Data is a mobile app’s most valuable asset. Here’s how to make it work for you: Part 1
Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash
Mobile game acquisitions are at a 5-year high, and while this is the work of a few different market-forces, from a broad perspective the market is getting “a better understanding of the gaming consumer and just how valuable they are” (Torosian). Looking at these market-leaders of this sector, we see a few commonalities: eight-billion dollar public behemoth Zynga constantly refers to themselves as a “first-party data company”; mobile app giant SuperCell went so far as to spin up a fake company to launch an app to get unbiased data; meanwhile Brazilian colossus WildLife Studios– valued at $3 billion– has amassed 65-data scientists and asserts “data is essential to us.”
Leading companies go to great lengths to obtain, protect and use data to their advantage. And it’s no secret why, data is the cornerstone for mobile apps. Correctly leveraged, your data will tell you what to do, when to do it, it will increase your profitability and decrease your uncertainty for the future. Quite simply data is your company’s biggest asset. Here’s how you can start using it:
Stop guessing at priorities & strategies for growth
Do you know the most important change you can make to improve your app right now? The same answer to that question is the answer to this question: “is data driving your priorities?” The only real way to know is to have your decisions backed by data: exploration and measurement of your users to determine high-impact actions.
“An app is like your child so you’re inherently biased on possibilities, successes and failures. Data becomes your outside validation. Data won’t create strategies but it will help set priorities. It’s not better and won’t replace a human decision but it will structure the conversation in an unbiased light.”
The first step in growth is ensuring you’re focusing on users who matter. Comprehensive, accurate and granular view of your user-value will help you determine which users to focus on.
I recently heard a story about a mobile app who found a relatively unknown network selling US installs very inexpensively. Not having a clear picture of the end-value of these new users, this mobile app started buying up a massive amount of very inexpensive US installs. Unfortunately, after a period of buying they found these “US” based installs were from VPN apps, the users were actually only being labeled as US because they had United States IP addresses. And while you may dismiss this as a rookie move, don’t let this example go unheeded, we’ve seen similar problems with pre-load apps, 3rd party app stores, organic installs cannibalized by app store search campaigns, and self-targeted exchange traffic. Simply put, without knowing measuring the comprehensive value of incoming users, you’re bound to fall into the trap of focusing on the wrong/unprofitable signals.
Next, data will help you understand what your users want. Measuring user-engagement and behaviors will help you drive forward increasingly effective methods and features that keep your users engaged.
Consider Random Logic Game’s lead data scientist, Alex McArdle. He had a theory complexity of his puzzle app would have a dramatic effect on user retention:
“Do users like small, easy puzzles that get them in and out of the game quickly, or are they more interested in larger complex puzzles? Personally I thought users would get frustrated with large, complex boards and bail early.
“It turns out there was a very specific formula of a few small easy games interspaced by larger, more complex puzzles that were clear winners. I wouldn’t have guessed this on gut alone but this formula clearly outperformed the baseline by almost 10% — and for our users a 10% difference in LTV can make a significant difference in the profitability of a user.”
Without the data to measure user engagement, Alex would be stuck at guessing at user wants, as well as and blind to any changes to user behavior.
Lastly, you’ll be able to iterate to drive improvement. Without the ability to measure results of change, you’ll be guessing at the success of your guesses.
Consider the output Supercell had from the fake company:
“We steadily improved the game during the alpha period and we’re very happy to see the game’s performance and player satisfaction improving as a result of those changes,” said the game’s lead.
Supercell’s need to gather unvarnished data of change-improvements spurred them to create a fake company – a huge validation in the importance of data driving forward app improvement.
Move faster, make better-informed decisions
2021 was a year of many changes – COVID-19, iOS 14, stock market swings, all-remote workforces – there has been little constant in the last few years. Unfortunately, this has led many organizations to decision-paralysis, waiting for changes to shake out before taking action. Having a solid handle on your data will allow app developers to plan ahead of the market, understand the impact of change; then move quickly, with advantage on the market.
“If employees have too many questions or can’t answer questions about the business, decisions are restricted. Being able to answer hypotheses quickly is what makes companies successful. A big publisher recently quipped to me ‘being 70% correct today is better than 80% correct tomorrow.’ Answering questions is what enables decision making.”
A great example is understanding a user’s worth can let you take advantage of changing markets quickly, allowing you to buy the dips, or stop unprofitable buying. It was worldwide news when an AdLibertas customer saw Android LTVs crossing iOS for the first-time but it wasn’t news to everyone. CPMs on Android had been climbing for three months, many of our customers were already buying heavily on the early growth of Android CPMs, projecting a huge increase in profitability for the platform.
But it’s not always about buying the dips, properly leveraged user data will give you the ability to proactively act ahead of market changes. Concurrently, while the measurement of iOS campaigns became more opaque, the users themselves could still be measured by actions and behavior. While the MMPs struggled to figure out campaign measurement many continued running blind, the leaders started to use user-behavior to guide campaign growth. While many companies are still trying to figure out ATT, the companies with the ability to accurately measure and predict are quickly acting on these new market changes.
Data is the cornerstone for the largest and most profitable mobile app company’s success. But that doesn’t mean the sophistication of leveraging end-user data is reserved for only them. In previous articles we’ve outlined how any company can approach a first-party data strategy and we encourage you to think about the goals you have for your company and how data could be leveraged to help achieve growth.