Esther: Do you want to introduce yourself quickly? A little bit about you.
Matej: Of course. I’ve been in the gaming industry for seven years so far. I started my career here in Slovakia in Pixel Federation. I was there for five years doing a lot of stuff on the UA side. Then, after five years I joined SuperScale, and then– Well, when I was at the Pixel Federation, I just started working on UA consultancy stuff just because I wanted to get as many experiences as possible for different game genres and working with different companies brings in different challenges, which is great for gaining experiences. Fully working like that currently. Also, very recently started working closely with [unintelligible 00:01:37] on their game.
Esther: Let’s talk about KPIs for a second before we talk about strategy. When you’re looking at the world of mobile, what KPIs are you optimizing for generally?
Matej: Come on, everybody is optimizing for revenues.
Obviously, we need to take a look at the LTVs, or BLTVs, or everything related to the monetization KPIs. Of course, different games cycle requires different measurements. When, for example, when we are soft launching a game, and we are in the retention stage obviously, there are no monetization KPIs yet. Let’s say in the soft launch and the retention stage, we’re looking at the retention numbers, and the first time user experience and onboarding flow. They’d be testing tutorials, for example, and looking at what players churn, but then after moving to the monetization stage in the real life after global launch, which is where the fun starts obviously, then revenues and monetization is the bread and butter actually.
Esther: For sure, there is obviously the question that begs to be asked when we talk about monetizing for optimizing for revenue. We talk about the upcoming IDFA changes for the UA side any thoughts?
Matej: Don’t even start with that, come on. It’s a lot of podcasts and a lot of articles were about the idea phase, in fact, still there’s really big holes in terms of the documentation. Of course, we will need to start experimenting with [unintelligible 00:03:26] framework and see how we are going to leverage that in terms of the post IDFA world, which obviously will change the whole UA landscape.
So far, I don’t want to give you any false ideas or any false comments, because I’m about to start experimenting with how it should look in the [unintelligible 00:03:48]. I’m keeping myself just a little bit behind because there was a lot of fun that was said during the August and just before September, and every podcast just ended with the saying like, we will see, it remains to be seen, we don’t know yet. Although it’s true, but we will see. [laughs]
Esther: I’ll say one thing from my end on the IDFA that I think is that as a fair enough prediction, but creatives have always been important and will always be important. My guess is when targeting options shift a bit to the top of the funnel, on a higher level, creatives become even more important. You’re competing now in a wider marketplace to make sure you’re being seen. I’d love to drill in a little bit with you about the creative side. What does it take to come up with creatives that actually do something on your funnel?
Matej: Of course, the main thing and I think everybody should do is and probably a lot of game developers already do this and the marketing teams. The main point is to really understand the target audience because I think that you need to know what resonates well with your target audience. If it’s male or female audience, doesn’t matter, but you need to know their interests and what’s the age segment? Where are they grouping, what are they looking for, if they’re watching some TV series, for example, right now, we found out that a lot of our target audience just love watching Rick and Morty and Family Guy stuff and this type of humor series.
That’s how we tried to think about the creatives as well to put some humor inside there to see how that resonates within the target audience. Since we know these interests in those creative resonate really well. Instead of just spraying and praying, you need to know what is the interest of your target audience that makes your life much easier.
Esther: I like that idea of using instead of maybe looking at it from the visual side speaking that language, respond to that humor. Do you have an example that you remember off the top of your head of some text in there?
Matej: On the top of my head, for example, we know that we used like leverage the hype of The Witcher series that was launched on Netflix, and we saw some nice overlap between the target audience of our game and then of the Netflix, of The Witcher. We used one of the characters we had in the game, and we made it look like a Witcher. The name of the character was Hilt actually. Then we used the [unintelligible 00:06:57] the name of the character and it was aesthetic immediately, already exploded after we just launched it on all the UA channels.
It was pretty nice evidence that it’s actually working well. Then we also looked at the humor and used this funny situation when we were running the, for example, [unintelligible 00:07:24] games before. We used these humor situations, funny situations and used things from the game in the real life situation and connected that with the funny moments. It was resonating very well.
Esther: How do you connect it when you’re looking at the top of the line UA you’re trying these innovative new creative strategies? Do you find that there’s a disconnect when users get into the App Store page say where maybe it doesn’t match that creative, goes through the onboarding flow? How do you make sure that you’re pulling the user all the way down through the funnel?
Matej: We tried obviously a couple of fake ads-type of creative as well, because it was a big hit, let’s say. Now I guess it is working well for a couple of companies. We tried that. Then we saw a lot of high click through rates and a lot of good performing creatives on the, for example, on Facebook, but then we saw very low conversion rates in the App Store page. It definitely needs to be connected to what people see in the creative and then what they see in stores so the expectation needs to be created also on the creative level, and then they need to be met on the App Store.
Then obviously, on the onboarding funnel. When they got into the game, they are not surprised that much. It’s a very different game.
Esther: We won’t mention the company best known for such a strategy right now. I guess what happens one of the first points, which is completely true is you have to know your different audiences and your different segments. I have to imagine that creatives will vary whether it’s women or men or interest subgroups that the creatives will be matched to those groups. How do you tackle that after the creative side, meaning if you have two really different styles that are working well, you only have one App Store page and then you have the one onboarding flow.
Matej: There are a couple of tricks you can use for these type of purposes. You can always try to create a fake App Store page and try to mimic the creative there or meet somewhere in the middle. You have some components from one style of the creatives and then some components of the different styles, the creative and then maybe meet in the middle which can and works pretty well for both audiences. It’s just way of testing and since Google experiments are in the Google console, which is also free tool then it makes your life easier. It’s a lot of testing but it’s the test UA life.
Esther: I was just going to get into the UA life operating at scale. You don’t just focus on one creative and run it for three months and then focus on the next creative, right? How do you–?
Matej: Well, those were the times, couple of years ago. I remember when I was at Pixel Federation, we ran this creative for two years almost and it was literally the best performing creatives ever. It was a screenshot from the game we just animated a little bit. It performed amazing really but then like now–
Esther: Two years?
Matej: Yes, two years. I think if you check the biggest adventure now there are still variations of this creative still there running the UA. Now, what I found out is actually using a weekly cycle of refreshing the creatives is performing really well and depends on the level of spend but sometimes you just need to keep those campaigns fresh even on a weekly basis. Sometimes when you hit this almost hero creative, then you can run one month, two months, three months, but that’s a rare thing so in that case–
Esther: Yes, definitely not two years anymore.
Matej: Yes, not anymore. In that case, well in the case of weekly refreshing the creatives then we have some process of trying to find the ideas and how we can implement those quickly into creatives and the creative testing.
Esther: Maybe you could talk through that process a little bit more. I guess there’s the research phase you mentioned of finding audiences, learning them, coming up with the creatives. What does the process look like that’ll get you functional creatives for the next month of work?
Matej: Well, we usually start off with the research of the audience but also research of the competitors, which is the obvious thing to do just to have a sense of what the competitors are doing and what’s working for them as well. Then combining it with the in terms of what works for them with our target audience with our type of humor and funny situation how we can incorporate that in the creatives, but that is happening in a brainstorming session, which is obviously very tough now during the corona situation.
There is a Google drawing I think tool which we use where everybody is present and they can then create their comments and then tasks and whatever just during the brainstorming session. Then after we brainstorm some ideas, we just go through the classic process of back and forth with either game team or if you are an agency with the client and then basically create the creative and just start testing it. After you find out that the winner and then just testing either or working either on the durations or just testing very different process and the circle just starts all over again.
Esther: How do you know when you have I’d imagine you probably start with one broader list of ideas and then narrow it down before you actually get to the stage of starting to really bring it out. How do you decide on which ideas you’re moving forward with or not?
Matej: Well, there is not very specific KPI for making those decisions. I may be obviously look at either past performance or if on something like craziness level of the creative content because we saw for some games that the level of craziness works pretty well. If it’s like more crazy the better but we are a benchmark internally for this because we are also,– I play a lot of games, and I’m also part of the target audience. If something is really crazy enough and catches my attention I know it’s going to work. This is like a bulletproof solution because we tried this couple of times and always works. It’s a combination of these, let’s say, KPIs so past performance, level of craziness of the concepts, and then ready to go.
Esther: Do you ever reuse the concepts? Do you have an archive that you tap into every now and again?
Matej: Yes, we try to use any old evergreen creatives from time to time because I found out that usually works. I need some after you just run it for a couple of– if it’s evergreen or hero creative and which was running for a couple of months then it needs some time to rest, let’s say. Then after I don’t know half a year or something, I don’t have a specific number of months, but after some time just reusing all over again and it tends to work. Yes, it’s sometimes when you are just desperate enough, you just play the old card and use the evergreen creative and see if that’s going to work again.
Esther: Do you have other than pulling the evergreen out of the back pocket, is there anything that you really thought should have been amazing and tanked miserably?
Matej: Of course, this happened a lot of time before and anything like 3D CGI effects, really cool, expensive creative production [unintelligible 00:16:09] but it was really good looking and then it just didn’t work. Then there is the really horrible looking creative that looks nothing like good production video then immediately start to work.
Then there’s the factor of either getting engagements on those creatives and also if the credit is not looking as an ad and it looks pretty horrible then people might think it’s actually content from the player so that works well. You have to fail a lot of times to see what’s working and what’s not working and it’s part of the process.
Esther: We always the biggest heartbreak for every designer who worked on a beautiful project when you find an ugly converts better and it happens a lot, it’s just the saddest part.
Esther: I know.
Matej: What do you think has changed the most in the last couple of years if you look at the day-to-day or maybe the trends that you’ve been seeing across the industry?
Matej: In terms of the combination of the creatives and the current landscape, I think the introduction of all these [unintelligible 00:17:29] optimized campaigns in the last years and the value optimized campaigns changed also how I look at the creatives and the performance of those creatives because a lot of people test the creatives for like mobile app installed [unintelligible 00:17:45] campaigns because it’s cheaper and you will see results quickly.
Then it might be a little bit misleading because when you’re looking at the [unintelligible 00:17:58] and optimized campaign, purchase optimized campaigns or value optimized campaigns different type of creatives tends to work because it’s a different type of the audience. That is something that changed a lot the UA landscape in the last years and it’s still changing. Now, that you mentioned the idea phase that’s going to be a different story.
Esther: Tiny change, yes.
Matej: Well, I’m definitely looking forward to that. It’s going to be really adventurous but it’s going to change everything and also the creative testing. Now, also Facebook introduced the ThruPlay campaigns, which is the UAC equivalent for Facebook. Then there is also a very big difference between the creative change and the creative testing because now if you are looking at the regular campaigns and testing creative there, they’re not performing the same as if they are in the ThruPlay campaign. Well, fun times to be a UA manager in the gaming world definitely.
Esther: Definitely not boring.
Esther: [chuckles] You touched on when we were talking about your KPIs you touched on the difference between soft launch and maintaining a game. I’m interested in from the UA side in terms of how you’re approaching users or in terms of strategy before you start looking at your bottom goals. Is there anything that’s very different between that initial introduction to maintaining something that’s been around for a while?
Matej: It needs to be different, for example, like running the UA soft launch and for all these stages take stage and retention stage and monetization stage it’s going to be different because your GOs are limited you can’t just, well you can spend whatever you like whatever it’s on your bank account just to get enough data to kick in but it’s going to be limited and it’s definitely different than when you’re looking at the large scale UA on a live game afterwards.
In the monetization stage, there is a possibility and it should be done, like an introduction of multiple UA channels just to test the waters before going global, which then you can leverage afterwards. It is definitely different. I need to just try keep in mind what are we trying to achieve which I said like the KPIs are different in the different stages of the soft launch. Obviously, they’re different after launch because then after launch, you need to take a look at the [unintelligible 00:20:48] and say, if you’re aiming for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, whatever days, and then adjust the strategy to that goal.
Esther: Makes sense. How do you tie organics into this whole picture? Do you guys look at organics as a factor of UA as its own world?
Matej: It’s a combination. I’m looking at the organics as a separate factor. I’m trying to look at the paid [unintelligible 00:21:18] all the time. Then some companies use some kind of co-efficient, like using 20% the [unintelligible 00:21:27] or sometimes you use a blended approach where you count all the organic seem inside, depends on the level of spend, of course. I usually look at the paid only and then everything on the organic side is just a really nice bonus.
Esther: Bonus. [chuckles] Then you’re never disappointed.
Matej: Yes, exactly. It can be slightly–
Esther: What do you when you hit–
Matej: It can be misleading a little bit when you look at the [unintelligible 00:21:53] or you’re doing this at least because then organics might work better than UA which obviously shouldn’t happen but can happen after all. Then you are not running the UA effectively. That’s definitely not what you were supposed to be doing.
Esther: So I’m just saying, you keep it kind of clean, just so you know that you’re working on the factor that’s within your control and you know that you’re– Everything else is nice to have. What do you do when you’re in kind of a stagnation or a decay, so none of your campaigns seem to be doing what you need them to do or you’re not getting the KPIs that you need to hit, how do you reset that?
Matej: It happens sometimes multiple times during the year because of whatever factors Corona, seasonality, product is stagnating as well. You need to keep in mind where to hit the gas and when to push back a little bit because you can’t just grow all the time. Well, you can but I need to have a really good product in your hand. Usually, a conversation with the product team and looking at the pipeline. Like based on the new features or the features that are already in the game based on them like time spent. If I’m stagnating on different levels of spend, sometimes I just look at what worked before in the past and try to recreate that success again.
Try to reset all the learnings, that’s worked pretty well for me in the past, to be honest. You just need to know when to push back a little bit when you see there is some kind of slow on– Your [unintelligible 00:23:57] are not increasing that well enough, find the last couple of days and there is a signal that okay, so why just be done slow down a little bit. Rethink the whole creative structure and the creative process, then look at all the incision, what kind of different type of audience we are now targeting, and getting into the game. Then restructure the campaign logic and take it from there.
Esther: Talk about audiences for a second because it’s also in the research stage, knowing your audience is something that’s so critical. How do you define the audience? Is it based on your existing body of users? Is it based on research? Do you go broad and then just start narrowing and narrowing once you get the data in?
Matej: A very good question. I will give you the classic answer, it depends but now– For example, let’s take the soft launch process, I usually go when I’m talking about the targeting on the US side like going from broad to narrowing it down, piece by piece. Saying broad targeting and then going through broad interest, then competitor interest then building look-alikes. That’s changing because of the ThruPlay campaigns but I still think and I feel that ThruPlay campaigns are not the best fit for soft launch just now but will be probably in the future.
Looking at the competitors, looking at what kind of audience they have, trying to match it with the game we have at the moment. Then there are a lot of tools you can leverage like [unintelligible 00:25:39] or Quantic Foundry, I think. They have a lot of very nice, even free articles about the type of audiences. Combining these and also you can take a look at the Facebook Audience Insights if there is not anything else that you can check. It’s a combination of all these activities.
Esther: How do you in a dream world– It doesn’t have to be how it is today, but how should UA be working with other departments? What’s the right balance of focusing on your zone versus tying all strategies in together and making sure you have a cohesive vision?
Matej: I think the UAE department should be in a very close contact with the product team. It doesn’t necessarily need to be on a daily basis but at least like on a weekly basis. Just everybody know what’s going on on both sides because sometimes when you’re running some type of product A B tests, the UA traffic can influence the results pretty significantly. Everybody needs to know what’s going on. In the perfect world, these two departments are working very closely.
Then the third party, there should be the BI team. These will be found again in the soft launch like the BI team, product team, and the UA team should be– They should be the very best friends and check everything every day that together and everybody should be on the same page. In the beautiful world, these three departments work very closely together. Also, the UA team should be able to also work very closely with the old execs because they need to understand why you are pulling back with the spend. What are you doing on the UA side? Why you are targeting this? Why you are implementing new channels and whatnot.
It’s happening in at least a couple of companies already so the beautiful world is easier.
Esther: Let’s say you go back three years, you get to change something fundamental, you can do something completely different that you didn’t do then. What would you change?
Matej: I wouldn’t change anything. I wouldn’t change anything really. I made a lot of mistakes but that’s the part of life and I’m proud of making those mistakes. They actually helped me to improve on what I do. I wouldn’t change really anything. I think everything does happen for a reason. That’s how I look at the UA life and then the life in general.
Esther: A very positive way to look. You’re the first person who said absolutely nothing, believe it or not. Now a quickfire round questions that we ask everyone. First one is, if you have somebody who’s just starting out looking to be in mobile growth and expanding their marketing, what’s the one tip that you would give them?
Matej: One tip to give. Sign up for Mobile Dev Memo or [unintelligible 00:29:00].com to get all the insights you can get and just read all through. There are a lot of questions and then there are a lot of answers also, from the experts that know what they’re talking about.
Esther: You really ruined my next question, which was what’s the best resource for learning about mobile growth.
Matej: There you go, two in one.
Esther: All right, let’s say, Corona’s a thing of the past, you get to take anybody in the industry that you want out to lunch. Who are you taking?
Matej: I would take my Facebook rep at the moment. He is a very helpful and it would be pretty good to meet him in person. He’s a great gamer.
Esther: That’s very nice answer. You went for that. I like that you didn’t go for that, that high level of– I’ll take whoever’s making the decisions. Good answer. Most important question, what is your favorite flavor of pancake?
Matej: I really like the peanut butter jelly pancakes.
Esther: If people want to know more about you, hear a little bit more from you, where can they find you?
Matej: Just add me on LinkedIn. That’s the main social network for me.
Esther: Perfect. All right, Matej, thank you so much.
Matej: Thank you very much.
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