Thought Leadership
A Ride Along with Adam Miller, Mobile Marketing Manager for Turo


Adam Miller
Mobile Marketing & Analytics Manager

Adam has spent nearly 8 years in digital media, mobile user acquisition, growth, and strategy, beginning at digitally-focused agencies like Razorfish and Carat. There he represented healthcare brands from the portfolios of AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer before focusing on travel with the likes of Disney Parks & Resorts and most recently Expedia before joining Turo to manage mobile marketing and analytics.


Mobile advertising is dominated primarily by mobile gaming companies, how do you view mobile user acquisition from a non-gaming perspective?

Depending on what vertical you’re in, whether that’s ecommerce, social media, or if your app is part of the on-demand economy, like an Instacart or Uber, there’s a very different LTV model that you adhere to along with a different growth curve that your product experiences.  In gaming, there’s this voracious appetite for a title once it starts to reach critical mass, but sustaining that is hard, if not impossible. Eventually the users move on to another game after some time, be it a month or a year. But other products, like some of the ones I mentioned, have a much slower build, a sustaining user base, and LTV that matches that.

Because of this longer term view of LTV and the time from acquisition to revenue, you’re able to be a bit more patient, test unproven tactics, and be a little more liberal with your CAC (cost of customer acquisition.) It’s far more important to acquire the right users and maintain that momentum than to get lots of mediocre users early on.


Tactically, how would you say it differs in terms of campaign execution, partners you work with, users you try to acquire, KPIs you measure?

Because of the longer term LTV, you’ll usually choose two KPIs to focus on. One in the near term that you’ll work to hit daily, a signup metric of some sort or CPI, if nothing else, and one in the long term, a revenue metric, that has to materialize through the quality of the users that you’re acquiring. The first is a gateway to the second.

In the travel space, for example, a signup might mean everything today, but as cohorts mature and you enter seasonal peaks, you expect those dormant users, even if you acquired them months ago, to activate and start generating real revenue. This provides flexibility to work on an almost entirely non-incentivized basis.


What would you say are your most effective channels, that are driving the highest LTV users? Do you prioritize LTV over scale, or are both equally important?

It’s no secret that native formats as a whole provide both high LTV and scale, though some are better than others. For us, LTV is much more a focus than scale. We take quite a few steps to ensure that we acquire the right customers for our marketplace, not just lots of them. Certainly there’s a minimum scale threshold we need to meet in order to keep growing as a company. But as a two-sided marketplace, our success hinges on both our renters and owners having a successful interaction with one another. Scale for us comes with time and a maturing marketplace.


Being a company with a logistical component, peer-to-peer car renting, is there a different way you approach user acquisition such as launching by a specific market/geo, or certain seasons that perform well for you?

We’re very much in the travel space, so yes, seasonality is a huge factor, with quite a bit of demand coming by way of summer travel, holiday travel, and even in specific geos depending on what’s happening in that city. Geographically, our UA (user acquisition) efforts are dictated largely by usage and utilization, not unlike the ride-sharing companies, even though we have very little in common with them. We try to keep things national wherever possible, but we do monitor both sides of our marketplace at the city and state level to determine if we need to acquire more supply or demand in order to keep a balanced utilization rate throughout.


How important is publisher/sub-source transparency for you in post-campaign reporting, and if so, why?

Transparency is paramount. Not only does it ensure that you’re not working through several intermediaries, each one marking up the conversion along the way, but it also helps with audience discovery. If you notice a specific demographic or categorical skew to the kinds of apps that are converting best, you can seek out more of those kinds of opportunities everywhere.  Not to mention, it just helps me sleep easier at night, knowing where our brand is being represented. I find it hard to work with anyone that can’t provide even a minimal amount of transparency, and transparency is quite honestly one of the reasons why I love your product, Thalamus.


What do you think are the most underutilized channels in mobile, or what are some things you’d like to try?

I don’t know if it’s a channel, per se. But I would say CRO (conversion rate optimization) continues to be dramatically underutilized in mobile. There’s simply too much focus on front end metrics like click-through rate, CPI, or a CPA of some sort, instead of considering that even an incremental improvement in the checkout, registration, or listing flow might dramatically improve conversion rates across the board. With tools like Optimizely, there’s no reason to not be testing iterations of your landing page or app to ultimately recognize a global lift instead of a local one. A rising tide lifts all ships.


To the extent that you can reveal, what are some of the more sophisticated buying techniques you use? For example, do you make use of any mobile data sources, DMPs, cross-device tagging, device/user ID targeting?

Our team is extraordinarily analytical, digging through our own customer data and our partners’ data to identify inherent trends at the user level.  So we do make use of our own data quite a bit, creating look-a-likes on both the owner and renter side based on IDs and email addresses. That’s been rather successful to date as has been up-selling our desktop users on installing the app, especially with our owners. The app is a great management tool for them. We have a few more tests in the works, but I would say using our own data in different ways has really made our campaigns.


What is your take on view-through attribution in mobile, for user acquisition? Do you use any tools to de-duplicate conversions?

View through attribution can be very useful, but it has be used selectively. Otherwise, the larger reach vehicles, like Facebook, Google, or Twitter will always get the most credit simply because they can show more ads to more people. That doesn’t mean they’re always going to be your best partners. Typically, using no more than a 24-48 hour view through window keeps things pretty honest. In terms of deduplication, we tend to use a mix of account IDs and device IDs to ensure that every event can be tied back to a single user in some way.


Lastly, what do you see as the future of mobile user acquisition?

For one, I would say there’s a not too distant future where mobile web for most services becomes obsolete. Apps are simply becoming faster and more full-featured than ever, not to mention that the barriers to creating them are lessening. Plus, the LTVs of app users almost always exceed that of a mobile web user.

Two, with Facebook and Twitter extending their ad formats beyond their own apps and sites, we’re probably looking at a much more consolidated mobile ecosystem, where there’s less display banner inventory, like 300x250s and 320x50s, all around. Because of this, I would expect some of the traditional middlemen, like SSPs (supply side platforms,) exchanges, and arbitrageurs to go away, while all formats will become “native” in nature. I think there’s a huge branding opportunity in native as well that hasn’t even been explored.

Lastly, and in part because of the above trends, data and user insights are only going to get better. Facebook’s new mobile analytics are a great example of this. And we’re only going to be able to get deeper insights on users in order to pinpoint the best customers in the future.



Turo is the largest person-to-person car rental marketplace, enabling travelers and enthusiasts to rent from local owners and choose from more than 800 unique makes and models across the U.S.  Since its national launch in March 2012, Turo has built a community of tens of thousands of car owners and hundreds of thousands of renters.  The company has raised $50M+ from top-tier investors, including Canaan Partners, August Capital, Google Ventures, and Shasta Ventures.

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