App marketing is one of the most competitive and rapidly changing fields that marketers can get into in this day and age. It requires a skillset that includes both creative strategy and data-driven methodology, as well as the curiosity to ask questions that others might not even think of. But more than anything, it requires a marketer to anticipate shifts in the ecosystem and be ready to leverage new trends before their competitors do.
What trends will have the most profound impact on the app marketing landscape in 2017? It’s a difficult question to answer, but an important one for those in the trenches of app marketing. Here are seven predictions for trends that I expect to take shape in the next year.
1. More ad formats will appear on the scene
Native. Video. Rich media. Social. There are already a ton of different ad formats that app marketers must juggle successfully to find the right mix. This diversity is both a blessing and a curse; it requires a lot of time and energy to design all the creative, but ultimately delivers campaigns optimized for each channel. In 2017, even more ad formats will appear on the scene, providing more opportunity for developers to connect and engage with their targeted audiences. Playable ads are one format that we’re particularly excited about, as we believe that the better job an ad can do in letting the user get a true sense of what the app is all about, the more effective the campaign will be for both publishers and marketers alike.
2. Video will reign supreme (once again)
Despite the arrival of new ad formats, video ads will continue their run as the industry’s most important format. In AdColony’s latest App Install Marketing Survey report, over 98% of app marketers include mobile video in their channel mix. They also name full-screen video, social video and in-feed video, respectively, as the three most effective ad formats for app installs. In an internal Tenjin study of Facebook Lookalike campaigns by creative, video has become the most popular creative for all Lookalikes campaigns for monetisation, displacing creatives such as carousels. The bottom line is that trailer videos are the best way to show a viewer what the app experience is like, and their cost effectiveness makes them a go-to format for marketers throughout the industry. That will only accelerate in 2017.
3. Data will become more accessible, especially for smaller developers
Data is the lifeblood of any app marketer. It’s required to tell us who’s engaging with our ads, who’s installing our apps, who’s making in-app purchases, and so much more. But historically, many app marketers have had difficulty connecting the dots between their marketing campaigns and their users’ in-app behaviors. Even if they could connect those dots, they often struggled to access the data in a way that made it actionable for future campaigns and re-engagement efforts. Traditionally, only the largest developers had the budgets and engineering resources to build the robust data infrastructures these campaigns require. In 2017, new tools on the market will give smaller and mid-sized developers access to this same data, leveling the playing field for all app marketers.
4. Predictive analytics will get more accurate and more ubiquitous
“Predictive analytics” has been a buzzword for years. For app marketers, the promise of predictive analytics is to show which users are projected to convert soon, purchase soon, churn soon, influence their friends soon, and so on. In theory, this information is invaluable for helping app marketers target their next campaign, whether for acquisition, engagement, retention, revenue, or what have you. But in reality, predictive analytics have thus far remained inconsistent and unreliable at best. In some cases they’ve proven downright erroneous, leading to wasted ad spend. Next year, however, should see a quantum leap in the accuracy of predictive analytics as the algorithms they depend on become smarter and more advanced. That means that more app marketers will be able to use predictive analytics as an important part of their arsenal.
5. Marketers will start sharing more data analysis (if not actual data)
I’ve found the app marketing community to be a wonderfully supportive and communicative one. And yet, most people in the industry have been reluctant to share any analysis of their data that might give them a leg up on the competition. We often meet at industry gatherings like the Mobile Growth Summit, Mobile Apps Unlocked and others events where we freely share best practices and helpful strategies. But data insights have remained secretive. This stronghold on proprietary data was loosened a little throughout 2016 with posts such as this one by Oliver Kern of Lockwood Publishing on methods of establishing LTV, and I think we’ll continue to see more of this type of sharing throughout 2017. A rising tide floats all boats, after all, and the more open and transparent we can be with our data analysis, the better off we’ll all be as an industry.
6. Data reports will become more collaborative
There was a time, not that long ago, when it required advanced knowledge of databases and SQL in order to run the types of reports that most app marketers have come to rely on. But with advances in data warehousing and visualization tools, it is becoming easier for people with little or no SQL skills to extract the reports they need. It is also becoming more commonplace for people within an organization to share their reports with one another and allow others to tweak those existing reports to suit their own requirements. In this manner, teams as diverse as marketers and product managers to the executive teams and investors can all run reports based off of a single SQL query. We expect to see more of this type of intra-team collaboration in 2017.
7. SDKs will become more multi-faceted
Developers hate integrating SDKs. Although necessary to their business, the process of adding, updating and removing SDKs can lay a heavy burden on the engineering team. In 2017, thanks in part to industry consolidation and in part to SDK providers expanding their repertoires, we will see SDKs become more multi-faceted, meaning that developers might not have to integrate as many SDKs as they have in the past. Instead of separate SDKs for analytics, marketing automation, ad serving, attribution, push notifications and more, many of these functions may be combined so that developers don’t have to experience quite as many headaches as they have in the past.
The app marketing industry is changing fast, and in many ways there’s no telling what the future may bring. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that there will be unexpected developments that change the way the industry operates. But by anticipating some of the trends that we expect to take shape in 2017, we can at least be prepared for success.