OPINION: Use Sophisticated App Install Ads to Create Stronger Customer Relationships

The following is a guest contributed post from Andreas Hassellöf, founder of Ombori Group

It has never been a more competitive time for retailers, whether you’re operating in the online space or bricks-and-mortar. With Amazon inexorably growing its user base by the day, it’s essential to deploy ever more effective advertising techniques to attract new customers and retain the loyalty of existing ones.

Most retailers’ ads are still very traditional in nature. They’re usually simple one-shot ads, designed to attract customers to the store and raise awareness. Often, they focus on single products or deals, and are intended to boost short-term sales in very specific areas. That technique works perfectly well if that’s the extent of your commercial objectives, but it doesn’t buy you long-term customers.

As I have written extensively elsewhere, app users are almost always your most loyal, highest spending customers. Once they choose to put that app icon on the home screen of their mobile device, that’s the start of a special relationship. With just one touch, they’re in your store. They will visit you more often, they’ll spend more each time, and they’re much less prone to cart abandonment. It follows, then, that in order to build a long-term customer relationship, simply getting them to visit your Web site or your store isn’t enough. You need to get your app in their pocket.

App install ads provide a simple, easy, cost-effective way to do this. Although they’re more expensive than simple ads, you’re now focusing part of your marketing spend on maximizing your offering to those high-value customers who will generate you the most income.  Think of it as retention marketing: instead of promoting specific product offerings or general brand awareness to new customers, you’re targeting customers who already know your brand and giving them a powerful value-add and an incentive to keep returning.

Go beyond installs – find the real value

However, app installs are just the start of the process. As I wrote in Mobile Marketing Watch recently, on average, only 5% of customers who install a typical m-commerce app actually use it to make a purchase. That’s not necessarily as alarming as it looks: many customers use m-commerce apps simply for price-checking, comparison shopping, browsing, inventory checking, and finding additional information while shopping in-store and then go on to make a purchase through another device or in person. However, with Google’s Universal App Campaign system (UAC), you can do much more than simply get your app onto a customer’s phone.

UAC allows you to set additional commercial objectives on top of the initial app install. As Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s Senior Vice President, Ads and Commerce explains, “It’s not just about driving installs, it’s about delivering valuable actions within your apps – whether it’s reaching a specific level in a game or completing a purchase.”

You can set out to achieve a wide range of different targets: for example, asking the user to complete their profile, making a purchase, visiting a certain number of times within a time frame, or reaching a revenue target. “Universal App Campaigns evaluate countless signals in real time to continuously refine your ads so you can reach your most valuable users at the right price across Google’s largest properties,” says Ramaswamy. “As people start to engage with your ads, we learn where you’re finding the highest value users.”

These kind of ads are more expensive than basic ad installs, but you need to compare them to the existing cost of converting app customers. Palo Alto-based mobile app marketing and retargeting firm Liftoff noted in a recent report that it typically costs around $75 to convert an app user into a paying customer. With a UAC ad, Google is doing a lot of that work for you simply by identifying those customers who are most likely to convert. Google points out that marketers who “optimize for in-app actions with UAC, on average, drive 140 percent more conversions per dollar than other Google app promotion products.”

Creating UAC ads also reduces your workload and your ad creation costs. As Google explains: “You don’t design individual ads for universal app campaigns. Instead, we’ll use your ad text ideas and assets from your app’s store listing to design a variety of ads across several formats and networks. All you need to do is provide some text, a starting bid and budget, and let us know the languages and locations for your ads. Our systems will test different combinations and show ads that are performing the best more often, with no extra work needed from you.” They are then automatically distributed across multiple Google channels (search, GDN, YouTube, AdMob and Google Play).

As of October 16, all Google app install campaigns will automatically be part of UAC, offering retailers a powerful way to achieve the results they really want. Now’s the ideal time to review your ad strategy, optimize your existing ads to take advantage of UAC, and consider what an app install campaign could do for you. And if you don’t have an m-commerce app yet – now’s the perfect time to get one. It’ll probably cost less than you think, and it’ll also help your Web site SEO.