6 Hacks to Make the Most of Mobile Retargeting

By Sam Szczesny-Dale | February 2, 2016

Struggling to retain users over time, app marketers are on a constant hunt for ways to keep those users they’ve worked so hard to acquire coming back for more. In a space dominated by freemium apps and average 30-day retention rates in the low end of the single digits, focus is shifting to re-engagement. After all, it is the basis of app monetization and commercial sustainability.

It should therefore come as no surprise that mobile retargeting is rapidly picking up speed. A recent survey by AdRoll found that mobile retargeting jumped from 54% to 82% this year, with 87% of marketers indicating they plan to increase their mobile retargeting investment in 2016.

Mobile retargeting enables marketers to re-engage with users and encourage them to buy a product they’ve looked at, or offer an incentive to book a family vacation they’ve added to a wishlist. It also allows them to re-activate users who are no longer using the app (you know there are lots of those). If we extend the scope of retargeting, the concept also helps them acquire new app users from an existing web database.

The survey clearly points to the fact that mobile retargeting has turned mainstream. However, whereas desktop retargeting is almost 10 years old, mobile retargeting is a relatively new kid on the block. So how can you maximize its potential?

Let’s dig in:

1) Use Deep Links

Beyond its importance in connecting the different mobile environments (web-to-app and app-to-app), deep links send users to specific screens within an app. If you’re running a retargeting campaign, you want to send users to an in-app landing page with relevant content, and not to the home screen.

It downright becomes a must when running a personalized retargeting campaign. If a user saw an ad for a pair of shoes they’ve looked at (in-app or on the mobile web), a click on that ad should take them to the specific product page within the app (even if they don’t have the app installed in which case they’ll go through the app store first). Any other scenario and users will most likely bounce, leading to wasted budgets. When the user experience is optimized, as users expect, conversion rates climb.

2) Set a reasonable frequency cap

Although a mobile app or optimized website usually contains less ads, banner blindness nonetheless affects mobile users. If you run too many ads, users will start ignoring them, or even worse, they’ll try to block them. When that happens, regaining their trust in your brand will be a very difficult task. In addition, a higher volume of unwanted impressions will reduce your CTR and as a result, your quality score.

What can you do to fight this? Start small with 2-3 ads a day until you find the ideal mix. Also, serve more ads for impulse buys, and more to lower funnel users.

3) Design with HTML5

It may come as a shock but only 45% of rich media ads delivered to mobile devices in Q1 2015 were in HTML5 format – leaving no less than 3.5 billion ads wasted! Flash doesn’t work in mobile, yet we still see so much waste… The good news is that there is an alternative in HTML5, which offers capabilities that are as good as Flash. This includes video ads and in-banner video ads, expand and collapse features, animations, zoom-in, advanced masking and cropping and more.

4) Measure, measure, and then measure again

As a data-driven marketer, you (hopefully) know that everything begins and ends with data and analytics. On the web and on mobile. A common misconception, however, is that mobile measurement is not mature yet, which can explain why over 50% of mobile marketers aren’t even measuring mobile engagement and ROI, while only 40% actually measure meaningful app activity such as revenue generated.

But know this: robust measurement and retargeting attribution technology can work with multiple identifiers in the mobile space to provide highly accurate tracking. This is done by using deterministic identifiers such as Apple’s IDFA or Google’s Advertising ID to connect a click to a re-engagement (whether an app open, or a conversion).

If the above identifiers aren’t available, a fallback probabilistic fingerprinting method then uses publicly available parameters to form an identifier that matches specific device attributes. This selection process happens in real time and at scale with a very high degree of accuracy.

Measuring retargeting attribution in mobile is commonly divided between re-engagements and re-attributions. The former happens when a campaign leads users to re-engage with an app they already have installed in their device. The latter occurs when a user uninstalls an app and then re-installs it after being exposed to a reactivation campaign within a certain time frame (assuming the IDFA or Advertising ID remains the same).

Once an engagement with a retargeting campaign leads to valuable in-app activity (immediate or lifetime), the effectiveness of a network, media source, publisher, campaign and even creative variation can be measured.

5) Go deep with rich in-app events

Marketers who seek to walk the extra mile should measure rich in-app events. Unlike standard in-app events which are often limited to a single parameter, rich in-app events look at multiple parameters for event. So instead of simply tracking an add-to-cart event for example, you can measure add-to-cart events of dresses priced above $50 by users who have a customer user ID.

With such granularity, you can then create fine segmentation and export highly targeted user lists to leading networks, taking their personalized retargeting campaigns on mobile to a whole other level.

6) Leverage mobile-specific parameters for optimized bidding

Make sure to use parameters that are unique to mobile such as OS, Carrier, Device Maker, Device Type, OS Content Category, Connection type, and Latitude / Longitude when bidding in mobile. This will ensure your efficiency is maximized and your bidding is as informed and data-driven as possible.

The bottom line is that retargeting is an important method to communicate with your existing users and keep them using your app so you can get a chance to actually monetize them and build a successful business. Mobile and desktop are very different creatures and retargeting is no exception, so thinking mobile and applying mobile-specific best practices can help you run better campaigns.

Shani Rosenfelder is a senior marketing manager at AppsFlyer, the leading mobile attribution and marketing analytics platform.