Marketing & Metrics

5 Tips To Maximize ROAS For Your Mobile Game

This article is one of a multi-part series focusing on Growth in Mobile Gaming leading up to Casual Connect 2018. Meet us at the event to learn about our Accelerate and Extend products tailored specifically for mobile startups.

You built the game, now it’s time to grow the user base. Mobile UA moves fast so we’ve assembled five tips for getting the highest return on every dollar you spend acquiring users (ROAS). If you’re not familiar with the ROAS concept, review what ROAS actually means and how to calculate it.

Start simple and expand

The rest of this article is going to introduce a range of variables to consider when you build out your user acquisition campaigns and it might seem overwhelming. So let’s start out by anchoring the rest of what you read here in the most important principle of them all: begin with the basics and then layer on new elements as you go.

It’s more important that you do something basic, focus on the right metrics and know whether it’s working and why than try to cover every possible variable and not really understand what comes out the other end in terms of performance.

However, you should be excited to expand. Especially if you’re game is proving to be a real money maker and your only limitation seems to be getting more users playing your game. Layering on new audience segments, tailoring creative and optimizing for different metrics help you avoid audience saturation, present a fresh message to your market and avoid plateaus or rapid drop-offs in performance that can make your business volatile.

Optimize for engagement

While in-app purchases have been a boon for game developers, indy devs may be missing out on revenue potential when they optimize their acquisition campaigns exclusively for in-app purchases. It may come as a surprise, but the majority of app revenue still comes via ads. Of the ad products available for monetization, rewarded video alone generates about 33% of overall mobile app revenue compared to 39% for in-app purchases. If you’re worried about the integrity of your app experience, consider this: rewarded video ranked as the highest in terms of user experience and even more effective than in-app purchases.

What does all of this mean? When you optimize for in-app events, focus on targeting the most engaged users, not just the ones that make the most in-app purchases. With a more holistic approach, you’ll average more revenue per user and your return on ad spend will get a boost.

Build experiences for personas

Entire business models are making their hay by delivering tailored ads to specific personas across mobile platforms. Mobile gaming has the same opportunity, but it takes a thoughtful approach to audience segmentation and a willingness to invest in ad sets that target users very differently.

The benefit of tailoring specific personas and their associated audience segments two-fold:

  1. You increase the size of your addressable audience by going beyond core gamers
  2. You decrease your cost to acquire by tailoring your creative based on their preferences and reasons for considering your game in the first place

The best way to identify the personas you should be going after is to start with patterns in your data. Use Facebook audience data to glean insight into demographics about users, create a hypothesis, target those users specifically. Once you identify the segments that produce a higher return on ad spend, double down. Tailor your message and creative specifically to that segment and adjust incrementally until you find a formula that works.

If you have 1-2 personas you customize around in addition to a more generic UA ad set, at the very least you keep your message fresh and reduce the effects of audience saturation. Best case scenario, you learn more about your audience and improve performance substantially.

Take a portfolio approach

Much has been made about the duopoly in mobile advertising that exists between Facebook and Google eating up the vast majority of ad dollars. There is a really simple reason for that: they work. However, every platform has a point of diminishing return – especially if you use a narrow set of tactics and techniques within a given platform.

Within a platform you have a multitude of tactics you can use in parallel. On Facebook, for example, you should run custom audiences, lookalikes, interest-based audiences and re-targeting. Based on personas, different hypotheses you are testing, or characteristics of a specific seed audience (e.g. optimizing for engagement or in-app purchases could result in a different seed audience you want to model  a lookalike audience after) you may be running different multiple ad sets against any single targeting approach.

The next layer is determining what to optimize against. When possible, let the platform algorithms do the work for you. App event optimization is better than downloads, downloads are better than clicks and clicks are better than impressions when it comes to a performance campaign but if you’re testing a new or unproven platform, it’s worth testing to see if your spend goes further paying for reach or clicks and betting your creative or app will get more for your buck than paying for an event further down the funnel.

Why would paying for reach ever be more efficient that optimizing for downloads or in-app events? Platforms machine learn who is more likely to take a certain action. There are certain types of people you might reach through a network that isn’t really your core audience and won’t produce a high customer lifetime value, but will click or download just about anything that is put in front of them. If for some reason the platform over-optimizes for a segment like this, it can hurt your business in the long run so it’s important to pay close attention to how valuable users you require are over time.

Optimize for every channel

It can be tempting to put one set of creative together and then try to jam it into every channel possible to get as many eyeballs as you can, but don’t. The time you’ll save will be offset when you realize performance is tanking and you’re spending a lot of money and missing benchmarks.

At the very least, run an A/B test early to determine if creative optimized specifically for that ad product performs better than a more generic version that works “well enough”. If the difference is negligible than by all means, spend that time elsewhere. If not, invest the time or coin to make it right. It will pay off in the end.