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Next-best-action: 3 best practice tips to level up your portfolio strategy

With the traditional UA script becoming increasingly fruitless, wappier's Ted Verani offers his guidance on making next-best-action marketing your portfolio-driven growth strategy
Next-best-action: 3 best practice tips to level up your portfolio strategy

Ted Verani is vice president of business development at wappier

Now that Apple’s effective sunsetting of IDFA has flipped the script on traditional UA, portfolio-driven growth strategies have become the new gold standard for mobile game publishers.

I stressed in 2021 the importance of mastering the fundamentals of portfolio-driven UA – the next step is to understand how to enhance and optimize what industry pundits like Eric Seufert have dubbed the “content fortress”, and learn to strategically incorporate next-best-action principles to create truly personalised marketing experiences.

In a mobile gaming context, next-best-action (NBA) marketing is about utilising portfolio-wide metrics like lifetime value and churn rate trends to inform user-level marketing decisions like cross-promotions or IAP offers in real time, keeping players engaged and profit margins high.

“While we mourn the loss of IDFA, Identifier for Vendors (IDFV) is as much of an alternative as one could ask for”
Ted Verani

While we mourn the loss of IDFA, Identifier for Vendors (IDFV) is as much of an alternative as one could ask for, and provides all the necessary functionality to implement next-best-action marketing within your game portfolio.

This is easier said than done however, as any effective implementation will require significant data science expertise and technical overhead, or a partnership with a qualified partner, but the results are more than worth it.

With that in mind, what follows is a series of intermediate to advanced level strategies for taking your portfolio-driven growth strategy to the next level.

Use hypercasual games as portfolio entry points

Given their broad appeal, strong capacity for organic acquisition, and high churn rates, hyper casual games can serve as ideal feeder apps for your portfolio from which players can be strategically redirected based on next-best-action analysis. This requires publishers to have a healthy portfolio of games that is large and active enough for IDFV to hold value.

Major publishers like Zynga have wisely acquired hypercasual game studios that have proven successful at rapidly creating high traffic games for this exact purpose. Growth strategies that successfully funnel players from lower monetising games to more IAP-oriented, in-portfolio games where they’ll have a higher user lifetime value by using the data gleaned through IDFV can pay long term dividends.

Balance cross-promotion with optimised IAP offers

Achieving next-best-action success on a portfolio-wide basis requires that publishers are able to dynamically differentiate between users for whom LTV will be maximised by either presenting IAP offers or cross promotions, all in real time.

This is made no less challenging by the fact that this needs to occur at the user level in order to be effective. The sheer number of variables required to accurately predict next-best-action makes it an ideal job for machine learning algorithms capable of weighing factors like churn trends, total playtime, retention averages, and portfolio-wide LTV.

“One of the most challenging situations is when behavior deviates from what is expected”
Ted Verani

It’s a strategy best considered in practice: suppose an RPG player buys cosmetic items for their in-game avatar. A portfolio-driven algorithm could identify that behavioural event and weigh it when determining whether or not the next-best-action for that particular user would be to show a promotional offer for similar cosmetics in that same game, or based on their previous spending behavior and likelihood to churn given total playtime and overall retention trends, aim to cross promote them into another title that shares similar features with a higher IAP revenue ceiling.

One of the most challenging situations is when behavior deviates from what is expected. A decision on what offer you should send to the player in order to extend LTV or sustain investment in your games portfolio needs to be made in real time. A robust ML-based NBA framework can provide this sort of dynamic response in a way that human level controls can’t.

These same models can also be used to optimise promotional creative based on a user-level engagement trends. Variables like format, color, and even creative content can all leverage the same IDFV-anchored data set to deliver specifically targeted marketing campaigns that are most likely to lead to conversions, maximising the value of every user that enters your portfolio.

Drive portfolio retention with loyalty programs

Sophisticated publishers should also consider presenting players with loyalty programs that feature currency balances and rewards programs that extend across the entirety of your game portfolio. Contextualising value across titles provides more incentives for users to convert on cross-promotion offers, keeping them portfolio-retained for longer.

“Ubisoft is an excellent example of how to build an effective loyalty program”
Ted Verani

Ubisoft is an excellent example of how to build an effective loyalty program, having created the Ubisoft Connect platform. Formerly known as Uplay, the program grants points to players who complete challenges in games. Those points can then be redeemed for digital rewards across Ubisoft’s portfolio, including premium digital currency, incentivising players to try new games and visit in-game DLC shops.

The same principle can be applied to even the most casually-oriented mobile game portfolios, where rewards can be free spins on a roulette wheel, gameplay boosters, or anything else that encourages portfolio-wide growth as estimated by next-best-action principles.

Maximise portfolio value with next-best-action

The radically reformed landscape that mobile publishers now face will take some adaptation. Investing in a next-best-action marketing strategy can help publishers maximise the value of their mobile game portfolios by keeping players engaged within its own single ecosystem, lowering acquisition and retention costs in the process.

Done properly, it’s an approach that will yield benefits today as well as future proof your business against whatever new challenges may await you in the future.