American Marketer


Key techniques to get brands through holiday downloads

December 19, 2014

Harish Thimmappa is vice president of mobile user acquisition at Supersonic Harish Thimmappa is vice president of mobile user acquisition at Supersonic


By Harish Thimmappa

While holiday shopping is well under way, there is still time for last-mile efforts for application owners and developers who are still in need to acquire new users.

The holiday season purchase of shiny new mobile devices will bring an avalanche of new users with new and improved handsets looking for new apps. This tremendous growth and adoption is an opportunity for developers to acquire new users and to generate significant revenue.

Media is the message
Finding the right audience for your app is not a trivial task. It requires blending high volume with high-value users. Adjusting these balances depending on your app’s lifecycle is paramount.

For new apps, an emphasis on getting higher app store rankings to get discovered is the best strategy.

New apps should set the following goals for their paid media buying:

● Sixty percent on high-volume, low-cost-per-install (CPI) and possibly low lifetime- value (LTV) users. They can drive significant organic installs by increasing store rank and virality

● Twenty percent focused on acquiring high-value users via video ads to show the app experience

● Twenty percent on high-value users through a cost-per-engagement (CPE) model

This mix will ensure that your overall install numbers, engagement metrics and retention metrics are high, and you will maximize your chances of getting to the top of the App Store.

Conversely, existing apps that seek to maintain a steady stream of users and also maximize their chances of acquiring paying customers should consider this mix below:

● Twenty percent on high-volume, low CPI users, though these users might make fewer IAPs, they drive the app towards the critical mass bringing in organic results

● Forty percent on high-value, high CPI users by using video ads to demonstrate the app experience

● Forty percent on high-value users through a cost-per-engagement model

Whether during the holidays or throughout rest of the year, developers should define aggressive A/B testing methods to find their sweet spot.

Regardless of stage, every developer needs to be critical of the media partners with which it engages. Here are some guidelines:

● Deeper targeting options that leverage device level usage/engagement differences. For instance, focus on larger screen devices such as iPhone 6/6+ for racing titles

● Platforms that allow for pricing adjustments per user, based on user profile, choice of carrier, time of day and geo-location

● Global footprints with a higher focus on high-value markets outside the United States, such as South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong

Managing traffic acquisition during the holidays
The big players in the industry with healthy bankrolls are able to sustain high volumes of traffic even with a holiday increase in advertising costs. The same cannot be stated for smaller app developers who are not able to acquire enough traffic due to the increased cost.

Below are some suggestions:

1. Budgeting is an important initial step in preparing to run your marketing campaigns. Remember to set aside a part of the marketing budget to discover new audience outside of your standard high-performing segments.

2. As the holiday season approaches, focus on building up a solid, engaged user base through optimized and sustained campaigns up to the last week of November.

As the fourth quarter of the year progresses, leverage this optimization to do smart bursts during the days leading up to the holidays. As the holiday bursts are running, it is important to assess the resulting acquired organic users and include their results while calculating your ad based ROI.

3. As your organic uplift increases it is strongly recommended to attribute this to the various channels being used.

Keep driving organic users by using timed, recurring smaller bursts. Weekends are most important for games, Mondays and Fridays work best for dating apps, business and education apps peak in adoption during Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

4. As with all revenue generating initiatives it is important to incorporate post-install metrics tracking. Use this in assessing ROI and more importantly in optimizing your media spend.

Revenue generated via ads
Large to small developers in search of additional revenue streams choose to use advertising options offered by a variety of vendors.

With many types of ad channels it may seem difficult to figure out the right choice. The following are the types of advertising models from which developers can choose:

Rewarded video: This is the leading ad monetization tool. Being that it is the most popular advertising channel, there are tremendous budgets to capture by using this type of unit.

You can reward your users for viewing a brand video, increasing engagement as well as allowing you to monetize the event, driving revenue.

Interstitial ads: The second most popular ad unit, it requires placing a full screen ad during non-intrusive breaks in between game play.

These ad units are great for filling downtimes in an app's flow, typically during load screens where a user might get bored and drop off. Revenue is generated each time an ad is displayed.

Rewarded offer walls: The leading alternative payment method allows non-paying users to earn access to your premium app content. This drives revenue and engagement as these users can now participate in your premium experience, even if they are unable or unwilling to make an IAP. Many times these users later convert to paying users.

MARKETING ACQUISITION costs are expensive and are even more so during the holiday season. Spending marketing dollars smarter during these peak seasons is paramount.

Preparing your campaigns in advance, establishing good relationships with ad networks and setting up marketing initiatives correctly will help you more through this holiday season with less stress and more strong wins.

Harish Thimmappa is vice president of mobile user acquisition at Supersonic, San Francisco. Reach him at