Senior Manager – Product Marketing & Partnerships
Crowdstar is the developer of Covet Fashion, the #1 fashion entertainment app for women, where fashionitas can dress up their avatar as they’d like. Can you share more on your role as Sales Manager, Product Marketing & Partnerships at Crowdstar and what it entails?
I’ve been with Crowdstar for 2.5 years and my role has taken many twists and turns during that time as we continue to innovate and grow the product. Everything from enlisting brands like Calvin Klein and Michael Kors on the platform, to building up strategic partnerships with The Council of Fashion Designers of America, and working with celebrity hosts like Emma Roberts and Nina Dobrev have fallen into my wheelhouse.
Recently, I’ve shifted my focus to developing new product initiatives that meet our consumer demands. We have access to over 3 million women a month through the app and a big part of my job is keeping in constant communication with them. I take their feedback and work across our teams internally to make sure we are evolving the product in a direction that meets the needs of our user base. Looking at how we integrate outside content is a big part of that, as our consumer needs are our first priority. I have to evaluate all of our potential partners and figure out the best way to deliver their content to our user base in a seamless way.
It seems as if many mobile app publishers are starting to sell ads directly to brands, due to the tighter integration and custom executions you can offer them. Do you see this growing over time, and what other mobile app publishers are doing it well? (Zynga, Gameloft, Glu, etc)
This is definitely a trend we’re going to see more and more of. Mobile consumers are looking for experiences that add value to their everyday lives, so that connection between the virtual and real is becoming increasingly important. Mobile is where the customers are and where they are spending the majority of their time. Advertising within games allows for deeper engagement, as it can allow direct interaction with the product as part of the gaming experience. It makes a lot of sense for brands to start buying these types of ads to literally be right at their consumers’ fingertips. Gaming companies are smart for capturing that revenue now, as the environment will continue to get more competitive. It will be about which game can not only reach the most consumers, but also provide the most meaningful engagement.
The key to doing these types of integrations well is that the brand is a natural fit for the product. Pokemon has done a great job of this already. Local businesses immediately saw boosts in foot traffic and sales, and now many of them are jumping on the bandwagon to capitalize on that experience. It will be interesting to see where that goes.
What are your thoughts on programmatic advertising? Does Crowdstar sell a lot of inventory through programmatic pipes?
It’s something we are looking into adding, as it’s what’s in demand in the ad space right now. However, with the Covet experience we really pride ourselves on providing custom options that add to our consumers’ experience instead of disrupting it. In addition to integration with our fashion brand partners, we’ve done custom integrations with brands like NBC/Universal for films and Sephora for their product. It’s about designing an experience around the advertiser’s message that we know our user is going to love based on all of the data we have, which is difficult for many other products to do.
Typically, what is your process for approaching a fashion / designer brand, and working with them on a custom ad execution in Covet Fashion?
We focus a lot on building quality relationships with all of the brands that we work with, as many of our partners have been with us since the app launched 3 years ago and continue to see consistent results. We never look at it as an ad execution, but as a marketing partnership. Our partners help provide the great content that keeps our consumer-base engaged day after day, so it’s mutually beneficial in that way.
Many of our relationships have come about organically from referrals from other partners, or personal relationships our team has. We will also reach out to brands that are doing particularly innovative and interesting things in digital. The fashion industry in particular has been an early adopter of Instagram and Snapchat since they are such visual channels. Covet Fashion is a natural next step, as it is another great platform where their consumer is already spending so much of their time. Plus, we provide a level of interaction that consumers can’t get on any of those other platforms.
We have so much data on where our users interests lie, that we are able to seek out partners we know will be a great fit. Brands that have a core message of empowerment and confidence and inspire creativity are generally a great fit for us.
What are some of your biggest challenges as a media seller / partnerships manager?
While brands see mobile as a super important channel, it is still a foreign and often scary medium. Brands are still used to standard IAB placements, but those are not the same type of placements that will work well on a mobile platform. You can’t approach mobile the same way you approach web, so there is still a bit of a learning curve.
Conversions on mobile continue to be cumbersome, so attribution can also be tricky. However, the level of awareness and familiarity that mobile can provide brands is more than they could ever get from a billboard or TV spot. It’s just a matter of getting some of the more old school companies to switch their thinking.
There are over 3M mobile apps that exist on both Google Play and the App Store, with over 50,000 new apps submitted every month. Do you think that this is sustainable, and do you think there will ever be a point where the App “Gold Rush” will end?
I think we will see a slowdown in the “flash in the pan” type apps. Everybody has an app these days, just because they think they are supposed to. I predict a bit of a backlash against these types of apps in favor of simplicity. The average smart phone user has 40+ apps on their phone, yet the majority of their time is spent in just 5 apps. If all these new apps aren’t making consumers’ lives easier or providing deeper value I can’t see them surviving.
To the extent that you can reveal, what types of success metrics are most important to fashion advertisers?
Awareness and engagement are the biggest value propositions Covet Fashion offers. It is the only platform that lets consumers style head to toe looks on model with the latest, real fashion product while getting feedback on their style from the broader community before taking that final step to purchase. For all of our brands we can show the number of impressions, engagements and CTRs. For example, if we run a custom style challenge for a fashion brand asking our users to style with their latest collection, we can report back that upwards of 300 thousand looks were created by our users with an average of 10 million impressions per challenge. We also get a tremendous amount of qualitative feedback from our users about what brands/product they love.
Are there any types of advertisers outside of design, fashion, or clothing that have worked well with your users (in a counter-intuitive way)? Why do you think this was the case?
Yes! We put out fresh content into the app every single day through our interactive style challenges. We can design these challenges around any sort of theme/product that matches our brand values. With any partner that is focused on meeting women’s needs, we can usually come up with something that will excite our users and build that positive experience around the advertiser.
We did a custom campaign with “The Hunstman: Winter’s War” that received an incredible response from our users. They were able to get extremely creative and design their own looks for the two queens from the film. Not only were impressions and CTR high, but we were able to report back to the brand that our users spent an average of 7 minutes creating each look – which is 7 minutes interacting directly with their ad! No other platform can say that.
In the context of advertising, what are some must-use tools that your company uses? (Flurry for Analytics, Google Analytics, Mixpanel / Amplitude, Branch Metrics for Deeplinking, Measurement partners like TUNE / Kochava / AppsFlyer / AdJust, etc)
Branch Metrics, TUNE, Tableau, and AppAnnie. We have our own internal BI system that does a great deal of our tracking.
Lastly, what is your take on the future of monetization for premium mobile app publishers?
I think premium apps will have a harder and harder time acquiring users as consumers become more accustomed to the freemium model. This creates a snowball effect, since fewer users means fewer eyeballs to use as leverage for advertisers and the monetization strategy will start to crumble from there. The only way to have the paid premium apps work is with an established strong brand or license that justify the cost for consumers. The pressure is on to provide an experience that is worthwhile to consumers and in turn make it an attractive platform for advertisers.
CrowdStar is a global leader in mobile and social gaming developing entertainment for women. The company’s flagship fashion styling game Covet Fashion entertains millions of women daily.
Founded in 2008, CrowdStar has deep roots in designing inventive games for women. The company is backed by strategic investors Time Warner and Intel Capital and boasts global partnerships with Tencent, NHN and Facebook. CrowdStar’s games can be found across multiple platforms including Apple’s iOS, Google Play, Amazon and Microsoft.