Thought Leadership
Apsalar on the Evolution of the Mobile App & Advertising Ecosystem

jim-nichols-apsalarJim Nichols
VP Marketing
Apsalar

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Apsalar is one of the leading names in mobile, having first started off in analytics, and widening your offering to include advertising, attribution, and 1st party data solutions. Can you explain to the audience your suite of offerings and how you work with others in the ecosystem today?

We provide mobile app acquisition services to mobile-first companies that have at least one app in market in the Apple App Store and/or Google Play. Our sophisticated platform and tools are more comprehensive than many other options in the field, and are most useful for enterprise strategic marketers interested in actioning their data to the fullest possible extent.

Our solutions help brands:

  • Track the effectiveness of their paid app marketing efforts across all media, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and more than 800 ad networks worldwide.
  • Reduce mobile acquisition costs by deduplicating claimed installs across media sources.
  • Analyze their users/customers by vendor, campaign, creative execution, region, cohort, and more
  • Track uninstall rates and other measures of user quality
  • Understand every action consumers take in their apps.
  • Segment users to create and share high performing audiences with any media partner for precision custom marketing.

Ultimately we’re all about making data-driven marketing a reality for app publishers of all types, but especially gaming, retail, personal finance, travel and on-demand services.

 

At Mobile World Congress, there was a lot of tension between ad technology companies and ad blockers. How do you think this ad blocking connundrum will play out over the next few months and years?

I have strong personal views on this topic because I think to a large extent our industry created this problem. Something has to pay for the internet, and advertising has long been the preferred revenue model. The dynamics of digital mean that we need to deliver respectful and relevant messages at the right place and time to individuals. But too much mobile advertising relied on intrusiveness. It’s like Pop-Ups 2.0.

Further, I am convinced that the debate here is far far far too focused on tactics rather than the underlying strategic issue. We need to focus on how to respectfully engage the user, not bombard them with obnoxious and non-strategic experiences.

I feel fortunate to work in the app space right now because most app marketers understand that relevance is essential if an ad is going to drive an install or an in-app purchase. An app install ad that hogs processing power and impedes user experience isn’t going to drive a download and launch. A less experientially “in your face” execution can if its message has the necessary relevance. One of the hottest areas in the app world right now is precision audience segmentation so that marketers can deliver custom, personalized messages to app users.

With our platform, for example, you can segment out your profitable customers and deliver tailored remarketing messages to them. I know this has been common on the PC web for some time, but it’s new in our “appy” world. In addition, brands are using audience segmentation to give media companies far more precise acquisition lookalike profiles.

Over the coming months I am sure we will see more ad blockers and ad blocker blockers and ad blocker blocker blockers. But ultimately what we need to do is to bring relevance and respect to consumer engagements every time. Doing that is the only strategic way forward. That strategy make be best expressed in new formats, in more “native” ads, or whatever. That’s tactical.

 

Install and click fraud are both huge problems in mobile today. How do you think that we, as an industry, can combat this massive ad fraud issue?

The most critical thing we can all do is to understand how fraud is affecting our businesses. Far too many companies fly blind, having little knowledge of the quality of the impressions that garner, the quality and validity of their clicks, whether their installs are occurring on legitimate devices, and so forth.

Combatting mobile fraud can be likened to an arms race – with brands needing to do their best to create robust defenses. I think preventing fraud entirely is an unrealistic goal at the moment, but we can make it a lot tougher and more costly to perpetrate. And we can take responsibility for the health of our own brands.

The sort of brand knowledge I am talking about here is also what drives urgency across the ecosystem. When we understand the core health measures for our businesses, and then share those insights with our partners, we can all do what is necessary to reduce fraud to the lowest rate possible.

 

Where do you see the market heading, as it pertains to the install tracking / attribution players?

All brands using Apsalar of course!

Seriously. The table stakes stuff is counting. You gotta do that right. But genuine success relates to providing new ways to understand how aspects of your marketing are contributing to your KPIs, and how to take your new knowledge and make it actionable.

If we think about the core business of marketing for a moment, it’s to anticipate and deliver on the wants and needs of users/customers. That’s what makes people get into marketing in the first place, and what makes the great ones so successful.

When you empower a client to better understand their users, to identify the keys to driving more revenue and engagement, to discern what makes someone a high value user, you enable them to deliver on the core premise of marketing. Then, if you can pair insight with actionability, you give clients tools to better satisfy users. You deliver maximum value.

 

Fiksu recently released a report showing that the average Cost-Per-Loyal user has hit a record high of $4.23. Do you think that these Loyal User CPI rates are sustainable, and how do you see it evolving over the next few years?

Over the past year or so, the app world has shifted its collective focus from a passion for high install counts to one where the quality of user relationships is paramount. Today, the most common marketing KPIs in the app world relate to incremental revenue, not vanity metrics. Given this, media costs are to a large extent determined by the revenue brands can drive from those loyal users. As brands better leverage their data to maximize ARPU, their ability to pay gradually increasing media costs will grow.

Brands are paying a great deal more attention to user quality. In January we launched uninstall attribution measurement, for example, and client adoption was the fastest ever for a feature requiring an SDK update. People want to understand how to get more “stickers” – people who will have profitable, long-term brand relationships.

 

Apsalar has a DMP that allows integration of 1st party CRM data from a marketer for site personalization, segmentation, push notification, and user prospecting purposes. How else can data be integrated into an ad buy with Apsalar? Are there 3rd party data partners that you work with and what are some use cases?

Well, it’s important to understand that Apsalar is not a media company. Years ago we did sell media, but in 2014 we stopped and shifted our focus entirely to attribution and data management because clients wanted an insights provider without the potential for conflict of interest. So we provide attribution services, and leverage our DMP to help clients understand and segment audiences that they can then share with their choice of media and other partners.

In the app world there is a strong preference for using the things people have done – as expressed in in-app event data – as the core drivers of segmentation and audience development. We work with hundreds of partners and platforms and can ingest third party data, but our primary value is in providing a combination of app marketing and in-app event data along with tools to make it actionable. That’s where we’re unique.

 

There is an almost incalculable amount of ad vendors on the media front, with thousands of ad networks and platforms across the globe with different genre and geo specializations. Do you think this is sustainable over the long run, and how do you foresee the ecosystem evolving over time?

There’s a general consensus in our industry that media consolidation is inevitable. We’ve got a variety of forces at work:

  1. Many poorly differentiated media providers
  2. Growing importance of expensive technology to deliver the best results
  3. Desire for media transparency
  4. Rise of programmatic buying
  5. Greater focus on results/profitability

 

There are millions of apps in both the iOS and Google Play stores, many of which monetize primarily through advertising and ad networks. At what point do you think the growth of the app store will slow due to the monetization of ad networks not being able to support that many developers?

I don’t expect a slowdown in growth in the near future. All the projections I’ve seen show increasing growth rates for the next couple of years. We are seeing, though, an increase in the number of apps launched with multiple revenue models, not just advertising.

But beyond that, the forces for growth remain very strong. Increased mobile penetration and time spent, both in the US and globally. Growing demand for apps in languages other than English. Increasing mobile investments from leading web and brick-and-mortar brands.

 

What is your take on alternative app stores like Mobango, GetJar, Amazon, and even the Operator/Carrier App Stores?

Third party app stores do play a big role in the Android side of our industry. They sometimes offer lower app costs, niche focus, even a more curated selection that helps users get to desirable apps more easily. Some, particularly those outside the US, have fewer ad restrictions than Google Play. Developers/publishers can drive significant install counts and revenue from these channels. But the quality of these stores varies, and some are troubling sources of install and IAP fraud. It’s key to collect and interpret 1st party data to ensure that your alternative app store strategy is driving profitable growth.

 

It was reported recently that the Facebook Audience Network hit a $1B revenue run rate in Q4 of 2015. How do you think their success with advertising, and the ability to layer on the rich demographic data of their users on inventory outside of Facebook, will affect the independent advertising ecosystem?

Data and targeting are incredibly important in mobile marketing and advertising. Brands love when a platform makes it easy and cost effective to pinpoint likely responders. Data-driven marketing has been shown to drive extraordinary results in this industry.

The future of digital lies with those companies that can bring and leverage user data to better identify the right users and deliver relevant messages to them. Big category players that can access and use relevant data sets are likely to drive the fastest growth. Across our footprint, the top ten media companies are growing fastest, as are smaller but data-rich media partners that bring unique value to app publishers.

 

Lastly, what do you see as the future of mobile analytics, attribution, data, and advertising?

Most of us are familiar with the shortage of quantitative business intelligence experts in our industry. Many companies are trying to hire and build analytics teams to help them better leverage data to drive business growth. Experts are essential for a variety of tasks and this trend shows every sign of accelerating. Lots of this stuff is very hard, indeed, to do well.

In conjunction with that, though, I think we’re going to see a lot of innovation in tools and platforms that automatically surface key insights for marketing generalists. To help non-statisticians make better decisions informed by rich big data insights.

I also expect greater recognition of the need to take a mobile-first approach to data and analytics. PC-centric tools are very hard to retrofit to the unique circumstances and positively gigantic data sets of mobile.

Enormous datasets really are a huge challenge. After all, mobile access didn’t replace PC time, it radically expanded the amount of time a user is connected and interacting with digital content. And it is by no means a doddle to adapt a cookie-based system to the cookie-less world of smartphones and tablets.

Ultimately, marketing and marketing analytics in 2016 are like equations with thousands of variables and only a few “knowns.” It sometimes feels pretty daunting. But that’s what makes working in them so exciting and rewarding.

 


 

Apsalar provides mobile measurement & user intelligence solutions for enterprise marketers, allowing them to effectively measure mobile marketing efforts and lifetime value. With Apsalar, app marketers can also unify their user data to enrich mobile user profiles, analyze their most valuable mobile audiences and segment them for retargeting or monetization.

In addition to being an original Facebook Mobile Measurement Program (MMP) partner, Apsalar boasts 300+ publisher/network/technology integrations. Over 35,000 apps have installed the Apsalar SDK, reaching over 1.5 billion mobile devices. As an independent mobile measurement provider – we never sell our clients’ data or use it for media buying.

Based in San Francisco and with offices across the U.S., Apsalar has raised $17M from top-tier venture capital firms including DCM, Thomvest Ventures, Battery Ventures, and DN Capital 

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