Christmas Mobile Games Marketing
According to deltaDNA conclusions made in January, 2015, the number of active users and installs for Christmas and Boxing day is 30% higher on average compared to a “normal” period (i.e. September through to November). This Christmas boost also comes with an increase in player engagement, with 1 day retention increased by 17% over typical levels.
So, Christmas is a good time to be a F2P game, similar to the rest of the games and entertainment industries. In fact the Christmas boost lasts for much of the Christmas to New Year period, dropping back to normal levels with the return to work of most people on the 5th January.
It is the period after Christmas where things really get interesting for F2P.
Specifically, the first weekend after the return to work – the 10th and 11th January – displays another spike in F2P player activity. For this weekend, we see a boost of around 41% in active users and installs compared to normal periods, a peak 12% higher than the Christmas / New Year period! In contrast to Christmas, this spike in activity does not come with any boost to retention.
1. Plan Ahead for the Season
We can speculate on the cause of this post-Christmas spike. Traditionally January is a time where people don’t go out too much and try to save money - a good time to play F2P games. Another possibility is that the first week in January is when game developers / publishers get back into action, and back into the business of paid user acquisition.
Regardless of the cause, the Christmas and post-Christmas bump are real trends in F2P games, and something for all of us in the F2P industry to watch out and plan for.
2. So How Should You Get Ready For the Hot Winter Season?
1. First impressions sell impressions. There may be a run on inventory but that doesn't negate the need to present your inventory in a way advertisers can understand and appreciate. At the very least, create a proper media kit to show off your inventory — and the quality of your audience. Brands and marketers know effective marketing is data-driven at the core, so failing to provide appropriate data around your audience is short-changing yourself and your users. They miss the chance to receive advertising that is a better fit with their profiles and preferences and you miss the opportunity to achieve the higher eCPMs that result when good data enriches better advertising.
2. Speak their language — or partner with someone who does. It's important to present your inventory as something worth acquiring, but you'll only get into those negotiations if you have the contacts and conversations that open doors. If you have the time — or the team— then it might make business sense to strike out on your own. But if your singular focus is on making the iterations and investments that will produce an app with hit potential, then don't waste your resources perfecting your pitch. Partner with an app marketing company that knows the networks (and their teams) well. Even better if the app marketing company is seasoned and knows from experience what each ad network values most (and is willing to pay the most for). Huge volumes of inventory in tier 1 markets can be important to some, while other networks will want an audience tightly defined by specific demographics or traits (Millennial males or movie-lovers, for example). Get it right and you can double, triple or even quadruple your revenues.
3. Be realistic and ready. There are huge opportunities to hit it big during the holidays, but be aware that advertisers are also eager to reach a significant audience. If you are counting upwards of 100,000 DAU, then your numbers are on the money. But you also need to know how to make the most of your inventory— and learn to pinpoint the scenarios when you can earn the most.
4. Advertising requires your attention. Advertising is not 'set it and forget it.' It requires the same amount of attention as user acquisition does — so be prepared to optimize your advertising inventory once you have hit high volumes. This is work in progress, so you can either task a member of your team with managing the advertising inventory, or partner with an experienced app marketing company to take care of the heavy-lifting so you can take care of your app business.
Advertising is a way to monetize the 95% of users who play your game, but don't contribute to your revenues. But this doesn't mean you can bombard them with advertising. Make sure your ad placements enhance the users experience, not interrupt it. You may also want to offer your users the option to get an ad-free version of your app.
Advice by Oliver Kern, entrepreneur & advisor.
3. Make It Festive
The first thing you should do is add some Christmas cheer to your app and make it holiday-proof. It’s pretty easy with a game because you can always add a Christmas theme or issue a Christmas edition. This will result in more downloads.
Don’t be afraid to start promoting your app like crazy. It’s true that Christmas is a good time to go live, but you also have to remember that a lot of other developers will launch around this time. So you’ll have to make sure that there’s enough buzz about your app everywhere. Industry blogs, YouTube videos, newsletters, giveaways, active promotion on social media – you’ll need a powerful marketing campaign.
5. Have a Sale
If you are releasing a paid game, you should consider running a limited-time Christmas sale. The holiday season is the best period for special promotions and giveaways too. You should use these promotions and giveaways to your advantage and create even more buzz about your release. And if you are releasing a free game, you can always make in-app purchases sales and giveaways.
6. Plan before December
Competition is fiercer than ever with nearly 4 million titles in the app stores combined. Get a head start by planning your user acquisition campaigns before December. Doing so will provide insight into looming holiday costs and allow time to adjust around KPIs and budget.
If organic uplift is a key goal this holiday season — common with many new apps — plan for a media mix that favors volume. A burst strategy will help boost your app store rankings which in turn can lead to higher app discoverability and more organic downloads.
During the cold season, users are more likely to spend from having increased leisure time and holiday money. App marketers should look to leverage this by structuring sustained campaigns around these high spenders. It’s a great time to target “whales” while re-engaging lapsed users to explore new seasonal content in your app.
For both new and existing apps, plan to frequently evaluate organic growth to make adjustments to your bids.
7. Be Wary of Ad Blocking
While mobile has generally been safe, the recent content blocking capabilities in iOS 9’s Safari are compromising its immunity.
It’s not entirely clear what percentage of users will use this functionality, but it is reason enough to rethink the mobile web as a long-term user acquisition channel. Marketers with extensive budget tied into web should look to shift some budget to in-app — where publishers have more control over ad units and how they are displayed.
8. Pay for Performance on Peak Days
Christmas Eve, and Christmas are some of the busiest days of the year for user acquisition. Consider a performance-based approach around these peak dates. Paying for performance will more than likely assure you see a return on each invested user.
It may also help to map out your competitor’s planned bursts when planning your own. Although this information is not entirely accessible, observing other channels such as TV and web can give you some insight. For instance, a sudden increase in holiday TV commercials for a competitor’s game may indicate an impending burst campaign to complete the cross channel effort. A performance-based campaign here will ensure your budget is not diluted and maintains ROI.
9. Avoid Over-Targeting
The holidays attract a wide and diverse range of mobile users. To capture all this period has to offer, avoid building overly-specific assumptions about your target audience. Over-targeting can limit your campaigns, and discovery of new, potentially more profitable user segments.
Rather, explore broader targeting and let the data speak for itself — you may be surprised. Start by spending small while scaling only top-performing segments, ensuring you’re optimized in both revenue and new audience discovery.
10. Utilize High Performing, Creative Video Ads
Imagine the install ad as part of your app’s onboarding process. If the experience is compelling, users will want to engage and learn more, perhaps even go on to install your app.
For this reason, performance and brand advertisers count on video ads to deliver their message. Whether it is to encourage a quality install or communicate a strong brand message, the video format has an innate ability to engage users and promote action. It’s also an excellent format to brand with festive copy and visuals, helping guide users wrapped in holiday nostalgia to value your content over others.
Video creatives take time to produce, so plan ahead and aim to have several options available before the Christmas rush. As always, A/B test and optimize for the highest conversion.
11. Flow Into the New Year!
In an attempt to reserve budget for the winter push, many app marketers will end up leaving money on the table by year’s end. So it’s paramount you’ve found the right partners well before Christmas week allowing you time to max out your top-performing campaigns. Assuming all goes well, justifying larger spend to continue user growth into 2016 will come naturally.
January signifies much more than just a new calendar year. In fact, the first week of January this year raked in over over $500 million in App Store sales. An estimated 10 million iOS app downloads occurred that month, with New Year’s day notching historical highs. Clearly, maintaining your user acquisition activities into January will only be to your advantage. As the first few weeks of an install are critical to retention, January serves as an excellent time to acquire and re-engage users long after the holiday competition has faded.
Advice by Terry Koh, PR and Content Marketing Manager at Supersonic.