Facebook has tweaked its app advertising product to allow app makers to retarget users who may have downloaded and used an app but then stopped using it.
Mobile app install ads have been one of Facebook’s more successful ad formats for a while. About 145 million apps have been downloaded as a result of the ads, the company says. But as the platform matures, Facebook’s clients were finding that just getting people to download apps was only the first part of the battle. Persuading people to continue using them is the other part. Hence, the new “engagement and conversion” app ads. Facebook told us:
Businesses are also faced with the challenge of getting people to return and remain active within their apps. According to a study conducted by Localytics, one of our Mobile Measurement Partners, 66% of app users only open apps between 1 and 10 times.
The new ad format includes buttons asking users to “Open Link,” “Use App,” “Shop Now,” “Play Game,” “Book Now,” “Listen Now,” or “Watch Video.” The calls are customisable, Facebook says.
The executive in charge of this launch is Deborah Liu, Facebook’s social commerce / platform monetization product manager. We asked her a few questions about why Facebook was tweaking this product today. Her answers have been edited for brevity:
COO Sheryl Sandberg mentioned mobile app install ads specifically on the last earnings call. Why?
DL: This has been an offering that has been important to our developers and marketers. We’ve doubled the number of developers using this product. Now it’s being used by businesses and brands. The reason this was called out is that mobile is this huge problem for marketers, users are adopting it at a faster pace than marketers can catch up with … it’s very different than what they’re used to. This is really the early days in mobile engagement and advertising.
How big a revenue generator are mobile app install ads?
DL: We don’t split that out. But it’s obviously a very important ad unit for us. We’re solving that core problem that a lot of developers are facing. You launch an app and you’re one amongst 2 million apps in the Apple Store and Google Play.
What are some companies that use them?
DL: Hotel Tonight they really saw a 10 times per-install rate for these ads over our other ads. We improved their performance on our ecosystem 10 times. We don’t have a specific ROI that we publish, for partner reasons, but obviously it’s been highly successful. In Q2 we shared the stat that 50% of the top-grossing Android and iOS apps use mobile app install ads.
Facebook has struggled to add an e-commerce aspect. But mobile app install ads have a bit of that, and I understand that online retailers like Fab use them a lot. Talk about that.
DL: Commerce is obviously an important part of our business and Sheryl talked a little bit about e-commerce in our last earnings call. We’re focused on helping commerce make the jump to mobile. If you’re on a train you pull out your mobile phone and you’re typing with two fingers, that’s a problem. You want to extend your commerce offering to mobile, you can build with Parse [Facebook’s app development platform], you can use our tools with your login, if you want to grow we have the app ads to help you grow. Poshmark really launched their app on Facebook [for instance]. Engagement ads allow you to bring people back.
When I look at the top app downloads on Facebook, I see a lot of games. How big a deal are games to Facebook? Do you worry that Facebook is having difficulty breaking out of this space into more lucrative, more “adult” types of clients?
DL: We actually have a large ecosystem of apps. Games is an important vertical for us but we have others. Partners like Spotify, lifestyle and fitness, travel, Expedia is doing some really interesting things. We work with transport services and entertainment verticals. Housecleaning services I’ve seen. I’ve seen some really interesting apps that have tested or launched with us. We don’t break out the numbers based on vertical, but games is obviously an important vertical for us.
Who isn’t using mobile app install ads but should be?
DL: This is a huge opportunity for a lot of different verticals. A lot of these brands have a really engaging app but they’re trying to understand their acquisition model. Like banks. If you take a check to the bank and they have to open the envelope then deposit it, an app can save them that money within a couple of trips. Target has tested with us and has seen great success. You can shout out to users who already have the app installed but other use cases might be if you’re having a sale. The other thing might be adding new features. A bank might add bill pay.
Is Target still running its Cartwheel experiment?
DL: They’ve invested and grown their app footprint quite a bit and we look forward to working with them and testing out their new engagement feature as well.