Facebook Gaming’s Morgan Monnet explains how developers can sustainably scale their business for success with a great user acquisition strategy. This article was created in collaboration with Facebook Gaming.
As we’ve seen over the last number of months, how and why people play games is constantly evolving. What draws people to a game can change; one thing that remains constant is that a great User Acquisition (UA) strategy is all about finding players who will play often and will stick around. In this article, you’ll learn some fundamentals about UA to help you successfully grow and scale your app.
Tracking how many players you have might seem easily quantifiable, but how can you measure quality? Quality UA drives long-term profitability by keeping people engaged and generating revenue. These are the players that engage with your app the most; that spend more time with it, and help you earn revenue through ads and frequent or higher value in-app purchases. They may even grow your user base through sharing or word of mouth. Over time, investing in finding these players delivers higher return on investment (ROI).
A player’s lifetime value (LTV) is one of the most challenging numbers to calculate. This is the profit that they bring throughout their entire time using your app, so it can vary greatly in length and quality. However, if you can quantify engagement, in terms of retention or purchasing behavior, you can answer two key questions:
- What is a user worth to my app?
- How much is an app install worth to me?
From here, you can calculate your ideal cost per install (CPI). Knowing this makes setting up your ads considerably easier. More importantly, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what it will take for your app to be profitable.
In a nutshell, the goal of UA is to acquire new players at a cost lower than their respective LTVs, in order to generate a positive ROI. A lot of automation comes into play to make this possible. In all cases however, whether you’re trying to get someone to play your game, or download an app to order dinner while waiting for their morning coffee, your best shot to scale and sustain your app is to put your money where your UA is.
When thinking about how UA fits into your business, it’s helpful to consider the following areas:
In gaming, data is paramount. It helps to have a data savvy team in charge of UA, who understand the importance of leaning on rich data to make informed decisions. It’s common to see UA teams working closely with Business Intelligence teams to create actionable reports using available data to inform investments and advertising parameters (e.g. modeling LTV/ROI projections). While comparing ad units is beneficial to assess different strategies, it helps to utilize aggregate campaign results and metrics to build a complete picture of your overall performance.
“Ultimately, UA is about finding the right players. After all, they’re as big a part of your game as you are.”
UA can then happen through a variety of channels. It can be good to play the field, but ideally you should focus the bulk of your investment where you’re getting the best possible ROI. It pays to go where your high value users are, whether that’s:
- Social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, Influencer features, etc.)
- Search engines (Apple Search Ads, Google Play Search and Google Search)
- Video streaming platforms (YouTube, Twitch)
- Traditional TV channels, where relevant
Creative is a key differentiator for your campaigns, but it’s frequently overlooked and often undervalued in UA strategies. Compelling and catchy creative can give you an edge in auction-based advertising, even if the ad has a lower budget. It can launch you into a cycle of outperforming your competitors, leading to a higher ROI.
So, ensure you have the creative capability to step up your ads, so they properly represent your game, and leverage different formats like playable ads. Working with a creative partner can also help you stand out.
Competition tracking, industry tracking, and trends enable you to make better-informed marketing decisions. When reviewing data and optimising campaigns, think about the players you’re targeting and where they’re located. Sometimes, you can pull insights that garner better results for your campaign. For example, users in Brazil are more likely to have Android devices, so android campaigns might perform better there.
There are two main business models in mobile gaming: in-app purchasing (IAP), and in-app advertising (IAA). How you set your UA objectives and measure against these will vary according to the model you’re marketing for. For example, IAA works with much smaller margins, so volume is essential to gain a significant ROI.
Clarifying your monetization model (whether IAA or IAP) will determine if you optimize towards the cheapest possible installs (app install optimization), the highest amount of transactions (app event optimization), or even higher-value users (value optimization). All three serve a purpose, as each method will yield different CPI and LTV ratios.
Once you have your data set up, decide which channels you’re using to acquire players, and how you’ll measure LTV according to the monetization mechanics of your game. It’s important to consider the following:
- What does user retention look like in the app (up to 30 days at least)?
- What is the LTV per paying/non-paying user?
- How much can you pay per acquired user and stay ROI-positive?
- What is the target return on ad spend (ROAS)?
- Your answers can inform how you calibrate campaign performance. This is one of the ways UA is becoming more accessible and sophisticated, and more competitive. That’s why making data-informed decisions and in-flight (or in-campaign) optimisations regarding UA is critical. It’s common practice to optimise your campaigns along the way, as many factors can affect performance:
- Which countries are providing the most valuable users (volume of installs, ROI etc.)?
- What platforms are driving the best installs (e.g. Android or iOS)?
- What channel is the most effective (Facebook, Instagram, Google ads, Apple Search Ads, Video Networks, etc.)?
Ultimately, UA is about finding the right players. After all, they’re as big a part of your game as you are. The best game in the world won’t go anywhere if people can’t find it to play it. So, take your time, crunch your numbers, and decide who your audience is. Then show them why your game is the one for them.