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Mobile gaming has been a data-driven business since the start, but the biggest story over the past few years is the advent of machine learning and automation. Marketing teams in mobile have relied on data for a long time, and now machine learning has expanded their ability to leverage that data, says Brian Sapp, SVP of user acquisition, marketing, and ads at Jam City.
“Automation has risen with Google and Facebook on the network side, but now it’s coming into the buyer side and the marketing side,” Sapp says. “Automation is allowing us to hand metrics over to machines to optimize campaigns with way more data than any human ever could.”
As an example, the main metric that humans have optimized toward in UA marketing for years has been day one or day seven return on ad spend, or ROAS. It’s a metric that allows marketing teams to balance cost with user quality. It’s been a popular metric to optimize to simply because in terms of cognitive load, ROAS was the easiest for teams to understand and optimize across a variety of campaigns.
But machine learning and automation lets marketers step away from the single metric that humans can understand, and hand it over to the algorithm that can take into account a lot more data than just day one, day seven ROAS. Now Jam City is looking at account cost, CPM, cost to the market, CPI elasticity, the amount of payers per campaign versus the amount of risk, predictive LTVs, long-term payback and so much more.
Automation and machine learning has also had a major impact on personalization, Sapp says.
With machine learning, you can look at all of a player’s journey, whether they’re new or they’ve been in the game for five years, and create segments of users in an unbiased way.
We’re only at the tip of the iceberg with what can be done, Sapp says, but there are challenges as companies try to wrap their arms around the technology. One of the biggest will always be the data itself.
“Make sure that you get your instrumentation right, because getting bad data and trying to clean it up later is very challenging,” Sapp says. “And make sure you’re working with products that are nimble, and give you flexibility to leverage new technologies when they come.”
Indie developers need a solution for in-game data, for marketing — which pulls from a variety of different data sources — and a data warehouse solution that makes it easy to query and visualize that data.
“As an indie dev, you’re probably looking at those three buckets, and you need to find companies that give you pretty flexible solutions that can handle each of those areas,” he says. “If your job is making games, data is not your area of expertise. It’s worthwhile to do your homework and do a lot of research to get it right.”
It’s also important for studios and businesses in a data-driven world to find the right KPIs to focus on — and you don’t want to focus on one KPI to the detriment of others. Sapp recommends finding at least two to four KPIs that are important to your business, whether that’s long-term retention or daily active payers and so on, and make sure you’re instrumenting your data that gives you the answers around those KPIs.
“That would be first and foremost, because that’s what’s going to drive the business, and drive the long-term results the business is looking for,” he says.
Second, he notes that humans have a tendency to over-optimize their way into poor performance. Have a good understanding of how to use the data to optimize your product, and don’t get too narrowly focused.
Or in other words, don’t get too granular or take too short-term a view of your data without taking into account the long-term view, longer-term trends. And learn to understand what is standard deviation and what is noise, or you can get yourself in trouble, he says.
In terms of how marketing operates, not much will actually change with the advent of IDFA, he believes. Giving users more choice in their privacy is a good thing for the industry, and will go a long way to building trust between developers and users.
“The key to marketing is getting your product in front of users and selling the message of that product and why it’s important,” he says. “Aligning with audience motivations, finding the right creative messaging to get that point across, that’s not changing for us.”
With the advent of automation, creative has become more important than ever in marketing, and Post-IDFA, that won’t change.
“Making sure we’re making creative that resonates with the right audiences, making sure we understand what those audience motivations are, is still going to be the most important part of our marketing machine,” he says. “We’ll continue to be successful following those fundamentals.”
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Register for free here.
Participants will learn how to:
- Better use data to improve the effectiveness of ads and marketing
- Make data-driven decisions around optimization and personalization
- Overcome challenges with legacy data stacks
- Break down data silos for a single-source, holistic view of audiences
- Ensure data privacy and security
- Jayne Peressini, Senior Director, Mobile Marketing and Growth, Electronic Arts (EA)
- Brian Sapp, SVP, User Acquisition Marketing & Ads, Jam City
- Daniel Myers, Senior Developer Relations Manager, Snowflake
- Dean Takahashi, Lead Writer, GamesBeat (moderator)
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