Casual Connect 2017 panel recap: When and how to do global user acquisition

by Lewis Leong on Aug 3, 2017

Casual Connect 2017 is in full swing, with mobile developers and advertisers all ready to share their expertise with one another. This year, Rafael Vivas, AppLovin’s VP of business development, moderated a panel about when and how to do global user acquisition (UA). Joining on stage was Lenette Yap, user acquisition and growth marketing manager at Wooga; Michael Ritter, CEO of Maple Media; and Eugenia Kovalenko, director of marketing at Smule.

For many developers, the thought of going global is a daunting task that requires immense capital and staff, but a small team and minimal resources aren’t as limiting as they seem. “We only have 11 people but we’re doing just fine,” said Ritter.

Michael Ritter Maple Media

Kovalenko added, “You have to be smart with hiring a good team. You don’t really need a lot of capital [for global UA]. I recommend you focus on your retention rates because it helps you scale.”

Smule also leveraged user-generated content, which doubled as one of its localization efforts. The company even used its power users in its ads. In short, it’s possible to go global with your app, even if you’re an indie developer with few resources. You just have to be smart about tailoring your strategy to the type of app you’re developing and by playing to your natural strengths.

One theme that kept popping up through the panel was effectively analyzing data. It’s very easy to misinterpret data if it’s being evaluated in the wrong context. For example, you really have to look at data from each country rather than solely by region; otherwise, you overlook the localization efforts required to be successful in specific countries.

Lenette Yap (Wooga) and Eugenia Kovalenko (Smule)

“For Maple Media, we release a game globally and see what region it resonates in,” said Ritter. Then we break down which markets need work and which ones are doing well. We then perform app store optimization (ASO) for the countries we do well in and move on to the next set of countries.”

For many developers, it’s tempting to target just the “premium” countries like the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, but that would completely dismiss growing markets. It’s well known that these Tier 1 countries in particular have high mobile penetration and mobile payment integrations.

However, “opportunity depends on the product that you have and how it suits the local market,” said Lenette. “Although Vietnam and Thailand are seen as less profitable, I don’t think that’s the case,” she continues. “With the right third-party payment integrations, I’ve heard [Vietnam and Thailand] are quite profitable.”

Lenette Yap of Wooga

One major challenge when going global is deciding which ad network to work with, as the major players in the US or Europe may not be the biggest players elsewhere. One quick way to find out which ad network is best for you is to find out where other people are spending their UA budget.

“It’s also important to go with a diversified approach,” said Lenette. “When you market on various networks, you will also have a [greater] selection of ad products like rewarded video and playable ads.”

“You’ll want to find an ad network that’s transparent,” Lenette continued. “This way, you can actually see what’s working to help optimize further. Perhaps the best advice given during this panel is for you to constantly test. You’ll want to work with multiple ad networks to test which ones work the best and to optimize as you go.

Rafael Vivas AppLovin

The key takeaway from this panel is to be data-driven and to always test. What works for one game may not work for another and it’s your job to identify your strengths to leverage for global UA. Even small indie development studios shouldn’t be afraid of doing global UA because it doesn’t require much capital—it just requires you to be smart about your UA team and choosing which countries to expand into.

Be sure to check out the full-length talk below:

Global user acquisition was just one topic of many that we will be covering from Casual Connect 2017. Be sure to check out our recap of EA’s panel about global mobile trends and check back soon for more panel recaps and analysis.

More from Casual Connect 2017:

Lewis Leong is AppLovin's Content Marketing Manager.