Mobile marketing trends in 2020 and beyond

2019 was the year time spent on mobile eclipsed all other media types, signaling a paradigm shift in the industry. With mobile moving from a secondary screen to the primary one, the channel has become the easiest way to reach consumers all over the world - replacing out-of-home advertising, direct mail and even email as the key touchpoint.

That means that to talk about the year 2020 in mobile marketing is to go beyond sharing typical thoughts on trends. Instead, it’s to discuss huge changes in the industry and the way marketers work - whether that’s the possibilities of automation, or through closer collaboration with product teams to create contextually aware campaigns that engage and retain users.

As 2020 gets underway, here are six mobile marketing predictions for the next 12 months and beyond.

Adjust’s six mobile app marketing trends for 2020:

#1 Context will be king - and automation will do the heavy lifting

The right ad delivered to the right person at the right time: it’s a marketing cliché that has been around for almost a decade, but it’s still something the industry is struggling to get right. With consumer demand for personalized content reaching an all-time high, 2020 will be the year we see new talent join the effort in the form of increased and highly intelligent marketing automation.

Importantly, marketing automation will provide increased visibility into data and possible outcomes, allowing marketers to pinpoint (and even predict) individual drop-off points in-app. Automation will make it possible to create and map hundreds of churn segments based on different conditions - and rather than fight churn, marketers will begin to explore approaches that allow them to stop it before it even starts.

Take gaming apps. Rather than simply observe that users who have lost three times in a row are more likely to churn, marketers empowered with automation would determine the best pre-emptive action to take to keep users interested. What marketers offer will be left to their creativity, but the “who” and “when” will be decisions driven by data. The outcome will be a better experience for all stakeholders: consumers will receive context-based offers and advertising, and marketers will benefit from increased conversion and retention rates.

#2 Product and Marketing will converge to reinvent the app experience

Actions speak louder than words, and 2020 will see organizations take serious action to break down the silos between Product and Marketing. It’s a new resolve to solve an established problem: how to build and maintain a sustainable app business.

While the primary goal of ad campaigns is to fill the marketing funnel, they also offer data and insights that can - and must - be used to ensure the app experience delivers on its promise. Gartner’s recent CMO Spend Survey shows that marketing analytics will be marketers’ single largest area of investment for 2020, making up 16% of budget allocations. But to get the most out of these investments, the insights should feed into a holistic feedback loop that transcends departmental barriers.

Information that Marketing gleans from these campaigns - such as features users love, points in the journey where they feel frustration or simply requirements for fresh content - can help shape product strategy. Equipped with data and insights from how users interact with campaigns, Product can iterate and design an app experience that will encourage frequent use, and drive the familiarity that boosts brand recognition and trust.

#3 Retargeting rates will rise as UA plateaus

In 2019, our data findings tracked an increase of 25% of attributions coming from retargeting; we expect this upward trajectory to continue in the new year. This is partly because supply is almost tapped out, as there’s only so much advertising users can really consume. Many apps also already have a huge install base - and retargeting is cheaper than acquiring new users.

Rather than continuing to find new users who may not be that interested in the first place, marketers have realized it’s more effective to retarget consumers who are already familiar with their brand or mobile app - particularly with retargeted users generating 37% more revenue than new users. So we also anticipate that ad spending will become more about ad efficiency - with more pressure on the ecosystem to optimize segmentation, placement and creative.

#4 In-app bot attacks will taint app experience and tarnish brand integrity

Bot attacks - perpetrated by automated software agents capable of interacting with content, advertising and offers in a human-like way - will spread as cybercriminals shift tactics and platforms. It’s an alarming trend, but not a surprising one. Fraudsters always go where the money is, and the money now is in apps. Mobile market intelligence provider App Annie predicts app stores are set to pull in $120 billion in consumer spend, making 2019 the biggest year in mobile yet.

While money can be earned again, the damage to brand integrity will be much more severe. It’s critical for marketers to be vigilant, and it helps to understand how bots negatively impact the user experience. In commerce apps, bots can swoop up large quantities of new release items (such as sneakers) and sabotage shopping. In banking apps, bots harvest personal and financial data and stage log-in attacks.

Clearly, some verticals are hit worse than others — but no app category is above attack. To make matters worse, the damage done by in-app bots is evolving and expanding faster than companies can detect or combat it. Expect in-app bot fraud to be a moving target in 2020 and beyond. If you want to take aim and win, it’s best to enlist the help of technology that detects bots by focusing on the data that bots can’t fake, such as the pressure on the screen and the motion of the device.

#5 Smart new tactics will be key to ad fraud prevention

Fraud prevention remains a critical challenge for marketers heading into 2020. Ad fraud is set to have claimed an estimated $42 billion of ad dollars this past year, with Adjust rejecting roughly 200 million fraudulent app installs throughout 2019.

As adoption rates for smartphones rise around the world, and fraud becomes more and more incentivized, fraud prevention tactics will be at the center of the conversation over the next 12 months. In particular, we’ll see more focus on impression and click, and how the link between the two is essential to fighting ad fraud.

A user can only click on an ad if they have actually been served and seen it. That sounds like common sense, but all too often, these clicks aren’t made by real users. That’s why Adjust created the Click Validation standard earlier this year, which requires ad channels send impressions with a unique identifier that will also be attached to any resulting clicks before the click claim is sent. This dramatically increases the workload for fraudsters, to the point where it becomes financially unviable for them.

And though there are always new exploits being developed by fraudsters, that doesn’t mean the underlying systems vary. Knowing the limitations of these systems, and that new methods of ad fraud can only develop within these parameters, makes it easier to apply solutions.

At the moment, Click Injection and Click Spam are two of the most pervasive methods of ad fraud, currently accounting for 43% and 30% of all ad fraud, respectively. It’s likely we’ll continue to see them being used against unprotected apps in 2020. That makes measures like the Click Validation requirement all the more important, because it dramatically increases the workload for fraudsters seeking to steal brands’ and advertisers’ ad budgets.

#6 Marketing automation will give smaller teams superpowers

The advance of marketing automation won’t just enhance the ability of marketers to be more creative and effective. Machine learning baked into marketing automation solutions will empower smaller teams to compete in the big leagues. It’s exciting to imagine how more equal access to tools will level the playing field and drive positive results for the app businesses who wield them properly.

Today, what determines success is the sheer size of a team and how much money a company can throw at acquiring and retaining users. Size is often the variable that limits how many segments a marketing department can create and address, or how many campaigns and creatives a team can manage. But the advance of marketing automation throughout 2020 will change this dynamic — forever.

Marketing automation will augment marketing teams, giving them new strengths even when their numbers are low. Automation will become the “great equalizer,” enabling marketers to iterate and implement an astronomical number of campaigns at the speed of change. The ability to track results at every stage of the journey will also allow them to adapt campaigns on the fly, encouraging customer connection and driving conversions.

Looking to learn more about marketing automation? Check out our blog post on how to use automation to drive growth, which includes six best practices when implementing this technology. We also have plenty of resources on bot fraud, including our Unbotify guide, and a deep dive into how bots can affect gaming and e-commerce apps in particular.

Finally, take a look back at Adjust’s year in review with our 2019 infographic.

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