User Acquisition during COVID-19: Actionable Insights

By Doron Wagner

The COVID-19 pandemic created a “new normal” for mobile marketers seemingly overnight. Many countries are on lockdown, with millions upon millions working from home or not working at all. Our consumption patterns are changing, together with our time in front of screens and the topics we’re willing to invest time and money into.

With such a seismic shift, there’s still a shortage in empirical data that can be utilized by UA managers. And while there are some seemingly-obvious assumptions one can make about the situation, they’re still guesses.

At Bidalgo, we track and analyze nearly $800 million a year in media spend, and have been watching the mobile marketing industry react to the pandemic in real time.  Some of what’s happening is fairly obvious, while other metrics seem to shift based on a consumption change that’s still not well understood. What’s certain is that there are actionable opportunities in this data.

About our Data

While most advertisers are only exposed to their targeting data and are doing broad targeting, Bidalgo analyzes both targeting and delivery data (where the ads were actually displayed) — based on calculations that take into account data from marketing channels, measurement platforms, and BI systems.

Using a combination of targeting and delivery data, we’re able to break down aggregated metrics such as impressions and cost by countries and verticals.




Volume Goes UP, CPM Goes Down

There are several potential reasons for this behavior, all of which have probably some influence on the graphs. Firstly, people are at home more, and with the increase in stationary time comes an increase in time spent on social media platforms. Last week, Facebook elaborated somewhat on this change. Basically, the more people spend more time browsing ad-supported services, the more inventory there is for advertisers. Moreover, some of the largest industries around aren’t advertising much now at all, chief among them travel and hospitality. This, too, creates a vacuum that drives prices lower.

We’ve decided to look at three of the largest verticals: Gaming, Entertainment, and Health & Fitness, as these are also among our richest datasets.

Change in Volume and CPM for Games/Entertainment/Health&Fitness


Severe Outbreaks Push Trends to Their Extremes

Breaking down our country data, we can see that the trend for CPM decrease and volume increase can be directly correlated with the severity of the steps taken to contain the pandemic. Spain and Italy are the most extreme examples. During the third week of February, the Lombardy cluster was detected, which is when we begin to see the CPMs fall and the volume rise in the country. With every passing week, the trend becomes more and more pronounced. Data from Spain correlates as well, with the jump in metrics observed during the second week of March, when the country began its lockdown period.

Meanwhile, the data shows much milder trends in countries such as Germany, Canada and the United States, with shifts that are statistically meaningful but not as severe. These countries have all had less severe restrictions imposed during this timeframe.

Change in CPM Across Several Affected Countries

Change in Volume Across Several Affected Countries

Want to Find Opportunities? Dig Deep

At Bidalgo, we can detect opportunities within many of the most popular verticals, such as gaming, due to the sheer amount of data, but even the simplest analysis can yield results. One of the untapped opportunities right now is a mismatch between CPM drop and volume increase for a certain product or category.

When we look at the Simulation sub-genre (life sims, live games) and drill down by country, an interesting trend emerges. For the purposes of this analysis, we’re looking at the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Spain, France and Italy.

Within those countries, the CPM for Simulation game ads dropped an average of 40.80% between the first week of February and the end (29th to be exact) of March. The UK and Canada are very close to that average, with 41.77% and 40.34% drops respectively.

And while CPMs in these two countries aren’t outliers by any measure, the volume graph tells an interesting story. The average increase in volume for the tested countries is 368.19%, driven undoubtedly by a massive uptick in countries such as Spain and Italy. Canada (69.32% increase)  and the UK (68.17% increase), on the other hand, sit squarely at the bottom of the volume chart.

Switch a genre, or go to a different country, and the Simulation genre is no longer an outlier. But during the past few weeks, there was an opportunity for a Sim game developer to get into the UK market with low CPMs and relatively little competition.


Change in Volume and CPM for Simulation Games


Are the New Users as Lucrative as Before?

Let’s continue with our focus on the gaming vertical. So there are opportunities and a meaningful increase in impressions. But are there more installs? Payers? We’ve compared data from March to that of 2019.

Impression-to-Install rate: +40% in 2020.

On the micro level such increases can be attributed to improvement in targeting and creative assets. Viewed across dozens of clients they represent a trend.

But what improved? Was it the CTR on the ads, or the Install Rate from those who clicked? The answer is both. The CTR went 10% up year-over-year, and the install rate went up 23%.

7-Day ARPPU (Average revenue per paying user) was up as well when compared year-over-year.

D7 ARPPU: +16.51% in 2020.

But how many of the new users decide to pay money to their new game? Here we see a pronounced downward shift. Here, again, we use the average for March 2020 compared to 2019.

Payers’ Rate: -19.62% in 2020.

It’s hardly surprising. With the increase in the volume of ads, more and more users who aren’t necessarily the most relevant ones are installing apps they might not enjoy enough to become payers.


Bidalgo's COVID-19 Knowledge Center - Read More


Published on April 1, 2020
Written by
Doron Wagner

Director of Media Innovation @ Bidalgo.

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