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A Starter’s Guide to Automating Your Mobile UA Initiatives

By Yann Fasbender | April 22, 2022

Yann Fasbender is Global Mobile User Acquisition Lead at Canva. Yann started his professional career with an initial stint at a European print and experiential marketing agency. At the time, Yann was the first to test Facebook desktop ads as a new, innovative test channel! Now Yann heads mobile growth marketing initiatives at Canva, one of the fastest-growing photo, video and design apps.

Learn more about Mobile Hero Yann.

In mobile UA, automation ranges from small changes—like building simple spreadsheet templates for campaign setup—to fully automated channel optimization and machine learning. Whether you’re just setting up shop or looking to scale quickly, consider this important step. Any business that spends on digital marketing should explore how to automate existing processes. In this blog, I will dive into what to automate, why you should, and how to do it—so you can prime your UA initiatives for future success.

Always Start With the Why

Just because you can automate something, it doesn’t automatically (pun very much intended) mean you should. Ask yourself these questions before getting started. The answers will guide you as to what—if anything—you need to automate.

  • How repetitive and time-consuming are your current tasks?
  • How likely are these tasks to change in the short to mid-term future?
  • How scalable are existing ways of doing things? What would the resource requirements be to 2x, 5x, 10x, 20x the scale of conversions and/or revenue?
  • In an ideal world with unlimited resources, how would you set up and optimize campaigns? What would the potential impact be?
  • Are there broader, long-term opportunities for growth that can be unlocked through specific automation?

See the Bigger Picture

The last question about long-term opportunities will help you gauge the potential impact of automation. Automating one area can often affect other areas. Exploring connected elements will reveal opportunities to acquire significant gains. Think of automation as constantly unlocking new opportunities with every step.

One recent example that comes to mind involves Apple Search Ads (ASA) and its Custom Product Pages (CPP). Automating budget settings, bidding, keyword mining, and categorization across ASA improves ASA efficiencies and enables CPP at scale. For an app such as Canva with a wide range of selling propositions, target audiences, and relevant search queries, the only way to unlock CPP’s true potential at scale is by automating ASA.

Prioritize, Forecast and Measure Your Impact

First, identify the tasks that are repetitive and difficult to scale manually. These are the easiest tasks to automate—and where you will see immediate benefits. In particular, channels that require a lot of manual, monotonous input to optimize are great starting points for exploring channel automation. Once you automate basic tasks, move on to more complex ones requiring machine learning techniques.

Use frameworks such as RICE to prioritize what needs to be automated and its potential impact. Always evaluate the longevity of specific automations and future maintenance requirements. Understand that automation is rarely complete. It will almost always require further automation. Equally, assess the timing of implementation based on immediate needs, upcoming initiatives, and short-term vs. long-term impact. A poorly timed execution can lead to unforeseen blockers.

Once mapped out, forecast the immediate impact, time savings and automation’s effects on time spent on other initiatives.

Last but not least, put the pieces together to measure overall impact. It can be difficult to measure impact depending on the type of automation, but tracking for inefficiency changes or time savings will help evaluate your success and help acquire dedicated resources to carry out further automation in the future. 

Decide on Internal vs. External Automation

Building solutions—internally and externally—can be tricky. It depends on budgets and internal resources. There are advanced tools available to help automate a wide variety of tasks, but app marketers must carefully examine their options and evaluate the pros and cons. A common mistake is underestimating internal automation’s ongoing cost, resource requirements and maintenance needs. Once you are clear on the best path forward, choose the best solution for the challenge you’re looking to solve.

Sit Back and Relax? You Wish!

The work does not end with implementation. You will quickly find that automation can improve efficiencies, but it will also unveil new opportunities and create new challenges.

For long-term success, build new processes around automation and continue to adapt. If this is not done correctly, the impact of automation will fall short of expectations. Allocate dedicated resources to automating existing processes and new developments. Continuously test and adjust to maximize utilization and impact.

Finally, be wary of automation that creates more process and management work than its output! Automate with purpose. Do not automate for the sake of doing it. Focus on solving existing challenges, proving impact and building solutions with lasting impact.