November 30, 2023
As new mobile game players become more difficult and expensive to acquire, mobile marketers are increasingly focusing on loyalty — a metric that’s more crucial than ever for achieving profitable growth1.
Nicholas Kerr, Mistplay’s own VP of Loyalty and Lifecycle, hammers home the importance of loyalty programs in mobile game development:
"Loyalty programs can help game developers accelerate user progression through the customer journey, converting non-spenders to spenders earlier in the lifecycle. Done right, they foster a deeper sense of engagement and retention amongst players by incentivizing users to interact more frequently with a game and increasing lifetime value (LTV). By rewarding players for their continued participation and achievements, game studios can create a more competitive yet rewarding environment that enhances overall user experience. Additionally, these programs can deliver deeper and richer data, providing valuable insights into user behavior, preferences, and pain points, allowing developers to refine their games to maximize customer satisfaction."
Building effective loyalty programs requires coordination across all aspects of mobile game publishing and development, from product teams to mobile marketers, to foster loyalty through unique strategies. For example, LiveOps is the norm for over 90% of the top 500 mobile games2, and developers like Spil Games provide regular content updates3 to keep hundreds of millions of players engaged across its entire catalog. Other teams rely on a drip feed of player rewards to improve loyalty, like Supercell’s mega-hit Clash Royale4.
While these tools are effective, mobile marketers, developers, and publishing teams must continue researching new strategies and adapting to meet players’ evolving needs. One place to look for inspiration is outside the gaming industry, where brands have constructed their own methods for reaching users and keeping them loyal.
Let’s unpack tips from the most successful non-gaming brands that similarly apply to the mobile gaming realm. Read on for insights that can refine your loyalty efforts in the coming years.
Most mobile gaming marketers and LiveOps teams aren’t using omnichannel marketing to its fullest potential. That’s not to say they aren’t doing it at all – in-game messaging, push notifications, and social media networks, among other channels, are important for keeping players informed. However, non-gaming industries use a more comprehensive array of tools to build loyalty, and gaming companies should take notice.
Email marketing, in particular, is a powerful tool that other industries have turned into an art form, but that gaming doesn’t utilize nearly enough. Emails are purpose-built for personalization, making communication feel unique to each player. Alongside gamer-specific channels like Discord, and broader social media platforms like Facebook, email’s notably direct communication rounds out a strong suite of marketing channels.
Need some email inspiration? Look no further than Starbucks. The coffee giant’s emails take many forms and help to guide and nurture customers as they interact with the brand and its stores. For example, the welcome email is a simple message that goes out to new users whenever they sign up for notifications with the franchise or join its reward program. These emails let the customer know they’re on the list and explain any benefits they can use immediately, such as coupons or reward points.
It’s a basic step, but it’s incredibly effective. At Misplay, we’ve seen an enormous impact on revenue after introducing a simple welcome email to the user registration journey. While the Mistplay platform is not a game, it acquires and engages with gamers as a sort of natural extension of their playing habits. With the addition of a welcome email to the new user onboarding journey, we’ve seen a 30% increase in D7 retention for users who engaged with the welcome email series, which led to a corresponding revenue uplift.
It’s also important to know when and how frequently marketers should email players. For instance, Growth Snippets examined how often the relaxation app Calm sent emails after signup. They noticed that Calm sent several emails within the first few days, with subsequent emails over the coming days – then even weeks apart. Emails included welcome messages (with an included discount), tips for managing stress at the workplace, seasonal as well as evergreen content, and additional coupons.
Your game’s email campaign likely won’t be handing out workplace tips, but you should examine the messaging you want your players to receive and customize it for their inboxes. Notifications for seasonal tournaments, ads for exclusive bundles or rare equipment, and even player stories all make for great emails that will keep your audience tuned in.
👀 Related reading: How to improve mobile game player retention: 5 effective strategies
SMS text is another channel many game publishers and their teams aren’t using to its full potential. While email marketing is effective, you can’t guarantee the player will access it on their mobile device. In contrast, SMS is extremely powerful: You can send messages directly to players on the devices where your game lives, deep-linking directly to sections of the game through text.
Brands like Wayfair and Nordstrom use text to tell customers when their products are out for delivery and to share updates, discounts, or even other personalized experiences. You can leverage these strategies through notifications when exclusive new bundles are available for your game and to send reminders about upcoming events.
Mobile game publishers and developers understand the power of gamification, and publishers should apply these tactics to their loyalty program – especially when nearly 60% of players cite progression as a primary motivator for playing their favorite games, according to the 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report. Applying multiple tiers to your loyalty program provides benefits that scale as players interact with your game, make purchases, and complete tasks. This motivates them to invest time and money they might otherwise spend elsewhere.
Sephora maintains one of the beauty industry’s most effective, tiered loyalty programs. Signing up for its Beauty Insider Benefits program is free, allowing members to earn points on each purchase, along with free standard shipping. Once a member spends $350 in a single year, they become a “VIB” (Very Important Beauty Insider) member, which increases the number of points members earn on purchases, offers for increased savings and seasonal events, plus exclusive gifts. Spending $1,000 in a year unlocks the “Rouge” level, which only further increases loyalty point earning potential while providing early access to new products.
While Sephora’s loyalty discounts attract customers, it’s the emotional drivers, like the exclusive birthday gifts, that provide the greatest positive feedback according to Forbes. A significant portion of Sephora’s revenue comes from customers within the highest loyalty level.
For games, these tiered loyalty programs can tie directly into the main progression of gameplay, as well as a higher meta-layer of reward progression. For example, you could build a program that generates rewards for leveling up depending on the player’s loyalty level. The higher the level, the greater the rewards. Higher tiers can also unlock additional meta-layer benefits, such as exclusive profile pictures or badges.
Understanding who your most loyal players are can also help your teams segment customer service resources. According to the 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report, 68% of players who spend over $100 have reached out to customer support – a rate 13% higher than the average – and only 36% are satisfied with the service they receive. By dedicating resources to your most dedicated players, you can ensure that they continue to have a positive experience, even after moments of friction.
It’s crucial, however, that your loyalty program is a natural extension of how players interact with your game. Examine the UX of how players navigate between your game and your loyalty program, and ensure a logical flow between both to prevent your rewards from feeling bolted on as an afterthought.
Personalization is crucial in mobile game publishing as it can lift marketing ROI by up to 30%, according to McKinsey. However, non-gaming companies have found distinct opportunities to enhance their own approach to personalization, offering some lessons for today’s mobile game publishers.
For companies like Amazon, personalization is huge. Amazon has carefully incorporated customer purchase data to make product suggestions. Recently, it has made a significant push to make personalization a core aspect of its business, from its home page suggestions based on browsing and purchase history, to surfacing personalized deals during its annual Prime Day sales events. This has been a boon for Amazon: During 2021’s Prime Day (the first year it offered personalized deals), engagement rose by 400%.
While games like RAID: Shadow Legends leverage personalization in many ways, including providing players with personalized achievement recap videos, not every game has the resources to do so. Still, you can provide personalized experiences in small ways, such as referencing the player’s name, offering items relevant to their current level or ability, and using omnichannel marketing to provide celebratory emails when players achieve specific milestones.
Your game isn’t just a place where individuals play; it’s where people come together to compete against each other, solve problems, trade secrets, and so much more. By implementing exclusive events, social groups, and forums – both inside and outside the game – you not only allow, but inspire customers to talk about your game. This will, in turn, generate a flywheel of growth and net promoters.
Mobile game publishers are already good at building community. But looking at what other companies are doing can lead mobile teams to expand their reach beyond traditional methods. Take a brand like LEGO, for instance. It’s more than a toy. It’s a method of expression.
LEGO leans into this in several ways across numerous channels. First, it leverages social media to partner with content creators in ways that matter to their audience. Think of when LEGO partnered with gaming YouTuber Loserfruit to build a LEGO house-turned-gaming PC.
It also created the LEGO Ideas platform, where fans can mock up their own designs and get them turned into real-life sets if they receive enough support from the other builders. And, of course, there’s the LEGO Insiders loyalty program, which provides access to exclusive gear, discounts, and an entire community of LEGO fans.
An Inc.com article by Jason Aten references the unique edge LEGO Insiders has over other loyalty programs:
Unlike an airline, where the potential benefits of being a frequent flyer are limited, for Lego, there is no scarcity in letting people earn rewards. Sure, you can give everyone free checked bags, but there are only so many seats for first-class upgrades.
On the other hand, Lego's ability to provide benefits scales in direct relationship to the ability of a customer to earn those benefits. There is no limit to the number of $5 discounts Lego can give out if they are based on the amount of money you spent in the first place. It's just a cost of doing business.
This holistic approach to building community isn’t easy, but it’s a must for mobile games, especially when competing against other games for player time and attention. And the mobile gaming landscape shares that same edge as LEGO. There doesn’t have to be a limit on the benefits a player receives for staying loyal to the brand.
Providing avenues for players to discuss and interact with your brand outside of the game will drive them back into the game, ultimately keeping it top of mind among the broader player base. This creates more dedicated fans, and by extension, reduces churn. It’s no wonder that the biggest mobile gaming companies in the world have dedicated community teams of at least 10–20 people, managing VIP programs, building community relationships, developing influencer marketing strategies, and more.
Even if your team doesn’t have those resources, you can still build community on existing platforms, like Reddit, Discord, and other social media networks – as long as you put time and resources into growing it. Just leverage in-game tools and systems (like clan building and chat functionality) to keep those valuable players engaged.
When building your loyalty programs, ensure that you’re handing out perks that will actually make a difference for the user. Don’t just offer arbitrary rewards for the sake of having rewards. Discounts are great, but they’re not the only perk players are looking for, and they don’t always generate an emotional connection with your brand.
Instead, view all aspects of your game’s service, like customer service and community engagement, as a way to reward players beyond a transactional relationship. Remember, Sephora’s reward program doesn’t just give out points; it delivers birthday messages and grants customers access to exclusive events. Sephora makes its reward members feel special for signing up – and they’ll continue spending money so long as the reward program continues caring for them.
Another example is Real Canadian Superstore’s PC Optimum Points, which can be redeemed for groceries. With today’s inflation, and the expansion of PC Optimum Points into other stores like Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix (depending on the province), this is truly an invaluable reward.
Look for ways to provide real-life benefits outside of the game. For instance, Mistplay provides gift cards to retail establishments like Amazon (availability depending on region) just for playing on the platform. This perk provides tangible benefits that players can enjoy in their everyday lives.
Whatever direction you take, be intentional with your reward system. Go beyond handing out a few in-game coins to further strengthen your brand relationship outside of the game.
Numerous trends come and go throughout the tech space, many of which make their way into mobile game publisher and developer discussions. While it might be tempting to hop on the bandwagon right away, it’s important to take a step back and question whether these trends are right for your users – and how other publishers (or even other industries) are responding to them.
For example, there are a couple of big buzzwords, like artificial intelligence (AI) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), that appear to be taking up all the air in high-level conversations these days. But how helpful are they for improving your game’s approach to loyalty?
On the one hand, AI and even machine learning (ML) have enabled businesses to make giant leaps on the personalization, operational, and logistics side of building and managing loyalty programs. Amazon’s Prime Day product recommendations are AI-powered, and on the technical side, Amazon Web Services provides businesses with AI-powered personalization tools they can integrate into their products to scale real-time personalization across an entire customer base.
Mistplay also features its own AI-powered recommendation engine. This tech is the foundation of how it recommends new games to users. It takes player habit data – time spent, purchases, and so on – and surfaces games players will most likely enjoy based on that information. Other organizations, like mobile game developer Half Moon Studios, use AI to automate complex tasks like animation or improve the multitasking capabilities of smaller teams.
On the other hand, NFTs have not been as successful and are currently in a bear market. These digital collectibles have their die-hard fans, but the broader public has not responded to their inclusion. And while some NFTs can carry significant real-world value, the market as a whole is exceptionally volatile, with trading volume down nearly 90%, according to Quartz. Essentially, it’s difficult to predict whether adding NFTs to your loyalty program will be worth the cost of implementing them.
Looking outside the gaming sphere can help energize your loyalty efforts as you implement new strategies and tactics. But with so many viable ideas to market your game, you might not know where to start.
Mistplay can help. Get in touch to learn how Mistplay’s unique player loyalty platform can improve retention rates and drive lifetime value for your mobile game — just like it did for Futureplay Games, who saw a 2.5x boost in installs and a nearly 25% lift on D7 ROAS after working with Mistplay21. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest cutting-edge loyalty developments right in your inbox.