Ad Tech and User Acquisition: 5 Questions for Toby Skinner

Toby Skinner is a marketing industry veteran: over the past 15+ years, he’s served as a brand strategy and marketing leader to companies from Weather Underground to Bonhams & Butterfields. He is currently the VP of Marketing for Sideline and Pinger in San Francisco. This month, we got to chat with him about the tricky intersection between ad tech and consumer behavior.

Verto Analytics (VA): Tell us about your company and what you do

Toby Skinner (TS): Pinger has been developing mobile apps since the dawn of the App Store: over the past ten years, we’ve launched over 80 mobile apps. Our focus is currently on Sideline, an app for both iOS and Android that adds a second number to a smartphone for businesses or individuals. I manage our strategy for all marketing activities, including paid user acquisition, app store optimization (ASO), user engagement, content marketing, lead generation for our business product, and research and brand development.

VA: What is the biggest challenge you face in marketing today? How are you solving that challenge?

TS: The pace at which ad technology and media buying is evolving means you need to constantly test new strategies while maintaining performance – that can be a drain on the resources of a small, startup-sized marketing organization. We’re solving the problem by constantly on-boarding new mobile acquisition partners and channels and letting our detailed KPIs dictate where our budget flows. We’ve found that having a large pool of mobile demand-side platforms (DSPs) / network partners that we can call upon with smaller daily budgets is far more effective than relying too heavily on a handful of larger media sources.

VA:  What type of insights about your users do you wish you had that you don’t have currently?

TS: I wish we had more data on the users that we constantly churn – the users that download our app but never use the product, and especially users that are active for several months but then drop off. Why weren’t we living up to their expectations?

VA: You’ve been in the app business for a while. How has user behavior changed over the past few years?

TS: The sheer number of apps that users can choose from makes it so important to make the most of every user you acquire and try to keep them coming back. We recently integrated Appboy into our app and staying front of mind and gently coercing people through as long a user lifecycle as possible really compounds the effectiveness of our acquisition efforts. There are so many apps out there nowadays that users won’t tolerate bugs and crashes in an app. Creating brand loyalty through your engagement strategy can be a good insurance policy for preventing user attrition when, for example, the new iOS 11 creates a crashing bug in your app.

VA: What trends do you expect to see in 2017?

TS: We plan to explore video as an affordable user acquisition strategy. Not only are costs coming down as mobile video inventory opens up, but video provides an opportunity to maintain user growth and actually start building brand awareness, which is something that static mobile banners struggle to do. I believe that 2017 will also be the year when app developers have to really figure out how to exploit Apple Search advertising and decide whether to pay for their own branded keywords!

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