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Game developers are naturally suspicious of the hype that comes with new technology, but the revenue potential for mobile marketing automation (MMA) makes it worth a closer look.

MMA will see a tripling in growth by the end of 2015, John Koetsier, VP increase in revenueat VentureBeat Insight. However, developers and publishers have been slow to use it with only 5% of businesses trying it, thus far.

Mark Ghermezian, the CEO of MMA vendor Appboy, claims to have a client who earned $100,000 of new revenue with a single in-app message. That’s probably not something every developer can expect to achieve with MMA, but it certainly makes us sit up and take notice.

Yet we’ve been unable to find a game developer using MMA who has reached the stage where they’re prepared to talk publicly about it. Perhaps the hype surrounding MMA is the reason for its slow uptake.

“Developers are burned out by new fads that promise traffic,” says Alex Nichiporchik, founder of TinyBuild. “Too many providers offer crap services, making it all feel too scammy to bother with.”

What is Mobile Marketing Automation?confused

For some, MMA is mostly about using in-app messages and push notifications to retain users for longer. But sophisticated MMA technology offers much more by linking user behavior with revenue streams like in-app purchases and advertising.

This more sophisticated MMA works in three stages.

1) Understanding the way people play your games: when they play; what gets them excited; when they pay; how to stop them losing interest.

2) Putting players into groups depending on their behavior, their playing level, some of the choices they make in playing the game.

3) Creating custom messages and campaigns tailored for the different user groups. These can be announcements, invitations, rewards and cross-promotions.

The point is, different users respond to different types of campaigns. Sending the most relevant message to individual users based on their characteristics and predicted behaviors is the best way to maximize your game’s value (either in terms of engagement or revenue generation).

For example:
• If a user has made several small in-app purchases you may offer a discount on a bigger one.
• Or for a frequent player who doesn’t make in-app purchases, you can offer a bonus for watching an advertising video.
• Or for a player who hasn’t played in a while, you can use push notifications to tell them about new features.

For more on MMA, check out Tapjoy’s white paper Breakthrough Strategies for Mobile Marketing Automation

The benefits of MMA

What makes MMA really powerful is that you monitor the effect of the messages and fine tune them to make your game work even better. It’s a way to continually improve your game’s performance.

“Developers get to know the player or group from the bottom up and can take actions in real time which affect what the player does,” says Koetsier. App analytics can be used to achieve some of the benefits but, as Koetsier points out, “this almost always lacks both the real-time and actionable parts of MMA.”

Rob Vawter is Director of Developer Partnership at MMA provider Tapjoy. He comments: “Big publishers are building their own solutions, which is costly and resource intensive. Integrating an external MMA solution can be more cost efficient and make you much faster to market.”

For Thomas Voss, Game Producer at Spil Games, MMA maximizes the lifetime value of players for developers and games companies. “MMA systems blend app analytics and user segmentation with data such as past purchases, loyalty memberships and individual preferences,” Voss says. “Developers and publishers can then deliver personalized communications such as in-app messaging, incentives, special offers, and push notifications which keeps players engaged and coming back.”

When To Use Mobile Marketing Automation

Developers who can figure out how MMA will fit within their games early in the design process will see the biggest rewards.

“Developers who start MMA during their soft-launch can experiment early on,” says Vawter. “They can figure out what types of placements are most engaging, or what type of push notifications appeal to their audience. Then they can take time to properly plan and implement when the app launches to everyone.”

But Koetsier is more cautious. “Developers on a budget may want to wait on MMA until their game gets scale,” he says. “MMA starts to pay dividends when a game starts getting a bit more popular.”

Improving revenue and engagement

One of the things holding back MMA is that the technology needs to work within a game developer’s strategy for revenue generation and user engagement.

“Not all developers understand the true value of MMA yet,” says Vawter. “They think they may already be able to handle a few individual pieces of it such as user acquisition or monetization. But what they’re missing is the ability to drive specific actions. They can focus more strategically on things like retention through a MMA solution rather than just what they are doing in the game.”

For Koetsier a simple lack of awareness may be the problem. “Many aspects of MMA are new to mobile publishers,” he says. “In some cases, developers love to roll their own, and they may cheat themselves of a full MMA platform that is continually evolving and growing.”

The return from an investment in MMA will very much depend on the goals of the developer, and how the technology fits into their marketing strategy. It could be used to improve retention or to drive engagement in tournaments or game modes. They may use it to drive monetization around in-app purchases or ads but, Vawter says, the real benefits come from developers understanding their users.

“They’ll quickly identify insights around how much people are engaging with what they’re putting in front of them through placements or pushes,” he says.

So could you make $100,000 from a single message?

100K

Despite the grand claims, it’s too soon to say for sure how much of an impact MMA will have.

“We’ve had a number of partners taking advantage of it,” says Tapjoy’s Vawter. “While we aren’t sharing those results just yet, we’re seeing a lot of great momentum.”

But Koetsier believes you need the right circumstances to see really big gains from MMA. Speaking of Ghermezian’s claim to have a client who earned $100,000 of new revenue with a single in-app message, Koetsier says:

“That’s a pretty niche scenario. First, you need a large user base. Then you need a segment that is engaged but has not monetized. Finally, you need a good reason for them to start shipping you some cash.”

We think MMA is going to be a big deal in the coming months. If you’re already using it, we’d love to hear from you so we can share your experiences with other game developers. My contact details are at top left.