Success can be its own worst enemy, which is why smart marketers mix it up and shift strategies to take advantage of new partners and new approaches. But what are useful guidelines to follow when choosing and vetting a DSP, and how many is too many? Our host Peggy Anne Salz runs through best practices with Kurt Geater, Mobile Marketing Manager at Groupon, the worldwide e-commerce marketplace that connects subscribers with local merchants by offering activities, travel, goods and services. Kurt, a Mobile Hero recognized for his app marketing achievements, also draws from his earlier career experience working at a DSP to highlight what marketers need to watch before they take the plunge. He also offers us his take on channels such as Reddit and weighs on the 2019 trends that will have lasting impact and importance into 2020.
So as I said, we’re going to be talking shop and our guest today is Kurt Geater, he is a Mobile Marketing Manager at Groupon, big company and big welcome to you, Kurt, thanks for joining me here today.
Hey Peggy, yes no problem, I’m excited to be on and talk about mobile app marketing.
Absolutely and of course I don’t think, as I said, Groupon – big company, major company, I use the app, full disclosure here, but, you know, it probably doesn’t need that much of an introduction but we would like to hear more about you so you’re a Mobile Marketing Manager at Groupon – what is your daily routine there?
Yes, so my primary goal is to get new users to the Groupon app, so I basically have a monthly budget and I spend that budget through various channels, notably Facebook and Google, and then, you know, half a dozen other channels as well in order to get new users to the app.
So, my day to day is first thing I do is come in and I evaluate my channels in terms of installs and then performance of those installs, are they low quality installs, high quality installs, spend a lot of the time working with new vendors evaluating new potential partners and then a lot of my day is also spent with product and engineering teams figuring out how we can best improve the customer experience with the app.
I love the way that you are looking at the quality of those installs. I’m always encouraged when I hear that because last year, year before, we weren’t doing that. What’s changed? Has that changed your job as well?
Yes, I think at the start, what we were trying to do is we were really focusing on net installs, so how many total installs can we get, but at the end of the day, you know, if you get an install and that user doesn’t make a purchase, is that really worth anything? So I think as time has gone on, we’ve become more savvy about our initiatives and we’ve said, “Hey, we don’t need to look at net installs, we need installs that actually drive a purchase for us”.
And on that note, you have also seen really literally the industry from both sides because I’m looking in your bio and you have that rare balance of understanding marketing, because that’s what you do at Groupon, but you came from a demand-side platform initially, from Audience Science where you ran mobile display and video campaigns for their client P&G, as a matter of fact. So, seeing it from both ends, you know, from both perspectives, is there something that stands out about that time being at a DSP that you’ve taken over with you to Groupon?
Yes, so when I first started at Audience Science, to be completely honest, I didn’t really know what “programmatic” was or necessarily what a DSP is. There are lots of acronyms that float around there, you know, DSP, DMP and so this was my first time working in marketing and I basically ended up managing all of the mobile display and video campaigns for Procter & Gamble, and so I was basically – I was a Lead Manager there and so we ran, wow, millions of dollars-worth of inventory going through the exchanges so we would buy inventory on AdEx, MoPub and so just one of the things that stands out most is, you know, and I think a lot of people know this, is Procter & Gamble is a very, very, very demanding client and this was my first time running campaigns and so I was on the phone with them every day discussing campaign strategy, campaign performance and as you know, buying through a DSP on the open exchange, there’s a lot of fraud out there.
And so, just working on the Audience Science side, trying to get rid of that fraud and trying to make sure we were buying viewable inventory was pretty much what I did most of my day. And so, a lot of looking at KPIs such as non-human traffic, making sure the viewability scores were high and so I was basically, I like to put it this way – I was the shield of the company and so whenever our engineers had a problem with the bidder or we overspent, I would always be the first person in contact with P&G, letting them know that something had gone wrong or, “Hey, we had a lot of non-human traffic on this piece of inventory”. And so I was really the main point of contact between Audience Science, DSP and the client.
See, that’s why I’m excited to have you here, Kurt, because this is exactly what people are asking me, they’re asking themselves, also at conferences, they’re saying, “Okay, you know, what should I expect, what are realistic expectations and when do I have a realistic rant – when can I say, ‘Look, this isn’t quite washing with me’”. And these are open questions because it’s not always so obvious, you have some people who say, “You know, you have to accept a certain amount of not quite right” – I won’t maybe call it fraudulent, just call it questionable – accept some questionable content, traffic, rather – accept some things that aren’t quite right because the overall results are going to be worth it. I mean, what would you say is or should be a realistic expectation, maybe even some realistic red flags here because people are looking for that guidance.
Yes, so I think when you buy on the open exchange, you go into it knowing that there is going to be some fraud out there and so the biggest thing I think that’s most important is finding a DSP partner that can mitigate that fraud for you. So I think a lot of people when they think DSP, when they think programmatic, like you mentioned, they do immediately think of fraud but I would say that try to look at a DSP as somebody who can help you fight that fraud and you just have to go about it the right way.
So, if you have a good level of transparency and you’re able to see which exact publishers you’re buying from and you’re able to blacklist and white list certain publishers and your DSP is willing to help you do that, then yes, there’s going to be some fraud but you just have to find the right DSP that can help you navigate that.
Makes perfect sense, some things to look for in a company. I mean, I know why marketers should be looking at DSPs in the first place but the target has moved a little bit maybe over the last year so I’m going to pose the question that maybe some people in our audience are asking themselves because they weren’t looking at DSPs last year but a lot more people are – I’m even seeing stickers now about programmatic so it tells you we’re onto something here... what is the reason to – why bother with DSPs I guess is the bigger question, what is so special now as opposed to maybe other times?
So I would say a year ago, I was in the same boat as a lot of other marketers in that I wasn’t looking for a DSP but over the last year, I would say Facebook and Google have become extremely competitive and so as a result of that, advertisers are looking for other avenues of getting app downloads and the DSP just gives you so much unique reach that Facebook and Google can’t provide and so I think as a result of that, it’s necessary to make it part of your portfolio in regards to app installs.
And as far as we talked about red flags, which are like why would I say I need to watch this but alternatively, green flags – what tells you that you have the partner that you need to be working with and you need to maybe even double down on spend and efforts – can you tell me some of the things that tell you you’re on the right track?
So I’d say there are three things that I look for when evaluating a DSP. Number one is transparency – I want to know where I’m buying, what app inventory I’m buying, what publishers I'm buying from and I want the ability to be able to blacklist or white list these publishers based on performance.
Another one is creative – so there are so many DSPs out there buying from the – they’re basically buying from the same inventory, they’re buying from the same exchanges so if they can differentiate themselves in ways of creative that they can provide, that’s fantastic and I would also say the people – I think the DSP that’s going to come out on top or be a big winner in the next few years is going to be the one that has the best people, you know, people that you enjoy working with, people that want to help your company as well as theirs and so just having the right people on their team, I think is a big part of that as well.
So, you make the point about people, you’re a bit of a people person there, Kurt, but, you know, how can you define that, what is, for example, the relationship or the frequency of the communication, the tone of the communication – what should app marketers be looking for?
I would say someone who’s always there and is very transparent if there’s an issue with their specific MMP, sorry, DSP, so many acronyms – just are always there, making have a slack channel even so you can always reach out to them and figure out what’s going on in terms of your campaign.
Well, those are some actionable guidelines, Kurt, and we have to go to a break right now but, listeners, don’t go away because we’ll be coming back, we’ll be talking more about what you need to look for and even avoid in a DSP but more importantly, where is the opportunity in those other channels. So don’t go away, we’ll be right back.
And we’re back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz and we have Kurt Geater, Mobile Marketing Manager at Groupon. And Kurt, right before the break, we were talking about, you know, your experience because you’ve been also at a DSP so you definitely know how they function and you know as a mobile marketer what you’re looking for. Talking about some red flags, some green flags. But how do you decide the number, what is the number of DSPs – is it more is better here?
I would say one is the number I’m looking for. If you have more than one, because all the DSPs are really buying from the same inventory at the end of the day so I think if you have more than one that you’re scaling with, you want to – you don’t want to be in a situation where you end up competing against yourself in order to buy ads, so I would say one would be the perfect number and one that you can scale with.
Well, I appreciate that because I’ve been to some conferences where it was like three-ish, so one is a really strong recommendation there. Speaking of recommendations, I’m going to try something out on you, Kurt, I don’t know if you’re going to go with me on this one but I’m going to try it because when you have someone like you on the show who really has, you know, the overview and obviously a little bit on the no holds barred frequency with me, high BS meter here – who are some black sheep out there? I mean, who are some DSPs, maybe just one where you’re just saying, “No”. I’ll throw out Cora but maybe you have a better one for me – I’m hearing a lot about Cora, it’s also a tough one to crack – what about that one or maybe you have a second favorite?
I personally haven’t tested Cora myself but I have spoken to other app marketers that have tested and they’re happy with it so I have heard good things. If you’re doing it right, and by right I mean blacklisting certain devices that don’t work well for you, it can really be a good play in terms of app installs.
But it’s also a little bit tough, isn’t it, because I’ve been talking to some companies, you have to get into the groove literally with the operators which isn’t always an easy one, or you have to work through someone like a Digital Turbine – is it an uphill climb to be preload?
I would say it’s relatively easy to get integrated with Digital Turbine and then IronSource is another one – relatively easy to get up to speed with them and then also, you know, doing incrementality tests so if you’re doing preloads, you want to make sure that you’re not paying for downloads you would otherwise be getting for free and so doing an incrementality test with them is relatively straightforward as well. So, it’s relatively easy to get set up.
And this is preload on the devices, are we correct here, we’re both talking about the same thing, right?
Yes, on Android devices.
So it maybe got a little bit easier. I mean, I was writing about this, this is maybe two years ago, a little bit possibly before its time and it seemed harder but I guess more people are getting their head around what you need to do in order to get where you need to be so the eco system is working with you now as opposed to working against you. So, let’s take another hypothetical, one of my favorite questions I love to ask app marketers such as yourself – let’s say you have a budget, you’re on your last $5K and you need to invest it where it counts and we’ve been talking about the channels but there are other ways, of course, to get, you know, good quality installs – we’ll talk about good quality of course in a minute – but what would you say, you want to get high value users, where would you be spending it so you get the most mileage, what would you recommend?
Are you asking for a specific channel?
Well, yes, or a mix – you can say, “Well, I put X% on this and I’d even throw in some influencer marketing”, who knows – it’s all open. You’ve got money, how are you spending it, how are you splitting it, name the names or name the percentages.
This is going to sound like a cop out answer, but right now I would say Facebook. I just think – everyone talks about Facebook but I think they have the best data, they’re so far ahead of everybody else and so I would say Facebook right now and they just have the best, you know, insight into their audiences. So I would say Facebook right now, I think, you know, DSPs and Google are definitely catching up but Facebook’s still the number one in my book, I would say.
Okay, that’s not a cop out because I am hearing a lot of people say that, you know, it’s got to do with also the cohorts and understanding high value and then, you know, scaling it, you know, and that’s the point and that’s where you get those insights from Facebook. So I won’t say it’s a cop out but I would like to hear just quickly a little bit more about high value. I mean, how do you define that – what is a high value user for you because of course you have to figure that out based on, yes, network cohorts but also actions in the apps. So how do you look at it?
Right, so of course we look at the cohorts so if I drive 100 downloads, I want to work with the network that’s going to get the highest percentage of those to convert so I look at conversion rates. Out of all the installs I get, how many make a purchase, so purchase rates are a huge deal. And then also you want to target users that are going to be valuable to your brand and that love your brand. If they love your brand, they’re going to write about it on social media, specifically for Groupon’s case, if they love the brand and they get a great deal, they’re going to share that with their users and so you want to make sure you’re getting, one, high purchase percentages but, two, you want to make sure that you’re resonating with your target demographic and you’re going to get users that are going to like to talk about your brand and spread the word about your brand.
I mean, I love it because I’m hearing also a lot about brand, the power of brand, the importance of brand love because mobile marketers, mobile first marketers are saying we need that just like the real brands, like the Coca-Colas and the Nikes of the world – that said, how do you sort of tell the signs of brand love? Is this by looking at app reviews or just checking out the sentiment analysis you can also do of everything that’s ever said about your company? How are you approaching it?
I say, you look at other KPIs other than app installs and purchases, you look at likes, you look at comments, specifically for Facebook, you look at likes, shares, comments on your ads and you know those metrics may not be as valuable as let’s say a purchase, but they’re still important in regards to building your brand and your brand awareness.
Well, I’m enjoying this because we’re going through so many topics, I could just keep going. We do have to go to a break but listeners, when we come back we will be talking again - quite frankly enjoying this no holds barred discussion - we’ll be talking about what’s hot and what’s not in this year and the year to come. So don’t go away, we’ll be right back.
And we are back, welcome back to Mobile Presence. I’m Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and we have today, Kurt Geater, Mobile Marketing Manager at Groupon and a Mobile Hero which is an accolade indeed. So I just want to stop for a moment, think about this – what do you think actually earned you that honour in the first place, Kurt, what do you think you did in Q3 or whenever for that matter that has brought you this?
I think you hit on it right at the start of this podcast, I have a good experience on the DSP side but I also have a good experience on the advertisers’ side. I would also networking at conferences and, you know, attending MAU and stuff like that, I’m always pretty transparent about the industry and who I’ve tested and I think I share a lot with other people in regards to what has worked for me and what hasn’t and I think, you know, sharing your experiences and stuff like that is invaluable in the mobile app community.
Absolutely, and it’s certainly also making this just a great show to listen, to sort of – we’ve got like a down tempo thing going on here, this is just like talking shop, this is fun. So, you’re going to be transparent, we already established that, I’m going to ask you – your view of where we are and where we’re headed. That’s going to sound very philosophical but I’m going to detail it in a moment, so we’re in Q3, far into it as a matter of fact, something happened, time flew by – we’ve got some mileage left for 2019, some things can still happen, Q4 ahead of us – what are you most excited about or where are you focusing your energy, your investment, whatever, to get the most out of the rest of the year?
So 2019 for me has been all about renewing our creative, all the creative for our app install campaigns that we’re showing on all our networks and so there are two main companies that I’m really excited about. The first on is called “Curalate” and they basically allow you to get a bunch of organic content from Instagram stories, so there’s tons of users out there who use Groupon every day and they have these pictures that they’ve posted on their Instagram accounts with #groupon, and so Curalate kind of allows you to get permissions to use those creatives in all your ad’s assets. So just giving our ads a more organic, friendly, human feel. Really excited about Curalate.
And then Smartly.io is another creative company that we’re working with – I’ve heard it referred to as “Facebook on steroids” – it basically gives you a bunch of options in order to optimize your creative, turn your static images into video, that we don’t have today. So, you know, 2019 Q3, I want to really leverage these two companies in order to improve our creatives, so I’m really excited about that.
I’m excited about those tips, I mean, these are companies we have to have here on the show. I’ve heard about Smartly.io, they have reached out to me but I didn’t see it that way. I guess the problem or the challenge for you is, you know, getting everything to feed back into your creatives and somehow trying to, I wouldn’t say automate that, but streamline that and what better way to go than to take the content we’re creating and try to adapt that to your ads. Is that what I’m hearing here?
Yes, so you can take all the creative that we’re using today which is primarily static images and Curalate will take all those and then give them some umph, turn them into something that’s going to resonate a lot more with your target audience and just make your creatives look a lot more streamlined and up to date, I would say.
So we talked about works for you in Q4, how about what was awash, what just didn’t happen? I mean, there’s so many things that are a little bit more hype than they should be – what was the hype for you, what maybe didn’t work out in 2019 or you expect still may not have the legs we thought it did?
I was really excited about Instagram Stories coming into 2019, I thought it was going to give us all this reach, all this scale that we previously didn’t have, but I think Facebook is still trying to figure out how to basically frame Instagram Stories. Right now, I think it’s more of a brand play, a brand awareness play as opposed to an app install play. Users on Instagram Stories, you know, if they are on there, they don’t want to leave their current experience, go to the app store, download an app – they want to stay in Instagram Stories. And so I was a bit disappointed in that but I still think down the road Instagram Stories is going to be big for app installs.
So, we’ve talked about, you know, what worked, what didn’t work for 2019, we will be in 2020 a little early maybe to look in the crystal ball but I can’t resist it, Kurt, you’re so honest, so forthcoming, what the heck – why don’t we do it? What do you expect, make a prediction, something hot for 2020 and we’ll judge you but it later – I’m just kidding – but what would you say?
Two things I like to think about for the future – one is 5G, I think with 5G and 5G coming out, all in-app purchasing, especially for shopping apps is just going to be super-streamlined and you know that’s great for mobile app companies and just increasing revenue, so 5G I would say is the huge thing to be ready for and be ready to take advantage of that.
Okay, well, I have heard a lot about that, I mean, what I’m hearing is that, you know, video ads are finally going to shine, right, because we’re going to have the bandwidth literally for them so we’ll have 5G, things will look better, more immersive, you know, maybe all the lenses, everything that Snapchat is getting us excited about might come through because the experience will be better, I don’t know, but just that’s what I'm hearing out there.
Yep, I’d agree, I’d agree. Super-excited about it.
Okay, and I guess, you know, great segue, I’m excited actually to have you back at some point but for right now we have to say goodbye to you, Kurt, so our listeners, they love the show, very faithful to especially shows with Mobile Heroes such as yourself – what’s the best way to stay in touch with you, LinkedIn, social, email – what works?
I would say LinkedIn, so I actually don’t have a Twitter account but you can reach me just on Linkedin.com/kurtgeater and that’s an easy way to find me.
And of course you can check out all of their blogs in the series, a dedicated page over at heroes.liftoff.io and if you want to keep up with me throughout the week or find out more about how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, then you can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, that is also where you can find my portfolio of content marketing and app marketing services.
And that, my friends, is a wrap of yet another episode of Mobile Presence. Remember, a Top 25-ranked podcast in the US for DemandGen alone so be sure to check out this and all earlier episodes of our show by going to webmasterradio.fm or you can find our shows on iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, Spotify and iheartRadio simply by searching Mobile Presence. So until next time – remember - every minute is mobile, so make every minute count.