Episode #14: The State of Mobile Growth with Thomas Petit

In episode 14 of Mobile Growth and Pancakes, we embark on a trip with Thomas Petit down app store optimization lane.

In this episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes, Esther Shatz is in conversation with Thomas Petit, an independent mobile growth expert. They discuss the state of mobile growth… including the convergence of ASO and user acquisition, what iOS and IDFA mean for mobile marketers and complimenting app traffic with web traffic.

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    00:53 – Introduction 
    02:02 – How ASO has changed over in the last eight years
    05:45 – IDFA and iOS 14 
    15:04 – Finding the right success metric
    21:12 –  ASO tools then and now
    24:01 – Apps and externalities
    28:47 – App Store targeting
    33:44 – Bringing web into the mix
    40:54 – Quickfire questions

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    “Accept uncertainty, as uncertainty is the only constant in growth marketing”

    Thomas Petit

    Key takeaways:

    • ASO has changed significantly in the last eight years. Thomas classifies this period into two core trends. The first trend is the merger of different aspects of mobile growth. This trend encompasses factors like CRM, acquisition, monetization, and onboarding. The first trend, according to Thomas, has been all a big part of the growth team
    • The second core trend, according to Thomas, is where everything becomes a bit more complex as more players enter the industry and there are more tools with additional variables for a mobile growth marketer to consider. The platforms become smarter, which transforms the face of the growth game overall
    • ASO was fun in the early days where one could simply place a set of keywords in the title of your application and experience organic downloads. Whereas in the current scenario, using the same method will earn zero downloads in the best case. In the worst-case, your conversion rates could fall
    • Thomas shares that this additional complexity can be quite tough to handle from the ASO standpoint, but it also makes things exciting
    • Monitoring a lot of factors from vitals to conversions and features as well. This has also helped the growth teams interact with other departments in the organization more efficiently 
    • Thomas has always been passionate about the synergy between the paid side and growth side of marketing teams driven by them working together and staying up to date. This, has now become a reality where more interaction between these teams is leading to more success in mobile growth
    • With iOS 14 coming out and affecting IDFA, the impact will be quite interesting and exciting as now paid and organic dynamics require a new perspective. For those who hadn’t paid attention to the comparison of the two dynamics, the change can be overwhelming, whereas those who had been monitoring them before will have a fresh view
    • As for the paid side, attention attribution should be kept as a priority, as there will be less visibility and flexibility
    • The younger generation is mostly not inclined to click on ads and instead prefer to visit the App Store to browse and ultimately find the right app 
    • Apple does not deal with impression view attribution or view-through attribution, which in other words means that the App Store doesn’t show ads based on the user’s surfing and searching
    • Now is the time to review one’s assumptions on how paid and organic dynamics work concerning the launch of iOS 14. Mobile growth marketers will have a completely new normal of information and will be able to contrast the old and new way to improve their assumptions, predict and reach conclusions
    • From a measurement perspective, install rate or click-through rate is not the right metric to be monitored but only an intermediary for the growth marketer
    • Mobile growth marketers rely mostly on estimations, methodologies provided, or even their extrapolations that certain steps will accumulate certain results. While it’s important to know that uncertainty is constant, it’s even more important to realize the reason behind it
    • Tools are much better now compared to the early days of ASO. In the early days, with the absence of tools for data aggregation and cost aggregation, Thomas had to export and check on the sheets manually to find the needed information. Nowadays, extracting this information is a lot easier

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      Full Transcript:

      Esther Shatz: Welcome to Mobile Growth & Pancakes. I’m very excited to be joined today by Thomas Petit, who I have to tell you I’ve been following since the very days I joined the ASO world back in 2014. I’ll let you introduce yourself a bit further. Go ahead.

      Thomas Petit: Yes, thanks, Esther. Nice attempt here at the French accent. [chuckles] Hi, everybody. I’m happy to be on the Pancake podcast because a couple of episodes before were really, really good. I encourage you to check the others. I’m Thomas, today speaking with Esther. I’m an independent consultant on mobile growth. I touched a little bit of ASO, but a lot of other topics from paid to onboarding, analytics, attribution, and a lot of other topics. Happy to be here, Esther. Thanks for the invite.

      Esther: [chuckles] Thanks for coming. You’ve been in the space I think probably about since there’s been a space to be in within the world of mobile growth. One of the things that actually you and I were speaking about before as well is how much the world seemed to have blended together a little bit. Maybe back in the beginning, we really focused on ASO as an independent metric on UA, as an independent strategy. Talk me through how that looks to you today, why it’s changing.

      Thomas: Absolutely. That trend is really strong. If I look from a very broad perspective, like eight years or something or six years, which is an eternity in our world, I think there are two core trends. One is that one, the different disciplines are all merging together. I think that’s why the word growth is really encompassing. Instead of having acquisition on one side and maybe CRM on the side and maybe, what I call early product, a lot of onboarding and monetization on one side. This is all part of the growth team. That’s one big trend. The other one is that everything becomes more complex as more players enter the field, and there are more tools, and there are more factors, the platform becomes smarter.

      In the early days, it was fun. You could just stick a couple of keywords in the title and look at your organic downloads grow. Then good luck trying that today, stick a couple of keywords in your title. The most likely is that absolutely nothing is going to happen at best. At worst, you can even fuck it up, I believe. I had a case recently. They tried to change stuff, and actually, the rankings didn’t change, but the conversion dropped massively. It was a huge fuckup. Doesn’t matter. I think this complexity is tough to handle from the ASO side, but it also makes it exciting. Because it’s not a keyword anymore.

      It’s a lot about, one, monitoring a lot of factors, from vitals to what are done by paid people, conversion to featurings. Sometimes, [unintelligible 00:03:45]. It makes it interesting that there’s a lot to check. What’s interesting is we have to interact with the other teams. Because I moved more from the ASO side to the paid side, from very early on, I was a strong advocate of, “Guys, we need to work together. It’s stupid to have the paid team on one side, and the ASO around in other side.” I’ve been fighting for this in-company, for three, four years. I’m happy that this is becoming more of a reality.

      I’ve seen in some cases, like in bigger companies, where actually the ASO role is really pivotal in the sense that you need to sync with the dev team because it’s related to the release, you need to sync with brand for the creative, you need to sync with the paid team because it has a huge impact on your KPI. Actually, it’s quite a very cross-functional role. That has become super interesting because you’re a center point of interaction of many people, and I think that’s what makes it exciting. It’s much harder than it used to be, but it’s also much more exciting. That’s the way I see it.

      Esther: I totally agree. Because, obviously this isn’t going to be new, especially if you’ve listened to this podcast before or anything to do with mobile anything, but iOS 14 came in. IDFA is the last bucket of the major revolution that is probably coming, around March is current rumor. I think a lot of developers are looking at it both with absolute terror, and the fact that this changes everything that’s been working until now. I actually have heard a lot of excitement too. It’s changing our processes. It’s taking away the routine. We’re now going to innovate, and we’ll see what else innovates, I’d love to hear how you think it looks day after, change goes into play, you can’t track user-level analytics. What next?

      Thomas: It’s clear there’s a bit of terror here. We’re in an industry where change is fast, almost permanent and quite big. But this one is really, really big. There is documentation, but let’s say the lack of depth of documentation, the lack of preparation from a few of the biggest networks in mid-January will actually have no clue what the biggest, what Drupal is exactly going to do. It’s scary not to know because there’s a lot of uncertainty. I think the excitement part, without commenting too much on technicalities and how to manage that, I think here, following the previous conversation, what’s really interesting, what’s really exciting is that we want it or not, it will force us to look at these paid and organic interactions and dynamics from a new perspective. I think here, those who haven’t looked at it enough will be forced to look at it.

      Those who were already analyzing paid and organic dynamics would have a complex fresh view on it. In a way, for the paid side, this change in attribution is probably for the worse. Because we will have less granularity, less visibility, less flexibility. If you look at it as a whole, from the analysis of how things look like, there’s always been a very strong effect of paid on organic, which could be a hint that actual attribution was not exactly working the way we thought it was. Then suddenly, we have a complete new way of looking at attribution that is forced onto developers for the better and the worse. The better part of it is that we will have to relook at things completely.

      I think here, something that has a huge implication is that Apple does not deal with impression view attribution, view-through attribution. It’s like everything is click-based. If you look at, first, user behavior, you see that the younger generation, they’re clicking less and less and going to the store more by themselves. Clicking is a thing of our generation of those 35 plus or whatever. Like, “We’re all school, we’re clicking–“

      Esther: I feel so old now. [chuckles] They know not to trust ads. They’re not gonna click straight on–

      Thomas: Yes, I’m clicking. I’m an old dude. I’m seeing it more and more. You see it around you, the younger audience react differently, but even in channels. That’s why typically, YouTube or TikTok have a huge view-through attribution share. Because it’s video, because of the way the channel is, but also because of the audience that is there. I think here, it’s going to be tough to reconcile. We’re going to have a look at it. I have a second point. It’s the user base, but it’s also the channels. Then you look at TikTok two years ago, nobody was putting a dime there. Now, everybody’s scrambling to raise their budget there.

      Even YouTube has been there for like 15 years, but if you look in the media mix of most developers even two years ago, it was from a minority to almost zero. Then suddenly, it took such a share because users flood there because Google has unlocked a lot of inventory, raising the [unintelligible 00:09:36] for the better as well. Then going back to your question, yes, the data we’re going to have is going to look very different. My recommendation is the time to review your assumptions on how paid and organic work. We’re going to have a complete new world of information that is coming there, and we’ll be able to contrast like the old way and the new way to try to improve our assumptions, which are mostly wrong.

      We’re thinking like, “Oh, yes, that channel has a 30% uplift or whatever.” The truth is our mathematical model is behind that. They’re pretty weak. A lot of small people right now, they’re working on exactly that on approximating better incrementality, stopping to see paid and organic the way attribution providers give it to us and the way stores give it to us. I’m still connected to the console. I’m notoriously really bad for that aspect. Actually, Google is so bad at that, that they even removed it from the console, which a lot of people are crying about.

      What I’m thinking is, “Is it better to have the wrong information I rely on or not to have the information? Usually, I prefer the wrong information because then I can extrapolate a little bit around it. For many people, maybe it’s good not to be misled by something that is actually not the truth. You’re going to have to figure out, A, it’s not going to be simple for sure. The summary here is that we’re going to be pushed to look at this interaction in a new way. For me, that’s exciting. The terror part is we don’t know where we’re going. I believe both sides of the coins are there.

      Esther: I love that point. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it that way. We’ve always talked about things like K-Factor and what’s the unattributed side of paid and what’s going on. When you’re phrasing it that way, when you look at TikTok, when you look at YouTube, which actually a lot of developers who focus on kids, developers were really going for younger apps, they need YouTube advertisement because how else are you reaching that generation, and the click-throughs are terrible. That doesn’t mean the ads perform terribly at all. I’ve heard it from a few people at this point, you have to start being comfortable with your performance marketing also being your brand marketing.

      That’s how you’re getting your name out. That’s where you’re associated, what you’re doing. I don’t know if you saw it, Calm, the meditation app. They did a sponsorship of the presidential debates in the US. There’s no click there. There’s no nothing. They soar. They were top of the charts for I don’t remember how long. It’s so true that if you’re so focused on clicking that single user attribution or following the one person step by step without being able to be in their mind, you completely missed these potentially massive effects that are moving your needle in every way.

      Thomas: We have to think, even though there’s still a lot of people clicking– in a way, both for performance and organic, the way I’m trying to think about it is, “Let’s forget about click rates.” Typically on the paid side, I’ve always looked at what gaming apps would call IPM, which I call impression-to-install ratio, which is it’s a per click more or less, it doesn’t really matter. What actually really matters is that ratio without the intermediary step is the same when you look at it in search ads. Because, actually, people can install directly from the search result. If you’re monitoring like, “Oh, what’s my click-to-install conversion rate?” It’s a bit of a flow metric in the sense that there are people who did install, but they never pass from that.

      The click is important in the journey you have. From the organic side, you really have to consider how the search result looks and how my product page looks. From a measurement perspective, I think it’s not great to look at intermediary steps, specifically pixel rate and install rate. We should rather look at the install rate directly as the combination of those two metrics, as in IPM. From an analytics point of view, I think this is the only way to go. Then from the ASO perspective, of course, you want to consider both situations because some people are going to see this product page and spend time on it and so on. It’s interesting to think you measure your outcome on one metric, but actually there are intermediary steps that you’re working on to improve.

      Esther: I think it’s definitely one of the main challenges in mobile today is most developers can’t afford to have a clean environment. You can’t stop offline activities and in-app events just to measure one specific UA campaign and follow through. How do you think people can address that? I like what you said about the cutout middle step. You’re actually looking at the full picture of what happens in the beginning, what happens at the end. Any tips on how you can take that step of actually attributing? Even if we get all these teams in the same room and we know they’re working together, how do we know which effort’s really creating the impact?

      Thomas: Here, the first part of the answer is accept the uncertainty, accept that nobody’s going to come to the table saying, “Oh, that action was exactly–” It’s like that. We’re all relying on estimations or methodologies that are provided, whether it’s MMPs or the stores or your own extrapolation or whatever. You’re based on a methodology that will have some flow. I think here, the first part of the response is accept the uncertainty, but also understand why the uncertainty. Dig into not only, “Oh, I know that we don’t know,” but actually go into it, “MMP do it more like this, and the store do it more like that.” I know that this channel might have this more effect, just like we talked about TikTok or YouTube or, “Oh, I know influencer.”

      I’ve seen an app recently. They only measure influencer results from what is coming into their MMP. I’m like, “Guys, you’re missing out on 90% of the impact of this campaign.” Of course it looks like shit if you only look at what’s [unintelligible 00:16:05]. You have to extrapolate a little bit. It’s not that you’re half blind. It’s you’re 90% blind, really. Then going back to your question, I think the complex way of answering this is developing a mechanics model and incrementality model that helps you approximate this effect. It’s never entirely true. I think here, with this change of iOS 14, it’s really a topic that is becoming really hard.

      There are a couple of startups that emerged in the past year specializing on that. I think even the MMP are working on that. As developers, we’re going to have a lot more help to go beyond the usual deterministic in-store data and have more of these extrapolation. They’re hard to do internally. I’ve been working with the developers on modularization like this for about a year. It’s hard to get exact results. At the end of the day, you are making better decision because you’re better informed. It’s not we take it as granted, but it gives us another perspective. We’ll have the analytic perspective, the store perspective, and that modulation perspective. That’s what we make the decision on.

      I’m talking about pretty advanced sophisticated set ups and tools and information and decisions. The simple way of doing that, here, the simple advice is tell whether the paid team as a whole or a channel manager or even the ASO team, whatever your reporting, whether it’s Facebook or have paid only the organic, I want to see the toll, the blended value in parallel, no matter what you do. This is, for me, fundamental for two reasons, why you want to avoid– Like this situation that is super famous about Uber that stopped a hundred million of marketing or whatever. Actually, the blend didn’t move one bit because it was all cannibalization and fraud and stuff.

      Actually, you want to monitor that because it’s healthy. I’m not saying you’re going to protect yourself from fraud by looking at the blend, but at least you will detect the stuff that really doesn’t move the needle at all. It’s just moving the attribution, but actually they’re not incremental at all. The other one is that, sorry, just to finish, it aligns the interest in the company. Everybody starts looking in the same direction from a culture point of view. We stop having this part of, “Oh, yes, but I’m the one managing TikTok.” I know there is more at the top of the funnel than you who manage search and internal battles of, “Yes, this guy is stealing my traffic with this last week.”

      Having more everybody about, “I know you have this channel to manage, but what I care about is the total life. All the rest doesn’t matter to me. I think it really aligns interest to think like this. I’m trying to give that advice, which is very, very simple to execute. We’re not talking about complex modulation. Put on a second axis, the total value that said whether it’s [unintelligible 00:19:25] volume in store, retention, whatever the value you’re trying to look at, look at it in parallel with the blended value.

      Esther: Maybe the best tip I think that you could give, because it covers– First of all, I think you had two things in there that were really powerful. Blended is something that you see a lot of the bigger companies missing just because they are so large, and they have so many teams, and the teams tend to function so autonomously. I think the easiest example is when we look at Apple search ads, and the cannibalization that happens there. The search ads team is thrilled because they’ve just gotten a ton of cheap, high quality installs through. The organic team is wondering what the heck is going on because their performance seems so tanked, and they’re not getting anything they need.

      If you’re looking at that blended and you’re looking at that total, you see nothing’s changed. You’ve just spent way more money to get there. Until you look at that, you’re just going to keep going through that. I also really like the point about being comfortable with trends, maybe instead of exact numbers, which I think is something that’s very difficult for people to do in our industry. You never had it before, but IDFA is making it that much more transparent. You cannot assume that you have this exact number. It’s always going to be an assumption. It’s always going to be inherently by definition wrong if you’re attributing user by user. I think that is a really important point. Keep an eye on the trend, be more comfortable without the exact quantification that goes with it.

      Thomas: I don’t think I said that, but that’s awesome. I completely agree.

      Esther: [chuckles] I rephrase. You hit the point.

      Thomas: I completely agree here. For the understanding, probably you will have to report, “We spent X of that return last month.” At some point, you will have to report it that way. You would say, “Facebook is 20% more or less profitable than this or that or whatever.” Actually, when you are running the campaign, whether you’re the CMO or the company manager at any level I think trends is where you really understand what’s going on. We’ve got much better toolings down. I remember back in the early days of paid, I didn’t have any BI system. I didn’t have that aggregation, cost aggregation tool. I was making this constant export.

      I would have a million extra files on my desk, which I very often trashed. I want to see the daily average, and then I realize it’s fluctuating too much. I say, “The weekly average.” Then I did this– Not average, weekly trend and daily trend. I would export nonstop. The beauty of it is that, today, it’s a lot easier to do that. Whichever system you use, whether it’s Tableau, Looker or Data Studio, maybe MMP dashboard, maybe singular apps.

      All of them, they make surfacing trends over numbers a lot easier. Even at some point, numbers are for reporting externally. In your way, you could look at this data without the axis value, which is terrible. Never share a graph without the axis value. Mentally speaking, you could look at it without the value. The value doesn’t matter. The value is a construction of the model, but you want to see is it going in the right direction or not? This is what you want to look at.

      Esther: I agree. I think also in addition to all that, is just making sure something that I’ve noticed many, many, many companies aren’t on top of is where are the impact points? Where are the efforts that we’ve taken, where outside events that should be? The easiest example I can think of right now is when COVID hit mid-March, pretty much every app saw something insane. Either your performance zoomed, if you were a gaming app around March 15th, you probably saw your performance just explode into numbers you’ve never seen. If you were some face-to-face app, ticketing app or whatever, you probably saw your performance absolutely tank.

      If you’re just looking at the numbers, and you’re missing the context of what actually happened to cause these changes, also, I think it’s when you’re talking at trend mines, and you’re trying to see the right direction, you also want to make sure you’re overlaying the causes. What is pushing it? People don’t wake up one day and just decide not to search for something that they had been deciding to– There’s always something there.

      Thomas: There’s so many moving pieces in that puzzle. There’s many things we do that can have a positive impact or sometimes great to complete fuck up. There’s lots of externalities at play. COVID was the biggest of all. It was so massively bad for apps like travel and mobility and so on, and so massively good in education and communication and stuff. I’m very surprised at the dating vertical because I would have guessed they would tank and actually managed to get it out of that mess and provide values for users who couldn’t meet anymore. Which, for me, is amazing. There are a lot of these externalities, sometimes smaller.

      Sometimes they are linked to seasonality because maybe it’s Thanksgiving or Halloween or St. Valentine or Christmas or whatever. They’re specific by country. Behaviors are different. Sometimes they’re not seasonality or exceptional stuff like this, but there’s always things happening. Then there’s one thing I’m trying to do that is not easy at all, it’s to create a group of peers that are really the same. I think your categories, I don’t know how good they are for users. You go to the fitness category, and there’s a lot of things. You go to education, it means from kid stuff to student stuff, to adult, like lifelong learning and training. Every category encompasses a lot of subcategories.

      I call them clusters. I started seeing a few graphs on those clusters. I think there is a lot more insight when you look at it. I always try to look at, “Oh, something big is happening.

      Is it us? Is it everybody?” By everybody, I mean everybody liked me. I don’t mean the category. Very often, it’s hard to compare yourself with the category. Let’s say you are a workout app. The meditation app might have a completely different dynamic or the diet app, which is also in the fitness and health category. These clusters react very differently. I work with one kids app, for example, that is in the education vertical. The education vertical, my app is nothing comparable to Blinkist or even brain training apps that are usually in the education category as well.

      I want to kick those out. Here, I think Google did a great update, that I can have some of these sub-clusters first in the conversion rate where they are actually categories that are different from the store. You can actually get only meditation apps, only tracker apps and so on. They’re still missing a few key subcategories here, but [unintelligible 00:26:38]. I think it’s in the review part where you can actually set it yourself, a group of 10 or 12 peers. I don’t know exactly which app is doing what. It’s still totally anonymous. This direction is a lot better than the category to at least just like– When something is happening, let’s say, COVID.

      These kids’ education apps, obviously, soar because kids are at home and you look for school replacement and so on. What I’m interested is, “Maybe I’m growing two X, but if all my peers are growing four X, what I’m actually doing is wrong,” and the other way around. If the whole vertical is in a tough spot because maybe it’s December, and the venture is crazy expensive and so on, maybe I decrease 20%. Maybe I’m actually gaining ground compared to the other. This is not so easy to do, but I think it’s also very recommendable to have a decent idea of, “Is it me? Is it the other?” How I’m doing comparatively.

      I think here Google is a lot in advance over Apple in evaluating ASO factor in a comparative manner. “How’s your compression rate compared? How’s your retention rate comparing? How is your crash rate comparing?” Judge you based on, “Are you doing better or worse than people who are doing the same as you?”

      Esther: That’s a really good point. I think a lot of people rely on category ranking as their metric of, “This is how I know if I’m in line with the industry.” What you’re saying is so true because if I’m looking at fitness apps, if I happen to be an app that connects to a gym, of course, I tanked in COVID because nobody could go to the gym. Other fitness apps, the ones that you work out at home probably exploded. Google definitely has– being able to define your peers and use those peers for benchmarks is massive. With iOS, it’s definitely not easy. Is it person by person, you’re just looking manually for the competitors and flagging them in an app intelligence tool? How do you go about that?

      Thomas: It’s a bit of a pain I have to say. As many things ASO, it’s about doing the best of impartial data and information, and it’s always been like this from the early days. It’s also part of the challenge of how do I approximate something that I know information is not entirely available. Here are a couple of things we can look at, one, being aggregating a group that you form yourself, an app intelligence tool. I don’t care that Calm did [unintelligible 00:29:15] in store and Headspace did [unintelligible 00:29:17]. I want to see the top five meditation apps, I pick them myself just put data-wise and data-wise, and make a group out of them. Just not necessarily native and all these tools. I don’t understand why, but there’s always a way of reworking this data on your side.

      Another one you can look especially for conversion, they’re not perfect, but now a few benchmarks have emerged on a couple of tools. Some that are pretty shit. AppFolio has one. I think. I think Uptick has one. What I hate about benchmarks is that you’re rarely comparing with something that is really meaningful. Because here, what you want to have is, “I want the category, I want the source of traffic.” If I’m looking at the whole or search only, it’s completely– I have one case on the Play Store, where the benchmark comparing to the subcategory to people who do exactly like they do is much worse than the peers. Then you look into it, they got so much more traffic coming from typically low conversion sources.

      They’ve got more explore than search, whereas the competitor has much [crosstalk]-

      Esther: Featuring.

      Thomas: -to explore. They’ve got a ton of traffic from TikTok and YouTube, which typically converts less than, say, Instagram or whatever. We just have to accept that, “If I’m nearly down to that level, I can actually really compare what’s going on. That gets really hard. On iOS, you just don’t get to that level of information. I don’t have tricks to surface information that just doesn’t exist outside of Apple servers and that we’re not ready to get. What I’m saying is keep aware of what you’re actually looking at. Even in those benchmarks, what’s behind it? This is where you want to look over time as well. Sometimes, I give a couple of ASL classes.

      Also there’s a retention part, and the students are like, “What’s a good install rate? What’s a good retention rate?” I say, “The good install rate, the good conversion rate is the one that is better than the one you had yesterday. It means you’re improving. It means you’re making progress. It means you understand your audience better. Stop looking at the other. Stop measuring, stop comparing your deck with your neighbors, and start looking at, ‘can I each rate my products in a way that user like it more?'” Even if it’s a low value, but three times in a row, you find an increment of 10%, keep going. You’re in the right direction. That’s the only thing that matters.

      Esther: Yes, I agree. I think it’s also one of the reasons that in a lot of cases, I’ll recommend people not look at their conversion rate at all. Because if you’ve done something that’s increased your traffic dramatically, the best example is featuring– Apple feature you on the today page, you’ve gone up an insane amount in your impression rate, you’re never going to go up by that amount in your install rate. It’s impossible because you were being exposed to more relevant people. Now you’re exposed to way, way more, and some of them are more relevant, but so many of them are less.

      Then you want to shift your KPI, if you’re only focusing on your conversion rate, you think you’ve tanked your entire performance because you went from 5% to .2%. Actually, you brought in triple the amount of users you did before. I totally agree. Benchmarks are a gift and a curse because you need some level to say, “Something outside of me is happening. There’s a limit to what I can expect to hit.” You will also tie yourself to a situation where you happen to know the ASL manager at every company. “What are you guys doing right now, so I could compare to make sure we’re really comparing apples to apples,” you have to have the context.

      You have to really be looking at your specific scenario and what it means in relation to what you’ve done before. I think I totally agree. One last question that I have on topic, it’s a little bit of a shift. We talked about a lot of the alternative things that are coming through and companies that are coming up with different ideas to be able to tackle. Something I’ve spoken about with a few people is the idea of bringing the web into the mix somehow. You have certain tracking and abilities on the web, and I know this is something you’ve been thinking about as well. Interested to hear your thoughts.

      Thomas: See, I’m very bullish on complementing app traffic with web traffic, maybe not for all verticals. I think maybe the gaming vertical is the one where there’s less affinity to go cross-platform. Then when you look at non-gaming, a lot of brands already have activity on both sides. Even if you’re mainly an app, mobile-first or whatever, people are browsing no matter what. The fact that I see a lot of UA people just like, “I’m doing this app campaign. I’m good. Oh, I’m predicting my brand. Oh, I can on Apple search ads.” They’re not really getting the brand at all on google.com on the web, for me, is a weird way. The truth here is that it’s hard to do, the data is hard to look at it in combination.

      It’s very hard to find professionals who understand both sides. I started on the web before moving to apps around 2013 or around that or whatever. I feel so rusty now. When I talk with a few peers and counterparts, I feel five, six years have gone, and I’ve missed so much that I feel like a total newbie there. Which is a good feeling in a way also because you learn a lot and so on. What I mean in here is that it’s very hard to find professionals who are good at both. It’s very hard to understand the dynamics of data when you have activities on both the web and the app, some businesses have naturally both sides.

      I’m working with a few of them, and it’s so hard. It seems I used to have that funny saying that there is an invisible obstacle like a fence between the digital and the analog world. Typically, that’s why a printer never works because the printer is the machine that transforms one thing into the other. I had this feeling it’s not only for printers, but any machine that transforms analog into digital or the other way around, usually keeps breaking and has bugs and whatever. There is a frontier. I have a feeling today, the app world that is working in silo, in between each other and the web guys who have never heard about UAC, they’re just discovering about this ATT prompt in January 2021, 8 months after it was announced. There is also a fence between these two worlds. Breaking down that fence is really, really a hard issue. It’s a big challenge. Running an acquisition on the web for apps, like doing web-to-apps properly is really hard. The channel, they’re not prepared for it. The data is hard to interpret. The talent is not the same. The skills you need are not the same. I’m saying, nothing easy. The ones who will be among the first to actually do it properly, I think you have a huge advantage for the long term. You can really compliment, for example, if you’re looking at older audience traffic, there’s a lot more done on the web.

      If your competitors are just doing the usual Facebook and Google and Apple and whatnot, they find some of them, but actually you’ve got an edge over them. That’s a bit of a particular use case. I have a feeling that those will tackle this challenge successfully, they really construct an advantage that will be hard for competitors to replicate in a short period of time. I’m very bullish about that. I’m working on the web-to-app topic with several developers. the truth is it’s a nightmare. If you’re a small team, and you still have a lot of increment to make just on the app like get there. It’s not a low-hanging fruit.

      It’s a high effort, high impact initiative that can take a year or two before they actually show their full potential. It depends. The [unintelligible 00:37:43] is not necessarily a good choice to put yourself in there. Let’s say, here, I will leave a message for Apple, which I doubt is listening but I try my luck is, “Hey, guys, what do we do with this kind of network here? You only plan the app-to-app situation, what the fuck am I do with the web-to-app traffic? Because if you think I’m going to rely on this campaign parameter that you have enough store connect, this is not going to cut it.” Please, yes, integrate something for the web in the attribution framework. This is what I wish for this year.

      Esther: Somebody passed this through the Apple. Now, I think it connects to what we were saying before also, which is if we think about the behavior being the less and less click, you can expect your ad to directly lead somebody into the App Store. I don’t know if it’s an age thing I can say about my behavior, I’m always going to be more comfortable on Google Search than I am on any other search because that’s what I do. That’s my default. That’s where I go. Then that’s my journey into the App Store. I definitely agree, if you’re missing that web presence, whatever the demographic, you’re missing some massive, massive chunk of it.

      It is really hard. I like that printer analogy. I have a strange image in my head. Now, I’m trying to move from the upside down, and this is the machine that’s trying to help you get there. [chuckles] Web is a long game. SEO is not the thing that you get to change with a single version release, and then all of a sudden, you see your numbers soar. It’s an investment. It can’t be a pilot for two weeks. Do you know what I mean? You can’t try it out, see if it works. You’re all in or you’re not. I think it’s a good point.

      Thomas: Just think about the long game is that you don’t see the results immediately. You can’t do it in a sprint. There’s no compounding effect. Mobile is so upward, it’s so ephemeral, things go up and down really rapidly. I think here, it’s a way to build a barrier of entry for other people. If you’re able to invest these resources over 6, 12 months and start seeing what you prepare. It’s really hard to replicate for others. It’s also a way to defend your business. That also means delay. The more you delay it, the later you start, the harder it’s going to be.

      It’s part of this long game. Again, depending on the phases, the stage you are at with the company on the app, it might not be the best idea for the short term, but don’t push it forever out of the equation. I’ve made that mistake a couple of times myself. Have challenges. One hard challenge.

      Esther: Hard challenges. Exactly. This is why we’re employed because we need people who are thinking to tackle them. All right. Let’s move into quick-fire random questioning. You’ve been in space for almost a decade now. What’s one tip, just one tip that you would give to somebody who’s just trying to break into mobile growth.

      Thomas: Don’t be afraid to learn by doing, like test anything, break things. Don’t read guides and conferences. They’re great and all. At the end of the day, you want to do stuff. Even if it’s a small app, ask an indie guy, you’ve never done TikTok as you want to try them, spend $100 on it. It’s the best training you can ever do. My short advice is, just do it.

      Esther: [chuckles] Never heard that slogan before. Favorite mobile growth resource.

      Thomas: Favorite mobile growth resource. I’m a complete groupie of Eric Seufert. I recommend Mobile Dev Memo as well as the Slack that goes with it. I think the ASO Stack is also worth a mention. Really great community of organic practitioners and lots of learning and lots of people helping each other. Those two are really worth mentioning.

      Esther: Let’s say COVID ends tomorrow, we get to go back to normal life. Who is the one person in the industry that you want to take to lunch and why?

      Thomas: I’d say probably my closest friend that I made. Not necessarily people in the industry, but I’ll name Andy Cavo.

      Esther: [chuckles] Why?

      Thomas: Because it’s such Andy is such a joyful source of information. He’s also a good friend. I think here in the mobile growth space, which is pretty broad, we’re very complementary to each other. Every time I exchange with him, I think we’re both getting something out of it. I’m weak where he’s strong and vice versa. That makes the best partnerships.

      Esther: I’m in full agreement there. That’s perfect. Most important question of this whole time, what is your favorite pancake?

      Thomas: You’re going to laugh because I don’t eat that many pancakes. I’m going to say the French– It’s valid partly. Actually, I like the savory one, an egg and lots of cheese and something. I’m going to say the savory French crêpe.

      Esther: I like it a lot. We actually have a savory crêpe place, like two seconds away from us. It’s my go-to breakfast lately. Amazing Thomas. Where can people find you for more? Where can they learn a bit more from you after this?

      Thomas: They can find me online because offline, it’s not the time to find me. I don’t want you to find me. I’m very easy to find online. I’m in the sites I mentioned before, and you can usually find me on any kind of social network under the name, Thomas Bcn. Twitter, LinkedIn, [unintelligible 00:43:42], whatever. I’m not on Instagram with that name, so don’t look for that. I’m very easy to reach online. Probably you can Google my name and find me really to come and say hi. [unintelligible 00:43:55] they’re here to exchange between peers. You ask what’s the best resources, instead of answering by like a content, I answered by a place where you have actually other people to ask. I think this is the way you learn. This is the way you have fun. See you there. My DMs are open.

      Esther: [chuckles] Amazing. Thank you so, so much for joining today. I can’t believe it’s taken this long for us to speak. I’m really, really happy we got the chance.

      Thomas: Great. Thanks for inviting me. See you.

      About Esther Shatz
      For some it goes: Moses -> the elders -> People of Israel. For most of us here it's simply: Everything that happens in the mobile world -> Esther -> Storemaven. When not on maternity leave, Esther is leading all consultancy and product marketing activities as Senior VP.

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