It’s about that time of year when everyone is releasing their 2020 Predictions, which will inevitably be mostly wrong and largely forgotten…yes, probably even these, but isn’t this the fun part??? All of us haven’t been proven wrong yet! Hey, if any one of us turns out to be correct, then they’ll proudly copy-paste that shot in the dark bullseye they lucked out achieving on LinkedIn, get a promotion or new job…Good for them. 🙂
OK, so I have a few “prediction darts” in my hand, I’m closing my eyes, and I’ll throw a handful out there…and hope I don’t poke an eye out!
Dart 1: Growth Isn’t Just About New Users Anymore
For the longest time, “growth” referred to User Acquisition efforts and basic ad monetization success. Did you get more Users to install your app? Are they active, and monetized? Great…growth! However, 2019 saw the evolution of “Growth” to include Product Retention and to be redefined as “Business Growth.”
This is because investors invest when they see that all-important hockey-stick of User Growth, but they want to cash out after a few years. They realized with Churn and cloudy LTV modeling, they weren’t sure where the businesses were truly at, but they had a suspicion (finally, and rightly so) that efforts to retain Users was going to be a more efficient effort over the tough slog of trying to acquire new Users.
Expect this epiphany to continue to take hold in the industry, as app stakeholders mature in their business acumen and seek either an assured exit or longer-term stability.
Chances of hitting a bullseye? 75%
Dart 2: Re-Engagement Talk Will Rule the Conference Circuit
If you noticed, after apps started looking at Retention augmentation, they started focusing more on Re-Engagement/Retargeting advertising. Expect many ad networks and DSPs to beef up their Retargeting sales efforts in addition to (or in place of, in some cases) their User Acquisition marketing efforts.
Many companies will naturally follow the budget spends of their clients and prospects, so as the industry turns toward more of a Re-Engagement focused growth approach, so will the vendors. As this happens, expect vendors and consultants to ramp up their talking points at conferences to mention Retargeting Advertising…a lot more.
Chances of hitting a bullseye? 75%
Dart 3: People Will Think Fraud Is Solved…Then There Will Be A Fraud Surge
Right now, apps are split almost down the middle on their feelings of fraud. Some will continue to be a mix from suspiciously cautious to downright terrified that fraud monsters are still out there, lurking in every campaign. Others will feel emboldened to walk outside in minus-5 degree weather and scoff at the Abominable Fraudman during a blizzard, unafraid of their campaigns catching a fraud flu.
Companies will offer solutions to ensure campaigns are sterilized before reaching your install metrics, but others will feel that extra step is overreactive and suboptimal. The consensus right now is either that fraud is out there, everywhere, and we need to be protected at all costs, or, so long as you avoid certain channels and networks then you need not worry about any fraud which comes in, so long as your CAC is acceptable and your monetization targets are hitting their marks.
There will be more of a lull in the defense in the battle against fraud, and this lowering of the guard will open the gates for a new and improved fraud attack on the masses of apps. The rise of a new app store in the East, jailbroke phones, and the never-ending search for cheaper installs and activations will lead to a rebirth of fraud by the middle to end of the year.
Chances of hitting a bullseye? 45%
Dart 4: The Industry Will Continue to Chase the “Next Best Metric”
LTVs, Incrementality, and Retargeting, oh my! Every year, the industry adopts a new banner and flies it high and proudly. I predict this year it will be Retargeting, but if it’s not, then something new will sweep across the mobile app landscape and enter your daily work vernacular and conference content agendas.
Automation is one topic which has caught on in some circles, but hasn’t quite reached levels of epidemic ubiquity just yet. Automation would be a great topic to dominate the conference circuits, as it’s an important discussion to have, but some feel “Automation” equals “Programmatic” (completely different things), and that lack of consensus on nomenclature will inevitably lead to an under-representation of Automation of UA efforts and analysis as discussion talking points.
Chances of hitting a bullseye? 60%
Dart 5: Data vs People – The Impending Stalemate in the Battle for Best Marketing Practices
There are some UA divisions currently experiencing an overhaul of their bloated status as business analysis determines either the staff on the payroll doesn’t match the staff required by the current state of the app business, or, the company wants to focus on a more data-focused and Automated approach to UA and realizes their current team isn’t equipped to make that transition.
If marketers spend their nights and weekends learning SQL and Python, they might start wondering why they got into marketing in the first place. Some will enjoy the additional code-writing skills and make the effort, while others will reject the request and remind their managers they do not have enough time to learn to code when they applied for their jobs to focus on human communication.
Both skillsets are correct and required, and I feel the solution will be to have some lower level positions removed to make way for coders who already know and enjoy writing light SQL and Python. Those new team members are happy to parse the data for their more experienced (but less code-capable) senior marketers to analyze and direct strategy accordingly.
This would actually be the best outcome for everyone involved. UA departments do need to get leaner, and able to operate at scale with the massive creative requirements of today’s campaigns and channels, but they can’t go too data-heavy where they lose touch with the soul and nuanced touch of marketing to human beings who have emotional responses to advertising. Having a lean but diverse team in 2020 and beyond is the way to move forward most efficiently and effectively.
Chances of hitting a bullseye? 35%
Dart 6: The Industry Gets Smarter, By Looking Back
The mobile industry has been far more advanced than more traditional marketing and growth efforts from past industries such as television, print, online, etc. However, the big area that mobile lacks an advantage, and actually falls far behind traditional businesses, is in business acumen and business analytics.
Founders of apps and mobile games companies have mostly been new to the business world. This was understandable, because most of the early successes in the mobile app industry were smaller developers creating great mobile games, or utilities, or apps built for a particular segment of users…and not as a conscious long-term business venture.
App founders sought quick cash and exits more than they looked for sustainable success over a long period of time. Their businesses at the beginning were never designed for long-term business success. Apps got gobbled up by deep-pockets to either take their tech and roll it into an existing product, or flip them to another buyer. Evidence of this is in the flaws of monetization design by far too many apps who later tried to ineffectually shove an awkward monetization effort into an otherwise successful user experience, which resulted in User backlash (i.e. Instagram, Vine, etc…and most recently Reddit, for example).
Those days have now changed. UA isn’t the only owner of the term “growth” anymore, and the rise of Retention efforts have swept across the app landscape. This has shown mobile app businesses there needs to be a better analysis on their products’ long-term viability and potential.
But where can we find such clues??? Into the Past……let’s walk……
Traditional marketing and businesses have long figured out the important business metrics, analysis, and customer relationship strategies which have built decades-long businesses. The mobile app industry will realize there are a loaf’s worth of business breadcrumbs strewn all over the forest of apps which they can follow. They can find their way, not by looking up at the sky, but by glancing down at the past achievements of those who have been there and done that before them.
Sure, terminology and products change, but the core elements of long-term business success are consistent. You need to find and acquire the right customers/Users, get them to use/try your product at the right price they find acceptable, have a very positive experience with your product/app, evangelize the product/app to friends and family or even co-workers to spark viral and organic interest, and keep coming back to not only spend more with the company on this product offering, but hopefully develop brand loyalty over time.
The apps which do not have this focus to learn will eventually suffer and die if they cannot find an acquisition life-line, or raise another round of cash. A large number of apps will disappear. They either have not embraced proper business growth strategies, or they had a flawed model from the beginning and will run out of the funding which helped them scale and stick around initially.
Apps will look back to traditional businesses, and even bring some more tech-friendly C-Levels on their boards to help guide them not to the lush lands of exit dreams, but to the green pastures of longevity where they can graze for decades to come.
Chances of hitting a bullseye? 9% (at least in the year 2020) for a better long-term approach … but probably 100% that apps will fail and fold because of poor business structure and affective long-term business strategies.
So, there you go. My two cents on 2020. Let me know what you think, and see you soon at an App Growth Summit nearest your (or, heck, fly out to all of them because each one is different!), and let’s get these topics on the stage! Happy Holidays and New Year, everyone!!! Thanks for reading this far down!
If you’d like to speak about any of these topics, or any topic, then please (non-vendors only, our vendor spots are sold out for 2020) Publishers and Brand Marketers and Product professionals apply to speak at an App Growth Summit near you (Speaker Application)!