As we wrap up StoreMaven’s 4th time attending the Mobile Apps Unlocked (MAU) conference, I wanted to reflect on the current state of mobile growth and the industry as a whole. This year MAU felt bigger and more relevant than ever before, as the vast majority of the mobile industry gathered in the MGM Grand for two action-packed days.
Here are my main takeaways from the conference:
1) MOBILE GROWTH IS EVOLVING FROM A SYSTEM OF HACKS TO CLEAR STRATEGY
Who doesn’t love a hack? The premise of a growth hack is simple: minimal investment and lucrative returns. And so, in the last few years, many mobile growth practitioners have been experimenting with an ever-growing number of growth hacks. For many companies, growth strategy was simply a system of hacks loosely threaded together.
This year at MAU though, one major theme that folks kept on mentioning was the evolution from multiple hacks to a sound growth strategy. But why?
Hacks are merely a short-term bandaid, many quick fixes patching up leaks instead of reinforcing the roof. And that simply isn’t good enough.
Currently, we live in a world of silos. Different growth functions (UA, ASO & Marketing, Brand, etc.) often try to perform their own growth hacks without taking into account the workings and goals of other functions – or worse, they try to attribute overall success to their own activities at the expense of others, muddying the waters and blurring what should be correctly attributed to what. Thankfully, this is changing.
For me, one of the clear signs of this evolution is that instead of the all too common ‘left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing’ phenomenon, we’re seeing more and more teams come together and view their entire growth efforts more holistically.
Instead of trying to get quick UA wins, or quick ASO/ organic wins, smart growth teams are leveraging all worlds to drive towards a shared goal: producing more quality growth for their apps and games, thus creating a distribution advantage in both the App and the Play Store. This type of communal coming-together happens when teams understand the value they generate to each other and will allow them to grow faster, acquire users for less and dominate their respective markets in terms of market shares.
UA helps make apps more discoverable which helps ASO; creatives in the app store are a way to convert more quality UA channels. Instead of creating a brand that is removed from performance, ASO and Creative Optimization are used to better understand users. These teams don’t let the fact that sophisticated organic attribution models are still under development stop them, they know how this world works and are not afraid to use it.
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2) EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT MARKETING INCREMENTALITY, BUT IS IT THERE YET?
I see the incrementality discussion (the incremental value you can attribute solely to one marketing activity) as an indispensable part of moving from growth hacking to growth strategy and a necessity in the era of ever greater competition.
One of the areas where sophisticated incrementality thinking has grown is TV attribution. It seems like it has been 2-3 years since growth teams started to take TV as a UA channel more seriously. In a fascinating talk by Fabien Pierre Nicolas (from SmartNews) and Matt Horatio (from Calm), they walked us through their model and discussed the biggest challenge of incrementality: the measurement itself.
How do you take into account changes in overall UA spend? How do you define the attribution window? How do you take into account the indirect effect of getting a higher category rank? How do we accurately measure the impact of UA ads on branded search traffic? What is the cost-per-insight? When does it become ROI negative to generate that insight?
Clean incrementality testing involves turning off a certain activity and turning it back on in a controlled manner while holding fixed all variables that are under your control. In order to measure the incrementality of different marketing efforts accurately and efficiently, the key is to understand the macro-economics of the app stores and the intertwined relationship of the different app store metrics (organic, paid, category ranking, keyword ranking, etc.).
After understanding the macro, one can then dive into the micro and understand how their own metrics behave within that environment. The model should take into account almost all the possible impacts of a certain effort (like running a TV ad) and measure its incremental value. An in-depth approach must be taken to create and analyze it.
3) APP STORE OPTIMIZATION IS AT THE CORE OF TOP BRANDS MOBILE GROWTH STRATEGIES
Above all, I feel like the industry has matured in its approach to ASO. It’s no longer a practice confined to growth hackers trying to get featured just one more time.
ASO testing does more than help to design a ‘best performing’ creative to implement in the real stores: it helps you understand your audience better than ever. Brands get a chance to measure, test and learn which messages drive their users, which messages convert and which messages make them drop. These brands will enjoy better conversion rates, better growth, and lower costs per acquisition. They’ll simply get more bang for their buck because the brand that knows its audience best wins.
By their own admission, dozens of executives are now looking at ASO, in general, and creative optimization and App Store testing, in particular, as a core piece of their strategy. More and more companies are realizing they underinvested in ASO and hurry to build their infrastructure. I believe the landscape will become less and less ‘fair’ for two main reasons.
- As some companies get to know their audience better they will enjoy higher growth rates for a lower cost.
- By nailing ASO, they’ll also understand which macro-economic levers to pull at which exact moments in order to design a winning strategy.
This unfair advantage will be the result of these companies using ASO as the top way to understand the macro-economics of the store better, empowering them to stay a step ahead.
All in all, MAU 2019 was a phenomenal event. We connected with colleagues, reaffirmed our partnerships and learned from so many. It was great to be at the beating heart of our industry; to see how far we’ve come and to see just how far we’re going to go.