Analytics

Analytics, App Monetization, Game Design

Japan eCPM Benchmarks Series – iOS vs Android Breakdown

Japan eCPM Benchmarks Series

We’ve received a lot of great feedback based on our recent data report, so we’ve decided to conduct further drill-downs on a country basis.

Japan is well known for its expansive gaming market that has been growing rapidly over the past few years, and according to a recent study by AppAnnie, mobile gaming revenue increased by 35% in 2017 year over year.

For the first part of our Japan eCPM Benchmarks Series, we will look breakdown on how iOS and Android are performing.

The Data

The data used for this series is based upon the data used in our recent Q1 Monetization Benchmarks Report collected through the SOOMLA platform. We analyzed the activity of over 30 million users in 8 countries over the span of 3 months (October 2017 – December 2017). Together these users viewed 600M impressions showing 2,500 advertisers in close to 100 apps. The app sample consists a higher ratio of games compared to the ratio of non-games in the app stores. However, we’ve seen the same patterns regardless of app category. The ad-formats analyzed through the study are: Interstitials, video interstitials and rewarded videos.

Q1 2018 MONETIZATION BENCHMARKS

Overall Android vs iOS

In this section we’ll keep it fairly broad and as we progress, we’ll get more in depth. For now, we will look at the high level eCPM benchmarks for Japan – how Android is performing in comparison to iOS. Similar to the main report, the aim is to show the vast differences between the eCPMs being paid out for the first impressions.

SOOMLA's Japan Breakdown - by OS

To no surprise, we do see a similar trend in Japan as we do for overall Android and iOS. iOS does tend to overall have higher payouts for eCPMs, while both maintain first impression eCPMs that are up to 1.43x higher than the average impression eCPM.

Ad Type Breakdown

The next drill down will be looking at the overall performance (in terms of eCPM payouts) of ad types in Japan. For the purpose of this section, we’ll be looking at Rewarded Videos and Interstitials (includes video ads and playable ads).

SOOMLA's Japan Breakdown - Android

SOOMLA's Japan Breakdown - iOS

Generally speaking, the comparison between Interstitials and Rewarded Videos is nearly identical at this level of breakdown, however as we can see above there is a significant difference between Android and iOS. While it’s difficult to say exactly what the reason behind this is, it’s worthwhile to understand the unique features of the Japanese mobile gaming market which can provide some insights.

Interstitials iOS have significantly higher eCPMs payouts as well as a ratio of 1st to average impression eCPM.

This is the first part in the series, so the breakdown is kept to be very high level. In the next part, we will be looking into the performance of the individual ad networks. Stay tuned!

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Industry’s First Monetization Benchmark

Header image - the SOOMLA ads and churn case study is out for Q4 2017, full of insights

We are excited to announce our industry first “Q1 2018: Monetization Benchmarks” report today. This is one of the many industry data reports that we will continue to publish providing important insights related to monetization through ad revenue. This report gives an in-depth comparison of eCPMs for 1st impressions and overall and providing a ranking of monetization providers in the mobile industry.

You are welcome to download the report through this link.

Here are the quick take-aways from the report:

  • Advertisers and monetization providers are clearly paying a premium for first impressions. The premium can be as high as 100% of the average eCPM, sometimes higher
  • Monetization providers and advertisers have different bidding strategies when it comes to first impressions. Some are more aggressive while others seem indifferent to the impression sequence
  • Games tend to have a bigger focus on getting the 1st impression in comparison to non-gaming advertisers who appear to be indifferent to whether or not they are shown 1st.
  • There are a few advertisers who repeatedly show up in the top 10 across different ad formats and platforms. They are able to do that by having a clear data advantage. When negotiating prices for 1st impression – make sure you have enough data.

 

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Analytics, App Monetization, Game Design

Playable Ads 101, Best Practices and Top Providers

Playable Ads 101 - Best Practices and Top Providers

One of the hot trends in the last 6 months in mobile game marketing has been playable ads. MZ, also known as Machine Zone, was an early adopter with Game of War and Mobile Strike but many ad-networks are offering them now, more advertisers have discovered their effectiveness and players are getting used to them.

Playables of different kinds

The first playable ads started as HTML5 ads served through MRAID protocol. However, following their success, more formats have evolved. The video ad networks started moving in and have evolved two formats.

  • Interactive video end cards – This format starts as a regular video that plays for 15 or 30 seconds and once the video is over it is replaced with an HTML5 playable experience.
  • Interactive videos – These videos are broken down into 3 or 4 parts and the user has to take a simple action like clicking a button in order to continue.

Serving playables in the publisher game

While the experience from the advertiser is quite similar, on the publisher side there are two main ways to get playables in the app. There are playable ads that get served through standard containers such as interstitial. Today, if the publisher implements Admob or Mopub SDK he is likely to get some playable ads unless he blocks them. With some providers and specifically with Admob, there is no way to block them. The same thing goes for the rewarded video container – most of the video ad networks are now serving the playable ads described in the previous section when the publisher calls a rewarded video ad. On top of these there are also companies who serve playable experiences through a dedicated SDK.

The dedicated SDK approach has some pros and cons. On one side it leads to an improved ad experience for the advertiser. From the publisher’s perspective it means better control and can lead to a more expectable user experience. However, it does requires the publisher to integrate another SDK which is always fun :).

Designing playable experiences inside the game

In terms of game design, publishers have 2 main choices. The first one is to integrate playable ads in standard containers such as interstitials and rewarded videos. This is the default option and unless blocked by the publisher most ad networks will hijack standard containers and serve playables in them.

The main problem with this experience is that it’s not expected by the user. A user might sign up for watching a rewarded video in return for some in-game incentive but than get a playable ad instead. Even worse, an interstitial container might contain a playable ad at the end of a regular play session where user expects a much shorter interruption if any. Based on the data SOOMLA collects, this hijacking has a high toll on user churn. Finally, the practice of injecting a playable ad experience into a regular container creates an unfair competition in your waterfall.

As explained by this analysis made by Kongregate the playable ads generate higher eCPM for the publisher so networks that serves high amount of playable ads are more likely to produce higher eCPM rates and win the first impression. The alternative is to introduce a specific inventory for playable. A publisher can design a special button with a game controller icon and offer increased rewards for users who are willing to try a new game. This creates an opt-in experience for the playable ad rather than an hijacked one.

FREE REPORT – VIDEO ADS RETENTION IMPACT

Who makes the playable ads

Ads are traditionally made on the advertiser side of things but with playable ads the advertising company take a very active role. This is a typical step in the evolution of an ad-formats where newer formats are produced by the ad-network or ad agency and as the market get used to the format the advertising companies take on the production task. Today most of the playable ads are produced by the provider rather than by the advertiser with only a handful of advertisers producing their own playables.

How playable ads might evolve in the future

Today, there are 2 main challenges with playable ads. One is that they don’t accurately reflect the game play of the advertised app – this can lead to lower conversion rates. On the publisher side – users find them to be repetitive – one might have to play the same 2 moves over and over again every time the ad pops up. This might be some of the reason why playable ads tend to churn more users. One evolution that we might see in the market are ads that remember the state of the user and offer progression from one ad view to another. This can be a much better user experience on the publisher side and potentially more qualified installs for the advertiser.

Winning Playable Ad Experiences

  • Applovin – Word Cookies
  • Chartboost – Bubble Island
  • Ironsource – Lords Mobile
  • CrossInstall – Solitaire

Top providers offering Playable Ads

Today most of the top rewarded video providers are offering playables:

  • Ironsource 
  • Applovin
  • Chartboost 
  • Vungle  
  • Inmobi / Aerserv
  • Adcolony
  • Apponboard
  • Cossinstall
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Data Based Formula – Which Advertisers to Block

Finally a Data Based Formula for deciding which advertisers to block

One of the oldest debates in the short history of in-app ads have been what advertisers should be blacklisted by publishers. Many companies have already started using SOOMLA to gain valuable data in support of such decisions as shown in this case study. However, we’ve noticed recently that many publishers face a problem, even when they have the data.

The problem – how do you weigh ad revenue vs. churn from ads

Even when companies have the full data of the eCPM rates paid by each advertiser along side the churn rates, it’s not always enough to reach a complete decision. What’s needed is a formula to weight the pros and cons. In other words, companies want to know what eCPM lift justifies a 1% lift in churn.
For example, let’s consider two advertisers:

  • Billionare Casino with eCPM of $17.54 and ad resulted churn 5.2% (from users who clicked the ad, how many haven’t returned)
  • WGT Golf with eCPM of $27.27 and ad resulted churn of 18.5%

Who do you think is better? Does the eCPM increase justify the additional churn?

The analysis – revenue lost vs. revenue made

To answer the question, it’s not enough to look at the basic parameters. The basic analysis that needs to be made is how much revenue was lost vs. how much revenue was made. To determine this, we have to first put a value on a lost user. A good place to start is the overall LTV of a user. If the ad is presented to the user in the first days of activity than the overall LTV of the user is pretty close to the value. For users who have been in the game for some time, the value of a lost user would be the future LTV from that point on. It’s important to note that the number could be higher due to users already having an emotional investment in the game but it can also be lower if the game doesn’t have a lot of depth. Right now, we will assume the value for all lost users is the overall LTV. Now that we figured out how much a user is worth we can multiply it by the number of users lost to determine the amount of potential revenue lost. This factors in the churn ratio but also the CTR as the churn ratio is calculated from the clicks. The revenue that was made is given directly by SOOMLA in the advertiser analysis screen.
Going back to our example – the value of a lot user was determined at $1.28:

  • Billionare Casino – generated a total of $623 and while their churn was only 5.2%, the number of users churned was 1,509 so potential revenue loss was $1,931 and the net revenue was a loss of $1,308
  • WGT Golf – generated a total of $1,573 and only churned 188 users which are worth $240. Net revenue made was $1,333

As you can see, comparison becomes much easier this way. One has a negative impact and the other has a positive one.

FREE E-BOOK – TOP 10 MOBILE GAMING REPORTS

Comparing 2 advertisers with positive net revenue by using nCPM

The analysis above does help weed out advertisers with negative contribution, however publishers also wants to be able to compare between advertisers and give more priority to the ones with higher eCPM and low churn. In many cases, there is a need to compare the net revenue of each advertiser on a quantity of 1,000 impressions to determine who the impressions should be given to. This ratio can be called the nCPM / nRPM (net revenue per mile) as opposed to eCPM / eRPM (revenue per mile).
So back to our example:

  • WGT Golf – generated a net revenue of $1,333 on 57.7K impressions which makes his nCPM $23.1

Improving the formula

One way to improve this analysis is to have a better understanding of the lost revenue. Some games don’t have the depth to keep users retained for a long time so the loss might be lower while for other games. Also, some of the games only expose users to ads once they predict the potential for IAP revenue is very low. If they are successful in such prediction, the revenue loss from churning such user would be much lower.

Better way to prioritize advertisers

nCPM is a better way to prioritize advertisers than eCPM. However, the tools available to publishers for optimizing are limited to blacklisting. In reality, the task of prioritizing advertisers for the publisher mostly falls on the shoulders of the ad-networks. The ad providers have an algorithm that tries to predicts the eCPM of each ad. In an ideal world, there will be a way for a publisher to add a “toll rate” for each advertiser rather than just blacklisting them. This will allow the ad-networks to prioritize based on nCPM instead of eCPM.

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10 Mistakes that Will Keep Your Ad Revenue Low

10 Mistakes that will keep your ad revenue low

Most of the companies I talk with are interested in increasing their ad revenues. For many, increasing ad revenue is critical as they need to be profitable on their UA activities. Despite that, I see many mistakes companies are making that prevent them from improving on this front. Here are the top 10.

No new SDK policy

Some companies seem to have decisions made from the engineering to the business and not the other way around. It’s true that there are many SDK companies knocking on the door at any given time and many of them promise more than they deliver. However, not adding any new SDKs is like saying – our strategy is to not change anything. In a dynamic space such as the mobile app market – this is a big mistake.

How to fix it:

Establish a process for vetting new vendors based on business potential, risk and costs and make sure you include alternative cost as part of that equation. This will help you re-gain the confidance of the engineering team that you are not just making random requests.

No ads for payers

In 2018 mobile app publishers will make more revenue from advertising than from IAP and publishers needs to start thinking about ads as a main source and not a secondary one. In 2016, SOOMLA revealed the existence of ad-whales. These users can contribute $30 or $50 or $100 in your app – more than some of your payers contribute.

How to fix it:

It’s time to design monetization patterns where ads and IAP complement each other. Think about a user that just purchase a bag of coins maybe he can get 25% extra coins for watching a video right after the purchase. There are many other options to experiment with just make sure you measure the impact accurately.

Not measuring your ad monetization

You can’t manage what you can’t measure” said Peter Drucker in a famous quote. In other words, the path to improvement goes through measurement and the domain of app monetization is not different. Ad revenue has been lacking proper measurement tools but the situation is quickly changing and monetization measurement is becoming a neccessity for any company who takes their ad revenue seriously.

How to fix it:

Implement a monetization measurement system that allows you to get granular data about how your users interact with ads in your app. As Jeff Gurian from Kongregate said: “Ads count so count your ads

Banning competitor ads

The debate whether or not to show competitor ads in your app has been going on for years. Some companies simply block any app that seems competitive while others enjoy the high eCPMs that competitors could be generating. A recent study by SOOMLA revealed that ads showing competitors might not be the ones that take your users away and each app needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis before deciding to blacklist.

How to fix it:

There are several SDK providers that can give you insight into who is advertising in your app. Implementing such an SDK in your app will enable a more data driven approach to the decision whether or not to advertise a specific app or block it.

One size fits all

When it comes to ads, not all the users are created equal. For example, some users may respond better to rewarded videos while others yield more revenue from banners and native ads. Serving the same ad experience to all the users is a great way to keep your revenues low.

How to fix it:

Track the yield of each user from each ad-type (for example – by using SOOMLA) and use the data to segment them into groups. You can then build more tailored ad experiences that will improve your ad arpdau.

Introducing rewarded videos late

While it’s clear that most ad formats have a negative impact on retention and payer conversion it’s also clear already that rewarded videos do not have such impact. Since 80% of your users are likely to not survive the first week, delaying ads for 7 days will surely have a negative impact on revenue.

How to fix it:

Introduce rewarded videos as early as possible and even include them in the tutorial. If you want to be a bit more cautious, you can do this only for users who are not likely to pay.

FREE REPORT – VIDEO ADS RETENTION IMPACT

Incentives that don’t add up

In many apps and more specifically in games, the users are rewarded for watching videos. The rewards can range from an extra life to coins or pretty much any upgrade that the game has to offer. Some games have invested time and effort to carefully design the reward opportunities into the game but in other cases the reward for watching videos is in-game currency in small amounts that don’t allow the player to buy anything of value. Offering incentives with little value will discourage users from watching ads.

How to fix it:

First, you should measure opt-in on a cohort basis to see if your users lose interest in the rewards over time. If you detect such an issue you can consult this post for ideas how to improve the incentives – Top 7 Incentives for Video Ads in Mobile Games

Not managing the ad networks

Ad networks are an important part of your monetization but their interests are not always aligned with yours. Typically, for each $1 you are making, the ad-networks are also making a $1. This means that there is a lot of opportunity for the publishers who can closely monitor and negotiate the prices up. Without doing this, your ad monetization not be optimal and might decline over time.

How to fix it:

First, you need a way to track ad revenue per impression sequence so you can manage the waterfall. Additionally, you may also want to get visibility into the campaigns the ad-networks are bringing you. If you don’t have those, you can still negotiate with the ad-networks but it will be harder. To successfully negotiate – remember that your leverage will  be the share in the impressions they are getting as well as their position in the waterfall. In return, you will want to get guarantees for eCPM and fill rates.

Focusing your UA only on payers

If you ask most marketing teams what users are they trying to get for the app they might answer “payers” or “high value players” but in both cases they mean payers actually. What this means is that the monetization manager is trying to monetize with ads users who were supposed to be payers. This strategy is far from ideal. If you are not giving the UA team a task to bring ad whales don’t be surprised that your users don’t do well with ads.

How to fix it:

Step 1 is to figure out who the ad whales are. Once you do that, you can start sending postbacks for ad whales so ad networks can send you more of these high value players. At the same time, you can have the marketing team profile the ad whales and learn more about them so they look for the right media to reach this audience. Finally, targeting lookalikes of the ad whales on FB ads manager has brought great results for some of our customers.

Not doing direct deals

Do you know how many ad-tech middle-mans are between you and the advertiser placing ads in your app? You don’t. It could be 1 or 2 or 5 or 10. One way to know for sure is having no middle-mans. Not doing direct deals means you are leaving money on the table but what’s more important is that you don’t even know how much revenue you are missing out on which means you have very little leverage when you negotiate with ad-networks.

How to fix it:

You should start by getting visibility into who is advertising in your app. This will give you a priority list of who you should be approaching. Getting to the right contact in these companies is not very hard but if you get stuck, shoot me an email to yaniv [at] soom [dot] la and I will try to connect you. Also knowing the eCPM you are getting from each advertiser through the ad-networks could prove useful.

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Rewarded Video Ads Strategy for F2P Games

A Look Into Social Point's F2P Rewarded Video Ads Strategy With Sharon Biggar

CLARIFICATION: Social Point are not a customer of SOOMLA at the moment

Video ads have been taking the mobile industry by storm as the new business model and with that, comes an abundance of questions as to how to optimize and what are their effects on users. Depending if you are a monetization manager or a product manager, your KPIs may vary, however the ultimate goal is the same: A successful app that maximizes it’s potential.

In a recent panel at GIAF (Games Industry Analytics Forum), Sharon Biggar, Chief Analytics Officer at Social Point led a captivating talk on their personal journey through a series of tests with their users on the effects of video ads and their various formats. The official title was “Video Advertising Strategy in F2P Mobile Gaming”. The video runs for about 25 mins, so if you have the time, give it a watch. Here are the topics covered:

Social Point sought to answer 3 main questions internally before coming to any conclusions regarding their F2P video advertising strategy and I’ll give a break down for each one.

What design options exist for video ads in F2P games?

Generally speaking, there are 4 main ways to integrate video ads into F2P games. Each one has it’s pluses and minuses and are used in different ways. Sharon broke them down into two main categories:

  • Pull Advertising – Pull referring to giving the user the choice to “pull” the video towards them, thus initiating the video ad.
  • Push Advertising – Push referring to forcing the user to watch the entirety of the video in order to continue.

Method 1 – Pull – Gain Currency

Rewarded Video Ads Pull 1 - Gain Currency

I’m sure we are all familiar with this method as its possibly the most prevalent in mobile games. While there are usually daily limits to prevent abuse, the general idea is a user can request to watch a video in return for a reward in forms of gold coins, gems or some other form of in game currency.

Method 2 – Pull – Double Rewards

Rewarded Video Ads Pull 2 - Double Rewards

These rewarded videos tend to appear in two forms as well. One being before initiating a level, the player can watch a video to double the effect bonuses received (gold, gems, experience) upon completing a level. Alternatively, the player is given the option once they’ve completed the level to double their rewards. Generally speaking there are no daily limits on these as they are based upon a user’s direct engagement with the app. Why limit your user’s engagement right?

Method 3 – Pull – Speed Up

Rewarded Video Ads Pull 3 - Speed Up

I’ve encountered (and used) these countless times. Sometimes they come in forms of using in game currency, but specifically here we are talking about watching a video ad in order to speed up an upgrade or improvement. Why wait 5 hours for an upgrade when you can watch a 30 second video to complete the upgrade immediately. Overall it’s a win – win and keeps user’s active.

Method 4 – Push – Forced Video

Rewarded Video Ads Push 4 - Forced Video

An intrusive and often causes some heat from users, due to it’s method, these video interstitials take over the full screen, and force the user to watch / interact with the ad. Some show a countdown before the X appears, others will appear after a few seconds. No reward / incentive is given to the user aside from waiting it out to allow them to continue to play.

Most Requested Video Ad Type

Looking specifically at their game “Dragon City”, in October, they took note of “pull” types of video ads and found some interesting things. *Note: “Dragon Cinema” refers to the gain currency type of rewarded video.

Video Ad Types and Engagement

  • Double Rewards was the most requested type of video ad
  • Interestingly enough that the “Speed Up” type of video ad was less used considering the time spent waiting vs. time spent watching the ad

Do Video Ads Increase Churn?

I think this is one of the most discussed topics right now in the industry. Before I dive into Social Point’s specific study, make sure you check out SOOMLA’s recent report on Lotum and their study on the effect on advertising direct competitors as well. It goes a bit more in depth into the effects on eCPM, churn and has surprising results. We’ve also published a series of blog posts on rewarded video ads which you can find here.

Touching upon Social Point’s study, they found that pulled video ads on similar cohorts (users that played 7 days and that had 14 sessions) had some interesting results. The users that did in fact engage with video ads within the first 7 days, churned significantly less than those who did not watch any video ads. Clearly indicating that for Social Point, video ads were NOT causing an increase in user churn.

Social Point's Results on Do Video Ads Increase Churn

FREE REPORT – VIDEO ADS RETENTION IMPACT

What About Push Video Ads?

Social Point ran an A/B test where they allowed a control group to see 0 video ads and the second group that saw skippable video ads. There was a clear decrease in retention once forced (push) video ads were displayed. More interestingly, as pointed out by Sharon, is the minor difference between 1 and 3 skippable video ads displayed effect on retention.

Do Push Video Ads Increase Churn?


Do Video Ads Cannibalise IAP Revenue?

Social Point ran an A/B test intending to test the theory that video ads cannibalize the in-app purchase revenue. The results were rather surprising as they did in fact find that the video ads resulted in an 8% decrease in IAP revenue in the control group, however when looking at the overall revenue, the ad revenue resulted in an overall 5% increase in total revenue despite the drop in in-app purchases.

Do Video Ads Canniblize In-App Revenue?

CASE STUDY ON ADVERTISERS CHURN & eCPM

Oooops!

The tests ran were under the condition that users could watch up to 4 video ads a day, as was the limit set at Social Point. However due to an intentional development change, users were able to watch up to 8 per day. Therefore the results changed a bit.

They quickly found that 39% of their payers (users who were doing IAPs), were watching up to 8 videos resulting in a significant drop in IAP revenue, and even further, the ad revenue was not off setting the drop in IAP revenue and cannibalising the revenue.

Too many rewarded videos results in drop in revenue


Conclusion

  • ”PULL” video ads have no impact on churn
  • ”PUSH” video ads have a small negative impact on churn
  • Video ads DO canniablise IAP revenue
  • IAP + AD revenue can be greater than IAP alone
  • Be careful – don’t allow Payers to watch too many ads

There were two great questions raised by the audience members which really touch upon the importance of analyzing advertisers, churn, eCPM as key drivers.

  • Q1: In the place where you raised the cap on video ads, did you see a drop in the eCPM and was that what impacted the video games short fall in the IAP?
  • A: Yes exactly. As soon as you go to a higher number of video ads, the players are less likely to convert on those video ads.
  • Q2: It is possible to optimize your ad stack to make up for the drop in eCPM?
  • A: Possibly, one of the challenges we’ve had is quite often the mediation platforms don’t have enough inventory.

To close, SOOMLA provides a series of tools helping monetizers, marketers and even product managers analyze critical KPIs on their app’s performance.

 

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New Loot Box Regulations – What it Means for Mobile Games

New Loot Box Regulations - What It Means for Mobile Games

About 3 weeks ago on December 21st, Apple added a small term to it’s T&C for app publishers.

Apps offering “loot boxes” or other mechanisms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase.

Most of you probably missed it during the holiday season as did I but a few major publications caught the change and reported it quickly. Here is the report in PocketGamer and in The Verge. This change might be a response to an increasing interest of some of the regulators in the loot boxes concept. It started with Starwars Battlefront 2 criticism on reddit when a response by EA became the most downvoted comment on reddit ever. The “loot box” monetization strategy along side the game appeal to kids caused a few regulators to take notice. Most notabely, the State of Hawaii announced they will work on legistlation to ban loot boxes and Belgian officials said they would like loot boxes banned as it’s a form of gambling.

The top 25 grossing games were not effected

One might think that the change made by Apple will make a big impact on game publishers given how popular loot boxes are. In reality, however, none of the top 25 grossing games made any changes. The reason, is that none of them are selling loot boxes as in-app purchases. While loot boxes are popular, they are commonly sold for virtual currency which can be bought for cash. If you look at the top 25 grossing apps, the items that are listed in the app store for purchase are packs of: quartzes, diamonds, crystals, gold, coins, gems. The only game we could find that will have to make a change is Hearthstone.

What about in-game loot boxes

Apple didn’t entirely ban loot boxes that can be purchased inside the game with in-game currency. The regulators however might decide to address this type of loot box as well. There are many game elements that are randomized, therefore the question arises of where the distinction will take place. It’s one thing to ban something that is purchasable, but if any randomized game element is banned, pandora’s box will open. My guess is that regulators will focus on purchasable items and games that are made for kids.

CASE STUDY ON ADVERTISERS CHURN & eCPM

If gambling with VC is illegal than what about social casino

The comment by Belgian officials was that loot boxes are a form of gambling and therefore should be banned. What is a bit odd is that there are more obvious forms of gambling that are not banned yet – the social casino apps. Either these officials have a double standard when it comes to mobile games or they haven’t opened the top grossing charts recently.

The clear winner is rewarded video

Aside from kids and their parents who might get to keep more money in their wallets, the companies who provide monetization via ads and rewarded videos will probably benefit from these regulations if they happen. Ad based monetization models are becoming more popular in the mobile game industry and the fact that Apple is adding limitations on in-app purchases pushes more game developers in towards ads.

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4 Proven Tips for Improving Opt-In Rate – Based on Data

4 Proven Tips for Improving Opt-In Rate - Based on Data

If you have been following the SOOMLA blog, attending mobile game conferences or keeping up with the latest mobile monetization trends in some other ways you should already know the following important fact. Improving Opt-in to rewarded videos usually results in an increase of the same proportion in your total ad revenue. This is why many companies that use rewarded videos have been focusing on the opt-in parameter and have been trying to optimize it.

While getting the basic opt-in ratio is easy, there are a few advanced methods for finding hidden opportunities around opt-in rates.

1 – Look at daily opt-in vs. monthly opt-in

Typically, app companies focus on the monthly opt-in – this is the ratio that is normally available by platforms such as Ironsource mediation and what most will allow you to analyze if you send them the impression events. The monthly opt-in, however, only tells part of the story and in many cases we have seen that the daily opt-in can be significantly lower. What that means is that there are users who opt-in to the videos some of the days while not watching videos on other days. Fixing this can usually yield 20-25% more in ad revenue and the way to do it is by taking a close look at your incentives. Will the users need the incentive on a daily basis? If not, try to figure out an incentive that the users will need more regularly.

Definitions
Monthly opt-in – the number of unique users who watched at least one video in a given month out of your total MAU.
Daily opt-in – the number of unique users who watched at least one video in a given day out of your total DAU. The daily opt-in has to be averaged across multiple days to smooth out the fluctuations.

2 – Analyze opt-in for cohorts

Cohort analysis is hardly a new trick for marketers but when it comes to monetization managers it actually is. Comparing the opt-in rate for new users vs. existing users can lead to some pretty interesting insights based on our experience. This might requires some help from your BI team (or simply using SOOMLA’s dashboard) but the hidden opportunity should justify the effort as we have seen up to 2x differences between the two segments. If opt-in is high for new users and declining for long-term users it could be a sign that your incentives are not meaningful enough for your users. In other words users are willing to watch videos but they soon realize that what they are getting in return doesn’t get them very far so they stop. In other situations, the opt-in for new users is low. This could indicate an awareness and training problem. Making your users aware of the option to watch videos early on can fix the problem.

FREE REPORT – VIDEO ADS RETENTION IMPACT

3 – Differentiate users from different traffic sources

One of the interesting patterns we have seen is that users from different traffic sources behave differently when it comes to opt-in ratio. Users who came from paid channels and specifically from video ads often present a higher opt-in ratio compared to organic users. To improve the opt-in ratio for organic users, consider adding some more guidance to highlight the opportunity of watching videos for in-game rewards.

4 – Treat your ad whales to nice Incentives

In recent research we showed that the top 20% of the users contribute 80% of the ad revenue. These so called Ad Whales are the most important segment from an ad revenue perspective. You should focus a lot of your attention to make sure the opt-in rate for this group is as high as it can be. These users typically contribute more than $0.99 and sometimes up to $100. This means that they are as good as payers and you can offer them in-game items that are normally reserved for an actual purchase. However, since you want users of this group to watch a video daily it’s better not to offer them a perpetual item. Some examples of incentives you can give for ad whales:

  • A tank that is normally worth $100 – watch a video to use for a single day
  • Shortening a waiting time that normally costs up to $1
  • 10x coin boost for a short period instead of 2x

Identifying the ad whales is possible by attributing the ad revenue accurately to the user level. The only way to do this accurately today is with SOOMLA Traceback.

We’ve put out a series of posts on the wide topic of Opt-In rates and the importance of them. Feel free to check them out:

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Analytics, App Monetization, Industry Forecasts, Industry News

7 App Monetization Predictions for 2018

7 App Monetization Predictions for 2018

As SOOMLA is the 1st company to focus on monetization measurement for mobile apps it only make sense that we will take the lead on predicting some of the trends that will control app monetization in 2018. These predictions are based on our data as well as on observing the market trends in 2017. However, predicting the future is a tricky business so take these with a grain of salt. Here we go – counting 7.

1 – Let the ad whale hunting begin

In 2017 SOOMLA exposed the existence of ad whales – a group of users who contribute over 80% of the app ad revenue and can sometimes make $100 for the app publisher by watching and interacting with ads. In 2018 more and more app companies will invest resources into understanding who the ad whales are, how they behave, what are the best channels to bring more of them and how to adapt the app for this segment. Basically, the same practices app companies applied for the top spenders will be used for the users who generate the big advertising dollars.

2 – Publishers will seek tighter control on ‘rich’ interstitial ad content

2017 introduced a lot of innovation around ad-formats that can be delivered through interstitial containers: Playable ads, interactive videos, dynamic end cards and what not. Publishers who integrated interstitial ads expecting a short ad break in the app flow ended up with an experience they didn’t sign up for. The fact that a longer ad experience with an invisible ‘x’ button has a toll on retention intuitive but SOOMLA also validated that with data and will publish a report about it in Q1/18. In 2017 some publishers started pushing back on these formats and we expect more publishers will want to control these ad experiences in 2018.

3 – More publishers that are also advertisers

In 2016 there were very few ad driven app companies that could afford paid UA campaigns. In 2017 this number grew and in 2018 it will grow even more. Following the footsteps of SOOMLA, more providers are offering tools that give visibility into Ad LTV. In turn, more publishers are aware of where they stand and what CPI levels they can bid. See the post about the steady increase of CPIs and how they are here to stay.

Q1 2018 MONETIZATION BENCHMARKS

4 – Header bidding will start but adoption will be slower than expected

Header bidding was discussed in many conferences in 2017. The idea is simple and highly beneficial to publishers and some ad providers have launched earlier versions of this model. In 2018, some publishers will test out this model but it will not go into mass adoption just yet. There are too many loose ends at the moment and no sufficient coverage from ad providers. Furthermore, it appears that the some of the leading players are happy to receive bids from others but no so happy to provide the bid out. FB, Google, Mopub, Appodeal and Ironsource are each trying to become the company who will run the auction so they refuse to give a bid out. This means each that each one of them insists on exclusivity which will be a big turnoff for publishers.

5 – Better control over ad experience and creative

Publishers needs ways to control the ad experience as part of the overall app experience. In 2017, SOOMLA and SafeDK started providing solutions in this area. We expect more solutions will become available, more publishers will start using these and ad providers will also start adding more functionality to control ad experience.

6 – More apps will advertise competitors in 2018

Advertising competitors was a big no-no for many app publishers who were concerned their users will churn away and move to the competitor app. In 2018 there are already tools that allows monitoring the eCPM and churn caused by specific advertiser. This means app publishers will be able to apply a data driven approach to this question that was decided with gut instincts until recently. Based on the data we have seen – more publishers will feel comfortable with advertising competitors as a result.

7 – Ads will surpass IAP for mobile game monetization

2017 ended up with a tie between the different monetization models for games. Some studies claimed IAP revenue was still bigger while others showed ad revenue as the winning monetization model. In 2018, there will be no question any more and the clear monetization winner will be ad revenue. Part of the reason for that is the emergence of data tools to measure ad monetization. This makes more publishers feel comfortable with building games that relay heavily on ad revenue.

That’s it – 7 predictions for the new year. Write them down and check if we were right in 12 months.

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Analytics, Announcement, Industry News, Tips and Advice

GDPR 101 for Mobile Apps or How to Avoid a €20M Fine

GDPR 101 - How to avoid the €20M fine for your mobile app

Some of our customers started asking us about GDPR, so we created a GDPR Compliance FAQ page to answer most questions. To those of you who haven’t heard about it, GDPR is the new European privacy regulation that will take affect on 25th of May 2018. The new set of rules is causing many companies to lose sleep also due to the recent Disney lawsuit and the lawsuit against Kiloo, maker of Subway Surfer. The first suit includes not just the company itself but also tech providers such as Kochava, Upsight and Unity.

This means that while the app companies are on the front, the technology companies behind them should also learn GDPR carefully. In the rest of the post, I’ll try to describe some of the key differences and explain what actions companies should consider. So lets jump into what’s new with the GDRP:

The price tag difference

One of the new aspects of GDPR is that it names a price for non-compliance – fines can reach up to €20M Or 4% of annual gross revenues – the greatest of the two. What this means for app companies is that they have a strong business case to invest money and effort in complying. For tech companies, it means that the level of liability will be pushed up. If tech companies were able to get a way with capping their liability at a $0.5M or $1M dollar, that will no longer be acceptable by the app companies.

US companies also on the hook

Another key difference is that GDPR makes it clear that as long as companies have users in EU, the rules apply to them regardless of their location. For US companies, this is a major difference as privacy rules in the US are less restrictive.

Everything is personal

One thing that the GDPR makes very clear is that all device identifiers including IDFA (Apple devices’ ID for advertising), GAID (Google’s advertising ID) and IP address are now considered personal data and any data stored with it in the same record should also be considered personal. This have been a gray area a few years ago but was getting less and less gray in recent years. With GDPR there is zero doubt about this. For app companies and, advertising companies and analytics companies this means that all data becomes personal and should be treated as such.

Encrypting and protecting and documenting data transactions

Another requirement that GDPR makes more clear is the need to encrypt and protect personal data as well as document any transaction in which encryption was not possible. This is not a new requirement but since all data is considered personal now it becomes a requirement for each company and each piece of data. Here is an example of one process that is likely to change for App companies and has already affected some of the tech providers. In the past, companies used Facebook’s highly effective lookalike modeling service by creating custom audiences based on divide identifiers. The practice of exporting a CSV file from you analytics or attribution platform, storing it in your personal computer and uploading it to Facebook is now considered a non-encrypted transaction that has to be documented. Not many app companies will want to cumbersome their process with the documentation requirement and so some of the attribution companies have responded with audience builder tools that make this transaction encrypted.

CASE STUDY ON ADVERTISERS CHURN & eCPM

Is your data coming to US for business or pleasure

Another area that app companies and tech companies serving them should be aware of is the transfer of information outside the EU and specifically to US. This has been a key topic for previous legislation but the requirements became stricter with GDPR. This topic is known as cross border transfer. In a nut shell, EU knows that US is more liberal when it comes to privacy and specifically in the Federal’s government ability to force companies hand in providing private data. One example of the FBI power over companies was last year when Apple confronted the FBI and refused to help them crack an iPhone. While Apple stood up to the FBI, very few companies will risk disobeying a court order.

To adapt to the new regulations, companies can no longer rely on gaining the user consent for transferring their data. This practice is required but not sufficient anymore. Instead companies should do one of the following:

  • Keep data about EU users in Europe and comply all tech providers to do so
  • Make sure all providers are part of the Privacy Shield initiative
  • Execute model clauses to document each data export from EU to US

Keeping data in EU

This may sound easier than it is. If you are an app company, you are probably using at least a dozen services to help you monetize users, analyze them and improve your app. Most likely, you also have homegrown analytics tech that reads and writes data to a database stored by a cloud provider. Keeping the data in EU means you need to go to your cloud provider and each one of the other tech provider and make sure they also keep the data in EU. In turn, the tech providers will have to go to their tech providers and cloud providers and do the same. While the major cloud providers: AWS, Google and Azure have data centers in Europe it’s unlikely to ensure 100% of the data staying in EU given the number of providers involved especially when the app is serving ads.

Privacy Shield

This is essentially a certification that companies can get if they do store their data in the US. Being listed in the Privacy Shield list of certified companies is an alternative requirement to keeping data in EU. It means that tech providers who don’t keep EU user data in EU can get a Privacy Shield certification and help the app companies comply with GDPR. In the list below, you can find popular SDK providers that already obtained Privacy Shield certifications and the ones who didn’t. The extensive list can be found here – https://www.privacyshield.gov/list . Note that:

  • Providers that store data in EU don’t need the Privacy Shield (e.g. Adjust)
  • Providers can give an EU model clause document to app companies as an alternative to Privacy Shield and still comply with GDPR.

SOOMLA is already in compliance with the regulations and has started a process to obtain a Privacy Shield certification. Ask us about the current status by emailing – privacy@soomla.com.

EU Model Clause

As mentioned before, providers who don’t keep their data in EU and don’t have a privacy shield certification can still help app companies comply with GDPR by providing an EU model clause document explaining exactly how and what personal data flows from EU to US.

The right to be forgotten

Another key requirement by GDPR is that every user has the right to be forgotten. This means that a user can request an app publisher to delete all his data including data about him that is stored by 3rd party providers.

What you should ask from your providers

While there are a few changes app developers might have to implement in how they handle their users’ data most of the work will probably be with ensuring their providers’ compliance and more specifically their advertising related ones. The decision to treat IDFA, GAID and IP addresses as personal data puts all the advertising industry in the spotlight as most of it was operating under the assumption that IDFA will not be considered personal data.

Here is quick compliance checklist for your providers.

  • Do you protect and  encrypt any record that contains IDFA or IP address?
  • Can lists of IDFAs or IP addresses be exported? Do you send such lists over email?
  • Do you keep the data in EU or US? If in US – are certified under privacy shield? Can you provide model clause explaining all data transactions?
  • Forgetting users – Make sure you know all instances of the user record (log, backup, main DB, …) and what’s the mechanism to delete.

Providers Not Certified with Privacy Shield [updated Nov-2017]

  • Appodeal
  • Chartboost
  • Ironsource
  • Fyber
  • Adjust (But already has a stricter certification)
  • Heyzap
  • Lifestreet
  • Media Brix
  • AOL / Millenial
  • Tapjoy
  • Vungle
  • Upsight/Fuse
  • Unity / Unity Analytics / Unity ads

Providers Certified with Privacy Shield

  • Google – including Cloud, Admob, Analytics and Firebase services
  • Amazon – including AWS and Amazon Ads
  • Microsoft – including Azure
  • Applovin
  • Adcolony
  • Appsflyer
  • AppAnnie
  • Mixpanel
  • Facebook
  • Kochava
  • Amplitude
  • TUNE
  • Mopub

 

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