What The Games Industry Taught Me About Mobile Marketing Automation

I don’t mind admitting that when I joined Swrve I didn’t know a huge amount about the mobile games industry. I was joining a mobile marketing automation organization with a customer list built around some of the leading brands in the broader mobile app space, so I figured that wasn&rs quo;t a problem...

And of course the business has moved further in that direction over the past year. But as that’s been happening, I’ve also met and spoken to a number of the games companies that adopted our platform in the early days and continue to use it with such success. And what I’ve discovered is that the techniques they have developed, and the ways in which they use mobile marketing, contain a number of valuable lessons for everyone.

I want to share some of those lessons in this blog post.

Why Games Matter

It’s worth stopping for a moment and reminding ourselves why mobile marketing automation - or “what Swrve does” if you prefer - is so important to the games industry. Fortunately, that won’t take long: These businesses need mobile marketing automation to succeed. In the free-to-play games space, without sophisticated ways of tracking player behavior and smart techniques for communicating with them at just the right time, you have no revenue and no business.

So it’s no wonder that games companies have been right at the forefront of this movement, and that we’ve been lucky enough to learn alongside them. Solutions that have been built away from this ‘sink or swim’ environment often suffer as a result - lots of analytics and charts that look superficially impressive but do little or nothing to move the needle on the metrics that matter in mobile.

Lessons From Games

So what have I learned? Well, this is a blog post, so I’ll attempt to be brief and summarise what I believe are the four key points. Each illustrate a truth that games companies have absorbed some time ago, but that which most app businesses are still struggling with:

  1. Conversion Is King. Games companies have learned that those users playing the game are not customers. There is no point congratulating yourself on the install - it’s all about getting to the player (or user) to the point where they start to interact meaningfully with the product. In the case of games, that means making in-app purchases. That ‘moment’ will vary across verticals, but either way, it is necessary to identify this ‘a ha moment’ and work towards it.
  2. First Impressions Last. Games are competitive. In many cases there is little or no brand loyalty and app downloaders really are just ‘checking out’ a title. That’s why games companies go to great lengths to build (and test) truly outstanding onboarding and tutorial experiences. Of course the same applies in the broader app space - but how many brands assume users will persist and fail to develop true engagement as a result?
  3. Guard Your VIPs. Many mobile games companies derive well over 50% of their revenue from less than 1% of their players. As a result they’ve become smart when it comes to both knowing who those players are, and rewarding them effectively. The business relies on maintaining their loyalty after all. Although the situation in other verticals is not so extreme, it’s always worth ensuring you understand what makes your most valuable mobile users tick - and act on it.
  4. Make Spending Easy. Mobile game businesses live and die on in-app revenue. So they’ve become expert at making spending money as easy as possible. That may sound like a desperately obvious thing to do, but you’d be amazed how often poor usability or an poorly thought out monetization strategy can harm an app business. Games companies have learned that using A/B testing, making spending an organic part of the experience, and supporting every level of spend, can all help maximize their revenues.