InMobi is one of the world’s largest entertainment ad platforms. It does a significant amount of work globally in the US, China, India and seventeen other markets, reaching 1.6 billion users worldwide—including over 200 million Americans—and about 50 percent of that relates to video games. The company’s goal is to find ways to enable users to discover more of what they want, whether it be digital content, services or products.
KC Srinivas, vice president and general manager for gaming at InMobi recently spoke with [a]listdaily to discuss the company’s philosophy toward mobile game marketing and how to engage a large global audience.
Three Steps To Success
InMobi’s approach to mobile game marketing breaks down into three parts starting with user acquisition. “User acquisition has become extremely expensive, especially when it comes to high quality user acquisition,” said Srinivas. Also, once you acquire a user, even a quality one, there’s no assurance that they’ll pay for content. “All the game developers know that no more than 3 to 5 percent of users end up paying for in-app purchases.”
Srinivas further explained that “InMobi’s philosophy is of an end-to-end marketing automation. We don’t look at just one part of the overall chain. We want to ensure that a game developer who works with us sees us as partner across every part of their user life cycle.”
InMobi finds potentially high spending users based on a deep targeting demographic, psychographic, targeting mechanics. A lot depends on game mechanics and game genre, but additional some additional factors include what other games users play, what days and times they play, the user’s demographic and income, and more. “Take all these signals and put them into a package that allows for a game developer to target users that are very likely going to be what they would call ‘whales.’”
The second phase is community buildout. Not only do developers need users that will spend money, they need ones that will build a community. “Most games today that market themselves aggressively are social games.” You’re either playing in a community in PvP (player-versus-player) or forming teams, like the different teams Pokémon GO offers. “The community element is humongous,” said Srinivas. Part of InMobi’s goal is to build a significant community of users who may not spend any money, but they love the game and will help keep it going.
The third phase is more opportunistic and asks: when do you want to be top of charts? “Back to school is a great time to be top of charts,” said Srinivas. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labor Day weekend and other holidays are also good times to be listed in the US top 20, and “gives a significant organic bump that they (apps) are otherwise unlikely to find.” Organic bumps for good games can range anywhere from 8-20x for paying users, according to Srinivas.
Getting into the top 20 on Google Play or Apple’s App Store comprises of whole gamut of factors, but InMobi understands the dynamics needed to make it happen. One strategy is using influencers to review the game and reach out to users through Twitter and YouTube among other channels.
After those steps, there’s a remarketing platform that’s geared toward players that complete a few levels but don’t engage with the most exciting parts of the game, where they are most likely to make a purchase. “It’s similar to retargeting in the desktop world, but more customized for app developers in an app environment.” The aim is to engage users who have already installed and played the game. A developer can bring them back for more engagement for longer session times and a higher number of sessions per day in the hopes of turning them into loyal users.
InMobi sees itself as a primary partner across these three elements, in addition to retargeting users for a larger scale. For example, Srinivas discussed a successful campaign where InMobi worked on both user acquisition and ad monetization. The company used its location and demographic targeting tools to narrow down an audience of tens of millions of users to a few million, which then became the core user base. Then they were repeatedly shown different propositions from the game. This led to a very high install rate, and the game continues to appear on top 20 rankings on a monthly basis. When it came to ad monetization, InMobi worked with the developer to build a native experience that worked well with the gameplay, and Srinivas describes the title as one of the most well ad monetized games in the world.
Being Heard Above The Noise
When asked about the issue of discovery on the crowded mobile market, Srinivas explained that “the App Store is noisy; extremely noisy. Not only do you have the same set of names that area always in the top 10, but you also notice that some of the bigger companies with a lot of muscle are able to always be in the top 10.” Meanwhile small and mid-sized companies may occasionally break into the top 10, but are generally more focused on building a strong user base.
“To remove noise from the App Store, a user has to choose what he or she wants to see,” said Srinivas. “As a user, I’m aware of exactly what kinds of apps I’m likely to play, or at least likely to explore.” However, none of the app stores allow users to choose what kinds of apps interest them, although Srinivas states that Google’s recommendations based on past purchases is a good starting point but very few users go to app stores to explore new things. More often, they discover apps offline, then go to the stores to download them.
So, the problem that companies like InMobi set out to solve is “how do we make sure the user is a player in the entire process of the app marketing business?” To help solve this issue, the company uses a set of tools to analyze user acquisition campaigns, where users select ads from a carousel and provide feedback about whether or not they like an ad and if they’re likely to install a game. “Philosophically, we believe that the choice of what ads the users wants to see has to be with the user. Since the platforms—iOS and Android—aren’t doing that, inMobi has taken a step to give users an opportunity to see certain types of ads.”
Srinivas said that users know that seeing ads is inescapable, since they keep games free-to-play, but inMobi helps the experience by giving them a choice of what to see. “Give the choice back to the user, knowing that they will have no choice but to see a few ads every day on the free games that they play, and then present opportunities for them to discover not one but a number of different apps they may be interested in.”
When asked if there as a different approach toward promoting iOS games compared to Android games, Srinivas said “Broadly, no.” Android users are generally very similar to iOS users. However, the mechanics of marketing are different, since iOS does not allow incentivisation. You can’t market to iOS users by offering an incentive to install a game, as it is considered a rigging of the ranking system. InMobi agrees with this approach and does not participate in any incentivized ad buying, even though Android allows it. “The App Store ranking has to be organic. It has to be run by IP, not by incentivisation of users.”
Other differences include how the average revenue per daily active is significantly higher on iOS, and the Android user base suffers from heavy fragmentation, making it more difficult to determine where IAP revenues will come from. Additionally, ad monetization is significantly better on iOS compared to Android, because clicking on an ad link automatically takes users to the App Store, while Android users are presented with a choice of opening the link in a browser, Google Play, or some other program. For most users, this extra step interrupts the action and at least half of them drop off at that stage.
VR Isn’t For Casual Gaming
With the new generation of mobile devices on the horizon, particularly ones that support Google Daydream, we asked Srinivas how he thought VR would impact mobile game marketing. He explained the differences in delivering messaging, and how some things are best conveyed in a short tweet, while others may be best suited for a blog post. Movies are a prime example of an industry that was changed with the introduction of 3D technology.
“Fundamentally, 3D brings a new angle, and I think that’s what VR does,” said Srinivas. “VR delivers some experiences that you simply cannot have in any other form.” Examples include live events such as sports and concerts, where VR can give users the perfect view. The next level is experiences, such as skydiving.
“VR content will occupy spaces that mobile gaming cannot fill,” Srinivas said. “Therefore, a lot of what you see today as HD gaming will very likely move into VR gaming in the future. HD is basically catering to a need where the definition is not good enough. People want to be in a world.” However, he follows by saying “what you’re not going to find is VR being very big on casual gaming. Fundamentally, casual games are best for different settings. VR is for more immersive settings, and it’s not necessarily the best medium for that kind of gaming.”
Although InMobi is seeing an increase in VR ad networks and ad-tech platforms, Srinivas doesn’t personally believe in them. “VR is not going to be an ad monetized freemium business for a long time to come. It is a premium business where users will buy content that they want to consume in VR format. Therefore, we may not see any kind of ad platform catering to VR content for a very long time.
“I do foresee that VR gaming will be more similar to PC desktop and console gaming than anything else. Since I don’t believe VR will have a strong component of casual gaming, we’re not going to find a lot of VR advertising or ad monetized titles. Things change, and I may change my opinion, but that’s where I stand today.”