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Privacy and community: The two-pronged approach to gaming success

AppsFlyer's director of product, Adam Smart takes on Apple and Google’s data privacy changes
Privacy and community: The two-pronged approach to gaming success

The gaming industry has seen its fair share of ups and downs these past years. After a significant boom during a period defined by lockdowns, the market returned to something akin to normality until macro events such as global economic uncertainty and continuously evolving privacy frameworks upped the stakes.

Facing higher cost per installs (CPIs) the market has nevertheless demonstrated resilience. The popularity of mobile games hasn’t stalled, and both the number of users and user penetration rate are expected to grow in the coming years. Furthermore, according to AppsFlyer’s most recent State of Gaming App Marketing Report, the UK market still commanded £545 million as of 2022.

Today, marketers must navigate the twin challenge of changes to both Apple and Google’s respective approaches to data privacy while also growing and maintaining user bases when financial pressures remain high. Rather than looking at these as two distinct tasks, however, marketers can overcome both by keeping users central to their strategies.

Privacy frameworks are levelling up and so can app marketers

Our most recent report revealed that Apple’s privacy changes had a significant impact on overall app installs in the UK. Between 2021 and 2022, Android saw a 3% growth while iOS experienced a -9% decline.

The good news is that Apple’s SKAN 4.0 now has updated features to help app marketers access data while prioritising privacy. From stronger web-to-app attribution for Safari to being able to leverage three postbacks instead of one for LTV measurement, gaming app marketers can unlock more insights with SKAN 4.0.

However, with Google’s pending introduction of Privacy Sandbox on Android, marketers can expect restrictions to data access, making attribution reporting and ad personalisation more complex. With access limited to aggregated rather than user-level data, important processes
such as deduplication will become more difficult.

Faced with these hurdles, exploring privacy-enhancing technologies and mobile marketing partners (MMPs) with strong privacy credentials is a priority. One such solution is a data clean room, a neutral and privacy-safe space where only authorised parties are granted access to share and analyse data. Any personally identifiable information (PII) is encrypted and anonymised, protecting users while simultaneously enabling the comparison of datasets and deduplication.

By making privacy a core pillar of their marketing strategies, gaming app marketers will be able to put their users first and glean insights that can inform exceptional user experiences.

Strong communities can provide the health boost gaming apps need

After a decline in paid installs in the second half of 2022 due to a surge in CPI – an 88% uplift to $3.8 in Q4 2022 from $2 in Q1 2021 – iOS games marketers had to find alternative paths to drive growth. A loyal and engaged user base can provide an invaluable boost to both performance and growth in challenging times.

Gaming app marketers can build a community by forging connections with and entertaining their core audiences, encouraging continuous audience interaction. With the right strategy, these users can become app ambassadors and evangelists, recommending the product to others and driving acquisitions. Leveraging owned media channels can be a cost-effective way of delivering value outside of paid ad campaigns at a time when budgets are stretched.

Focusing on retention media

User journeys need to be as seamless and contextualised across touchpoints as possible. Deep linking technology is a great tool to achieve this, as it drives audiences to the right app store or the relevant page within an app, saving users time and energy. Deferred deep linking even includes showing an ad that could give an install bonus of in-game currency, as an incentive to install.

This same technology can be used as part of other retention media channels such as email remarketing or personalised push notifications. By deep-linking an email or push notification’s call to action, it can take users directly to the in-app page they want, streamlining their online journey and minimising user drop off.

Elevating presence on shared and social media channels

Platforms such as Facebook, Discord and Reddit that are already established among the wider gaming community are useful tools to unite users and experiment with live virtual events. They also provide access to high-quality and niche audiences, forums, and communities that are an excellent source to advertise to.

Secondary social networks like Reddit can also help gaming app marketers reach these niche yet valuable users and boost affinity among core audiences. While these channels can be less competitive, marketers must pay close attention to navigating the rules and internal workings of such highly moderated communities.

Building trust boosts growth

Focusing on privacy-first technologies that complement and improve data strategies has to be a priority for marketers going forward. Getting to know their respective communities and understanding their wants and needs, primes marketers to respond to user desires effectively and ultimately grow their audiences.

By respecting data privacy and crafting seamless user experiences for current and prospective gamers, gaming app marketers place users at the centre of their strategies in a way that enables them to successfully overcome the most challenging issues of 2023 and beyond.

Edited by Paige Cook