Podcast
How game product and UA teams can work better together

Nebojsa Radovic, Director of Performance Marketing at N3twork, and Jon Lau, Director of User Acquisition at Smule, join Melissa Zeloof from ironSource and Joe Kim from GameMakers.com on LevelUp: Game Product Managers Edition. Tune in to hear them discuss why it’s so important for UA and PMs to collaborate effectively and steps for buliding that relationship.

Read on for edited highlights from the podcast:

Advantages of working together

Nebo: “More games today rely on live ops services for monetization. As a result, monetization is more complex. Instead of one linear experience where monetization is the same for every single user, monetization with live ops creates many different experiences. That’s why we had to change the way we approach user acquisition - since so much depends on the events, we had to track how monetization changes when we implement new things in the game. This allowed us to be more aggressive on the spend side and better understand how and where we can spend money to grow the game. If you’re a small company such as N3twork, we’re around 100 people, this is really crucial for maintaining your cash flow and making sure you grow aggressively while maintaining your payback windows and making sure the company is financially healthy.”

How product and UA can work together

Nebo: “In the beginning of the month, the user acquisition team and product team define ROI targets together. When you work with PMs, it’s important to find a common language, defining targets that are easy to understand for both teams. If it’s ROI for the UA team, it should be D7 ROI for the game team. Then we figure out the budget, CPI targets and paying conversion targets for the month. Based on that, we try to estimate the revenue for the month and highest number of paying users. Once we have that plan, the UA team makes sure we bring as many payers into the game to hit that target, and the game team makes sure those users are monetized well so we can hit the revenue target.” 

FTUE, UA, and PMs

Jon: “Slot is a niche product, and a lot of the users we’re acquiring through UA channels are existing users - whether they’re existing mobile slot users from our portfolio or other slot games. The FTUE (first time user experience) experience was really teaching someone how to play slots. That’s like teaching a world poker champion how to play poker for the first time. It didn’t make much sense. 

So we took a step back along with the product manager and designer to reexamine how that flow should work, taking a look at who we’re acquiring from user acquisition channels. For example, if we’re running a value-based lookalike campaign on our payers and acquiring them on Facebook, we can safely assume that some of these users are existing slot players and have likely paid sometime in their lifetime. Should we then give them the same FTUE experience that teaches them how to play slots? If not, how can we redesign that experience that accentuates the value proposition of the game, without making them feel like we’re taking them back to kindergarten? That gave us deep insights into not just the design of the FTUE but also the rest of the user lifecycle.”

Ad monetization today

Jon: “When I first started Playstudios and then at Smule, ad monetization wasn’t integrated into the gameflow in a way that was truly maximizing efficiency. In the last few years though we’ve seen an acceptance in the industry of ad monetization as another tool in our toolset - no different than IAPs or developing a new feature. Now that executives are on board, seeing what Zynga is doing for example with ad monetization, it’s come to a point where we’re even looking for someone who will be doing ad monetization full time and work closely with product. Part of it is basic waterfall management and fill management, but it’s also working with the product teams to design placement and A/B test how to best show an ad without interrupting the user experience.” 

Integrating UA teams within product teams

Jon: “About 4 years ago, we already saw the introduction of integrated UA teams within product. However, at the time, most of these teams were simply there to acquire users and that’s it. There wasn’t any additional collaboration into how to design the flow better. It really depends on the size of the company - in a company below 50 people, you’re forced into a position where everyone has to wear more than one hat. You can be UA but probably also have a deep understanding of how product works and collaborate closely. In the last year or so, we’re seeing a revisit of integrated UA teams within product, and more of this collaboration across companies of various sizes. The industry as a whole is understanding that as monetization is becoming more complex and customized, we need a collaborative effort to provide unified messaging - whether that’s in CRM or retargeting. It’s necessary for all the stakeholders to work together.”

When collaboration doesn’t work

Nebo: “It’s really hard to align UA and PMs. It took us a long time to figure out a common language. It takes a while to teach everyone on the team about the goals, and why acquiring users on Facebook is different than acquiring users on offerwalls or rewarded video. Once you figure out the best way to communicate, the relationship starts growing and we each start understanding more complex aspects of the other team.”

Sitting together

Jon: “There’s this idea of physically being closer together. At Playstudios, the teams don’t look at each other according to function, like ‘you’re UA, you’re CRM, you’re engineering.’ They look at the product as one team. For the game Konami, the live ops manager was seated next to the person managing UA who’s sitting next to the product manager and engineers. There was a clear understanding of the business needs and requirements. From that, each respective team designed together how their different functions can serve to hit their goal. 

For example, the first time I heard the words agile or scrum, I had no idea what they meant. But overtime, I learned this is how an engineer thinks, which ultimately allowed us to find that universal language so we could optimize the process between teams. BI has 100 things to prioritize. How can I help BI understand what my business needs are to help the company so they can prioritize UA problems?” 

Setting a single goal together

Nebo: “It all starts from senior management, who define common goals for the product. There’s no pointing fingers when we all have the same goal. The UA team can’t blame the game team for not monetizing users well enough, if they have the same goal and work together on hitting that goal. That way, people are more focused on action than on blaming each other, which can happen in big companies. 

In our case, we have daily meetings where we go over high level metrics to understand if there have been any changes in the game that could potentially impact UA. We go over our ROI numbers from the last few days and look into the event performance. Then we try to understand what we can do next week to improve performance. They’re not long discussions, just a few minutes where we update each other. The key here is to have a process and be transparent with each other.”

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