While there are some pretty intuitive ways of tracking your game’s success, it can be tough to convert those insights into growth and retention strategies.
Given all of the metrics that are touted as the next best thing at helping you improve your marketing or your monetization, it can be pretty easy to get lost in all of the noise.
Fortunately, we’re here to help. The following post captures the three main types of metrics that mobile game product managers should prioritize in order to maximize their game’s success.
If you segment these measures into three main categories—acquisition, retention, and monetization—you will see a clear road map to improving your game company’s value.
But first, let’s define what we mean when we say “success.”
Measure your game’s success by unifying your data
The meaning of “success” can be different from one mobile game to another, but three categories stand out as areas for optimization across the board:
- User acquisition
- User retention
- App monetization
Your ability to visualize the relationship between your acquisition, retention, and monetization metrics can provide fantastic insights into your game’s growth and profitability strategy.
Typically, data unification is done through a data warehouse, which is a large storage solution that houses all of the data from a wide range of sources.
So, why do I need a data warehouse? Well, if all of your data is unified in one place, you can get a more accurate picture of how each of these key areas—acquisition, retention, and monetization—influence one another.
We’ve addressed how to go about building a data warehouse on our blog in the past, but the gist of it is simple: having a single storage solution for all of your metrics increases their value by making them easy to compare and correlate with one another.
Here’s a real-world example: If you unify your metrics, you will be able to measure which marketing campaigns have been the most successful for your mobile game. Which of your campaigns, whether it’s Facebook Ads or Google AdWords, produces the most valuable customer? Which one is more profitable? Which one is more likely to churn?
If you have a data warehouse, these kinds of questions are a breeze to answer.
Data unification is a lot more useful than “connecting the dots” through the different dashboards of your metrics services. By putting your insights side by side, you’re taking advantage of your metrics in ways that you may have not thought were possible.
Check out CoolaData’s data unification service if you’re interested in learning more.
The 3 Main Types of Metrics You Need to Track
Each of the metrics listed below has been categorized according to the three main categories of success for mobile games.
Let’s work step by step through the user lifecycle and see which metrics can help you optimize your growth and profitability strategy.
Key User Acquisition Metrics
1. New users
Knowing how many new users start playing your game in a particular month can really help visualize the growth of your application.
If you keep your eye on the growth of your app, you will be able to quantify which marketing channel works best: whether that’s SEO, paid ads, social media communities, or other marketing avenues.
Growth comes from both new users and channel-specific metrics
2. Daily active users (DAU)
This is a great day-to-day metric to keep an eye on: daily active users (DAU) measures the number of unique users that participate in at least one session of your game.
While this metric doesn’t define your game’s performance, it is a great way to understand if the app has become a part of users’ day-to-day life.
Specifically, DAU is important for games that are looking for a way to go viral. Keeping track of DAU means always keeping your hand on the pulse of your userbase; DAU can let you know what engagement and monetization strategies are or aren’t working in a matter of days.
Another great metric that keeps track of the development of your customer referral strategy is called the k-factor. Your game’s k-factor is the amount of invites sent by each customer of your application multiplied by the conversion of each invite.
The k-factor can be calculated as:
The k-factor neatly summarizes the effectiveness of your referral growth strategy, making it a quantifiable metric that can then be compared at different times in your game’s development in order to measure the effectiveness of your approach.
4. Number of invites sent / DAU
This metric is an offshoot of the k-factor metric, outlined above. Instead of measuring your referral conversion rate, however, this metric gives you a more comprehensive picture of how well your referral program is retaining the users that have downloaded and played your app.
5. Percent of users acquired virally
If you segment your total number of users by the amount of users you’ve acquired virally, you can pinpoint which marketing strategy works best for increasing your game’s chances of going viral.
After you are tracking your virality metrics, you’ll be able to segment the information even further: by source, by geographical location, and by time of day or year, among others.
Overall, your key acquisition metrics are some of the best ways of staying on top of user acquisition. With the power of data unification, these metrics can show you really effective details about the features of your game that could make it go viral.
Key User Retention Metrics
The first metric to look at when evaluating your retention strategy, is, well, your retention score.
To calculate the retention rate of your game, separate your users into smart cohorts based on the day of acquisition.
Then, monitor how they are interacting with the game on day 1, 3, 7 and 30 to understand if you’ve been able to hook their interest effectively, or if you’re losing their attention gradually.
Seeing how your retention scores interact with other parts of your strategy—such as monetization or acquisition—can really shed light on what makes your users tick. All of the other metrics below will help you optimize your retention score by helping to get your users more invested in your game.
2. Engagement score
The user engagement score is a single metric used to measure how engaged your players are when they’re playing your game. It is represented by a number based on the user activity and the number of sessions a user has on a day-to-day basis.
Segmenting and analyzing user behavior using the engagement score as an identifying feature of your cohort is the best way to find out how to convert your un-engaged user into engaged, well-paying customers.
3. Number of sessions per user
A good place to start with retention metrics is the number of sessions that a user goes through per day.
If you know how often your users are logging into your app or using it on a day-to-day basis, you can be extra sure that you have the right engagement tools in place to make sure these users keep coming back for more.
4. Drop-off rates
Now, if some of these users aren’t being engaged, that means they’re dropping off.
If you want to keep users engaged in your game, you need to ensure they know how to get through all of the steps of your game: the tutorial, the first level, and so on.
Sometimes, you need to acknowledge that users might get stuck and drop off from playing your game. The drop offs could be due to many reasons: the game might be too complicated or the player might have lost interest.
Finding these weak points is crucial: they can help revitalize your game and make your business model a lot more sustainable.
5. Session duration
Session duration can help you understand how hooked your players are to your game. If you see why users are increasingly coming back, you can find out what elements are keeping people hooked and why.
Compare the behavior of users with high average session duration with that of churned users, and reap the reward of knowing how you can turn the latter into the former.
6. User walk
It is important to measure how your active users change from week to week—to do that, you’ll need to know your user walk.
User walk measures several things: how many new installs your application gets, how many of those installs are reactivated users, and how many of these new installs are gradually moving toward a churn, all organized by user cohort.
Simply put, user walk provides an in-depth view of the lifecycle stages of your customers. If you divide these user walks by profitability, you can find your most profitable user lifecycle and try and funnel the rest of your user base through the same steps.
7. Daily active users / Monthly active users (DAU/MAU) ratio
The ratio of your daily active users to monthly active users is an indicator of the stickiness of your game in a specific market. This number is a reflection of how frequently users are logging into your app, making it easier to identify where you lack engagement and retention strategies.
8. Source, sink, and flow metrics
These three metrics only make sense if your game has a built-in currency system.
The source metric indicates the amount of currency a user has earned as they progress through the game.
The sink metric indicates the stages at which a user needs to spend the currency to move forward or compete with other players.
Finally, the flow metric is a measure of both sources and sinks: it is the total balance of currency that a player has earned and spent over a period of time. This metric allows you to see how you can nudge a player toward in-app conversions or purchases.
If you know how your users spend their in-game currency, you will be able to richly understand user engagement and the thought process of the people playing your game.
9. Start, fail and complete metrics
The start metric is a measure of the number of times, on average, one of your players has started a new level.
On the other hand, the fail metric is the measure of how many times a user has started a level but wasn’t able to complete it.
The complete metric is the count of how many times the user has been successfully able to complete a level.
The three metrics are important to analyzing the learning curve of your game. By knowing the difficulty of your game in practice, you can effectively adjust your user engagement and increase your retention.
Key Monetization Metric
1. Customer lifetime value (LTV)
The user lifetime value refers to the amount of net profit you’re generating from a user before they churn from the app or stop converting on in-app purchases.
Similar to the acquisition metrics and the retention metrics outlined above, this measure is the “pulse” of your strategy—if it’s going up, that means your tactics are working!
In order to measure your customers’ LTV, you need to compare the average gross profit that you make off of each user, then multiply it by your profit margin, and then divide the whole thing by your churn rate.
2. User acquisition cost (UAC)
Ideally, your goal is to make sure that your LTV is three times higher than your user acquisition cost (UAC).
User acquisition is the amount of marketing acquisition costs that you will need to spend in order to acquire a single user. This metric is calculated by dividing all the costs spent on acquiring customers by the number of customers actually you have acquired during this period.
This metric is a key indicator of resource optimization and needs to be tracked closely to maximize ROIs on acquisition strategies.
3. Average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU)
Unlike LTV, this metric is a lot more flexible: it allows you to understand how the game is performing on a day-to-day basis.
If you track this before and during user acquisition campaigns, you’ll able to carefully segment your users by acquisition source and find out which platform work best for their app.
4. Average revenue per paying user (ARPPU)
This metric measures the subset of users who have successfully converted on an in-game purchase. This may vary from app to app, based on the genre of the game.
Most hardcore games tend to see higher ARPPU, at least compared to more casual games that appeal to a broader audience.
5. Average transaction value
This metric is an insight into the average amount a user is willing to pay for an in-game upgrade or currency.
If you measure average transaction value on a weekly or biweekly period from a user’s point of acquisition, you’ll be able to quickly make adjustments to your pricing model and measure the results that has on LTV, retention, and on acquisition.
The Right Way of Measuring Success
If you want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your metrics, you need to unify your data from your acquisition, retention, and monetization channels.
By combining your acquisition and retention data, you can gain powerful insights into which markets bring you the most stable and satisfied customers.
By combining retention and monetization, you’re able to quickly see what kind of user behavior translates into your most profitable users.
Doing it the old way would mean individually scraping data from each platform or dashboard, and then unifying those insights in another place. And the kinds of insightful, comparative data outlined above are simply not possible doing it the old way.
A data warehouse could help unify and compare the data from your social media, email, ads, app store, in-app solutions and more in order to get the bigger picture of your success strategy. Smart tools like Cooladata, however, can do that all for you on a unified dashboard.
Since a product manager’s job isn’t going get any easier, how about we make it more efficient?