Word Pizza is a popular mobile phone word puzzle game launched by the independent studio OpenMyGame. It has millions of downloads and can generate continuous high profits every month. However, the team believes that they need additional resources to help them accelerate growth. By participating in Appodeal’s accelerator program and using its growth platform, Word Pizza can expand its monthly profit-6 times!
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- Scaled Monthly Profits
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- buy android installs and reviews
- google play keyword analysis
After applying our 3-pronged holistic approach that aligned and optimized Word Pizza’s monetization, user acquisition, and user engagement/retention metrics, Appodeal was able to maximize the game’s LTV (life-time value) while decreasing the CPI (cost per install) of each new user so that its ROAS (return on ad spend) was over 100%. Furthermore, Appodeal funded and launched numerous UA campaigns while testing out many channels, targeting, and ongoing flow of new ad creatives.
As a result, each new user acquired through paid UA generated 1.8x the revenue over the cost of acquiring them — contributing to Word Pizza’s 6x monthly profit growth! In this article, we dive deeper into how we did it.
Meet Mobile Game: Word Pizza
Word Pizza is a fun and addicting word puzzle game that was launched on Android in 2017, and it had been monetizing with Appodeal’s ad mediation since. The game was developed by OpenMyGame, an indie game studio based in Belarus.
To advance to the next level, players must create words from the letters placed around a pizza — a great way to expand one’s vocabulary. To this day, Word Pizza has been downloaded around 9 million times worldwide with half of it coming from its initial primary target market of Russia.
While the game had shown impressive user growth month to month, reaching almost 3.5 million downloads and an average of 200k monthly downloads by the middle of 2020, its revenue had remained relatively flat and increased only modestly.
Wanting to grow Word Pizza’s revenue further, the team behind the game was excited to join Appodeal’s Accelerator Program and be among the first to have its profits be scaled by our 3-pronged holistic approach.
In this case study, we showcase how Word Pizza got its monthly profit scaled by 6x through Appodeal’s growth platform and Accelerator Program.
So let’s get this pizza party started!
Our 3-Pronged Holistic Approach to scale app’s profit
To start, let’s first go over quickly the most common technical obstacle blocking indies, like OpenMyGame, from being able to scale their games’ profits.
And that is the lack of unified data.
Specifically, indies need these 3 prongs of core data and functions synergized and performing optimally together in order to be profitable:
- User Acquisition
However, unless you belong to a huge publishing company with a big team and a Business Intelligence tool to align these 3 data, they are typically siloed from each other. When they’re siloed, it means you do not get clear insights on your business performance as well as which areas to focus on and where resources should be invested in for the best results. You also do not get the benefit of the 3 functions optimizing one another.
That was one of the obstacles we’ve identified for OpenMyGame to scale Word Pizza’s profits.
Here’s a general example to show why. Let’s say a game deploys a user acquisition strategy that is successful in acquiring millions of new users. But these same newly acquired users quit the game after just a few minutes, and they end up generating no revenue. At the same time, the game might be very successful at retaining a very specific type of its user base, who are also generating most of the game’s revenue. Yet, because the game’s user acquisition approach is not aligned with their retention and monetization data, the game has not been able to acquire more of these users at scale, let alone scale their profits.
To counter the previous example, here’s an example of how having unified data can scale profits. With unified data, your user acquisition would not simply be acquiring as many users as possible at the lowest cost. Instead, it would smartly acquire users that are more likely to have high retention rates (RR) and more likely to generate higher average revenue per user (ARPU), while optimizing for a lower cost per install (CPI) at the same time.
Here are some numbers to illustrate what that looks like. Let’s say newly acquired users that are retained for 7 days have an average ARPU of $1.50 and a CPI of $1. That means each new user is bringing in $0.50 in profits, a 150% return on ad spend (ROAS). Scaling profits would mean to scale acquiring more of these types of users.
When the 3 prongs of user acquisition, engagement/retention, and monetization data are aligned and synergized within one unified business intelligence tool, this method of scaling profitable users would then actually be possible to do. What was once nearly impossible to find out can also now easily be accessible and viewed directly on our new growth platform dashboard.
And that’s how our 3-pronged holistic approach works to scale profits in a nutshell.
Prior to joining the Accelerator Program, Word Pizza did not have its user acquisition, engagement/retention, and monetization data aligned within one business intelligence tool, which meant it was not acquiring new profitable users at scale. Its monthly revenue was stagnant as a result.
After the initial setup of aligning the data from disparate sources, like AppsFlyer for user acquisition, Firebase for engagement, and Appodeal’s ad mediation for monetization, Word Pizza now had clearer insights on its business performance and a definitive source for identifying actions to scale its profitable users.
Now that we have the essential business intelligence tool all up and running, let’s take a deeper look to see how our 3-pronged holistic approach was applied to Word Pizza and see what happened after!
1st Prong: Optimizing User Acquisition
In order to acquire profitable users, the return on ad spend (ROAS) must be over 100%. Hence, exceeding that was our main goal. With user acquisition, there are many factors that contribute to that: finding the right UA channels, creatives, and audience targeting that bring in high earning and highly retained users.
You would want your new users to stick around longer, so that your opportunities to monetize them, through in-app ads or purchases, are higher. You want to avoid acquiring a bunch of new downloads with users who stop playing after the first session. While this might help you rank on the charts for the short-term, it ultimately does not generate you long-term success nor profits. That is why it is crucial to keep a close eye on the retention rates of your new users from your UA campaigns.
Our new growth platform makes it possible to track and align the retention rates, LTV, ARPU, CPI, ROAS, and many more metrics, to the user acquisition campaigns. It can even track them down to the channel, creatives, and ad set level, which allows for some deep optimization and alignment of UA and monetization strategies.
And so with these metrics trackers in place, here are some of the major activities we did to optimize the user acquisition campaigns for Word Pizza:
1. UA Funding to test various UA channels and expand to other markets
To run UA campaigns, you need money. And since many indies don’t have extra cash for UA lying around, that is where we come in with funding.
So the first thing we did was to unlock our dedicated funding of $30 million to test, run and scale UA campaigns for apps, like Word Pizza, accepted into the Accelerator Program.
It’s important to diversify and experiment with multiple channels, as you may never know where potential users could be waiting to know about your game. While Facebook and Google remained two of the biggest and most effective UA channels, there were several emerging ones that have been proven to be effective as well.
Also, the main goal was to utilize the right channels that not only bring in new users but also to bring in long-term users that will generate higher ad LTV and positive ROAS in the long run.
For Word Pizza, we’ve tested and narrowed it down to the following UA channels as being the most effective and highest positive ROAS ones to invest more time and ad spend on Google Ads, Mail.ru, Unity, Facebook, TikTok, and AppGrowth.
It was also essential to target the right countries that have optimal CPI and ARPU ratios. Besides targeting the Russian version of the game to Russia and the CIS markets, for the English version we have identified the US, Israel, Brazil, and several other countries as being the countries to target to reach the maximal ROAS.
2. Leveraging the power of LTV and ROAS forecasting
One of the main blind spots of how user acquisition had been done in the past is the disconnect between the cost to acquire a user and the LTV of this user, as well as clear insights on the ROAS of this user. This blind spot exists because it takes some time for a user’s true LTV to be known. For example, if it takes 90 days for a user to generate positive ROAS but due to limited time frame data of your user’s revenue, you only know how much the user-generated after 7 days. Running UA campaigns with this insufficient data will likely not lead to positive profit growth in the long term since a user’s LTV revenue is not being optimized for.
Using our growth platform, we were able to overcome this blind spot by leveraging the power of LTV and ROAS forecasting.
Because user acquisition, retention, and monetization data are aligned in our growth platform, it is able to learn over time, based on historical performances, of what the forecasted LTV/ROAS of newly acquired users will be, whether it is 90 days into the future, 180 days, 270 days, 365 days, and even 730 days out.
With Word Pizza, we were able to dissect and pinpoint which UA channels, campaigns, creatives, target settings, and more dimensions would yield the optimal forecasted LTV/ROAS results, and allocate more budget to them. This forecasted LTV/ROAS approach enabled us to set the foundation for scaling up actual profits into the future.
3. Creating and testing high volume of ad creatives
Once the right channels and targetings have been identified, the next key ingredient for optimizing UA campaigns is high converting ad creatives!
Our creative team, since we began accelerating Word Pizza, had created more than 300 ad creatives that our UA team then ran to A/B test for the best-performing ones.
The CTR (click-through rate), IPM (installs per 1,000 impressions), and installs are some obvious metrics to look for as they directly impact the CPI (cost-per installs). Generally, the higher the CTR and IPM, the lower the CPI.
However, as mentioned earlier, our main goal was to optimize for the ROAS in the long term. So if we look at some of the ad creatives we tested, some of the “best” performing ones actually had lower CTR or IPM. Also, some with high CTR and IPM turned out to be false winners as their ROAS ended up not crossing the 100% line.
Because our growth platform can also track the ROAS and ARPU and attribute them down to the UA creative level, we did not need to worry about wasting UA budgets on non-profitable UA creatives.
4. Automating UA optimization
With our growth platform’s ROAS predictor and our in-house UA bidding optimizer, we were able to shift ad spend early on to the creatives that have shown to be more likely to attract higher-earning users.
In addition to ad creatives, our UA bidding optimizer (soon to be released to all users) can also automatically shift ad budgets to the channels, campaigns, and ad sets that will yield the best-desired results, which is ROAS in this case.
By continuously A/B testing the creatives, channels, and targetings, eventually, the ones with the most optimal ARPU, ROAS, and CPI were identified, which then can be scaled later.
2nd Prong: Optimizing Monetization
With new users coming to play Word Pizza, it was essential to have the optimal monetization set up in place to monetize these users.
Since OpenMyGame was already a user of Appodeal’s intelligent ad mediation product, Word Pizza was already generating ad revenue from our over 70 ad demand partners. But as we noted earlier, their profits and revenue, while consistent, were stagnant.
Hence, another goal was to maximize their revenue so that the LTV/ARPU of the new users from our user acquisition campaigns become higher than the CPI by wider margins. The difference between them ends up as profits.
To achieve that, we focused on three major ad formats: banners, interstitials, and rewarded videos. And we ran continuous A/B tests to see which monetization setup yielded not just the highest ad LTV but also without negatively affecting other metrics, like retention rates.