Sustainable App Growth is More Than Just Volume and Scale – Meet our Growth Team

Ijah - Managing Director App Growth

Ijah is the Managing Director of Yodel Mobile. He has been working in the mobile industry since the dawn of mobile advertising. Ijah ensures that all our clients’ strategies are aligned with their wider business goals and works closely with the Yodel Mobile team to ensure that they maintain a shared vision for the consultancy. Here is Ijah’s advice on user acquisition and the most effective methods for sustainable growth within the mobile app industry.

Give us an insight into your role at Yodel mobile and what your day-to-day looks like.

My day-to-day is predominantly operational, focusing on team structure, management and leadership. I strive to establish a shared vision or a common goal and ensure it is adopted by the different teams and departments within Yodel Mobile. At the heart of it, I empower our growth team members to be the best they can be.

My history has always been mobile. It started with launching and scaling big app businesses through advertising campaigns. These were composed of large, global advertising campaigns, attempting to drive a huge volume of app installs. 

My main focus was the management and set-up of those campaigns and the implementation of strategies to tackle the complexities around tracking. We worked on these campaigns well before the mainstream attribution tools came to fruition. It was a different world, we had to implement seven or eight SDK’s per network to decipher our results.

How has the view of effective user acquisition changed over the past few years and why have we seen this shift?

It used to be all about volume and scale. People didn’t really understand the value of their app in the context of their business, they just knew they wanted to be in the app store, and for that matter, high up in the app store. For some businesses, establishing volume early on solidified them as leaders in the market and many of them are still there. A lot of the big hotel groups and the big retail businesses went down that route and it worked quite well for them because their app businesses exploded.

On the flip side, people quite quickly became aware, especially when we introduced attribution tools that actually worked, that it wasn’t all about scale and there were huge retention related issues within the market. Focus shifted to tracking post-install events and understanding conversion metrics. Understanding long term retention and diving into the data to determine what channels were actually working became, and still is, essential in driving sustained growth.

How do you see paid and organic growth, as complementary or interdependent? 

There will always be a relationship between paid and organic and the businesses that understand that relationship are definitely at an advantage. An essential part of our launch strategy is ensuring that our clients put a value on organic uplift once they spend on paid advertising, which is a very common thing to do. However, organic traction varies from business to business. Some businesses have a 90/10 acquisition split in favour of paid, some businesses are the other way around.

Back in the day, it was a lot clearer to understand the correlation between organic and paid, with app stores rankings or the positioning of an app within the app store being a huge indicator. People used to go to the App Store and go ‘oh look, that’s number one in the app store, let me download it’. Now, ranking in the app store doesn’t have the same effect, and app businesses don’t achieve the same level of organic traction from positioning.

However, we also can’t ignore that today’s acquisition channels have evolved, such as the birth of influencer or content campaigns which aren’t tracked through traditional means. There still isn’t an exact science on how to attribute installs driven by such campaigns, and there is no doubt that many people who see ads online or watch content are not always going to click a link, a lot of them will just go straight to the app store. But deciphering this can provide app businesses with a huge amount of insight.

How do you decide which channels are most effective for Yodel Mobile’s clients?

In order to determine how effective a channel is, you need a good tracking set up. At the most basic level this means attribution tools such as Appsflyer, Branch or Adjust, which will allow you to determine what acquisition efforts are working and what aren’t, in line with particular paid events. We like to take it a step further than that and really look at post-install events within an in-app analytics tool. It is important to grasp and utilise the relationship between those two tools, because you can understand long-term retention metrics within the in-app analytics tool better than you can with an attribution tool. I think more importantly, you can really start to understand why people are doing what they’re doing. Once you start to understand the why, then you can really start to optimise your campaigns.

The best channels are the ones that will allow you to do pretty heavy targeting. Channels such as Facebook, for example, are great to use as a testing ground for a soft-launch or as the basis for establishing a good communication strategy, purely because of its capabilities. We wouldn’t generally recommend that a business that is launching their app uses CPI ad networks in the initial stages, because that is generally blind buying and they will gain minimal insights. But certainly sticking to paid social channels and channels such as Google will help app owners to gain invaluable learnings and an understanding of what people are interacting with and why within their app/s.

Why do you think we have seen a strong aversion in the app industry against growth hacking, with people reframing growth through product growth or growth teams?

The term growth hacking has a stigma associated with it, which is all about an individual or techniques which aren’t traditional in many respects. Because of that, there is presumably a black hat association.

I personally think that growth hacking techniques are valuable. But like anything else, they should be executed in moderation. Within the app space, especially for a lot of start up businesses, it is really common for businesses to become so focused on growth that they offer ridiculous incentivised discounts to drive first time users, which you could call a growth hacking technique. However, that is not sustainable and in order to create sustainable growth you really need to build a growth team, and this was at the basis of our growth team formation. We are a growth team who enable businesses, at any stage in their life cycle, to implement prioritisation frameworks for sustained growth effectively and I think that is a better approach than quick-fix growth hacks.

Where do you see the future of app growth going?

I think that more businesses will start to appreciate how to utilise growth techniques and growth teams. I also think that businesses will start to understand the value of traditional marketing, such as branding, and how to incorporate that into their wider acquisition efforts to align brand, product and growth teams to work towards a collective goal. I don’t think that everyone should rally under the growth umbrella, I think that it is important to allow teams within organisations to still deliver what they are best at. It is just important that there is an element of overlap to ensure a shared vision towards a common goal.

I think that businesses will continue to evolve and hypothesise the most effective methods for restructuring their business along with incorporating the latest techniques for growth. However, the success of these efforts will be dependent on how these businesses actually mobilise their team to turn their efforts into a tangible reality.

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Smokehouse Yard, 44-46, St John Street, London, EC1M 4DF 🇬🇧