Covid-19: what impact on my mobile acquisition campaigns? (Update to March 30 at the bottom of the page)
In times of lockdown, mobile user behaviors are changing. It is therefore interesting to ask yourself how this crisis is impacting mobile acquisition campaign indicators. This article aims at offering you some elements of response through the analysis of the Facebook environment.
Addict Mobile works with numerous clients in various business sectors. We manage acquisition campaigns all over the world at very high volumes (€ 80M/year). This expertise allows us to have a precise and day-to-day perspective on trends and opportunities. It also gives us the possibility to be more responsive to market developments.
What decisions do governments take?
The three main countries studied here are Italy, Spain and France, as these are the three European countries most affected by the pandemic. Their respective governments have in fact taken similar decisions and in the same chronological order.
1.Closure of schools
2.Closure of public places and shops
4.And the case of Italy, quarantine of the entire country
Since the introduction of these measures did not take place at the same time in each country, it is possible to see whether users’ behaviors are identical in each country. In order to strengthen this comparison, we have included the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States, which are at different lockdown stages.
CPM: school closure & traffic
The two key events that change all core KPIs are the school closure on one hand and the lockdown on the other hand. In the graph below, we can clearly distinguish the moment of the announcement in each country.
Schools closure leads to a widening of the market. Not only do students’ devices remain switched on, but they are also active.
CPMs fell by 35% in France and Spain, and by 50% in Italy. The offer, that is to say the number of media spaces available, is increasing, but competition remains unchanged, which implies a decrease in CPM.
If we take the time to observe this CPM in detail for the three countries involved, by category, we can see that it decreases in the same way for all the sectors – as can be seen in France in the graph below.
The same applies to Spain, Italy and the United States. To a lesser extent, Germany and the United Kingdom also see a slight decrease.
What about the CPI, is it keeping pace?
Contrary to what one might think, the CPI by category does not follow the same trend as the CPM, as shown in the graph below. This is the evolution of the CPI in France, but it is identical for all the other countries analyzed.
Indeed, we can see here that the CPI tends to increase except for gaming, retail, media and health and fitness applications, where the CPI is decreasing in France, Italy and Spain.
CTR: a direct impact on the CPI?
The Click-through rate (= CTR) does not evolve in the same way depending on the country: it’s increasing in Spain (x1.25) and France (x1.6), while it’s remaining stable in Italy. The evolution by category is even more eloquent. The category that sees an impressive CTR increase is, unsurprisingly, the “Media & Entertainment” category: users are thirsty for information. Anything with the word “coronavirus” or “covid-19” triggers clicks and hence leads to a click rate explosion. The “Health & Fitness” category also a CTR increase. As for gaming, it follows another dynamic with an overall stable CTR in France but is declining in Spain and Italy.
Categories unable to take advantage of this lockdown will see their CPM decrease like the others, in parallel with the increase of their click rate. They will therefore not benefit from a CPI decrease. Users only click on what they are interested in.
Thus, all categories that can benefit from the lockdown see their CPM decrease and their CTR increase, implying a lower than usual CPI, and therefore opportunities to be seized.
As an actor of gaming, media, health or retail, why can I benefit from this new audience?
Once the lockdown had started and businesses closed, competition clearly diminished. Companies that could not ensure the continuity of their business stopped investing. So, we see a clear decrease in competition, but an even greater reach – because of the higher phone activity.
In the three countries studied, the campaign reach skyrockets as soon as shops and public places close their doors.
Indeed, if many sectors cut their spending – if they can’t maintain their services – but at the same time the use of telephones has never been so important, how does Facebook prioritize this extra audience among advertisers?
The algorithm will play an important role in this situation. In order to make this choice, it will notably base itself on the CTR.
- Sectors unable to benefit from the crisis are limited in their ability to reach new audiences => Impressions are broadcasted to a very limited number of people. By maintaining their investments, Facebook will prioritize distribution to the same people and increase the publication rate.
- Sectors that can provide their service will gain this audience surplus => they see their reach increase dramatically. At the same level of investment, the publication rate will decrease, as Facebook will display advertising to more different people.
The graph below illustrates this perfectly. It compares the gaming sector in France to the photo sector.
The algorithm therefore seems to prioritize advertisers according to two criteria in order to distribute the reach surplus:
-The Gaming category, that is generally prioritized because it is identified as very profitable;
-The best CTR: this KPI is key to be prioritized. Be very careful with your designs, everything depends on them.
The most important KPI to monitor over this period is therefore the CTR, since Facebook will base its analysis on this indicator to prioritize advertisers in order to address this new audience pool. It is therefore the categories that will have the highest CTRs that will naturally be favored by Facebook. Especially at a time when users are actively searching for media, games, sports content and products that can be delivered… It’s easy to understand why it’s important for these sectors to maintain their investments.
Audience Network, the best place to be in times of crisis?
In the three locked-down countries, we notice an important change in the distribution of spending on Facebook: the Audience Network spends much more (+7 points in 8 days).
People use more applications. These applications make up the inventory of Facebook’s Audience Network.
As the CPI is usually cheaper on Audience Network, it naturally contributes to reinforcing this drop in CPIs. This is all the more true for gaming, which, unlike the other sectors, has not seen a significant drop in their CPI on Facebook (feed & stories).
A good time to increase acquisition budgets
Behaviors recorded in France, Spain and Italy are invariably repeated. And we are actually seeing the first signs of this same behavior in the United States, where CPMs have been at their lowest since the beginning of the year. We can therefore consider them to be in “phase 1”. On the other hand, Germany and the United Kingdom do not have any of these characteristics, so they are still in “phase 0”.
The United States, Germany and the United Kingdom are beginning to put lockdown measures in place: California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut and others started their lockdown as of today, and the country is about to become the 3rd most affected. Germany has taken containment measures and the United Kingdom is starting to slow down. Same effects to the same causes: a considerable decrease in media purchase price and an increase in CTRs in some categories are coming or are already visible
Even if the CPI drops, it is still crucial to monitor in-app performance to ensure the quality of the users (retention, ROI and other key KPIs). This is a common measure at Addict Mobile, which makes even more sense in a period where indicators are upside down and where Facebook is going to privilege CTRs. Clicking is good, transforming is better!
The most affected countries and those to come will therefore represent opportunities for acquisition campaigns. So do not hesitate to act accordingly.
Competition is back
A week ago, CPMs started increasing again in Italy, two weeks after the beginning of their lockdown. This also seems to be replicated in France with an increase last weekend.
Also in Italy, companies have adapted to this lockdown (they are resuming their digital activities). There has been an increase in competition which has led to a slight increase in CPMs. As this competition remains low, Facebook is maintaining lower than usual CPMs by slightly increasing the frequency (from 1.1 to 1.2).
As Italy is now in a stabilization phase, we expect the same in France too. Overall, CPMs remain very low compared to what we observed in February.
The United States, on their end, and as expected, experience un decrease in CPMs 4 days before the lockdown order was issued in California. They should benefit from this decrease for the next 2 weeks.
Lower CPMs on weekends ?
In France, the CPM is much lower on weekends than during the week days => There may be opportunities to seize and it may be worthwhile to increase spending on the weekend.
Indeed, the CPM decrease is due to an increase of the available reach: on weekends, more phones are connected and users spend more time on their devices.
The results also seemed to indicate the same trend in Italy. However, this phenomenon is fading: our campaigns’ reach has remained stable for the past week, as “all non-essential activities have been on hold”. Many people are probably on temporary lay-off or part-time work, a situation that stabilises the available audience.