Three strategies for publishers to succeed with app monetization

Tuesday, September 24, 2019
By: Ben Kaplan

It's easy to recognize that mobile devices are where everyone’s attention is. Mobile recently overtook TV as the place where US adults with smartphones spend most of their screen time (3 hours and 43 minutes per day to be exact, according to eMarketer). What publishers who manage large web (and desktop-focused) presences often don’t realize is that not only is mobile time-spent dominated by apps (87% of mobile time, according to eMarketer), but also that there are major differences between the app and mobile web worlds. For example, web environments benefit from search, social, and press coverage that links directly to a website. In contrast, a user must first search for, download, and then continually return to an app, which lives in its own isolated environment. For apps, there are much higher initial barriers to acquiring and keeping audiences. As a result, app publishers looking to improve their monetization strategy have to take a deeper look at their traffic, user experiences, and retention to maximize each user’s lifetime value (LTV) and monetize their apps more successfully. Publishers can best chart a course for a successful app monetization strategy when they evaluate data at its most granular levels, deliver the best consumer experiences, and leverage platform diversification for more effective audience acquisition.

1. Understand data at the impression level.

Because each visit to an app could be a user’s last, app publishers need to understand users’ behavior (in relation to ad engagement) through data at the most detailed layer. An aggregated or overall user view is a good start, but not deep enough to find the subtle nuances and cohorts necessary for growth opportunities. Solutions like impression-level revenue data enable publishers to understand how an individual behaves within an app on the per-user and per-impression level. These capabilities provide clear insight into each impression such as what demand source filled it, how much it was worth, and where in the app it was viewed. In addition, publishers can overlay the impression data with additional data that's available for each user within the app (e.g. age, gender, what user acquisition campaign the person came from), which enriches the data being sent to the attribution platform and allows further segmentation of the app’s user base to better identify user behavior. When combined with an attribution partner and other audience tools, app publishers can establish a more complete relationship between their user acquisition and monetization efforts, craft effective A/B test experiences, and track true user LTV.

2. Deliver a great ad experience.

While understanding the data is important, delivering the best experience to users (read: clean, fast, and immersive) is also paramount for successful app monetization. Because acquiring and keeping users is a constant concern, app publishers need to ensure they know when best to deliver an in-app purchase (IAP) opportunity, in-app advertising, or a non-monetized experience. Success is about serving the right user with the best experience at the optimal time. Ads should be experienced without latency, with high-quality creative, and yield the highest revenue amount possible per that impression. Here, in-app header bidding solutions can help drive success. By flattening the ad waterfall, an in-app header bidding solution like Advanced Bidding helps ensure that creatives serve quickly and across multiple engaging formats, as well as with the highest possible bid for each impression. Reduced latency and diverse ad format options create better in-app advertising experiences, and better experiences mean happier users and more successful app publishers.

3. Acquire users efficiently.

App monetization is more than just advertising; it also depends on continually acquiring new users in the most cost effective manner. These efficiencies can come from granular data insights within tools like impression-level revenue data, and which channels a publisher spends on can be a huge determinant of success. Most app publishers recognize the need to “pay to play” (i.e. use paid user acquisition channels) at some point; unlike a few years ago, app publishers can no longer rely on organic discovery alone. The same one to two networks commonly become app publishers’ first stop when it comes to user acquisition (UA) campaigns, but expanding beyond one or two platforms can really benefit UA efforts and help add scale. Taking advantage of mobile programmatic is a great way to add scale to campaigns, create optimization opportunities, and potentially generate higher return on ad spend (ROAS). As an app marketer, appropriately setting expectations for programmatic buying is key. For those serious about taking their mobile programmatic marketing to the next level, MoPub’s Marketer Program offers expert consultants who can help marketers develop their programmatic strategies and maximize their investment. 

Focusing on detailed data, providing a great user experience, and enabling platform diversification for user acquisition efficiency and scale are a dynamic triad that help power total app monetization for publishers and developers. These areas create a flywheel effect that feed each other and provide key advantages. The publishers who recognize the application world’s nuances within their larger monetization strategy are those that will thrive in today’s ever-changing mobile landscape.

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