By Hagen Weiss
The mobile gaming industry is probably one of the most competitive industries out there and constitutes a real challenge for marketers.
Developing and releasing a new mobile game is not what it used to be; there is no guarantee that it will become an overnight success or that anyone will even know that it exists. The mobile game market is crowded and customers have a lot of options to choose from – this is why developing and implementing innovative user acquisition strategies is essential in order to stand out.
What is User Acquisition On Mobile Games?
User acquisition (UA) is the process of attracting new potential customers through various marketing channels and using different techniques in the goal of increasing long-term revenues and profitability. From a mobile gaming perspective, this means connecting with potential customers and getting them interested enough to install your app.
Many different marketing channels can be used:
- Paid advertising (Google Ads, Apple Search Ads)
- Social Media Platforms (Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Reddit)
- Streaming Platforms (YouTube)
- Industry Influencers / Celebrity Endorsements
- In-App Ads (AdMob, AppLovin, UnityAds, Vungle, TapJoy, among others, by cross-selling, if you have more than one product)
The appropriate channel will of course depend on the nature of your game, your target users and your budget.
Attracting High-Quality Users
You should be spending your budget on acquiring customers that will be loyal to your brand over the next few years and generate a good lifetime value rather than focusing on getting a high number of leads that may buy your game once and then move on.
The latter are what we could refer to as casual gamers; they are not your typical customers (think older adults that use their mobile phones on the way to work) but they make up a fair share of the market due to the rise in popularity of free, hyper-casual games such as Fruit Ninja or Candy Crush. That is not to say those casual gamers should be ignored, but they should be marketed to differently.
While long-term customers may seem expensive to acquire, they will likely be the most profitable at the end of the day; you want to find the sweet spot, meaning being able to acquire high-quality long term customers at the best price possible which, in turn, will give you a positive return on investment.
You generally want to optimize for the highest number of installs possible at the lowest cost possible (cost per install (CPI) campaigns), but you also have to take into account the app events that follow, like the in-app purchase of an add-on, for example, as they do add value to your business. If you are able to identify a valuable event you could optimize a whole separate advertising campaign around it to drive in-app conversions.
Establishing Strong Processes for Effective UA
In a world where potential customers are overwhelmed by options and information, game developers need to think strategically from the get-go rather than once the game is ready to be launched. The development and marketing teams should be working together to produce a game that is in tune with the market.
Having your development team working in close collaboration with your user acquisition experts will contribute to ensuring a smooth onboarding process and good user experience. Moreover, having your marketing team involved from the start will make it easier for them to plan for the launch; they will have enough visibility to determine which media partners and channels should be used, select ad placements and create and design the related ads and their visuals.
Use data to get to know your target customers better; their demographics, what makes them tick, what makes them rave about a game on public forums, what makes them click on an ad and download an app, etc. By examining the data, you will be able to come out with hypotheses to test out in your future advertising campaigns in the objective of lowering your cost of acquiring new customers and attracting a qualified audience.
Indeed, doing so will give you valuable insights on your customers which will come in handy when planning your campaigns. It could notably allow you to create lookalike campaigns in the goal of better targeting people that have the same characteristics as your best customers and will also give you the means to test re-engagement campaigns to try to win back users who have stopped engaging with your product. As we all know, it’s much easier to reach and upsell existing customers than to try acquiring new ones.
Competitive Analysis and Trends
Look at what your competitors are doing and at the UA techniques used by studios that have had wildly successful mobile games. Did they use a marketing channel that you are not yet familiar with? Did they choose influencer marketing to promote their new game? Even if you don’t end up using one of their marketing techniques as part of your strategy, doing some competitive analysis could give you some ideas for the future and help you identify where you may need to upskill or hire specialists.
Video ads, for example, are popular as they are versatile; they can be used to show a snippet of the game and its graphics, reward its viewers with in-game freebies and are generally more efficient at grabbing an audience’s attention. However, this needs to be done right at the risk of looking unprofessional.
Choosing the right platform and format for your ads is important; a user acquisition expert will be able to comb through your existing data to see what has worked best in the past but will also take into account industry trends and perform competitive analysis.
App Store Optimization for Mobile Games
This might seem basic but it is crucial. You need to craft a compelling and keyword-rich description of your mobile games that will appear on the app stores and serve to convince potential customers to download your app. Using the appropriate keywords will improve your app’s visibility, as most potential customers use the search function on app stores to find new games.
If you have customers in various parts of the world, make sure that this content, including the keywords, is localized for the language and people that you are trying to appeal to, as this can make all the difference between successfully reaching a local audience and missing out on a major opportunity.
Standing Out in the Mobile Games Industry
In this day in age, you need to be innovative to stand out. In the gaming industry, that means listening to your audience and looking out for viral trends in order to develop products that your market will go wild for.
This should also mean nurturing your existing audience by providing them with a platform and an exceptional community manager and incentivizing your existing gamers to share content by rewarding them for their contribution (in-game freebies or exclusive previews, for example).
There really is no other way to go about user acquisition than to accumulate data, analyze it and test out different hypotheses to determine the best UA strategies that will work for your studio and your mobile games applications. But keep in mind that, at the end of the day, no marketing strategy will beat the natural, organic growth that comes with having a happy and satisfied customer base that voluntarily spreads the word about your game.
The key to success when it comes to UA is to focus on attracting high-value users that bring in more than they cost to acquire: a clear and positive return on investment. Along with investing in customer experience, dedicating resources to user acquisition will probably be one of your best business decisions.
Providing an exceptional customer experience truly has the potential to be your biggest return on investment!
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