Eddie Yoon is Senior Director of Paid Media at NP Digital. Before joining NP Digital, Eddie led the user acquisition team at Redemption Games.
1. Soft Launch Game Plan
For soft launches, we start with Meta and then expand to other channels. Every app behaves differently, but generally, you want to choose a less populated Tier 1 market with one Tier 2 and one Tier 3 market. This helps establish multiple benchmarks in preparation for global scaling.
There are countless strategies that user acquisition teams can incorporate when soft launching apps into three markets. For example, each market can represent a specific stage of your funnel. Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets with low CPIs and CPMs can be used to monitor initial user behavior in relation to activation events, along with testing app mechanics, while Tier 1 markets can be used to monitor general revenue behavior.
The key to a successful soft launch is to identify geographies with similar identities to your primary target market, in terms of culture, language, and motivations. For example, publishers targeting the United States commonly establish soft launches in Australia, Canada, or the United Kingdom. For Tier 2 or Tier 3 markets, publishers commonly target countries in Europe or Asia.
During the soft launch, mechanics need to be tested aggressively and monitored closely.
Key questions to consider:
- Are there any glitches in the app? Does the user experience “break” at any point? Are the load times consistent, or slow at specific stages of the app?
- How is early retention? Are there specific events that lead to high or low retention?
- What are the exit points? When does the average user typically exit the app? Why?
- What are the revenue generating events and triggers? What sequence of events and user behaviors lead to purchases? Is it consistent? How can it be improved?
- What’s the overall behavior for early users? How do the first 1,000 users compare with the next 10,000+ users?
Cohort Analysis and retention are important metrics to analyze during soft launches. It is best for publishers to optimize retention as much as possible to increase the chances of having a successful global launch.
2. Discover Champion Ads
Soft launches allow you to rapidly test creatives to discover your champion ads. It is recommended to have at least 3-4 champion ads (by theme) ready by the end of the soft launch, so you can confidently scale budgets during the global launch.
Basic checklist for creative testing:
- Copy messaging: Test various UVPs/themes in the ad copy and headlines
- Colors: Solid colors vs. Gradients
- Format: Images vs. Videos
- Dimensions: Landscape vs. Square vs. Vertical
- Video length: 10 seconds vs. 15 seconds
- Sonic elements: Test multiple sound clips, across various genres
- Competitor ads: Test concepts that are generally working for competitors. Then put your own unique spin on it.
- Hooks: Test unique hooks in the first 2-3 seconds of your videos
Understanding the psychology of why users install your app and remain as high-valued, active users is critical throughout the entire stage of your app launch.
3. Velocity of KPIs
The velocity of KPIs is key to understanding the strength of your campaigns. It can also be an indicator of the K-Factor for your ad concepts and overall app. For example, understanding the average time that your users go from ad click to app install to purchase, allows you to better understand the story of your app’s monetization.
Ad metrics to consider:
- CTR: Click-Through Rates
- CPI: Cost Per Install
- CPM: Cost Per Mille
- IPM: Installs Per Mille
- CVR: Conversation Rates
- CPP (Cost Per Payer): 2D vs. 7D vs. 30D
- ROAS (Return on Ad Spend): 2D vs. 7D vs. 30D
- ARPDAU: Average Revenue Per Daily Active User
- Frequency and Ad Fatigue
Additional metrics to consider:
- DAU: Daily Active Users
- Retention Rates
- LTV: Lifetime Value
- First Purchase Behavior
- Multi Purchase Users
- Whale Activity/Behavior
From a Meta testing perspective, there are countless ways to optimize performance at the top of the funnel. Always be testing:
- Broad vs. interest targeting
- New Lookalikes: 1% vs. 5% vs. 10% (based on High LTV Users)
- Audience Stacks: Combine Lookalikes Audiences (based on Revenue Cohorts)
- Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO)
- Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO)
- Automated App Ads (AAA)
- Hyper Targeted Campaigns (based on Audience demographics, Device, Geo, etc.)
Don’t be afraid to “shock the system.” If you need to reset the learning phase because you are restructuring a campaign or launching new creatives, then do it. The soft launch represents an opportunity to test new ideas and to understand how Meta’s algorithm responds to your decisions.
Remember that optimization does not end at the creative level and the user acquisition team needs to be prepared to explain testing parameters and overall data to the rest of the organization. This involves communicating with the rest of the team on a frequent basis during the entirety of the soft launch. At this stage, the marketing, product, and design teams should be considered one team.
5. Global Scale
At this point, you should be better prepared for global scale. The best advice is to continue to treat it like a soft launch. Always test, optimize, and introduce fresh ideas throughout the entire funnel.
As you expand to additional paid channels, stay alert and expect to see outlier performances. For example, Google and other video networks may have different creative winners and user behaviors. Advanced user acquisition teams are expected to adjust to these expectations, so they can continue to formulate the optimal environment for app growth.
Most importantly, work with your internal product and data teams to build internal predictive models around your core KPIs, such as LTV and retention. This allows you to better understand user behavior outside of the typical 2-day, 7-day, and 30-day time frames. It is beneficial to analyze user behavior within those gaps because the 3-day, 4-day, 5-day, and 6-day metrics may reveal important information.
As a business, cash flow is always important to consider, so budget discussions on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis are highly recommended. Every key member of the team should understand the health of the company, so they can work fluidly around realistic growth expectations.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun! The best user acquisition teams we have witnessed had great chemistry and genuinely enjoyed each step of the process. There is always a learning opportunity and having a humble DNA is essential to company morale. If all goes well, it should be a rewarding and memorable journey for both you and your loyal fans.