July 18, 2023
Life as a mobile game marketer isn’t getting easier. It’s been nearly three years since Apple announced the effective retirement of IDFA, and recent research from Tenjin and GameAnalytics has found that CPIs are still rising1. Industry pundits at Deconstructor of Fun have called 2023 the year that “organic discovery will be declared deceased”, citing the fact that “k-factor, which measures the virality of a game, is at an all-time low.”2
In short, it’s tough out there. Which is why investing in features that drive post-install loyalty is now just as crucial as optimizing top-funnel UA. Done right, loyalty programs and login bonuses offer incentives for users to return to your game outside the core game loop, creating long-term relationships that offer publishers a foundation for sustainable growth. While no two loyalty programs are the same, the most successful examples share at least one or more of the following elements in pursuit of maximizing LTV.
Every customer has unique desires and expects every consumer interaction — from online purchases to mobile game ads — to cater to those wants and needs. In fact, if you’re not personalizing your loyalty and reward structure, you’re leaving money on the table. According to McKinsey, companies that personalize their advertising and loyalty offerings generate 40% more revenue than those that don’t3.
Every player will come to your mobile game for a different reason. Some players may just want to casually kill time while waiting in line at the post office; others log in daily and regularly spend money on in-game promotions. As such, each user will respond to your loyalty efforts differently.
This is where user segmentation comes in. By grouping your players into different segments (payers and non-payers, dedicated and casual, etc.), you can create rewards, promotions, and other offers that cater to each of these different groups. Through A/B testing, you can further optimize these targeted offers (pricing, rewards granted, and so on) to maximize their effectiveness – or change course if your tactics aren’t working. For example, ReignDesign utilized A/B testing to improve in-app purchase rates and retention by comparing the placement of in-app notification delivery, difficulty curves, and the use of time penalties4. Tools like Google Firebase even allow developers to personalize granular elements of game design, like power-ups and the number of retries, to provide a uniquely optimal experience for players, regardless of skill level5.
Optimizing your approach to personalization will help you maximize the retention, engagement, and LTV of each of your users.
👀 Related reading: Loyalty is the new key to profitable growth for mobile games
Players don’t just want personalized offers – they want rewards that they can’t get anywhere else. Unique and powerful gear, time-limited cosmetic equipment, and other exclusive enhancements drive a fear of missing out and provide a sense of accomplishment and pride as players show off their new loot to friends and other users.
Your loyalty program is a fantastic opportunity for leveraging the types of exclusive rewards that provide instant and tangible improvements to the player experience. For example, Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On utilizes a daily reward loyalty system, granting incremental benefits to dedicated players who keep coming back for its combination solitaire puzzler/horse racing gameplay. One such prize is a bean that instantly levels up one of your horses, making it faster and improving its stamina on the racetrack. Currently, there is no way to purchase one of these powerful level-boosting items (either with in-game or premium currency), and there is no way to earn these items outside of its daily loyalty track. By limiting such a valuable reward to this system (and developing its gameplay progression around it to make this reward worthwhile), developer Game Freak provides a distinct value proposition for logging in every day.
Elevated player status also lends itself well to loyalty programs at a portfolio-wide scale. The Playtika Rewards Program offers players the chance to “Play like a VIP as you reach higher Status Levels for access to more exclusive perks and surprises.” As a loyalty initiative, it’s made even more effective by the fact that players are able to enjoy over one hundred different benefits across six different Playtika titles. With seven levels of status to progress through that are otherwise unavailable to normal users, Playtika is able to offer a long-term experience that keeps its most valuable players engaged and spending.
The more time users spend with your game, the more likely they are to complete purchases – and loyalty programs are the key to keeping your players invested over the long term. Crafting systems to develop rewards that encourage players to make logging in a natural part of their day is vital for maximizing your loyalty programs’ effectiveness.
To do this, you must first develop a clear and meaningful rewards structure that offers instant and tangible benefits for players. These rewards can come in the form of in-game currency, exclusive content, or access to special events. Most importantly, they should be immediately actionable – that is, your in-game economy should ensure that the rewards players receive are immediately useful within the context of your game.
Then, it’s crucial to have a sense of progression that makes the need for rewards that much more important, then have those rewards scale with player progression so they remain effective.
Once these pieces are in place, you can devise your loyalty rewards system to dole out these highly-desirable items as players continue to devote time and resources to playing your game. Many games utilize a daily login system, where repeat visits grant a progressive tier of increasingly valuable rewards – as long as players don’t break their login streak.
Other games, like Blizzard’s popular card battler Hearthstone, provide a series of Quests (specific goals to complete during play within a given timeframe) in three different tiers: Daily, Weekly, and Legendary. Each tier represents the frequency of the quest (with Legendary quests only appearing for set events) and provides experience points, gold, and other rewards (like additional card packs or even exclusive legendary cards). This system doesn’t reward players for merely logging in – instead, they must engage with the game in specific ways (such as trying different strategies or checking out other game modes).
Your chosen rewards structure should make sense for how your game naturally progresses – for example, don’t try to force a quest-based system into your game if a login bonus makes more sense. It’s the same with frequency: a game like Clash Royale doles out rewards every four hours, but this might not make sense for your game.
However you implement your rewards structure, be sure to implement push notifications to remind players when their next reward drop is available, as they can increase 90-day app retention by up to 190% according to a recent study by Airship6. These systems will help build muscle memory for opening your app, further reinforcing your app as a natural extension of the player’s time using their mobile device and optimizing your players' LTV and retention rate.
Building ways for players to interact with one another is another method of fostering loyalty, allowing them to forge meaningful social ties within your game that benefit retention.
For example, if players have questions about how a game’s mechanics work or get stuck trying to figure out how to progress, they can turn to built-in chat systems to ask other players. This feature fosters a sense of community among its players while having the knock-on effect of keeping players from leaving the app to seek help. Some games – strategy and RPG in particular – also allow for the creation of teams or clans to take on large-scale tasks together. And for competitive players, leaderboard implementation creates incentives to return and try to eke out a high score against their friends and other users.
Once you’ve put in the tools that allow for player interaction, leverage them by creating exclusive scheduled Live Events. Creating a dedicated LiveOps team and implementing regular content drops will enable you to take the solid foundation you’ve built and provide long-term solutions built to sustain player engagement and retain users. “[LiveOps] does not necessarily guarantee downloads,” explained Space Ape Games CEO Simon Hade in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz. “What it ensures is that if you get some traction with your game, you’re able to more safely and predictably turn that into a sustainable business.”7 Building at least a year-long runway of content will ensure that you give players a reason to return, discuss changes, engage with new systems, and make additional purchases – thus maximizing the opportunity to increase user lifetime value.
You won’t know what works (and what doesn’t) without digging into your data. This information will give you insights into player behavior, their preferences, and how effective your loyalty programs are at driving retention and LTV.
It’s not enough to examine your data – you must use this information to optimize your systems and maximize their effectiveness. Look at where users are most likely to fall off and see if some additional systems or tweaks can prevent them from falling away entirely. For example, if players are failing to restart their daily login streaks after breaking them, consider adding more substantial rewards between smaller gifts early in the reward streak to entice them to come back.
Don’t be afraid to research and compare your non-retention-related stats to see how your loyalty efforts affect them as well. According to 80 Level, an effective player reward system can boost ad view rates by up to 95%8, making loyalty optimization beneficial beyond simply keeping players invested in your game.
Ultimately, your data will tell you how players interact with your app, which will often change on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. Pay close attention to crucial loyalty metrics like stickiness, rolling retention, and repeat purchase rates to determine how well your loyalty program keeps and converts players9.
While it’s crucial to implement these elements into your loyalty program, Mistplay can help bring them all together with a holistic approach to player loyalty starting at the user acquisition phase. Mistplay’s AI-driven recommendation system ensures your app acquires users that are most likely to enjoy – and spend money on – your game. Then, it rewards repeat usage and engagement with points that players can redeem for gift cards and other real-world rewards. Mistplay also features built-in contests and leaderboards to foster community and competition among its users. The result? A deeper, more loyal user base with far greater retention and LTV potential to supplement your current loyalty efforts.
Want to learn more? Get in touch and discover how Mistplay can help maximize your KPIs over the long term.