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Mobile App Strategy

An Interview With Google — Best Practices for Mobile Marketers: How to Get Started

Danielle Levitas

Google’s Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas sat down with App Annie to share her industry expertise in 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.

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.

Danielle Levitas (DL): Why is marketing your own app such an essential part of a business’s overall marketing strategy today, even for those that don’t consider themselves mobile-first?

Jane Butler (JB): Consumer expectations are higher than ever. People expect fast, reliable, personalized experiences from the brands they interact with, and we often find that the best way to deliver that experience is through apps.

In addition, the majority of marketers we work with point out that their app converts and services their customers more cost effectively than other channels. Take banking as an example. Interacting with a customer through the app is certainly much cheaper for them than on the phone or in a branch, while also creating a seamless experience for the customer.


“People expect fast, reliable, personalized experiences from the brands they interact with, and we often find that the best way to deliver that experience is through apps.”

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


For these reasons, we’ve seen businesses show greater interest in getting their apps into the hands, and onto the phones, of more and more consumers. This extends beyond app-native companies, who are clearly very focused on driving app installs and re-engagement. We’re seeing non-app-native categories, like retail, finance, travel, entertainment and restaurants, race to become more digitally savvy by allowing apps to transform their business.

However, there are many touch points you can have with a particular brand. Brands need to remember that consumers expect a consistent experience across all touchpoints.

DL: How do apps fit into the overall mobile portfolio?

JB: We often hear that either an app or mobile web is most important, but we’ve found it’s not either-or, it’s “and.” It’s a matter of understanding all customer touch points and expectations, and promoting the right channel, to the right user, for the right use case. We’re seeing app-native companies start to move onto web, and even desktop. It’s interesting to see how everything is becoming multi-platform — multi-touchpoint.

With that said, time and time again we hear from our clients that customers who use their app tend to have a better experience. So if they’ve built a good app, that’s where our clients would prefer to send their customers as the experience, and conversion, tends to be better.

DL: Do you believe that this kind of personalization is richer in apps?

JB: There are multiple flavors of personalization that manifest differently depending on the category and value proposition of the app. When a customer signs up for an app, and their information is stored, personalization is easier to tap into as a marketer. In turn, actions between customers and the app typically move more smoothly (e.g., checkout, sharing, wish lists).

Game companies know how to do this particularly well, recognizing what offers might resonate best with their users. But that’s not the only way personalization can manifest. A more common example is being able to log in with your fingerprint — one of my favorite features. It can get really annoying when you have to remember a login for an app!


“We often hear that either an app or mobile web is most important, but we’ve found it’s not either-or, it’s “and.””

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


Look at Hilton, a brand that has really invested in their app as a remote control for their room. Hilton’s app can remember your profile and preferences for the next time you check in as well as how you’ve previously interacted with the app. They’ve talked publicly about personalizing their customers’ experience and the app becomes the mechanism through which that’s enabled.

With multiple flavors of personalization — whether it’s just remembering your account information, knowing what’s in your shopping cart, suggesting things through notifications, etc. — it’s just easier to enable through apps than with other channels.

DL: There are so many ways to optimize app promotion. Where should people start?

JB: Paid promotion, such as what we offer with Google UAC (Universal App Campaigns), is really effective — but having the fundamentals in place first is critical.

I’m a big user experience zealot. Before you even spend a dollar on trying to attract people to download your app, make sure you’ve tested the user flow, all key features are in place and the friction is as low as possible. Otherwise, you’re just throwing away good money. If new users drop out after having a bad experience, it’s going to be much more expensive to get those people back.


“Before you even spend a dollar on trying to attract people to download your app, make sure you’ve tested the user flow, all key features are in place and the friction is as low as possible. Otherwise, you’re just throwing away good money.”

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


Once you’re sure that the app has a clear value proposition, it’s time to leverage all of the organic channels you have. Are there other ads you’re running to which you can add a “download our app” message? Do you have an in-store presence or other real estate that can help you get the word out? Whatever it is, start there.

Once this is all in place, it’s time to start exploring paid promotion.

DL: Once someone has the basics down and their app is in decent shape, where can they go from there? What should they focus on with paid promotion?

JB: I’ll speak specifically about what I know best, which is Google’s offerings around UAC — the largest benefit being that it’s machine learning driven.

First, we try to understand who your best customers are, and the behaviors that can act as a proxy to help find similar customers.

Companies usually start by looking for potential customers similar to those who have already installed their app or have opened it for the first time. This helps build a user base. Over time, they might refine their goal to find people more like their most valuable customers. For example, in a game, players who join a community might be the most valuable. The game publisher might want to use UAC to find new players that mimic the behavior of those who’ve already joined a community.

Once we know what actions you’re targeting, and that behavior is passed back to Google through UAC, the machine can then learn which behaviors are typical of your most valuable customers. Our UAC campaigns can then target your ads to other people who behave in a similar way.

One thing we always have to remind people of is that with machine learning, patience is a virtue. The machine needs time for trial and error, meaning that it needs time to learn which types of user profiles work and which don’t. Typically this only takes a week or two to figure that out. This often puts marketers in a unique position, particularly those fixated on performance, as they want to twist dials and make changes on a daily basis. However, marketers that follow the best practices and let the machine learn will find out that the machine figures it out pretty quickly, making their lives much easier.

DL: How important is it to optimize the actual creative itself when it comes to paid promotion?

JB: Creative is one of the biggest levers for optimization. By inputting all of the relevant assets and formats — including all recommended image and video sizes — you can ensure your app will get the maximum exposure within the inventory available.

Video is the trickiest media format for most folks. In many cases, video is the most expensive and time-intensive asset to produce, yet it tends to have the best performance and the most impact. This is partly due to the inventory we have available on Google, through YouTube, AdMob, etc. We do provide some tools that can auto-create videos, making this part of the process a little easier.


“Creative is one of the biggest levers for optimization."

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


Optimizing your videos can have a big impact. For example, when considering portrait vs. landscape, it’s important to have both. We see much better performance when we put a portrait video on a portrait-held phone, and vice versa. Having both options available makes a significant difference. You don’t want people to switch how they’re currently holding their device, just to see your ad.

Finally, making sure you get the fundamentals right on your app store page — including text and display images — is also very important. Fortunately, it’s relatively straightforward. Google, and I believe some others, are increasingly offering resources for marketers that help auto-create some of these.

DL: Thank you for taking time to speak with us, Jane. Looking forward to continuing the conversation in the coming weeks.

Tune in for the next post in this series on February 26th, in which Jane discusses how marketers can tell if they're running successful advertising campaigns, the most valuable and reliable metrics to track, and the balance between new installs and re-engagement.

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February 12, 2019

Mobile App Strategy
Mobile App User Acquisition

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