To my mind, the headline trends in mobile marketing over the course of 2018 were:
- The increased pervasiveness of algorithmic mobile ad serving, especially from Facebook and Google (for background, read this post and this post). Algorithmic campaign management has appropriated an enormous amount of mobile marketing budget and is changing the way mobile marketing teams are structured. There is no reason to suspect that this will abate in 2019;
- The impressive growth of D2C brands, with their elite teams of direct-response marketers controlling massive budgets, and the concomitant pressure that their success has burdened traditional retailers and, most acutely, agencies with. CMOs and marketing teams are waking up to the notion that performance marketing dominates this mobile marketing landscape, and that realization will surely play out in 2019;
- The friction between developers and the platform operators over platform fees has been heightened and dramatic, structural fractures have appeared in the platforms’ total control over app distribution. This is coming later than I had expected; about two years ago, I wrote about what I perceived to be a coming war between Apple and Facebook over Facebook’s Instant Games product (HTML5 games that can be loaded within the Messenger app) that never really materialized. Instead, we are seeing distribution pressure come from Epic (creator of Fortnite), Discord (a chat app for gamers), and a number of other companies that I will write about in more detail next year.
This year, rather than write predictions for 2019 myself (see past years’ predictions linked above), I consulted with industry experts whom I respect greatly to get their takes on what trends might take shape in 2019. Their prognostications are below.
Spiros Christakopoulos, Director of Marketing at Reddit
Jumping on the automation train: With back-end infrastructure and APIs becoming more robust and user friendly, more advertisers will move towards automating parts of their day-to-day activities. Focus will keep shifting towards creative ideation and continuous A/B testing.
Performance advertising moves to TV: More and more direct advertisers will try out TV as lower CPMs and reasonable test budgets are opening up this medium to a much larger universe of advertisers. In general, performance advertisers will start exploring and applying their measurement and optimization frameworks on traditional brand marketing mediums.
New ad platforms ascend: Advertisers will start testing new channels as they look for Facebook and Google alternatives. Those two will continue to be the largest but advertisers will try to access audiences through new platforms and channels that are gaining traction and capturing users’ attention. Other social apps and Amazon ads are the ones that stand to benefit the most from this trend.
Finally, and this is probably wishful thinking, more large ad fraud scandals will bubble up in 2019 and large advertisers will become more sophisticated around digital ad fraud. Hopefully this will entice the largest platforms to remove bad actors. Nothing wrong with having high hopes for the new year!
Christian Calderon, CEO at GAMEJAM
The slowdown in mobile user growth & penetration is a sign of a maturing ecosystem, however ad spend continues to increase as more ad dollars are shifted to mobile, both increasing competition and changing the supply and demand economics in mobile marketing. This serves as the underlying thesis for my mobile growth predictions in 2019:
- The industry will continue to consolidate technology & service providers, as existing incumbents find a way to effectively deploy capital and outperform competitors;
- Existing platforms will be forced to apply a higher level of scrutiny on how key identifiers such as IDFA, AID and other data used in user acquisition due to political & security concerns experienced in 2018;
- As technology & methodologies for scaling user acquisition becomes more democratized, the publishing landscape will shift to favor providers with larger balance sheets and the ability to deploy that capital more effectively in a global market.
Andy Carvell, Partner at Phiture
Here are a couple of observations from advising some of the top apps across multiple categories, plus having hundreds of additional conversations with app growth teams in 2018:
ASO is finally something that every app publisher understands they need to be doing in 2019 (at least in terms of App Store page CRO, if not always keyword optimization). Hence we can expect more radical and experimental store creatives (screenshots + videos) that try to stand out from an increasingly-optimized crowd. ASO will continue to mature as a discipline: high performing publishers will be less about hacks/tricks and more about establishing robust processes.
In the Mobile CRM space, I expect more growth teams to realize the value of the — still relatively untapped — in-app messaging channel. Google recently rolled out IAM in Firebase, which brings it to the masses that can’t afford more sophisticated marketing automation. I expect a mainstream awakening to the awesome power of in-app messaging, ultimately to be followed (perhaps by 2020) in a saturation of this ‘golden age’ channel and reduced CTRs.
Nate Barker, Director of Business Development and Kolibri Games
Mobile marketing will change its shape in three important ways in 2019. Firstly, companies will react to the steady proliferation of bespoke bidding tools. Mobile marketers are increasingly comfortable opening the hood of advertising tools, so it is only natural that they’ll take to “bidder-as-a-service” technology. By building their own DSPs (or using turnkey services to do so), advertisers will gain transparency and enough control to automate this UA function.
Secondly, on the supply side, we’ll start to see the actual roll out of – brace yourself for a rehash of 2018 hype – header bidder technology. Along with it, analysts will gain a deeper understanding of ad-revenue lifetime-value as networks and mediators open this data up to their customers. Each impression will have an actual, attributable value that can be assigned to every user.
Finally, as mobile companies close the marketing circle, as in: become masters of both directing their demand (bespoke bidding/DSPs) and analyzing their supply (via user-level LTV), ad networks will feel the squeeze, compelling them to diversify into new products (mediation) or business models (publishing).
Gabe Kwakyi, CEO of Incipia
In 2019 I predict that the 2018 mobile marketing trend of algorithms overtaking the old manual-style marketing will accelerate. Ad network algorithms I think will deepen their conquest for data integration and explore new methods like synthetic or multi-event targeting as well as ever-more advanced lookalike modeling.
Also, in support of this and to alleviate the concerns of user-level data collection/processing, I envision deeper network-to-measurement partner integrations (or alternatively increased use of network SDKs). This could streamline data processing by reducing the number of times data has to be downloaded and uploaded and consolidating the responsibility of protecting user data away from marketers and onto the shoulders of specialized players with the resources that make them either the right party to do it properly, or the fattest targets for suits.