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Mobile partnerships are a Blue Ocean strategy that can boost enterprises’ efforts to drive growth through their app. They allow businesses to enter “the unknown market space, unexplored and untainted by competition. Like the ‘blue’ ocean, it is vast, deep and powerful — in terms of opportunity and profitable growth.” 

In the United States alone, the average user spent a whopping 70% more time in shopping apps in 2018 versus 2016. Globally, mobile is expected to capture nearly 75% of total e-commerce transactions by 2021. 

In short, current trends in consumer shopping behavior suggest that the timing is right. By adopting a blue ocean strategy lens on growth marketing through a mobile partnerships play, you can create uncontested market space, make the competition irrelevant, create and capture new demand, and align all marketing activities in pursuit of differentiation and low cost. We’ve already established that a Blue Ocean mobile app strategy does work, but the why and how deserve a deeper dive. 

Why mobile partnerships are a Blue Ocean move

When it comes to driving app installs and engagement, there is no shortage of paid media techniques available to marketers. The important part is understanding which of these techniques falls within the Red Ocean and which fall within the Blue Ocean. 

Examples of Red Ocean techniques include app store search ads from the likes of Google and Apple, Google App Campaigns, Facebook App Install Ads, display and video ads on CPI networks and more. These are clear Red Ocean plays — forcing marketers into a race for attention against stiff competition with limited control of the rules. 

Conversely, mobile partnerships represent a Blue Oceans strategy because they offer marketers an untapped market, provide new ways of reaching a broader audience, and allow for plenty of creative control. They also offer variety: regardless of your goals, there is a partnership that can help you meet them. 

In Understanding the Blue Ocean of “app”-ortunity, we covered the technical capabilities marketers will need to pull off a successful mobile partnership strategy. Now it’s time to take a closer look at what types of partnerships you should be considering, and a few examples of how those relationships might work, including: 

  • Strategic B2B partnerships: Grocery delivery app Shipt has partnered with meal planning app eMeals. When an eMeals user receives a meal plan, they have a native option to get the required ingredients sent to their door by Shipt. This drives both installs and incremental conversions on the Shipt app.
  • Social influencers: A well-known celebrity in a certain area of interest, like home design, posts about a new line of homeware from Target. Their link sends user to the Target app (if it’s installed) or mobile web (if it’s not, but with the option to install the app).
  • Software integrations: Ticketmaster partners with Spotify to show upcoming concerts by their favorite artists. If the listener ends up purchasing tickets through Ticketmaster, then Spotify earns a payout, and Ticketmaster earns incremental revenue and maybe a new app user.
  • Affiliates: Grubhub drives installs and delivery orders by promoting app-only discounts on affiliate sites like Slickdeals.
  • Premium publishers, news, and content: Premium publishers are well situated to  drive awareness (and installs) of under-the-radar apps and get paid out on in-app actions.

Once you have a clear understanding of the partnership types that are right for your app acquisition goals and KPIs, it’s time to build out a strategic framework and put it into action.

Approaching partnerships via the Blue Ocean framework

For marketers ready to build a Blue Ocean strategy, the four actions framework shown above can be broken down into a few key points across Raise, Create, Reduce and Eliminate. 

Raise…

Relevance and context. Traditional advertising pushes an offering onto a user either based on contextual targeting or audience-based targeting (which is diminishing rapidly with the privacy lockdowns from the browsers or regulations like GDPR). Rather than pushing an offering to a user (who may have been misidentified by the contextual targeting algorithm or behavioral audience pools as a proxy for relevance or intent), partnerships work because the user has pulled information toward themselves at what is already the most relevant point in their journey. In other words, the user has dictated their own relevance and context through their actions.

Content marketing. Go beyond the typical focus on areas like App Store Page Optimization and connect relevance and context with a content marketing partnerships strategy. Allow your partner to craft what they believe to be the most useful, relevant and appropriate message for their audience. Your partner knows their own audience best, so don’t make guesses. Let them be your guide.  

Create…

Relationships with trusted parties. Many consumers, especially in younger age brackets, distrust advertising. They are more likely to listen to recommendations from their most trusted publishers, from influencers they follow, or from other brands they like. Creating relationships with partners that those consumers trust is critical and opens the door to more native opportunities to promote your app.

Data sharing relationships with partners. Advertisers no longer need to keep their data in a walled garden. Share data with partners so they can combine it with their own data to offer more relevant experiences for their audiences. In fact, the best partnerships are bi-directional: where partners also share data with you so that you can provide the best user experience for the traffic they drive. 

Transparency between partners. Often, there’s too much data asymmetry between partnerships. An advertiser might know in near real-time how their partnerships are doing, but the partner themselves may only be receiving weekly reports from their advertiser. This might be due to policy reasons (the advertiser thinks they hold a power advantage by hoarding data) or technical reasons (they don’t have the right technology to pipe performance data to their partners quickly and in a consumable way). The result: the partner is not able to gain the quick insight they need to optimize the traffic they drive, and may even perceive this as not a true partnership.

True partnerships mean creating data transparency – so that your partners can immediately see how their efforts are driving the right kind of traffic to your mobile app, and adjust and optimize their campaign in near real-time.  

Reduce…

Reliance on traditional standardized channels. Many standard methods no longer resonate with audiences. For example, the average conversion rate on a Google Search ad is approximately 4%, while the average conversion rate on a display ad is a mere .57%. Facebook may have slightly higher conversion rates at 9%, but audiences are no longer so easily swayed by digital media.

Control of the message. As you create relationships with trusted parties and transparency between partners, step away from the need to control the message start-to-finish and instead trust your partners to know their audiences. You can give them pointers and guard rails, but avoid simply using your partners as a loudspeaker for your tightly controlled messaging.

Eliminate…

Frequency. A well-timed, highly relevant placement seen once or twice by an in-market consumer is worth far more than 100 placements seen by uninterested parties.

Stale metrics. CPI has led to a flood of low-quality installs, especially with the average 7-day churn rate of an app at 87%. But though most marketers might prefer to pay on valuable downstream in-app actions, most acquiesce to simply paying CPI, driving up rates. Don’t join the race to the bottom. Instead, look at other, more effective metrics that really matter, like LTV.

By identifying what partnership types are right for you and using the four actions framework as your tactical guide, you can ensure that you’re keeping your focus on the practices that will make the biggest difference for your goals. 

From understanding the dangers of Red Oceans, to gaining clarity around what it takes to launch a Blue Ocean strategy, to a deeper dive into how and why Blue Ocean partnership plays can help marketers win big, we’ve covered a lot in this series. If you’re ready to start swimming in the Blue Ocean, ask a growth technologist to help kickstart your app marketing strategy by reaching out to grow@impact.com

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