Mobile Industry Exposed #2: Swrve - "Treat your Players as Individuals"

By Hayley Pearce | August 18th, 2014

It’s time for the second interview of our Mobile Industry Exposed, the interview series in which we feature key mobile industry players from games market research firms, mobile marketing platforms and more.

This time, we put the spotlight on Swrve CEO Christopher Dean. Swrve is an integrated mobile marketing automational platform that manages the customer life cycle on mobile, with in-app campaigns, push notifications, real-time responsive UX and A/B testing from a number of variables.christopherChristopher Dean is CEO of Swrve, an integrated marketing, A/B testing and optimization platform for mobile apps. Previously holding senior roles in Urban Airship and Skype, Christopher has a proven track record when it comes to making it happen in mobile marketing automation.

We talked to Christopher about the necessity of A/B testing and other best practices for mobile marketers, plus the most notable findings from Swrve’s April 2014 New Players Report and predictions for the future of the mobile games industry.

  1. Thanks for taking part in the Mobile Industry Exposed interview series. For the benefit of those who don’t yet know, what does Swrve do?We started by asking the question "what do marketers want to achieve?" and that's what we built. In the mobile app universe, there are certain challenges that are universal. So it's necessary to manage the customer journey, and step in to move the needle around the metrics that really matter to mobile businesses. That means converting new users to engaged users, or ensuring engaged users make their first transaction on mobile. How effectively a business drives these numbers is critical to success. That's what we help them do.
  2. Part of your offering is providing analytics for retention, conversions and revenue. What challenges are there in tracking right now and how does Swrve overcome these?The biggest issue is in tracking revenue. Obviously your app store will give you a verified number for total revenue, but local revenue numbers are easily skewed by fraudulent transactions. The issue there isn't so much with loss of revenue but with poor decision making. If you run a campaign and measure your ROI on false revenue figures, you're going to be in trouble! We resolve this by verifying every local event with the app store, so the numbers used to measure success are all accurate.
  3. What other features do clients benefit from when they work with you?We provide everything a typical mobile marketer needs to do their job. That includes delivering push notification campaigns and in-app messages to targeted audiences, plus editing and personalizing the app experience live from our dashboard, with no engineering required. Every way in which you may want to communicate with your user base and build stronger relationships, we support it.
  4. Can you give some examples of A/B tests you have carried out for clients and the results you saw?One of my favorite examples is from a company called Beamly, which is a great second screen app that I'd recommend to anyone. Beamly decided to put a 'hamburger' navigation menu into their app. Everyone told them it would be a good idea, including the team at Google. The result was that engagement fell through the floor. With Swrve, they were able to A/B test that nav against a traditional 'banner' solution, and switch live to the winner. The traditional solution won, and drove engagement up 100 percent. It just goes to show that user data always beats expert opinion. Another example I love is SpaceApe Games. They built a fantastic immersive tutorial that everyone involved absolutely loved, including us. Unfortunately their retention rates didn't appear that great. We helped them test a more conventional experience, and it turned out that this was what their users preferred. The result was retention uplift of around 10 percent and another valuable lesson learned. The team at SpaceApe were smart enough to accept what their users told them and let their beloved creation go!
  5. If you could give game publishers three pieces standardized of advice on product, engagement and retention, what would they be?On product: Test everything it’s possible to test. Don't let that mean all creativity is left at the door. But make sure you know what works when it comes to tutorial design or store layout for example.On engagement: Treat your players as individuals. We, as an industry, are lucky enough to have an almost infinite amount of data relating to players. Use it! Engagement is about delivering relevant experiences and building a relationship, and that only happens if experiences and campaigns are relevant and personal.On retention: Optimize the first five minutes. It’s a fact of life that only one in five downloaded games is played once. That's a lot of wasted user acquisition spend! Make sure the first session leads to a second.
  6. What are some mistakes you’ve noted that should be avoided by game publishers?Ignoring the above advice! I won't name names, but it is extraordinary how many titles appear to have put little or no thought into how easy they make it for users to actually perform a purchase. Consumers are rightly wary of aggressive monetization strategies but as in any business you should, at a minimum, be easy to buy from. All too often that isn't the case.
  7. Your 2014 New Players Report, which you made into a white paper, delves into mobile game player retention and user behavior for freemium titles. What trends and findings were there?We're lucky enough to be sitting on billions and billions of events, which gives us the ability to really uncover how game players behave. The results are often surprising. I think most interestingly from the new player report was that over 50 percent of revenues accrue in the first three days of a player's life. That demonstrates the importance of my earlier point – making it easy to buy. And it's always interesting to see reconfirmed the tiny portion (in this case .22 percent) of players who contribute 50 percent of revenues.
  8. What new developments do you feel will be influential on the mobile gaming space in the next few years?It's almost impossible to say, but I’m confident that we are going to see a continued increase in the number of games and apps in general that respond in real time to player and user behavior. In terms of what type of games we'll see more of, I'll leave that to the creative geniuses out there!

Thank you to Christopher Dean and Swrve. We will be publishing a new interview in two weeks’ time. In the meantime, sign up for our newsletter or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to stay in the loop!

Hayley Pearce

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