How Fyber’s Offer Wall helped IMVU avoid revenue collapse
Last year we saw a client’s primary revenue stream upended by changes to the App Store. The tech giant announced a total ban on cost per install (CPI) and cost per engagement (CPE) advertising within an offer wall, leading to forecasts that some developers could see revenues collapse by as much as 70%.
In an undertaking designed to prevent manipulation of the app chart, Apple banned CPI and CPE offers within an offer wall, which rewards users for installing other games and apps, and also for completing defined actions in them. Our client, IMVU, the online metaverse and a stalwart of social networking, was one of those projected to be affected by the announcement – estimating a 60% slump in revenue for the remainder of 2019. But despite fears of a tempest, the storm never landed: IMVU today is thriving, maintaining strong average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU) and effective cost per thousand impressions (eCPMs). Where IMVU has succeeded others have, no doubt, fallen. So how did they do it?
Weather the storm
First, we must look at the game itself. IMVU’s digital world has a robust virtual economy rooted in social interactions. The virtual currency, IMVU Credits, is part of the game’s core loop – its primary mechanic – allowing users to consume digital goods that personalise or express their character. New content is always being created, resulting in more opportunities for in-app consumption, keeping users engaged for longer periods of time, leading to higher engagement and, subsequently, higher lifetime value (LTV) per user.
Second is the game’s dynamics. Comprising the aforementioned economy are some 50 million virtual goods, exchanged at high volumes by players in a marketplace. The success of this ecosystem strongly suggested that users would respond positively to completing offer wall transactions as a means to continue participating in the economy and game play. So when Apple’s iOS policy changes happened, these elements combined protected IMVU against a severe drop in revenue, allowing it to continue its efforts on improving the in-app experience, including expanding rooms to host up to 1,000 concurrent users. IMVU did not need to scramble to find alternative revenue drivers.
Focus on community
IMVU is ‘sticky’; its users are highly invested in the game. Avatar-based social games such as IMVU offer a strong sense of community, connection and online friendship – a notion only exacerbated by the current lockdown. As a general rule it doesn’t get abandoned by comparison, and it’s hard to leave for a competitor because of the connection the end user has with the game. Those that return are more likely to both spend and participate in the offer wall, since this allows them to progress further in the game.
One aspect IMVU has always worked to negate is the impact an offer wall might have on the gameplay. Bombarding users with offers and ads is usually a surefire way to ensure they never come back. With this in mind, the IMVU Credits page sits separately, offering one tab for in-app purchase (IAP) options, and another tab for options to earn Credits through its offer wall.
Users must deliberately visit the Credits page. The ad format is opt-in and undisruptive to the gameplay. Instead, it is additive, in the sense that the offer wall complements IAP and provides users with the option to earn just a little bit more IMVU Credits to purchase their next virtual item, be that a new dress, sneakers, or elements to a hangout room.
Seize the opportunity
When it came to actually implementing and populating the offer wall with inventory, IMVU sought a monetization partner that would help it to navigate the post-apocalypse landscape. Tasked with capturing as much demand as possible, IMVU hired my company, Fyber, to work closely with its demand team to educate advertisers in its sales pitch about IMVU’s high-quality traffic, and to familiarise advertisers with the incentivized space.
With the ban on CPI and CPE offers in its offer wall, we saw not a problem, but an opportunity to test the performance of cost per acquisition (CPA) campaigns. Incentives to install others games, or for completing actions in them, were replaced with survey offers, trial subscriptions offers, direct-to-consumer offerings and more.
Users responded well to CPA campaigns. For example, they liked the ability to get coins or gems through non-invasive questions (like surveys) as opposed to having to download and play another game to receive the reward. Effectively, a user could continue to play in the game she was already in, which improved the user experience.
Ensuring that these new CPA offers were relevant to users further defined IMVU’s success through Fyber. Fyber has made continuous investments to its DR/CPA business in the last couple of years as part of an effort to help publishers diversify their offer wall demand. Our optimization algorithm ranks the most relevant and revenue-generating offers on top to maximize engagement rates. As a result, publishers saw ARPDAUs increase up to 11%.
In addition, with Apple’s rearrangement, we saw an opportunity to make product changes that would increase Android revenues to compensate for the loss of iOS revenues. To name a couple, we developed a re-engagement feature to show users the status of their in-progress offers, with the goal of driving them to complete the offer. We likewise made UI/UX changes to include a difficulty meter and step-by-step guidance for how to complete an offer. Many users did not know how to complete an offer, or thought they had completed one when, in reality, they had not. These sorts of incremental changes made a big difference overall.
This year, for what it is worth, has been apocalyptic in another sense. The downturn currently diminishing brand advertising budgets has changed forecasts again for innumerable companies. Here we are again seeing success, though. Offer wall has always been performance driven, unaffected by the decrease in brand budgets.
We’re seeing new campaigns from brands that have an app offering but don’t fall into the categories one might assume, such as food delivery and streaming platforms. Increased access to consumer attention is driving an uptick in apps running user acquisition campaigns: across both iOS and Android, impressions and conversions are both up significantly since the outbreak.
The time to invest is now, while everyone is at home using tech, and while competitors might be slashing their marketing budgets. Faced with a seismic event last year, we’ve proven that a problem can be turned into an opportunity in no time at all. Here’s to doing the same again this year.