The winter holidays will soon be here, and that’s great news for marketers. 

For most mobile gamers, the holidays are the perfect time to curl up with your favorite games and recharge between family functions. This excess leisure time consistently leads to one of the highest annual spikes in mobile game sessions and ad impressions. It’s the kind of inventory surplus that comes but once a year, and you need only look at last year’s holiday engagement numbers to see that there’s nothing quite like it. In 2018, for example, we saw a 20% increase in average sessions per day during the holiday season, and we expect comparable lift for 2019.

This year, we surveyed 8,000 mobile gamers to learn more about their holiday preferences and the role mobile ads play in their seasonal shopping plans. Here’s a few things we found out:

We’ve summarized these insights and more in the article below, but if you’d like to view all our findings, click the button below to view the full infographic:




For more insights from our 2019 Mobile Gamer survey, read on!


How often will mobile gamers play over the holiday?

As mentioned above, 68% of mobile gamers have plans to get in some serious additional gaming time over the holiday break. 41% of respondents intend to play three additional hours or more during the holidays, going above and beyond their usual play habits.

With rewarded ad placements increasingly becoming one of the most common methods of mobile game monetization, all that extra gaming time also translates into a massive increase in rewarded ad inventory. This means favorable media buying conditions for advertisers and mobile marketers looking to get their message out in advance of the holiday rush.

Holiday Mobile Game Engagement


What gifts do mobile gamers intend to purchase this year?

The holiday season is a time of gift-giving, and in 2019 a significant portion of these gifts will be purchased digitally. 82% of surveyed mobile gamers intend to make their holiday purchases online or through mobile apps. Approximately 73% of respondents will make four or more separate purchases from their mobile devices. The opportunities for app-based shopping will continue to grow — an important consideration when 58% of respondents intend to spend over $250 this season.

One of our most compelling findings centers around subscription box businesses and their massive popularity among mobile gamers. 72% plan to purchase a subscription box as a gift this holiday season, the most popular types are listed here in descending order:

Holiday Mobile Game Subscritpions


Which movies will mobile gamers watch this holiday season?

For the majority of respondents, the holiday season is an excellent opportunity to catch up on the latest films. Approximately 55% of mobile gamers intend to visit a theater as part of this year’s festivities. Most respondents will choose which movie to watch based on film trailers, followed closely by word-of-mouth from friends and critical reviews. If a marketer ever needed a reason to deploy a full-screen video into a mobile game, this would be it!

When it comes to 2019’s movie-viewing choices, most respondents prefer family-friendly affairs they can watch with children. There is one exception this year: Black Christmas inched into the top five thanks to gamers who want a little horror with their holiday cheer.

  1. Jumanji: The Next Level
  2. Frozen 2
  3. Charlie’s Angels
  4. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  5. Black Christmas. 


Reach mobile gamers using Tapjoy’s advertising network

Holiday advertising can be a difficult challenge for any brand marketer. Thankfully, Tapjoy can help you connect with your ideal mobile customers. For more information on setting up a holiday promotional campaign, click the button below contact our mobile advertising experts today!


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In the Tapjoy App Spotlight, we take a deep dive into the engagement, retention, and monetization strategies employed across the mobile industry’s most unique and successful titles. Through industry data-driven analysis, we identify the measurable relationships between development decisions and business outcomes to offer publishers actionable insights they can use to build successful portfolios.

After more than a year in app stores, the mobile version of the popular PC game ARK: Survival Evolved has achieved a remarkable level of sustained success. Translating this massive multiplayer survival experience from PC to mobile was no small feat. War Drum Studios began with an ambitious vision to load the mobile app with a full suite of features, and they worked closely with Studio Wildcard to make it happen.

This on-the-go version features the full online survival experience contained in the PC and console versions of ARK, including a gigantic island to explore, 80+ dinosaurs and primeval creatures to tame and train, multiplayer tribe mechanics, and of course, crafting and building.

Studio Wildcard

Thanks to ARK’s brand recognition, unique design, and an aggressive content release cycle, the mobile app has already become massively popular. With minimal paid user acquisition and an innovative adaptation of its native PC gameplay loop, War Drum Studios has managed to execute a seamless transition into mobile environments, fostering engagement with an expansive and valuable new audience.


Key Insights

  1. How War Drum Studios made the leap from desktop to mobile
  2. A steady stream of new content keeps users engaged
  3. ARK’s rewarded monetization & IAP strategy
  4. Brand recognition fuels the app’s current performance
  5. Global Android Reviews
  6. Global iOS Reviews
  7. Conclusion: ARK is far from extinct


How War Drum Studios made the leap from desktop to mobile

From the start, War Drum Studios set out to simplify mechanics without compromising aesthetics. While the title had to be optimized for the limitations of mobile interfaces, it was imperative that this not come at the cost of the exploration and discovery experiences to which the PC version owed its success. That said, fitting ARK’s expansive open-world survival gameplay onto mobile devices presented a number of technical and design challenges, some of which Art Director Morgan Hughes discussed in a presentation at the 2019 Unreal Engine Conference. What was originally intended for long-term, curiosity-driven gaming sessions on desktop would need to be scaled down to offer meaningful and compelling gameplay interactions at a fraction of the time and with fewer input capabilities.

Features had to be cut and systems rejigged. The number of in-game creatures was reduced to roughly 80 in the interest of concision and size while user interface elements were scaled up to accommodate touchscreen inputs on tablets and phones. A more forgiving combat system was introduced in order to fuel a time-based virtual economy that promoted regular scheduled engagement at shorter intervals as opposed to longer sessions.

The cold-open approach to survival gameplay that’s common to desktop survival titles also had to be replaced, knowing that mobile users are often likely to churn within even the first few seconds of gameplay. A more curated experience was developed, as War Drum Studios added a linear quest system designed to better orient players with its mobile-specific systems and encourage pursuit of meaningful rewards as early as possible. Players were introduced to all aspects of the virtual economy, including rewarded ad placements and power of premium currency, within the first intended session. This ensured they were well educated by the time the game’s open-world aesthetics were reintroduced and monetization strategies could be put into place.

Finally, by treating the mobile version of ARK as its own entity, the developers at War Drum Studios were able to give players experiences that are exclusive to this version. Speaking with Tapjoy, War Drum Studio’s Lead Community Manager Jordan Kleeman said, “Since we treat this as a separate product from the PC and console game, there’s lots of things we’ll do that are unique to the mobile game, like weekly dungeons. This sort of mobile-only content keeps a steady stream of users coming back to ARK week after week.”


A steady stream of new content keeps users engaged

The mobile version of ARK: Survival Evolved is unique in its approach to user acquisition, in that it makes little to no use of paid advertising. While paid UA is often a staple of mobile game marketing strategies, they are actually the minority contributor to the title’s DAU. Organic acquisition, thanks in large part to its existing brand recognition and frequent content release cycle, has been sufficient to drive a steady flow of high quality installs for the entire year that it’s been in the market.

A quick glance at the game’s version history shows that it’s not uncommon for the developers at War Drum Studios to push 1-3 and sometimes even five releases per month. Each update involves exciting new content, rather than just bug fixes. Kleeman regularly releases developer update videos which review upcoming app features. The studio’s commitment to fresh content allows them to consistently reactivate their existing player base with update notifications for fresh content, ready to be consumed.

As Kleeman told us, these updates are “incredibly important” to ARK’s ongoing mobile success. “The games industry is moving more and more towards live service games,” he said. “It was important to us… to make sure that we’re constantly releasing new things to keep our players engaged and give them reasons to keep coming back.”

This is the kind of developer activity keeps users equally engaged, and that sustained user engagement has earned ARK a substantial visibility in the app stores. ARK: Survival Evolved has benefited from hundreds of store category/country feature placements on the Google Play store in the past month alone. ARK has been featured across 16 countries in the following categories:

Many of these featured placements have been in the “Best New Updates” section, which provides a visibility boost in addition to the natural spike in DAU resulting from update notifications that players receive whenever new content is released. Frequent content updates have kept players engaged and a strong relationship with store platforms has kept ARK visible to new users allowing for continued organic growth. It’s this virtuous flywheel that has allowed War Drum Studios to consistently keep ARK in the charts. These app store features have enabled ARK to maintain a consistently high rate of new downloads, despite the absence of a paid UA strategy.


Estimated July 2019 Downloads (via SensorTower)


ARK’s Rewarded Monetization & IAP Strategy

Unlike desktop, ARK’s mobile version employs the free-to-play business model. Revenue is generated through rewarded ad placements and in-app purchases; according to Kleeman, “the split is probably 30% ad revenue, 70% in-app purchases, with most ad revenue coming from our offerwall and rewarded ad placements.” ARK uses rewarded ads as part of their core engagement loop, providing players the ability to level up, progress through content faster, or acquire the Ancient Amber virtual currency. The app also offers a number of “free gifts” in the form of valuable objects, including food, medicine, or armor. These free gifts can be acquired by watching a rewarded video ad every two hours.

As the game’s only hard currency, Ancient Amber figures prominently into ARK’s virtual economy. The use-cases of this currency are tied directly to gameplay mechanics, as opposed to timers or cooldowns. While this can lead to a relatively low average revenue per paying user in other game genres, the sophistication of ARK’s gameplay systems and economy design provides ample opportunity for players to derive value from repeat purchases. Paying users typically convert on multiple premium items, making for an active late-game community responsible for generating the majority of the game’s revenue.

That said, ARK does offer things like timers and cooldowns too. “We have a wealth of in-app purchases,” Kleeman explained. “‘Paying for convenience’ is sort of our motto for the items we sell in-game.”

To further cultivate this dynamic, War Drum Studios employed a VIP program monetization strategy. It uses the relatively new subscription based monetization functionality provided by Google and Apple to offer its most devoted players a better class of gameplay experience designed around frequent engagement. The “Primal Pass” IAP can be purchased on a monthly or annual basis and includes the following features:


Estimated July 2019 Revenue (via SensorTower)


Ark Survival Evolved


Brand recognition fuels the app’s current performance

ARK’s powerful brand recognition has allowed it to sustain consistent profitability and reach. The decision to optimize in-game assets for older devices allowed it to thrive in geos where current gen device adoption is lower. At the time of writing, App Annie data places ARK’s Android version among the top 10 grossing Android apps within Mexico (#6), Ecuador (#7), Saudi Arabia (#7), Colombia (#9), and India (#10).

“We knew making the transition from console and PC to mobile would be a challenge, but our investments in mobile-specific game aesthetics paid off. ARK is also a powerful brand, and that brand recognition has been a primary driver of our success on mobile. Our PC community is already highly active and engaged, and many of these same users have taken the liberty to review our mobile edition publicly and positively. There’s always active discussion on our forum regarding the ARK app and we are incredibly grateful for this vibrant community.” – Marc Diana, VP of Partnerships and Marketing at Studio Wildcard.

In addition to the top grossing charts, ARK benefits from prominent visibility in its gaming sub-category charts on both Android and iOS

This sustained community engagement and consistently high review scores have increased the app’s visibility radically, resulting in a steady flow of organic downloads.

Global Android Reviews

Ark Android reviews

Key:    = # of positive reviews,     = # of negative reviews


Global iOS Reviews

Ark iOS reviews


ARK is far from extinct

War Drum Studios has managed to translate unique open-world gameplay, varied monetization strategies, and a strong content development machine onto mobile platforms in order to make ARK: Survival Evolved a major success story. Though theirs might not be the most universal approach, it’s a valuable reminder not to underestimate the potential of a strong franchise to navigate new environments and generate value for its creators.


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In 2019, some user acquisition professionals are spending less time on manual optimization thanks to advancements in machine learning and automation. Growth marketers have the opportunity to refocus their efforts on creative optimization. Beauty subscription brand IPSY takes this to the next level with their data-driven creative A/B testing tactics.

Tapjoy met with VP of Growth at IPSY, Alessandra Sales, to talk about how her digital marketing experience fed into IPSY’s love of tech and helped her succeed in the mobile marketplace.


What We Learned:


Hi Alessandra. Can you start by telling us about yourself and your role within IPSY?

I joined IPSY about a year ago as the VP of Growth, focusing on acquisition and advocacy. In marketing, “growth” is a nebulous objective, but my primary focus is acquiring new high-value subscribers. I strategize about brand building and top of funnel objectives, but I also work on reducing churn and converting users who don’t make it to the transaction stage. I also work with the team to promote the option to upgrade subscription packages among existing users. We have the Glam Bag, which is our classic subscription, and then we have two more products — the Glam Bag Plus and the Glam Bag Ultimate. Our team is cross-functional: We have engineers, product managers, creative designers, and UA managers.


You’ve worked in a variety of marketing and user acquisition roles for brands like IPSY, Smule, and Zoosk. What makes D2C beauty brands stand out in their approach to mobile growth marketing? In what ways are they similar to other businesses?

In my previous roles, I marketed software and services, but now I am promoting a physical product. In general, the approach to brand marketing is pretty similar. We leverage similar channels. We are very strong with social because our demographic is skewed towards females.

Because we are selling physical products, the strategy is inherently different than that of software companies. Non-digital marketing tactics like direct mail can be very powerful. Branding is also critical because we exist in a crowded market. It’s very important to connect with new subscribers, but also to grow the power of the brand.


What mobile advertising formats or creatives have the biggest impact for IPSY? What makes them resonate with your target audience?

Video is the most successful ad format we employ. It’s particularly effective for direct response campaigns. We highlight real people from our community, and that resonates with our audience. Unboxing videos, bag reviews, and testimonials are very effective. Rewarded advertising that incentivizes certain actions or engagements works well.


What are the most important metrics D2C brands like IPSY should monitor closely, and why?

Because it’s a subscription business, we have two major KPIs: Subscribers acquired every month and every quarter, and churn rates. We use machine learning to analyze our users’ risk of churning, and to segment users who might be ready to upgrade. Some users might have a better LTV upgrading, while others will have a higher LTV if they stay on the basic package. We also use this data to see how we ought to target them.


What kind of considerations go into IPSY’s A/B testing that are unique compared to the broader D2C ecosystem?

We A/B test at every opportunity. We do a lot of tests on social because it’s easy to test on Facebook and Instagram. Our campaigns are typically broad, and each ad set within that campaign has a specific creative theme. We select variants around messaging and visuals. For example, we may test variables such as copy, photography, music, and ad focus (i.e. product-focused vs. people-focused). All of our tests are hypothesis-based. These A/B tests are very rigorous, and IPSY is special in that sense. We have a team of 70 creatives who assist with growth initiatives.


What best practices would you recommend for retailers who have just started expanding their mobile marketing presence?

The most valuable thing about digital marketing is that you can test at a fast pace and get results at a fast pace. Make sure that you have a robust data infrastructure to make the right decisions.


Effective data management is a growing priority for many brands. How does IPSY manage its data infrastructure, and what kind of impact has that had for the organization?

Data is what makes us different from other retailers and commerce companies. We make sure that both the product and the data is as good as it can get. We try to be as rigorous as possible in data collection and management, so that the data can guide us effectively. Like most D2C brands, we own the entire conversion funnel. We track everything from the moment they land on our page.


How do you increase subscriber LTV at IPSY? What kind of marketing strategies show strong results?

The primary way we increase subscriber LTV is by using machine learning to target users with the right push at the right moment in the funnel. We’ve found that the best way to increase user LTV and retention is by giving a personalized and delightful experience every month. We carry many different brands and products, and based on quiz presences and previous ratings we decide which products to send you.


What are the biggest risks and challenges D2C brands face in terms of mobile marketing? What can be done to address them?

Competition is the biggest challenge. When we compete in the mobile marketplace, we also go up against brands who are not our direct competitors. For example, fashion subscriptions become our competitors on mobile. In a mobile app campaign, my bid is also going up against a mobile game bid.


What would you say is the biggest industry trend (or trends) within the mobile advertising space right now? Where do you see it headed in the next few years?

Developers are getting smarter. When I started working in marketing, there were a lot of manual optimizations made by the UA team. In the past, DR marketers were optimization freaks out of necessity. Now, thanks to advances in automation and signal optimization, we’ve freed up their day-to-day to focus on other non-analytical tasks. Facebook is following the automation trend, and soon 100% of the ecosystem will be doing the same. Because of these advances, marketing departments have become more multifaceted — instead of being made up exclusively of analytical types, there are often a few creatives in the room as well.


What has IPSY done really well? What achievements are you proud of?

Even before I started working here, I was a big admirer of IPSY. I was a subscriber and I love their growth hacking strategies. For example, they introduced a waitlist, and there was this great referral program. That enabled the company to scale its user base when demand rose above fulfillment capabilities. People could get off the waitlist if they share how great IPSY is on social media. About 50% of users were using this trick, and they got the bag a few days after they subscribed instead of having to wait. We also created a strong influencer program in the early days. We have about 8,000 influencers that we work with in the US, and we have a stellar relationship with them. Our office in LA has four studios and we let influencers use them for free — that’s one of the perks of being an ambassador. We also host events throughout the US, and people respond really well to that.

Tapjoy would like to thank Alessandra Sales for taking the time to join us. For more insights from our Mobile Champions, check out our interview with Susan Borst, VP of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

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Offerwall monetization can be incredibly effective for mobile developers. It provides an engaging opt-in monetization option for users, increasing ad revenue and improving overall engagement.

However, it isn’t a fit for every app. Offerwalls drive revenue by providing value, and they can’t do that if your game or app doesn’t leverage a few fundamental parts of traditional freemium app design. In this article, we’ll walk through some key questions every developer should ask themselves before committing resources to an offerwall integration.

  1. Does Your Game Have A Virtual Economy?
  2. Would Your Community Respond Well To An Offerwall?
  3. Will Offerwall Monetization Positively Impact Your Virtual Economy?
  4. Can You Ensure Visibility For The Offerwall?


1. Does Your Game Have A Virtual Economy?

One of the main benefits of a in-app offerwall is that it provides players with an extra avenue to further engage with the games they love when they may not wish to make an in-app purchase. Like many aspects of free-to-play games, offerwalls depend on a strong relationship between supply and demand. If interaction with your game’s core features doesn’t depend on some element of a virtual economy, offerwalls might not be a right fit.

If your game does include a virtual currency based economy, then offerwalls likely have a place in your core engagement loop. They are most effective when they serve as a source of currency that’s in particularly high demand. In freemium economy terms, this is typically referred to as a game’s “hard currency”.

Unlike soft currency, which players can typically earn through gameplay, hard currency is more valuable and is typically kept scarce to foster demand. It’s this high demand that motivates players to complete IAPs, but can also be channeled into providing value for developers through offerwalls and other kinds of rewarded ads.

Concerns over IAP cannibalization have been widely disproven by a variety of industry studies, including our own. In fact, offerwalls have been found, in many cases, to increase conversion rates and average spend per user by fostering greater levels of overall engagement. With that in mind, it’s still important to take a qualitative look at your user base and consider what it could mean to them.


2. Would Your Community Respond Well To An Offerwall?

Many games are solitary entertainment experiences, but some let players interact with each other, giving rise to organic community interactions on social media, subreddits, fan sites and Discord channels. Many developers come to depend on these communities for organic user acquisition and retention. Before adding an offerwall, ask yourself what impact it might have on your community dynamic.

It’s been our experience that when it comes to free-to-play titles, most communities would benefit from adding an additional currency source. Rewarded ad placements of any kind can often end up in blog posts and articles shared by experienced players in an effort to help newcomers.

Starting fresh with offerwalls integrated at launch is one sure-fire way to ensure that they’re well received. If you’re updating an existing app to include an offerwall, it’s a good idea to notify your community through patch notes and social media channels to make sure you get the word out.


3. Will Offerwall Monetization Positively Impact Your Virtual Economy?

While economies of any kind can quickly get complex, they’re fundamentally comprised of two things: sinks and sources. Sinks are any opportunity for players to spend currency, and sources are ways to earn it. It’s critical that these two are kept in constant balance in order to fuel engagement. Too many sinks and players might get frustrated. Too many sources and they won’t have anything to aspire to.

Adding an offerwall means introducing a potentially powerful source into your game economy, and so they perform best as part of an economy with an equal or greater number of sinks. These come in many forms, but can include any of the standard freemium economy drivers, including:

If your game or app offers players indefinite opportunities to engage meaningfully through hard currency transactions with assets like those listed above, then it’s likely a great fit for offerwall monetization. If you have only a limited number of ways for players to spend currency, consider adding more before finding ways for an offerwall to fit into your overall strategy.

Offerwall Monetization 2


4. Can You Ensure Visibility For The Offerwall?

The revenue generated by any rewarded ad placement is limited by the number of opportunities players have to engage with it. Furthermore, offerwall engagement increases the closer it is to moments in the user experience in which players feel the need for hard currency. If your game or app includes one or more high-traffic bits of UI where players can experience demand for hard currency without interrupting gameplay, then an offerwall is again likely to fit nicely into your economy at large. Some examples of ideal placements include:

Some of these placements drive higher conversions than others. Ideally, each offerwall will have multiple access points in order to maximize engagement. As with any monetization tactic, user experience comes first. If you can integrate an offerwall in such a way that players don’t feel distracted or annoyed by your placement then you’re in good shape for boosting ad revenue, engagement, and retention. Remember – offerwalls is are an opt-in experience for your users.

Implement Offerwall Monetization With Tapjoy

As offerwalls become more common across the in-app ecosystem, it’s crucial to ensure that yours provides a seamless and engaging user experience. That means ensuring full control over things like conversion rates, display frequencies, branding, and more.

If you replied “yes” to one or more of the questions, then we should talk!  As the originators of the mobile offerwall format, we here at Tapjoy have spent more than 10 years perfecting the practice of offerwall monetization and helping countless developers use offerwalls to add a powerful new revenue stream to their business. Click the button below to get in touch with one of our monetization experts and learn more about offerwall monetization with Tapjoy!

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By teaming up with the CAAF, Tapjoy is furthering its commitment to eradicating mobile ad fraud.

At Tapjoy, our goal is to connect advertisers with audiences using engaging, effective, and innovative mobile ad solutions. That also means we’re dedicated to improving the mobile ecosystem at large, and a big part of that is fighting fraud within the mobile advertising industry. That’s why we’re so thrilled to announce that we’ve joined the Coalition Against Ad Fraud (CAAF), an organization formed by Adjust to educate the industry about ad fraud and create measures to fight it.

The CAAF recently celebrated its two-year anniversary; in the time since its 2017 founding, the organization has worked with a number of companies in the mobile industry to create a healthy alliance of networks in the fight against mobile ad fraud. This includes initiatives like Click Validation, an innovative fraud-prevention solution that matches impression data to clicks.

In a statement, Tapjoy’s EVP of Global Ad Sales Sarah Chafer said,

“We are extremely proud to be an official member of the Coalition Against Ad Fraud program. Our focus at Tapjoy is to combat mobile ad fraud by implementing stringent quality standards to maintain a trusted and premium ad platform for our global partners. We commend Adjust for leading the industry forward to ensure a transparent & brand-safe ecosystem for all players.”

With more than 950 million active users per month and an SDK used in over 30,000 apps, Tapjoy is a leading mobile ad platform that specializes in creating meaningful engagement between ads and users. Our partnership with the CAAF will allow us to continue elevating the mobile advertising industry by fighting commonly used types of advertising fraud, enabling us to deliver accurate results. We’re proud to be part of this ongoing effort, and commend Adjust for creating this much-needed coalition.

Looking to get started with a mobile measurement partner? Check out our guide, “How To Choose A Mobile Measurement Partner” to learn more, and turn to the experts at Tapjoy to launch your own successful mobile ad campaign.

Over the past decade, digital marketing has evolved at breakneck speed.

Innovations like artificial intelligence and big data have fundamentally shifted the way retailers interact with customers. Big-box retailers have lost relevance, forcing an unprecedented number of store closures. Meanwhile, digitally native startups are doubling down on their direct to consumer (DTC) marketing strategies. Direct to consumer trends are reshaping retail, and even established brands are paying attention. In fact, Nike reported that its DTC strategy was responsible for 29.6% of its overall revenue in 2017. The brand predicts its DTC sales will grow to $16 billion by 2020.

The direct to consumer trend isn’t disappearing any time soon. In fact, it has catalyzed fundamental changes to the nature of retail, marketing, and customer engagement. DTC marketers have their fingers directly on the pulse of consumers, and this dialogue is shifting consumer expectations. They are asking for personalization, authenticity, and convenience. Here are three direct to consumer trends that are driving big shifts in digital marketing in 2019.



Emerging performance channels come first

Quantifiable marketing has always been central to DTC strategy, but maturing digital channels, such as social media, aren’t delivering the same ROI that they used to. According to data averaged from various market research studies, 67% of users have not purchased “from” nor directly within social. Impressions simply aren’t translating into customers, and customer acquisition costs are higher than ever. In light of these shifts, DTC marketers now see a bigger impact from emerging channels than existing ones. However, even testing comes with risks — that’s why DTC marketers favor performance marketing. In a performance model, advertisers pay only when they achieve a specified result — not for clicks or impressions.

When marketers are able to measure their Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) in real-time, they can focus on creating high-value offers to get customers in the door, such as:

While these offers are certainly effective for reducing the friction involved in a purchase, rewarded advertising takes this one step further. Instead of being forced to watch ads, users choose the offers they’re interested in and are able to unlock in-app content in exchange for real conversions. In the rewarded in-app environment, users are engaged and open to trying new products, which results in record-breaking conversion rates and a consistently high number of new customers.

Direct to Consumer Trends 2


Prioritize long-term returns, not short term sales

One of the biggest differentiators between DTC brands and traditional retailers is their focus on maintaining relationships with their customers over a lifetime — not just for a one-time sale. Without distributors acting as middlemen, DTC brands don’t need to focus on creating massive quantities of inventory at the lowest cost possible. Instead, they focus on how they can overdeliver for their customers and make sure they are happy and loyal to their brand. Because of this shift in goals, DTC brands are not just selling products online, they’re providing value on a regular basis through recurring subscriptions.

The rise in subscription offerings is one of the most prevalent direct to consumer trends we’re witnessing today. Consumers are always looking for convenience, and subscriptions are the best way to achieve that. Rather than needing to run to the store when you run out of a household product like laundry detergent, subscription services permanently eliminate this type of occurrence. DTC services like FREY, for example, provide a unique line of products to meet every laundry need you could have and automatically ship it to you based on your laundry habits.

Subscriptions aren’t just convenient — they’re highly profitable. This combination of quality and convenience helps DTC brands maximize customer LTV and enables them to offer high-value promotions where you can try out products for as low as $1. They also offer special promotions and free merchandise for loyal customers. The end result? These brands create profitable businesses that customers can’t wait to tell their friends about.

Rather than trying to maximize the margins on an individual sale, today’s DTC brands create a win-win situation for their customers and it’s certainly paying off. This method of consumer engagement is mirrored by the value exchange behind rewarded in-app advertising. Successful app developers no longer need to force as many ads as possible on their loyal users — instead, they’re able to allow users to choose from hundreds of offers and complete an action of their choice to receive rewards. Because advertisers only pay when a specified action is completed it’s a win-win for app developers, mobile gamers, and DTC brands.

Direct to Consumer Trends 3


Experiential engagement wins hearts (and ROAS)

According to Fab Dolan, Head of Marketing at Google Canada, “The brands that are winning are the ones that understand and own the fundamental interplay between experiential and transactional.” If direct to consumer trends are any indication, personalized experiences have become a hallmark of modern marketing.

Experiential engagement goes beyond personalized messaging or dayparting. The most successful marketing experiences actually add value to the daily lives of consumers. It can take many forms, including the following:

DTC brands like Function of Beauty and Gainful take customized experiences one-step further by using a personalized quiz as the entry point to the customer journey. Based on their responses, these brands formulate products with a unique blend of ingredients to help them achieve specific results. Unsurprisingly, this personalized approach is highly alluring to modern customers.

Personalized ad experiences are the best way to promote personalized products. This is true both because they showcase the brand’s value up front, and because they generate the most return on ad spend (ROAS). That’s why direct to consumer brands increasingly leverage cost-per-action (CPA) campaigns to target KPIs like quiz completions. These campaigns are especially effective in the rewarded in-app environment, where users are highly engaged and more likely to proceed with the purchase.


Direct to consumer trends are driving the future of retail

Direct to consumer trends have already shifted the digital marketing landscape, and they will continue to do so as more brands embrace the model. However, it’s already clear that consumers want authentic brand experiences. In a society that is increasingly defined by our reliance on technology, this preference for authenticity is meaningful. The future of retail will, undoubtedly, be decided by consumers themselves, as they search for brands that share these values.

For more digital marketing insights, including how DTC brands can drive maximum ROI from their mobile strategy, contact Tapjoy’s mobile advertising experts today.

Well, it’s official: With the start of spooky season, Q4 2019 is underway. But don’t get out the 2020 planning calendar just yet; there’s still a ball to drop and champagne to pop. New Year’s is a unique opportunity for direct to consumer marketers — those who capture the spirit of the holiday with killer marketing campaigns capture consumers’ hearts.

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On major retail holidays, like Black Friday, DTC brands often get drowned out by retailers’ massive holiday sales, but they can still make a play for the last festive event of the year. By New Year’s Eve, those big retailers have typically run out of steam — after all, they’ve been pushing their deals for two months straight. It’s the perfect time for DTC brands to get in on the holiday action. Of course, your New Year’s campaign needs to be smart, creative, and holiday-appropriate, which is never an easy task. We’ve put together some top-tier New Year promotion ideas to help you ring in the new year.


New Year’s Promotion Ideas

  1. Make a New Year’s Resolution
  2. Kick Off a Resolution-Themed Promotion
  3. Use the New Year to Reinvent Your Brand
  4. Go Big on Mobile
  5. Hold Out for Lunar New Year


1. Make a New Year’s Resolution

What makes New Year’s so exciting is that it’s all about new possibilities. You can let go of the past and look to the future. That’s why so many people make resolutions to kick off a new year; it’s the perfect time to think about what you want to accomplish and set some goals to make your dreams come through.

That’s exactly what Frank & Oak did to ring in 2019. The DTC fashion brand is committed to making environmentally conscious clothing, so it’s only fitting that it pledged to reduce waste and increase their eco-friendly efforts last year. This kind of ethical, responsible business is very appealing to gen Z and gen Y consumers, who tend to make up the bulk of DTC businesses. For your own New Year’s resolution, consider pledging to make a difference of some sort, rather than getting lost in the consumerist blitz of the holiday season.

That’s not all Frank & Oak did to celebrate, though. The company also guided customers on making 2019 their most stylish year yet. With the season of giving coming to a close, New Year’s is a great time to treat yourself, and Frank & Oak showed how some fashionable new garb could help fans achieve their goals for the coming year.

New Year Marketing Strategy 2


2. Kick Off a Resolution-Themed Promotion

Making a New Year’s resolution is a great start, but DTC companies can expand on that idea by inspiring their customers to set goals of their own. Imperfect Produce did just that with its Food Waste Bingo promotion, which encouraged customers to save money and reduce with a set of realistic, easily achievable goals. Simple tips like swapping out plastic, disposable coffee cups for reusable mugs go a long way towards cutting down on food waste, which is right in line with Imperfect Produce’s stated goals. The New Year promotion also shed light on the fact that becoming an Imperfect Produce customer goes a long way towards reducing food waste.

When you involve your customers in the resolution-making process, it gets people talking. Imperfect Produce encouraged fans to share their progress on social media with trackable hashtags and sweetened the pot by offering a box of produce as a prize for participating. When creating your own resolution-themed promotion, think about how to engage customers — if you’re lucky, your brand will become a part of their vision for the new year.


3. Use the New Year to Reinvent Your Brand

You’ve probably heard the phrase “new year, new you,” but how about “new year, new brand”? Okay, that latter one might not be sweeping the nation anytime soon, but given the spirit of reinvention that comes around every January 1st or so, New Year’s is the right time to refresh your brand.

This is especially true if you’re seeing a loss of customers, as meal-delivery service Blue Apron did after its 2017 IPO. After stock prices fell nearly 70% below their initial offer, Blue Apron used the transition to 2018 as a fresh start. Starting in January, Blue Apron’s messaging reflected “the transformative power of home cooking,” showing customers that its product was more than just ingredients in a box. The rebranding campaign was a success, as its Q1 2018 earnings showed. So if your brand messaging has gotten off track, take the opportunity to introduce customers to the new you when the ball drops.

New Year Marketing Strategy 3


4. Go Big on Mobile

Mobile should always be a consideration of any modern marketing campaign, but this is especially true in the lead-up to the New Year. Why? Because smartphones are one of the most popular holiday gifts on the market. With the influx of new devices comes heavy mobile traffic, so it’s the perfect time to really make your mobile strategy shine.

Popular glasses DTC brand Warby Parker did that earlier this year, using the new year as an opportunity to unveil its new AR-powered virtual try-on app. The AR app gives customers an in-store experience without having to leave their homes, or even get off their phones. As Warby Parker proved, New Year’s is an ideal moment to launch a new app, double down on mobile video, or start a CPA campaign because that’s where consumers will be most engaged and attentive. Keep that in mind as the end of 2019 draws near; mobile marketing is a must, especially for DTC brands looking to cut through the holiday noise.


5. Hold Out for Lunar New Year

If you’re feeling like the holiday season is a bit too cramped for you to make an impact, you could always hold out for Lunar New Year. DTC brands Barkbox and S’well did just that in 2019, waiting for the end-of-year madness to die down before releasing special Lunar New Year–themed products. For Barkbox, that meant a festive, on-theme box went out in February. Meanwhile, S’well took the opportunity to release an exclusive Lunar New Year 2019 water bottle with a lovely cherry blossom design.

If you really want to make an impact, waiting for Lunar New Year could be an effective marketing strategy for smaller DTC brands. You’ll be competing with fewer companies, increasing your odds of grabbing customers’ attention. At the same time, you can still tap into those New Year’s feelings of renewal and fresh opportunities.

New Year Marketing Strategy 4


It might feel like DTC companies don’t have a chance going up against big retailers during the holiday season, but that simply isn’t true. You just have to find your own strategy and get creative about your message — and make sure you’re targeting the right audiences, which is why mobile advertising is so key. And of course, timing is everything, which is why New Year’s is ideal for direct to consumer brands that already offer affordable prices year-round. So get that champagne ready and take advantage of the opportunity! When you’re ready to get your own New Year promotion ideas rolling, the experts at Tapjoy are here to help.

Known for its casual gaming phenomenons like Words With Friends and Farmville, Zynga is a global leader in social games. We spoke with Head of Global Ad Sales Gabrielle Heyman and learned more about the kinds of engaging mobile ad campaigns that resonate with players.

What We Learned:

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Hi, Gabrielle! Could you please introduce yourself and describe your role within Zynga?

I’m Head of Global Ad Sales, which means my team partners directly with brands and agencies via both private programmatic and direct I/O. We specialize in mobile in-app media with a focus on video and engagement solutions for advertisers.


What are Zynga’s overall best practices for connecting with consumers?

Players are at the core of everything we do, whether it’s making games or delivering ad experiences. The first thing you see when you enter our HQ in San Francisco is a sign that says “What will our players thank us for?” Zynga is social mobile game publisher – and our mission is to connect the world through the power of play. Our best practices focus on connection and engagement; most of our features, as well as many of our ad experiences, revolve around that.


Hundreds of millions of people play mobile games every single day. What has your experience taught you about the majority of these players and their gaming habits?

Globally, billions of people play mobile games – the young, the old, across nearly all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Play is universal. Since the first iPhone was released, there has been a seismic shift in how people consume entertainment, and that includes gaming. People play because it’s social, it helps them destress, and it’s quick and easy to play anytime on the go. There is a mobile game for everyone, and since most are free to play, the barrier to entry is low.


Zynga pioneered so many mobile advertising and monetization trends we’ve watched unfold over the past decade. How has Zynga’s approach or strategy changed over that time, and why?

I started at Zynga six and a half years ago, just as we were beginning our shift from web to mobile.  It used to be significantly easier to get a game to the top of the charts, and we used to release games more frequently. These days, the market is far more saturated. Nearly 50,000 games were released on the iOS App Store and Google Play in Q2 2019 alone. It’s more expensive to break through the clutter.

A few years ago Zynga decided to double down on our live services by continuing to program engaging features in our forever franchises like Words with Friends, Zynga Poker, and CSR Racing 2. Words with Friends just had its best quarter in its history, and it’s mostly ad-supported. We’ve also become more selective about the games we release; we are more stringent in the greenlight and release process. Finally, we’ve acquired some amazing game studios, bringing new audiences and talent to the mix.


Two of the most popular ad formats in mobile gaming are video and playables. How does each compare in importance to marketers? What are some of the best applications of each?

Video remains best in class to brand advertisers. And video really is one of the best kept secrets in mobile gaming. We have a lot of quality, viewable, high-VCR impressions. We are seeing a lot of demand from clients running first impression takeovers when they want to make a high-reach splash.

We give brands a choice between opt-in video and interstitial video. Interstitials are one of the most flexible and misunderstood ad units around. They can accommodate video, playables, and statics. For interstitial video, 15 seconds is the gold standard in terms of max length, but clients are also finding a lot of success with six-second video and vertical video. Opt-in video has more flexibility on length since there is a value exchange, so we accept up to thirty seconds there. Opt-in is what consumers prefer, but advertisers are still playing catch-up on leveraging that unit.


You’ve partnered with IAB in the past to educate brands and agencies about advertising. Why is this work important? What initiatives on this front are you particularly excited about?

Mobile gaming is still underrepresented in the brands advertising mix, so it’s important for the industry to come together to advocate. The IAB Games committee allows us to align on advocacy work for the category. More consumers game than advertisers purchase ads in a gaming environment. Our work in the past has included education on playables, opt-in video,, and more. This year, we’ve had a presence at several IAB conferences, and we look forward to continuing this important work.


What are the biggest challenges mobile advertisers face in the next five years, and what can be done about them?

So much changes in six months that I can’t even begin to ponder what five years in the future looks like. Certainly, 5G will bring huge technology innovation in games and mobile. In the short term, mobile in-app ads need to sort out some lingering ad tech challenges, mostly around conversion, attribution, and measurement. We’ve come a long way, but most of ad tech has been built for a desktop and mobile web world. Just today I heard of a major automotive company who banned mobile apps because their ad server couldn’t track attribution. I was disappointed that their solution was to just ban mobile in-app media – this is where their consumers are spending most of their time and researching their next car!


Which current mobile trends are particularly exciting to you? What innovations are you looking forward to moving ahead?

We are just at the start of a revolution in how people consume entertainment, and mobile gaming is at the forefront. I’m proud that gaming has held user privacy in such high regard – with the California Privacy Act and GDPR I think this aspect of games will be embraced by brands and consumers alike. I’m also excited to see new applications that will help society. Imagine a game which gives you carbon credits and you can manage your negative contribution to the environment and trade carbon credits with neighbors. I’d love to see that!


Are there any people in mobile whose work or achievements you admire?

I had the privilege to work at Yahoo! during the aughts and it’s been so fun to see so many of my colleagues build mobile businesses at some of the giants like Facebook, Snapchat, Google, Amazon, and so on. I’ve been lucky to have some amazing managers at Zynga – Ben Webley is now at Facebook and Julie Shumaker is at Unity. My current boss, Scott Konigsberg, has a PM background so he is teaching me to be even more rigorous in applying data and learnings to our strategy moving ahead.

Tapjoy would like to thank Gabrielle Heyman for taking the time to join us. For more insights from our Mobile Champions, check out our interview with Bryan Davis, Senior VP at Big Blue Bubble.

Mobile gaming is an incredibly competitive industry, and keeping players’ attention for any length of time can be a challenge. Game developer Big Blue Bubble is defying the odds, creating memorable titles across a variety of genres and branching out into the PC market. With 15 years of experience, this dev knows a thing or two about retention — one of its most popular mobile games has been going strong for seven years!

To learn more about Big Blue Bubble’s approach to making mobile and PC games, Tapjoy spoke with Senior Vice President of Business Development, Bryan Davis.


What we learned:


Hi, Bryan. Can you start by telling us about Big Blue Bubble and how it came to be?

Our founder, Damir Slogar, began his extensive video game career in his native Croatia in the ‘80s. In 1999, he immigrated to Canada, where he continued his professional career as a lead programmer. In 2004, Damir established Big Blue Bubble, built upon the leadership values and vision that he cultivated in his years of industry experience. Big Blue Bubble has created award-winning titles for a variety of gaming platforms, including our flagship mobile franchise My Singing Monsters.


What can you tell us about the latest games from Big Blue Bubble? Are there any upcoming projects you’re able to share with us?

We have a couple of exciting titles coming to players this year. In October, we have our worldwide release of Super Dinosaur: Kickin’ Tail. Players will team up with the heroes from Skybound Entertainment’s cartoon and comic series Super Dinosaur in this action-packed mobile game. They’ll take on daring missions and weekly challenges in a deadly PVP arena!

At the end of the year, Steam players will get the chance to play Foregone in early access.  Foregone is a combat-focused action-platformer that combines the challenging gameplay of Diablo and Dark Souls with fluid pixel animation popularized by Dead Cells.


We hear that Big Blue Bubble has some impressive retention numbers. What strategies do you typically use for that?

We look at making sure the fun factor is really at the core of our games. Part of this involves revisiting our UX. We look at each update as an opportunity to optimize and improve the experience for new and existing players. Retention is a byproduct of making sure our players are having fun and, of course, inspiring worlds of creativity.


Big Blue Bubble works across a range of genres including traditional RPGs and platformers. What has been your experience working in these fields, considering how many modern mobile developers focus on casual or hyper-casual markets? Are there any unique challenges to marketing or UA that you’ve faced?

We have had great success with RPGs, platformers, and other genres in our 15-year history. Our amazing team plays everything under the sun, so for us, it’s always exciting to utilize that talent and have the opportunity to showcase what we can do.

Regarding UA strategy, we’ve been extremely lucky with My Singing Monsters. We’ve seen higher-than average-conversion rates, notably due to art direction and how accessible everyone finds our game. Like most core-based games, we’ve faced the same challenges in terms of spending with a positive ROI and volume.


In 2017, you published Zombie Bloxx on Steam. You’ve also announced Foregone for PC. What prompted the decision to expand to PC markets?

What works best for the game experience is what drives the decision on where our games end up. We’ve seen great success with PC and Console games in the past, so jumping in with  Zombie Bloxx as our first cross-platform game releasing on both PC and mobile wasn’t really anything that new to us. We’re always looking at how best to enhance/present the gaming experience for the player, which, given the type of story we wanted to tell in Foregone, we felt were the PC/console environments.


Most mobile games have a short lifespan, but My Singing Monsters is still going after seven years! What makes it stand out? What has the team done to extend its lifespan?

My Singing Monsters is extremely unique in giving users the ability to create both their own worlds and music! This is the key to the sustained success we’ve seen. Our amazing team has been busy with new, ever-creative content and keeping an active audience. We’re constantly seeing updates with new monsters, music, worlds, and depth of gameplay.


My Singing Monsters is also expanding into a TV series and toy line. Are these initiatives expected to attract new mobile players and what is BBB doing to prepare for them?

Building a multi-media franchise, beginning with a consumer products program and an animated series, has been a natural extension of our brand. We fully expect to attract new users and generate an even broader audience with this program. Working closely with our partners, we are integrating reciprocal callouts to each arm of the program to ensure growth for all lines of business. As each toy line and the animated series roll out, new users will be introduced to the game, and game players will be introduced to the products and series.


Big Blue Bubble is based out of London, Ontario — far outside of the typical tech bubbles of cities like San Francisco. Are there any unique challenges when competing with mobile developers around the world? Or are online storefronts creating a level playing field?

Having our main studio in London holds many advantages for us: the convenience of a large city like Toronto in close proximity, a thriving game industry, and a city that really supports our tech sector. We feel we have a niche here that allows us to attract industry professionals who see the appeal of being at an agile indie studio. Online stores and the access mobile gaming has provided to users all over the world certainly gave us a foot in the door globally when we launched My Singing Monsters.


As a developer, what are the biggest untapped opportunities you see in mobile gaming? Which ones will Big Blue Bubble pursue?

I would love to see more studios to go out on a limb to really experiment with new and unexplored multiplayer game designs. Also, a fundamental use of devices to their full potential to expand in-game playability. We’re always exploring new and interesting ways to interact with our games, but we’ll keep that under wraps for now.


Which current high-level mobile trends are particularly exciting to you? What innovations are you looking forward to moving ahead?

A full 5G rollout is definitely exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing how games will innovate.  We’ve been hearing VR/AR/etc. for years now, but nothing compelling for the mainstream. Once the barrier of use is resolved, I would love to see how this progresses as well.

Tapjoy would like to thank Bryan Davis for taking the time to chat with us. To learn more about Big Blue Bubble’s approach to game development, check out its website for a full list of titles.

Direct to consumer, or DTC retail, is on the rise: According to a study from CommerceNext and Oracle, there are now more than 22,000 companies in the DTC retail category. By cutting out the middlemen, DTC brands can offer quality goods at affordable prices and reinvest in marketing. Traditional retail marketers are left wondering how to keep up, as DTC brands continue to out-market them.



With all of these apparent advantages, many DTC retail brands often still leave one major opportunity untapped: mobile marketing. The majority of DTC marketers focus on social media exclusively, rather than crafting a comprehensive mobile strategy. Some marketers are beginning to see that social media impressions don’t equate to ROI, hence why DTC brands are pulling as much as 30% of their ad spend away from Facebook.

To maximize ROAS, marketers should define more concrete KPIs, such as engagements, completed views, trials, sign-ups, app installs and more. Mobile is the most intimate channel for consumer engagement. Here are a few of the best growth tactics mobile marketers can use to maximize their DTC retail strategy.

DTC Retail 2


DTC retail tactic #1: Cost-per-action advertising

Cost-per-action or CPA advertising is a pricing model in which advertisers only pay if and when an ad leads to an action or sale. For DTC retail brands looking to uplevel their mobile strategy, CPA advertising can be particularly effective. For instance, DTC brands that leverage a subscription model could run a CPA campaign that invites users to sign up for a discounted first month. This is ideal for brands with a low-friction and affordable offering, such as Dollar Shave Club’s razor subscription. Meanwhile, DTC brands that have a strong content marketing strategy may run CPA campaigns geared at newsletter signups. For example, DTC luggage brand AWAY runs a branded travel magazine called HERE. A mobile CPA campaign could be an effective way to promote engagement with the brand’s content.

Like other forms of performance advertising, CPA campaigns transfer more liability to the publisher as advertiser payout is not guaranteed with each impression. As such, some publishers may be reluctant to host CPA ads. However, most major digital ad networks, including Tapjoy, now support CPA advertising. CPA advertising remains one of the most valuable growth tactics in the DTC arsenal.


DTC retail tactic #2: Rewarded video to install advertising

In keeping with their status as digital-natives, many DTC retailers have an app to facilitate consumer interactions. One company that has seen marked success with its branded apps is Warby Parker. It offers an augmented reality app for testing and purchasing glasses frames, and a mobile prescription check app. For DTC retail brands, the advantages of investing in a mobile app are numerous, including an in-flux of first-party data and an improved purchase journey. But after the app is launched, a mobile user acquisition strategy is imperative.

Mobile is the ideal environment for app user acquisition. Rewarded video is particularly effective in driving high-quality app installs because the secondary action is not incentivized. Consumers may elect to watch a video ad in exchange for a reward, then choose to download the app of their own volition. What’s more, opt-in rewarded video is the optimal ad experience among consumers, as they perceive it to be more relevant and engaging.

When devising a mobile strategy, DTC retail brands should partner with an advertising network that prices rewarded video on a cost-per-completed-view (CPCV) basis. Industry viewability standards dictate that just 50% of the video player must be in view for at least two seconds. If priced on a CPM basis, advertisers pay by impression — in essence, paying to show an ad that is never watched. A completed video view is infinitely more valuable.


DTC retail tactic #3: Cost-per-engagement advertising

In the CPE advertising model, advertisers only pay for completed engagements as defined by the campaign. These engagements can be intimate branded experiences, such as mini-games or branded quizzes. For example, the DTC vitamin brand Care/of quizzes new customers and provides personalized supplement recommendations — this brand would be an ideal candidate for a quiz-based campaign. Similarly, skincare brand Skinsei offers a holistic skin diagnostic and provides a personalized care regimen. These and other DTC retailers that include personalized quizzes in the purchase journey would get particular value from a CPE strategy.

Mobile mini-games are also a memorable and engaging option for DTC brands across the board. A brand does not need to have a cartoonish mascot or a humorous tone to create a successful mini-game. Any brand could benefit from a gamified product showcase. Perhaps consumers tap to pick their favorite colored product or catch falling items in a branded shopping cart. The potential of the mobile format is limitless — regardless of the CPE format you choose, this strategy will drive significantly more ROAS than impression-based advertising.

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On mobile, DTC brands can retain authenticity at scale

Despite the overwhelming popularity of the DTC approach among consumers, the majority of DTC retail brands struggle to achieve profitability at scale. Instead of turning to the traditional retail playbook, these companies should return to their performance marketing roots. Investing in outdated non-digital formats, like television, will only dilute the authenticity, originality, and intimacy consumers have grown to expect from DTC retail. Mobile advertising offers a much more compelling alternative. Armed with these three growth tactics, DTC retail brands can uplevel their mobile strategy and retain authenticity at scale.

For more digital marketing insights, including how DTC brands can drive maximum ROI from their mobile strategy, contact Tapjoy’s mobile advertising experts today.