Through much of 2020, advertisers have had to react to rapidly shifting behaviors and pivot from long-held strategies, including how they reached their audiences – or whether it was the right time to do so at all.
ASO World teams’re all happy to assume that in order to grow a successful mobile game (or app) you need:
Specifically, many will still face four key challenges in 2021: unclear market learnings, decreased marketing spend, inconsistent consumer engagement, and shifts in mindshare.
We looked across the past year and beyond to collect the right guidance and resources to help you conquer these roadblocks. Each of the sections below contains an overview of the action advertisers can take to solve a challenge, focus areas that will help you implement that solution and links to tactical resources to help you get started on specific recommendations. We hope this can act as a handy repository to guide your strategy as you plan for 2021.
Click on each challenge to see strategies that will set you up for success in the year ahead:
Challenge 1: Unclear market learnings
This period of change has driven many businesses to rethink how they operate across the board, from who they serve to what types of messaging will resonate with audiences. However, with so much in flux, it has been difficult to zero in on clear market learnings to help inform strategic shifts.
Action for advertisers: Operationalize true measurement
Accurate measurement is essential during times of transition because it enables marketers to understand their customers, leading to better business decisions. Marketers have the opportunity to reevaluate their tried-and-true measurement approaches in order to ensure they’re delivering the insights needed. Getting this right makes everything else much easier.
As in 2020, we recommend that marketers start with a measurement strategy that’s simple and adaptable in 2021. Here are two focus areas to get you started with operationalizing true measurement:
Build a test-and-learn culture.
Continual testing and learning is central to strong self-sustaining measurement practices. Some forward-thinking advertisers have simplified their strategies to focus on key sources of truth, allowing them to quickly understand shifts and optimize media on an ongoing basis. Many have also launched initiatives to firmly place experimentation at the core of their measurement organizations.
- Consider organizational and cultural changes to make. Check out our report Building an Organization That Embraces Experimentation to learn how other businesses are driving change from the top-down, building data-oriented mindsets and evaluating talent.
- Use agile learnings to keep things simple. We’ve previously covered how advertisers are running quick A/B and multi-cell tests to stay nimble while understanding new business realities and the impact of strategic changes.
Conduct experiments and studies.
Consumer behaviors have undergone rapid transformations because of COVID-19. Experimentation and studies can help advertisers test new hypotheses to better understand these shifts and to challenge long-held assumptions.
- Get the bigger picture with lift studies. In some verticals, such as travel, advertisers often concentrate media spend on one or two channels. Lift testing enables brands to better understand the overall performance of their marketing, rather than only channel performance, and optimize their budgets.
- Use experiments to calibrate your Marketing Mix Models (MMMs) to new realities. Traditional MMMs sometimes struggle to account for unexpected events; introducing granular data and calibrating with experiments can help adjust models to account for the pandemic’s impact. the Considerations for Creating Modern Marketing Mix Models
Challenge 2: Decreased marketing spend
The pandemic has reduced consumer spending in some areas and impacted businesses, driving decreases to many advertising budgets. Marketers are often having to find ways to get the same results with fewer dollars.
Action for advertisers: Realize new efficiencies
Fortunately, there are valuable efficiencies brands can take advantage of. Leveraging technology intelligently and embracing cost-effective creative insights can help resource-strapped marketers make the most of their budgets.
Enable liquidity and machine learning.
“Liquidity” refers to the state of allowing every dollar to flow to the most valuable impression. In study after study, we’ve seen that more automated placements, bidding and targeting leads to cheaper incremental conversions. Use these learnings to achieve results while saving both time and money.
- Lean on AI to guide you. Our article Boost Liquidity and Work Smarter With Machine Learning explains how relying more on automation and AI can boost results. It also links to two reports that delve more deeply into how machine learning helps media teams.
- Understand when to take the steering wheel. There are times when you must or should exert more control over your campaigns. How Media Teams Can Thoughtfully Balance Liquidity and Control walks through the trade-offs and when it makes sense to use restrictions across placement, audience, budget and creative.
- Learn how machine learning can help in other ways. You can learn more about the potential benefits of machine learning—including how it delivers more time for teams and boosts creativity—in 4 Ways Machine Learning Can Make Media Buying More Strategic in 2020.
Embrace cost-effective creative insights.
We’ve uncovered a number of creative and format approaches that can deliver results more efficiently. Here are a few of those:
- Use a “surround sound” approach. Using branded content in combination with standard brand ads can drive incremental purchase intent at 82% lower cost than using either format separately. This approach can be especially beneficial when developing branded content is cost effective.
- Combine Stories and feed placements. We’ve also found that using Stories ads in tandem with feed placements can boost efficiency; a multi-cell test of campaigns in Europe and Africa found that adding stories to feed campaigns by using placement optimization resulted in a 21% increase in brand lift.
- Use testing to lower costs. Every brand is unique and adapting creative strategies to these differences can improve efficiency. When brands tailored assets through Betatyping, a framework for testing and optimizing creative, they had a measurably lower average cost per ad recall, cost per action intent and cost per action.
Challenge 3: Inconsistent consumer engagement
People’s viewing and spending habits can fluctuate during moments of change; this means you may not be catching their notice as often as you could be, or you may not be converting them as reliably. The specifics of how your audience is spending their time and money will depend significantly on your business—but there are still generalizable trends you can learn from and use.
Marketers can adapt to recent changes by understanding the nuances of how people pay attention to media across screens and by leveraging direct response tactics to capture demand.
Understand cross-device attention and effectiveness.
While it’s often said we’re in a mobile-first world now, the reality is more complex, with people often spending their time moving simultaneously among multiple screens. Understanding these nuances can help you craft more effective campaigns.
- Learn how people split time between phone apps and TV. We’ve explored how consumers in six countries spend time between TV and their favorite mobile apps, reinforcing the need to plan TV, social and mobile campaigns together—not in silos.
- Reach more people by combining TV and digital. Marketers can review how digital and TV campaigns can work together to bolster reach.
- Learn how to plan TV and Facebook campaigns together. You can find tactical guidance on navigating the divided attention landscape in our report Big-Picture Planning: Understanding Value in a Multi-Screen World.
Drive performance with creative strategies, elements and formats.
Creative is critical when it comes to conversions. The right combination of ad format, text, motion and more can help you move the needle against DR objectives or goals such as action intent. Take advantage of the insights and best practices we’ve uncovered to help drive results.
- Build the case for testing creative. In A Data-Driven Exploration of Optimal Ad Frequency, we explored how greater ad frequency is only associated with better results up to a point—and how ad quality can impact the connection between frequency and results.
- Learn more about how digital measurement can improve advertising creative. This interview with Creative Shop Research Manager Lara Andrews gives an overview of the research she co-authored on accurately measuring digital creative quality. We featured key learnings from her research, including how to develop brand-specific best practices, in Lead With Creativity.
- Learn the creative best practices that we’ve uncovered. We’ve developed a comprehensive video series on creative tactics that are proven to make an impact, covering best practices for in-stream ads; branded content and Stories ads; using motion, sounds and stickers; and text, timing and format.
Challenge 4: Shifts in mindshare
It’s been said that a brand is the sum total of a person’s interactions with it. If that’s true, many brand connections may have weakened due to issues such as reduced advertising budgets, less frequent visits to stores and limited inventories.
Overcoming shifts in mindshare entails using creative techniques to brand build for the long term, starting again with the cornerstone: measurement.
Measure and invest in brand growth.
It’s hard to overemphasize just how important measurement is to continuous improvement—including for brand building. Here are some resources for effectively driving brand growth.
- See how disruptors took a measurement-focused approach to brand building. You can learn from brands like Gymshark, Happy Socks and Treatwell in our article Build a Strong Brand With a Measurement-First Approach.
- Balance your long- and short-term needs. Move the Metrics That Drive Brand Growth can guide you as you think through a campaign’s immediate and future objectives.
- Don’t neglect your future customers. It can be easy to reach out to your brand’s existing buyers to achieve a higher return on ad spend, but don’t forget about new customers. How New and Existing Buyers Can Grow Brand Together explains why reaching people outside your current pool of buyers is an investment in brand growth.
Leverage brand-building creative insights.
It’s no secret that strong creative principles can aid a strong brand. The challenge has historically been knowing what strategies can help you stand out.
- Focus on the actions that can set you apart. We’ve compiled a list of approaches that innovative agencies and advertisers are leveraging to build enduring connections and drive exceptional results. You can check those out in our report Breakthrough Brands 2020: Six Creative Behaviors for Driving Business Impact.
What it means for marketers
Operationalize true measurement
Build a test-and-learn culture, and conduct experiments and studies.
Realize new efficiencies
Enable liquidity and machine learning, and embrace cost-effective creative insights.
Capture consumer attention and demand
Better understand cross-device attention and effectiveness, and drive performance with creative strategies, elements and formats.