2020 predictions for mobile marketing

Previous predictions: 2019 predictions for mobile marketing2018 predictions for mobile marketing2017 predictions for mobile marketing2016 predictions for mobile marketing

For the fifth year running, Mobile Dev Memo presents a set of predictions on what the coming year may bring with respect to mobile marketing. As with last year, I consulted a number of venerated marketers (and myself) from a broad set of mobile verticals in compiling the predictions.

Eric Seufert

Owner of Mobile Dev Memo and QuantMar, author of Freemium Economics, and formerly marketing at N3TWORK, Rovio, Skype

2019 saw the development and amplification of a number of broad economic themes that I believe will impact the mobile marketing ecosystem in specific ways throughout 2020. Primarily, I expect to see a general pullback in marketing spend on Facebook and Google as “growth stage” companies, especially those funded by SoftBank, apply more discipline to their marketing budgets. Via the IPOs of Uber, Lyft, and Slack (and WeWork’s failed IPO process), companies now understand that the growth-centric laws of physics that dominate private company valuations don’t apply in the harsh crucible of the public markets: public investors demand paths to profitability, transparency, and financial self-control.

Absent the profligate marketing spend on Facebook and Google from the likes of many growth-stage companies with large pools of cash to spend indiscriminately on ads, performance marketers driving systematic growth might find a more welcoming environment in 2020.

Another trend I see taking more pronounced form in 2020 is the death of the CMO role for mobile-first companies as the monetization and direct response marketing functions merge into the broader Growth operation. This feels inevitable as event-driven, algorithmic campaign management dominates Facebook and Google advertising: without oversight of and impact on monetization, marketing teams are incapable of properly optimizing mobile ad spend with event-driven campaign strategies like AEO and VO on Facebook and Google’s UAC. This will be even more true if Facebook’s version of UAC rolls out in 2020; marketing teams that do not control monetization design and strategy will simply be ineffectual.

This, to me, spells the death of the notion of an exclusively marketing-oriented executive for mobile-first companies: without deep analytics and monetization design experience, a marketing leader cannot properly scale a mobile-first business.

Finally, I believe 2020 will produce further stratification at the bottom of the SAN (self-attributing network) category: in this post, I presented a two-tier hierarchy of SANs on mobile, but I can foresee the second tier of that hierarchy splintering as the smaller and less-reactive platforms lose market share to Google and Facebook, which continue to dominate on mobile. In 2020, I believe the SAN category will develop into a four-tier system represented by:

Tier 1: Facebook, Google

Tier 2: Amazon, Snap, Apple (Search Ads), TikTok (in the second half of the year)

Tier 3: Twitter, Pinterest

Tier 4: Reddit, Quora

As the SAN category fractures, I believe programmatic in-housing ultimately grows: large advertisers will take programmatic media buying in-house to build the tools and targeting logic that the slower and less evolved platforms haven’t delivered.

Hila Qu

VP Growth at Acorns, Best selling Growth Book Author

In the past 3 years, I have been working on the front line of mobile growth in the super competitive fintech space, and I have observed some trends that I think will continue in 2020.

First, no new large-scale acquisition channels have opened up, therefore the Big 2 Google and Facebook are likely to become even more crowded and expensive. To combat an ever-rising CAC, mobile growth teams must take a “full funnel approach.” Intensive AB testing & product-driven growth are a necessity today, and mobile growth teams have to have both channel experts and growth product managers / engineers to be successful.

Second, both Google & Facebook are pushing advertisers to largely rely on algorithms, and that trend will continue. Mobile growth teams will spend less time on managing individual campaigns and more time monitoring real-time analytics and making tweaks based on spend recommendations. Channel expertise will be less critical, and the ability to produce a high velocity of new creatives to feed into spending algorithms powered by data scientists are key ingredients for success.

Lastly, back to basics: in the past few years, tons of venture money accelerated innovation but also acted like “growth steroids” to train some companies into pursuing vanity metrics. In 2020, as the overall economy & venture market cools down, companies have to go back to the basics: is LTV > CAC? By how much? What is the payback period? The focus on incrementality will be huge too as money becomes tighter.

Thomas Petit

Growth consultant and start up advisor

Status Quo

  • I don’t believe much change will happen in sources distribution, Facebook & Google will keep their oligopolistic 2/3rds share of the UA market, although that percentage may have peaked as marketers get increasingly concerned by dependency;
  • Event / Value optimization on Facebook and Google still won’t be able to incorporate more than 1 value to reflect complex user flows & monetization schemes;
  • The two main app stores will retain their hegemony, with the distant threat from third party stores & PWA failing to reach critical size, at least within the next 12 months;
  • Privacy will make headlines, but nothing fundamental will change in the adtech industry. Business as usual.

There will be blood!

  • App stores are winner takes all by nature and the middle class will suffer in 2020: I sadly foresee the firesale (if not bankruptcy) of several mid-to-large developers, both in gaming and non-gaming. Some of the worsening factors include the impact of new iOS subscription scheme, the extreme competition in hypercasuals, or the pressure from VCs to shift strategy 180º from volume to profitability in some verticals;
  • Important evolutions will affect tools & vendors. Watch out in particular for the CDP and programmatic in-housing markets growing, the MMP war intensifying, while new creative automation services and data modeling tools will emerge this year;
  • The leading UA metrics will move further down the funnel towards complex p-LTV ROAS models to avoid short term focus.

I predict the biggest change of 2020 to be on marketing teams structure & roles:

  • There will be even less UA managers processing media buying, especially with Facebook’s incoming “AAA” mimicking UAC;
  • Designers, data analysts and even engineers will stop servicing marketing teams to becoming their core pieces. Data analysis in particular will be even more highly sought after, for instance to feed algorithmic bidding with better predictive events / predicted value;
  • A new role will emerge: the “creative manager,” a mixed role unifying creativity and analytics, interpreting hard data into actionable insights, enhancing the ideation quality and automating testing process;
  • ASO reaches maturity and requires more senior roles, transitioning to broader organic growth management illustrating the holistic and cross-functional nature of the discipline;
  • From UA to marketing to growth: as acquisition, retention & monetization get more intertwined than ever, many marketing teams will somewhat merge with product & CRM into complex cross-functional growth teams, an organizational evolution that will be a tricky challenge to structure successfully;
  • The sum of all above will result in increasing complexity of senior marketing roles, and provoke massive turnover among VP Marketing/CMOs. Hiring for such roles successfully will be a struggle.

Simon Lejeune

Head of User Acquisition at Hopper

  • 2020 will be the year of Facebook’s version of Universal App Campaigns, rolling out worldwide. Adoption could be mandatory by 2021. The automation and commoditization of user acquisition keeps accelerating. Investors will ask less how you’ll grow your user base and more how you’ll monetize it;
  • More and more campaigns will be automatically created and updated on top of product feeds. These campaigns will be algorithmically optimized with revenue and LTV data continuing to be happily handed over to Facebook and Google;
  • Marketers continue behaving more like plumbers, making sure the right data flows to the right place — or architects if you prefer that comparison. Automation will level the playing field and allow small teams to be even more competitive against big companies. (Truly cross-platform marketing tools and features may begin to breakthrough in the martech field. The rivalry between Apple, Facebook and Google and ever-growing privacy concerns will make attribution headaches more frequent.);
  • The Google and Facebook duopoly will probably grow stronger. But just like Google, Facebook might become greedier as they’re reaching saturation. And as more advertisers keep pouring more money into Facebook, CPMs inflation could accelerate. Panicked performance advertisers will experiment more on other social media and allow for lower returns, which should help smaller platforms stay afloat. (The only TikTok 2020 prediction I can make is that we’ll see more of TikTok in the news. But between paid ads priming the pump, yet to be seen retention rates and China-related backlash, anything can happen.);
  • Someone will spend dozens of millions of dollars in mobile Facebook ads and become the next President of the United States. Facebook will inevitably be accused of both having no impact at all and of being a careless evil king maker while we keep struggling to understand how social networks actually affect society and what to do about it. In the meantime, here’s something Facebook could do about political ads.

Anette Dahlstrøm Ståløy

VP of Business & Marketing at Dirtybit

  • The numbers of apps in the stores and the competition for visibility in the stores keep increasing year after year, and 2020 will not be an exception. First of all, having a high quality product will be crucial in order to succeed in the coming year. The app store algorithms are getting more and more sophisticated. One of the key success factors for marketers will be the ability to keep up with changes in how the algorithms affect app discoverability and visibility by emphasising stability, performance, engagement and other key user satisfaction metrics. Even though organic reach is getting harder and harder, there is still a lot of potential, and companies large and small need to strive to find their strategy and balance both paid and organic user acquisition;
  • After years of #programmatic #headerbidding, we will finally see what the hype has been about, with a more mature ecosystem, tech and tools;
  • In 2020 the market will be dominated by big companies with massive UA budgets in their toolbox. However, there will still be room for mid sized and even smaller teams to succeed, teams with the right skillset, tools and right attitude, and with the willingness and ability to invest in becoming great performance marketers. By the end of the day it’s about finding the right users for your product, retaining them, and keeping them happy so that they will be your ambassadors, referring friends and more users to your product. We are already seeing that app store search accounts for a significant amount of app installs, so it will be more and more important to build strong and recognizable brands;
  • No matter what 2020 will bring in terms of new tech, genres, platforms or other factors that determine who will succeed – luck will still be an important part of the equation. At Dirtybit we like to say that we always need to optimize for luck!

Photo by Toni Cuenca on Unsplash