Q&A: Ronen Mense on Emerging Mobile App Marketing Strategies in APAC

To get a better handle on the latest trends in mobile app marketing, especially in the era of an evolving privacy landscape, we recently caught up with Ronen Mense, President & Managing Director for the Asia Pacific at AppsFlyer, a privacy-preserving measurement, analytics, fraud protection, and engagement technologies company with offices across four continents.

Over the course of our conversation, we talk about emerging techniques for data analysis, how brands can better navigate the evolving privacy landscape, the importance of a return-on-experience-centered approach, and more.


What’s been keeping you busy lately?

We’ve been very busy – but also feeling grateful – with the continuous expansion of our AppsFlyer APAC organization. We grew our regional headcount by 46%, now having 262 talents to-date from last year’s 180. Our organizational growth is underscored by the launch of our strategic vision called “Privacy Cloud.”

 
 

Our industry is undergoing a paradigm shift, one in which the right to privacy is returning to users, empowering them to choose how their data is used. AppsFlyer’s Privacy Cloud is a trusted open platform for innovation that enhances end-users experience while preserving their privacy. As an advanced data clean room implementation, Privacy Cloud allows multiple entities to safely bring their data together based on their own business logic, guidelines and privacy requirements, while leveraging a Privacy-Preserving Tech stack (PPTs).

On a personal note, I just recently traveled to Israel where I experienced first-hand what seemed like a society (and economy) living through a post-covid world. There was a palpable sense of enthusiasm and openness in their atmosphere. It gave me great hope that a post-pandemic future is within reach.

In light of an evolving privacy landscape for brands, what are some of the more popular mobile app marketing strategy trends being used in the APAC region for customer acquisition?

The foundational shift for marketers has been bottom of the funnel up, to top of the funnel down. Specifically for performance marketers, there was too much focus – and sometimes an obsession – on the individual user, but this shift has effectively pushed marketers to see the forest for the trees, and that is a good thing!

 
 

We also see the emergence of more innovative techniques for data analysis. Primarily to solve operational deficiencies and allocate budgets more intelligently, to maximize return on ad spend. New ways of measuring marketing effectiveness will arise, with Data Clean Rooms (DCRs) being an effective tool to help marketers identify useful information and act as a catalyst for working with differently-shaped data.

Informed marketers will place a bigger emphasis on lifecycle marketing to make up for the reduced efficiency from remarketing campaigns. Embracing more non-SKAN measurement, using probabilistic measurement, modeled conversions, and incrementality will also play a key role in instilling efficiencies in the customer acquisition cycle. It is also helpful to recognize that as the privacy landscape evolves, there is a greater impetus for mobile app marketing strategies to evolve as well.

In the long run, understanding customers’ behavior will help brands create more targeted strategies, thereby allowing for improved customer conversion rates.

According to data from AppsFlyer, there has been a 35% drop in iOS gaming in-app purchase revenue since the release of iOS 14.5 while there has been a +22% increase in the number of total gaming app installs on Android. This seems counterintuitive to growth for iOS. What’s the long game here in terms of remaining competitive with Android?

Gaming app marketers are a step ahead in their data-driven expertise. However, as consumer privacy continues to evolve with new limitations to data usage being introduced, gaming marketers will need to double down on innovative ways to market, measure, and optimize their activities.

“Marketers need to rely on technology that can simultaneously analyze hundreds of mobile sensors to determine authentic customers to accurately distinguish between humans and machines and keep their ad budget focused on real conversions.”

Android’s jump was driven mainly by a 22% rise in NOIs, as the result of shifting budgets, wherein 2020 iOS commanded 38% of Gaming UA budgets versus only 28% in 2021. The sharp decline in IAP revenue illustrates the monetization challenge for games in the age of privacy for iOS as most users denied tracking, and while iOS 14.5 gained traction, NOIs from traditional attribution plummeted 30% between April and September. Since then, we’ve seen a 28% increase after marketers began to invest significant resources in alternative and privacy-compliant measurement.

Since Apple’s implementation of the ATT framework in 2021, it’s gotten more challenging to do marketing. And, since marketing plays a major role in mobile gaming, the impact on overall downloads and revenue has been significant. Going into 2022, marketers must find new ways to effectively reach high-value users in the new reality of data privacy. Gaming marketers in 2022 must focus on engagement and measurement.

What do you think of Google’s approach with the “Privacy Sandbox?”

Google made several announcements as a part of their multi-year initiative The Privacy Sandbox, which highlights changes to the way Android apps will work in the future.

It is admittedly premature to make comments at this point, as critical mechanics and intricacies are presumably still being ironed out. That’s to be expected when you are dealing with a crucial theme such as privacy.

Over the coming weeks though, we will be working closely with Google for a greater in-depth understanding and learning as to how we can support this change and ensure powerful measurement and privacy co-existence.

Privacy is our core pillar, and AppsFlyer welcomes the ecosystem’s shift towards privacy innovation and is committed to supporting it through and through.

You recommend that brands take a return-on-experience-centered (RoX) approach emphasizing its importance during the new era of privacy. Tell us more about that.

To understand ROX, we have to first touch on Customer Experience (CX). For brands to improve their customer conversion and retention rate, CX plays a crucial role in effectively engaging with their customers. This would require investments from brands as part of their marketing strategies. We then introduce ROX which helps brands understand the value they are getting on investment in customer engagement or brand experience.

We are in the era where strategies need to be targeted and focused. ROX focuses on how changes to CX positively impact customer lifetime value, and the financial well-being of the business. It clearly outlines which digital initiatives brands should invest in to win big in the new era of privacy.

Especially for customer-centric brands, ROX will provide meaningful insights for brands to boost their marketing strategies.

The state of mind of “our customers’ customer is our customer” drives us to put the most powerful toolbox in the hands of today’s marketer.

Regarding problems with fraud, what efforts should be taken in order to curtail this permeating issue?

Though there’s been some marked improvements through the years, allow us to emphasize this again: mobile ad fraud is still responsible for draining billions of dollars in marketing budgets worldwide. Fraud tactics such as malicious bots or device farms directly impact marketing campaigns by wasting advertising resources on fake users who deliver zero value. It also poses a potentially bigger threat as long-term ramifications hit advertisers’ decision-making processes, budget allocations and audience targeting plans for future campaigns.

“Since Apple’s implementation of the ATT framework in 2021, it’s gotten more challenging to do marketing. And, since marketing plays a major role in mobile gaming, the impact on overall downloads and revenue has been significant.”

While mobile ad fraud come in many forms, and continue to change, marketers must stay ahead of every threat, and safeguard their marketing budget through a real-time, multi-layered approach. This includes cluster analysis, personalized validation rules, in-app fraud rules, and post- attribution fraud detection. Advanced fraud attacks demand innovative protection.

Marketers need to rely on technology that can simultaneously analyze hundreds of mobile sensors to determine authentic customers to accurately distinguish between humans and machines and keep their ad budget focused on real conversions. More importantly, attribution fraud goes beyond installs.

In-app and CPA are an attractive target for those looking to commit fraudulent attacks since they are another source of revenue, as well as provide a way to legitimize install fraud activity. Advanced in-app & CPA fraud protection solutions can help marketers dive deeper into fraud data to eliminate these sophisticated threats.

Can you talk more about aggregated data and the contention that mobile marketers no longer need user-level data to create effective ad campaigns?

The introduction of iOS14+ privacy changes have limited many brands from accessing user-level data. The new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework which most, if not all, mobile marketers are familiar with, requires users to physically opt-in to allow third-party advertisers to collect their user-level data. As such, many mobile marketers have to rely on alternative data to gain insights to their ad campaigns.

However, mobile is the most data-rich marketing channel and the sheer amount of media data to be analyzed can be overwhelming. This has therefore led to the change in the way marketers analyze their marketing performance, with more turning to Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs), like AppsFlyer.

MMPs are helpful in managing these data and are able to aggregate them to pinpoint the value of specific channels, media sources, publishers, campaigns and even creatives. This has added to the value-chain for mobile marketers as they are able to constantly optimize their marketing performance and ensure strategic growth.

What other advice do you have for brands looking to navigate the new privacy landscape?

In the last couple of years, and especially since the introduction of Apple’s ATT framework, in iOS 14, privacy-driven policies have taken center stage to eliminate bad practices surrounding user data. This is without a doubt, an important step forward. However, many challenges were also introduced with Apple’s aggregated attribution mechanism, SKAd Network which significantly reduces the data available to an app marketer on iOS.

Therefore, in the age of privacy and more than ever before, a robust mobile attribution platform is a must-have in a marketer’s tech stack. It will allow marketers to continue to measure the success of their campaigns with user-level data if available through their consent or combine various other measurement solutions if it is not.

To add to that, three tips I’d like to impart to brands and marketers:

  1. The era of relying on end-user-level data is over. It’s already ended a while back. Aggregate is the future.
  2. Embrace Privacy Preservation technologies. Invest in platforms that honor not only your company’s data, but also your customer’s user experience in a privacy-centric world. User experience doesn’t have to be compromised with stricter privacy restrictions. The right technology will solve this dilemma.
  3. Finally, and most importantly, any marketer must double down on building trust with their customer base, giving comfort to end-users that whatever data they choose to share will be treated as carefully and methodically as if it was your own company’s confidential intellectual property. Brands need to conduct a complete due diligence of the marketing tech platforms they work with – even carefully reviewing ownership and potential areas for conflict of interest.

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