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An Interview With Google — Best Practices for Mobile Marketers: How to Measure Success

Danielle Levitas

Google’s Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas sat down with App Annie to share her industry expertise in part two of a three-part series on best practices for marketing on mobile.

With consumers spending 3 hours per day in apps, mobile continues to take over consumers' mindshare and is a critical channel for achieving business goals. However, knowing where to start with mobile marketing can be difficult. App Annie’s EVP of Global Marketing & Insights, Danielle Levitas, and Google’s Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, Jane Butler, came together to discuss the mobile marketing best practices your business needs to achieve success. Our first post in this series covered why apps are such an essential part of a business's overall marketing strategy and ways to optimize app promotion. The second post in this series goes into detail about how marketers can tell if they're running successful advertising campaigns and key metrics.

Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google

Jane Butler is a 15-year veteran of Google, and has held multiple leadership roles on the advertising side of the business. She is currently the Managing Director of App Promotion for the Americas, where she oversees commercial strategy and sales for Google’s suite of app promotion solutions. Prior roles include Managing Director for Performance Solutions in the Americas, Global Director of Vertical Search Initiatives (Shopping, Travel, Finance and Auto), Managing Director of Sales for the U.S. West region, and Industry Director for U.S. Travel.

DL: How do marketers know if the campaign they’re running is successful? How can they measure success on mobile?

JB: Let me first start by saying that app promotion and measurement are still relatively nascent, so if people are feeling nervous that they’re far behind on this, they likely aren’t alone. Broadly speaking, the industry is still figuring it out.

We do believe that most marketers are probably undervaluing the contribution that apps bring to their bottom line. And that’s partly because apps aren’t factored into the full value of mobile. There tends to be a lot of siloing that we see among marketers that measure things differently, have separate teams, etc. and as a result, apps are not getting their full credit due. One quick adjustment, like adding view-through conversion (VTC) reporting, can help marketers understand a component of app performance.


“Most marketers are probably undervaluing the contribution that apps bring to their bottom line.”

— Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google


It’s not a binary answer of whether or not a campaign was successful, it’s a question of what insights was the marketer seeking and how granularly can one measure the value of the users that are engaging with the app. Once you’re able to identify the granular user behavior and its contribution to overall business objectives, it becomes less about success or failure and more about how much value you drove and how can you drive more.

DL: Given that there are so many metrics, including cost per install, number of installs, and retention, what you think are really the most important factors to assess when measuring success?

JB: It really depends on the type of app, where they are on the maturity cycle, their business model, and their business goals. The data points that matter are going to differ by marketer and what they are trying to achieve. Marketers just starting out are going to be focused more on user acquisition and growing their monthly active users. It’s natural, and the right metrics for them to focus on are downloads, active user sessions, and time spent. As they become more mature, marketers should focus more on retention and re-engagement.

It’s also important to get both quantitative and qualitative feedback, as many marketers tend not to pay enough attention to the latter. They don’t look at the user experience research, the app store ratings, or the review feedback from customers. If they’re only focusing on downloads, they could be missing the big picture and the opportunity ahead.


“They don’t look at the user experience research, the app store ratings, or the review feedback from customers. If they’re only focusing on downloads, they could be missing the big picture and the opportunity ahead.”

— Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google


One statistic that best demonstrates this oversight is that 63% of users say that when a brand forces them to download their app to access a deal, they’ll typically delete the app shortly after. If you’re measuring success only on downloads, you may unknowingly introduce a negative experience that will put users off, and re-engaging with that user is going to get much more expensive going forward.

There can be very different goals that one is trying to achieve with each campaign, such as driving engagement or elevating brand experience. Part of the measurement journey is identifying the critical actions that users are taking, so you have the right data to generate insights.

There is no one size fits all solution that’s most indicative of the value that app promotion is going to bring. It should be a practice that is repeated and adjusted over time. Every campaign should be an insight-gathering mission to understand current and prospective users. It’s a continuum that emphasizes, “What are the insights you gathered that we can then re-apply in the next go-around?” As opposed to a single point in time, “Was this campaign successful or not?”


“63% of users say that when a brand forces them to download their app to access a deal, they’ll typically delete the app shortly after.”

— Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google


DL: You mentioned the importance of looking at qualitative feedback, including app store reviews. Do you feel that for verticals who don’t consider themselves mobile-first, Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a really important factor and therefore ratings and reviews should be an even bigger priority?

JB: We do come across this view as well. Coming back to some of the examples that we talked about such as banks, retailers, QSRs, or any other long-standing vertical. This is where user experience is a really important factor, and therefore ratings and reviews seem to be a bigger priority than the average. There’s an NPS component that many of them are measured on, and it may be partly related to where in the organization the app lives. We see two sides to the app: the marketing side of the app and the product or channel side of the app.

I can’t say that the people we’ve engaged with have been more focused on NPS than the business value directly. When we talk to publishers specifically about how they can grow their user base and engagement, NPS would not be the main basis for running a campaign or the primary element to measure as opposed to other user experience-related elements.


“A big challenge that we often see is there are silos that are formed due to separated team structures.”

— Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google


Again, a big challenge that we often see is there are silos that are formed due to separated team structures. We find that silos exist regardless of whether they started off mobile-first or otherwise. I’ve seen instances where brands are separating the development team from the product team, or running parallel teams where one focuses on brand and the other focuses on performance and driving user acquisition. Such examples of disconnect can be found not only in traditional organizations, but also in recent ones as well. The result is marketers see things very differently even though the insights they’ve been sharing are so critical for everyone to tackle together. It’s about what is best for the user experience as well as how to tap into the most valuable users in the long term.

One of the companies I’ve been most impressed by is Clorox, a well-established brand in the consumer packaged goods space. They have re-oriented their teams around brand studios instead of media channels. Their brand studio teams focus a lot on collecting and disseminating user insights that can then be used across any of their platforms. The same insights that can feed what goes into their app also feeds what goes into their TV campaigns. I think that’s the right way to go about it; you focus on the user and work backwards from there.


“The same insights that can feed what goes into their app also feeds what goes into their TV campaigns. I think that’s the right way to go about it; you focus on the user and work backwards from there.”

— Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google


DL: When it comes to marketing an app, there’s always a balance to be struck between targeting new installs vs. re-engagement with existing users. From your experience, what should app publishers consider when making these difficult prioritization decisions?

JB: First of all, both are important, but their importance changes based on an app’s place in the maturity cycle. As we talked about previously, early on it’s really important to focus more on user installs to build up a customer base. Once you have that user base you can start to learn who your most valuable users are and the actions they tend to take. With that understanding, you can begin to prioritize acquiring new users who display similar actions and also focus your re-engagement activities on these most valuable groups. So, it’s not an either or, it’s really a cycle between acquisition and re-engagement / retention.


“You can begin to prioritize acquiring new users who display similar actions and also focus your re-engagement activities on these most valuable groups. So, it’s not an either or, it’s really a cycle between acquisition and re-engagement / retention.”

— Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google


As an app matures, we expect to see more re-engagement discussions. For those who’ve been at this for a while they’ve probably tapped out a lot of potential new users who match the profile they’re after, so re-engaging their existing user base becomes even more important.

DL: How do effective advertising strategies for new user acquisition vs. re-engagement differ?

JB: For Google’s UAC, both take a very similar approach, in that machine learning discovers effective strategies for both. For example, at the moment we have some products in beta that are essentially UAC for engagement — we’re still ramping up on that front. Philosophically, we’re approaching it in a very similar way to new user acquisition. The machine is learning how to find users that are most likely to re-engage and what is the best way to approach them.

DL: Which are the most valuable and reliable metrics that should be considered when judging the performance of your advertising strategy?

JB: Everyone looks at cost per install (CPI). It’s a basic way of looking at things, but really the most valuable metric is lifetime value (LTV).

In the marketplace, we often see a very impatient, short-term way of thinking. People will only look at customer value over a couple of weeks and will use that to make decisions on who is most valuable. Obviously, most relationships with customers will go on for much longer than this. Being able to consider a much longer time horizon will give you a lot more insight into who your most valuable users truly are.


“Everyone looks at cost per install (CPI). It’s a basic way of looking at things, but really the most valuable metric is lifetime value (LTV).”

— Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google


If you’re patient and look at the data, you may see that customer A bought 4 lower-value products in the first 30 days, but in fact customer B bought more, higher value products over the first 3 months. Customer B was more valuable over the longer time frame, but a CPI metric that only considers the first few weeks would have highlighted customer A. Looking at CPI in a vacuum can be misleading if you’re trying to build a long-term strategy.

DL: How do you advise companies you work with in terms of getting that bigger picture?

JB: We have products like Firebase Analytics and Google Analytics that help you see the full picture of organic and paid efforts. We’re also integrated with some third-party attribution partners. This ties into a bigger need, particularly for hybrid-focused advertisers and non-app native companies: How does your app promotion look as a part of your overall marketing mix? What value is this contributing relative to everything else?

We’ve got a long road ahead of us as marketers, and as an industry, in giving apps credit for the value that they deserve and to figure out the best tools, metrics, and processes to get to that full picture.


“We’ve got a long road ahead of us as marketers, and as an industry, in giving apps credit for the value that they deserve and to figure out the best tools, metrics, and processes to get to that full picture.”

— Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google


DL: Always a pleasure chatting with you, Jane. Excited to hear more tips for success in our final discussion in the next two weeks.

Stay tuned for the third and final post in this series on March 12th, in which Jane discusses how to achieve app virality, optimizing ad spend for seasonality, and unexpected challenges you will face in the industry.

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February 26, 2019

Mobile App Strategy
Mobile App User Acquisition

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