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From installs to engagement: The influence of mobile offerwalls

We revisit episode 139 of our Apptivate podcast with Solomiya Mykoliv, Global Direct Demand Director at Digital Turbine, to look at how mobile offerwalls are providing app marketers with new opportunities.

Like every mobile marketing channel, offerwalls have come a long way in the last handful of years to focus on long-term performance rather than short-lived results. Traditionally, marketers used offerwalls to drive quick bursts of installs to obtain a higher position in app store rankings. Now, the focus has moved on to drive more meaningful relationships between publishers, advertisers, and users. Companies are taking advantage of offerwalls to improve app retention and user engagement.

How do offerwalls work in the app marketing world?

Offerwalls are another way to monetize an app. Instead of, or in addition to, showing ads, such as display or video, an offerwall rewards a user for taking a specific action (typically an install, registration, or even a lower funnel event). The reward often comes in the form of some type of in-app currency.

Moving from installs to engagement

Getting a prominent position in the download charts is all well and good, but it is often a temporary win.

Historically, offerwalls provided transactional user experiences: User A can receive 20 coins for downloading App B. While this strategy was useful for charting in the early days of mobile marketing (think 2010-2015), today app store charts do not work on download volume alone, and app marketers want engaged users. As a result, offerwall products have shifted their focus towards driving more in-app engagement through reward systems.

Solomiya Mykoliv, the Global Direct Demand Director at Digital Turbine, talks about the growing adoption and benefits of offerwalls in the app marketing space:

“There has been a shift from these early funnel events like install or trials towards a much deeper event somewhere within a week or two weeks of playing inside of the app,” says Solomiya.

“This shift towards deep and meaningful engagements helped us build completely different user experiences and has resulted in a switch from scale-first towards performance-first. The goal here is to make sure that users are spending some quality time with an offer, and it's not just about quick action and quick reward. Right now, if I compare campaign structure with how it was before, I would say that click-to-install activity is now probably less than 4% or 5% of the overall spend, the majority of the spend goes to the cost per engagement campaigns.”

“[Offerwalls] have turned into a mainstream channel for some of the biggest names out there. It works really well for apps that are in-app purchase heavy and engage with users in a completely different way.”

Combatting mobile ad fraud

Offerwalls also add a layer of protection against mobile ad fraud. It is harder, and a bigger time investment, for scammers to fake installs and mimic the long-term engagement of legitimate and interested users. As Solomiya states:

“When you start focusing on events that take a week and you can track user progression within the app, it’s much more difficult to [commit] fraud and to pretend to fire an install and pretend it’s a real user. So that definitely helps to improve the overall quality.”

Pushing up customer life-time-value

In Apptivate episode 139, host Tommy Yannopoulos argues that longer-term strategies empower brands to have more meaningful conversations with users, something which was not possible when campaigns prioritized temporary gain.

“We should spend more time with these potential consumers, educating them on the products and rewarding them along the way for spending time with our brands because it works on both fronts,” says Tommy. “For the advertiser, they get higher levels of engagement, they get longer periods of time to educate the consumers as to what it is the product is doing. For publishers, we give that consumer more opportunities to have currencies, or whatever is used within the app, that allows them to enjoy the app even more. So it really is a double edged sword, in a good way.”

« [Offerwalls] have turned into a mainstream channel for some of the biggest names out there. »

Solomiya Mykoliv, Global Direct Demand Director, Digital Turbine

Offerwalls grow beyond mobile gaming

This shift to performance and a deeper level of user engagement means it is now almost unheard of for big names to question the use of offerwalls in their campaign plans, according to Solomiya. At the same time, this closer relationship with users is attracting publishers from outside offerwalls’ traditional core base of gaming apps. This can lead to innovative rewards, such as entertainment or dating app users getting better quality video so they can watch shows or record their profile in higher definition.

The base of advertisers is also widening. One of the most noticeable examples of a new type of advertiser using offerwalls comes from the charity sector. By deploying offerwalls, not-for profit-organizations can ask a user to watch or listen to the work they do and then ask them if they would like to make a donation to their cause. These charitable initiatives are being skillfully woven into apps to allow users to carry on enjoying the entertainment on offer, while also feeling good for helping people less fortunate than themselves.

“You might be playing a racing game and need additional canisters of petrol; you go to an offer vault to get them and, instead of engaging with another game, you actually choose to engage with a donation offer,” Solomiya explains.

“So you click through to the landing page and submit whatever amount you want to add, all of that money goes to that NGO. And then you come back to your original app that you were playing for the racing game, and you get those extra canisters.”

Embracing the attention economy

This strategy of asking people to engage more deeply with an advertiser’s message fits perfectly with Tommy Yannopoulos’s view that the offer wall channel now delivers attention rather than just app installs.

“In the early days, offerwalls were actually incredibly valuable in driving organic growth through the app store rankings and that was really important to a lot of businesses,” he says.

“But now it’s taking a step towards driving engagement which serves multiple parties and, most importantly, it serves the consumer in a good way, which is to say, your time is valuable, and you should be rewarded for spending time with our brand.”

Rewarding attention and encouraging loyalty is reorienting the channel away from quick-wins towards driving up lifetime values for app users. It is a classic win-win through which publishers improve retention and advertisers benefit from deeper levels of engagement.