Hooked: how to build mobile habits for better user retention, with Fouad Saeidi from App Growth Network

mobile apps user retention

How do you hook mobile users to maximize retention?

In this episode of Retention Masterclass, a rare treat: Peggy Anne Salz and John Koetsier interview Fouad Saeidi, the founder of App Growth Network. He’s a gamer, he makes games, and he markets games … so it’s kind of the full meal deal.

What we talk about:

  • growth
  • monetization
  • retention (of course) … a 40% jump, even
  • user engagement
  • gamification
  • habit formation
  • push notifications
  • key learnings
  • and, as always … much more!

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John Koetsier:  How do you hook mobile users to maximize retention? Hello and welcome to Retention Masterclass. My name is John Koetsier. 

Peggy Anne Salz: My name is Peggy Anne Salz, and we’re your co-hosts as always on this show.

John Koetsier: It’s a rare privilege today. Obviously spending time with Peggy is great, but we also have a guest who is amazing. He’s a gamer, he makes games, and he markets games. So it’s kind of the full-meal deal, it’s the complete package. 

Peggy Anne Salz: But I could also add ‘been there, done that’ maybe, John. His name is Fouad Saeidi, he’s the founder of the App Growth Network. He’s worked with the who’s who of the industry now — Farmville, Carrie Underwood, Sage Accounting, a long illustrious list of clients. He’s going to tell us about some of them as well. 

John Koetsier: And maybe one of the most interesting parts for me, on his website under “services,” App Growth Network actually lists retention as one of their services. Well, I don’t know about you, Peggy, you’ve been in the mobile industry a long time. I haven’t seen retention as a service from an agency before, so that’s pretty cool. 

Peggy Anne Salz: That’s absolutely cool and that’s actually another reason to have him here because it is Retention Masterclass. So, Fouad, welcome to Retention Masterclass! Great to have you here.

Fouad Saeidi on mobile user retention

Fouad Saeidi, founder of App Growth Network

Fouad Saeidi: Thank you, Peggy. Thank you John, for having me here.  It’s a pleasure to be here. 

Peggy Anne Salz: So you talk about retention on the website, we got that. I have to go check that out actually now, because that’s very rare. Even dimension retention is pretty rare and youyou are convinced in your view, and I quote “Retention is the only way to grow.” Now that is something, that’s pretty bullish, pretty brave. What makes you so convinced? 

Fouad Saeidi: Yeah, I think honestly, in today’s day and age when apps are growing and they get a lot of downloads, a lot of people they think that the goal should be just about getting more new users, which cost a lot of money, and time, and energy, and resources. But, you know, we need to get people sticky to our products, and the only way to grow to my opinion is to keep them engaged and informed about our products.

And retention is the only way to grow an app these days. You can’t constantly pour money to user acquisition. The UA costs are going higher all the time. So, I mean, that’s why a lot of app entrepreneurs and developers focus a lot on retention first, before they want to pour more money to their apps. 

John Koetsier: That is really interesting actually, and maybe we’ll just stay on that point for half a second, because you said many do focus on that, but many don’t. In fact, Peggy and I are working with a client right now who is talking about some of the challenges and the problems with getting mobile developers to focus on retention. Talk about that a little bit more and maybe a little more in depth as well, just on that mindset shift. And have you seen it happening more and more? Is that kind of a trend right now? 

Fouad Saeidi: Absolutely. Especially right now with Covid stuff, we see [the] economy tanking and people’s purchasing power, it’s just diminishing. People cannot afford always to pay on user acquisition, we talked about it. Some people will [be] like, ‘Yes, I can get apps ranked organically in the app store,’ righ? And that’s like, ‘I’ll grow it by doing that.’ But we’ve even seen people that are ranking really well in the app store without sticky products, they can monetize it well, right? 

John Koetsier: Yes.

Fouad Saeidi: So they shift first on retention. I need to fix retention Day 1 to have good formation to stickiness factors, and then, psychologically, people once they’re hooked they get to purchase events and eventually commit to a purchase, right? So more and more developers are realizing that I’ve got to fix it up first. We constantly deal with people with like, they have got to a level that they realize that without it, they gotta like either — it’s a deal breaker for them to continue the business, right? 

John Koetsier: That is really, really interesting.

Peggy Anne Salz: Retention is a deal breaker. That’s something, John. 

John Koetsier: It really is, Peggy. I mean …

Peggy Anne Salz: Wow.

John Koetsier: Let’s dive into that in terms of tools and process. 

Fouad Saeidi: Sure.

John Koetsier: So you’ve got access to all the tools, all the analytics, everything, whatever you need, and you do a lot of hands on work for your clients. Talk about what that looks like in practice. What do you do?  How’s it happen? 

Fouad Saeidi: Yeah. So basically, John, we get access to clients like Firebase or their play console apps for connect, Braze, CleverTap, whatever tool they’re using for engagement, and they like fix it, you know, so, okay. So the first thing is to fix it, you’ve got to diagnose it right? Quantitative and qualitative benchmarking, knowing are they even within the industry average or are they way off? Or where is the leak? Imagine like a mechanic, they’ve got to fix a leak in your car, right? So we started with, at any event, taxonomy audit. So we have templates for that and based on specific like an acquisition event, or retention event, or purchase event, put them to different buckets.

And we audit the taxonomy to make sure in all those tools, let’s say Firebase, or CleverTap, or Braze. And  these things are consistent so developers can measure things, right, consistently. And then we connect the dots, basically the architect of funnels. Look at the funnels, are these numbers making sense? Retention Day 1: 30%, is that a good thing or not a good thing? A lot of people don’t know, because they’ve only dealt with their app and their own genre, right? With us working with diverse range of projects, basically we’ve worked with every single genre so far. We know if these numbers are making sense between the industry leaders, and obviously analytics and intelligence tools on top of that are partnerships that  help a lot.

And sometimes it’s qualitative, the UX audit looking at the onboarding flow, bulletproofing, approving the onboarding, psychological pricing. So basically connecting the dots that way and mapping out how to fix it next with the product teams together, right. 

Peggy Anne Salz: That’s interesting that you also, you know, it just doesn’t begin and end with the leaky bucket as well. You know we always hear about, ‘Oh, fix it, just fix that leaky bucket’ and it sounds like, ‘Yeah, sure, piece of cake.’ No, it’s very intense and it’s actually bringing everyone on the same page to begin with because — I wasn’t aware of this, I’m not a marketer per se — but the taxonomy, that that isn’t even consistent throughout.

Do you find that people are prepared to really get to grips with retention? Or do they just think it’s just this great concept that’s going to save them some UA budget? 

Fouad Saeidi: Depends on the sophistication of these developers, but yeah, I mean, some people are like they have their sophisticated product managers. We’ve had clients that could connect everything to one dashboard in a segment. They want to see where the traffic comes from, measure things, and there are people that they have like no clue what’s going on.

And these are serial entrepreneurs they have for different projects, but we look at the taxonomy. We’re like, ‘Well, why are you measuring things this way? Like your attribution platform is different from your analytics platform and you can’t even measure your own thing, especially when it comes to games. Think about all those in-game events, and tokens, and rewards, and psychological things that goes to it. Sometimes the taxonomy could include 50 events just to measure from an analytic perspective. Each of them could make a difference at some point, right?

So it could get very sophisticated at some point, but I think that is a very good starting point for all the developers to get that consistent taxonomy document. 

Peggy Anne Salz: I think it’s just great that people are coming to you and saying, ‘Here, fix it, we acknowledge this, we want to move to retention,’ as John said, you know, have retention on the website. You know, we are into something, you can feel it coming together. But of course the best is an example of success, and you’ve worked with some clients, I understand, increasing retention by 40% — four zero — that’s incredible. And that’s also something that isn’t just a few percentage points. This is something significant. Maybe you can walk us through that because as I understand it, it starts with something as simple as getting onboarding right. 

Fouad Saeidi: Sometimes, yeah. I mean, the example, like this 40% example could be a client of ours, like Gobsmax — a very good idea, brilliant, great design of the app — like they’re actually, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be successful. Think about Angry Birds, but like at certain planets on it, space, and like, you know, it’s going to have a great success. So we realized that the retention is 7 and 30, amazing. So like 14 and 30, amazing. So this product, as long as the user makes it to that level, they’re going to commit to in-app purchases. The problem was they can’t make it to that level, retention Day 1 was the biggest problem.

So how do we fix problems like that? Like cutting down the clicks, then taking until the first action in game. Teaching users the new game mechanics at the right time. Uninterrupted gameplay, especially at the beginning. Introducing achievements, like in all the psychological stuff with achievements. A feedback loop, like daily reward, this is massive, like the ratio of rewards is it worth it for me to come back tomorrow? And gamifying everything, you know, they have like mini games.

So through those mini games, how do we get involved so that when people are bored they do something else until their lives kind of come back, right. They get like the full life, otherwise they’re gonna go play another game and forget about this. It’s a game within a game, right? 

Peggy Anne Salz: Cool.

Fouad Saeidi: So yeah, I mean, these things are, sometimes it takes like four weeks and after that you could see double digit retention growth numbers, but you need to have a good development team that are open-minded, they’re not obs — I mean, a lot of people are obsessed with products, the product manager, producers, right? So that obsession sometimes make them like blindsided not to want to make some changes, like I know best, but look, data tells us something different, right? 

John Koetsier: Fouad, I just want to pause on this a second and just, I mean, a 40% increase in retention. These numbers are, this is unheard of. If you look at the acquisition side and you make a 1% improvement, you know, you might have a party, celebrate, go for dinner that night or something  like that, right? Because it’s so hard on acquisition and maybe getting harder with iOS 14, by the way. 

Fouad Saeidi: Oh, don’t even start with that. 

John Koetsier: Yeah, exactly. But you know, it’s so hard to move the needle in advertising and in marketing. But in retention, the 40%, I mean, that blows me away. 

Fouad Saeidi: You know, I think with those kind of projects you have open-minded people that they’re like, ‘We acknowledge’ — like I’m right now working with another project — we acknowledge these things or we are willing to make  those massive changes in the project, or in the product, or work with data and analytics, right. It’s doable. It’s basically looking at every single thing in not only games, like apps as well. We don’t only work with games, right, like apps and it starts with habit formation. It starts with stickiness, which I think we can have a good talk about this topic with some of the industry leaders that they’ve pioneered and excelled at, right? 

Peggy Anne Salz: Well, you know, to the point, it’s all about hooking the user, right? And that’s what you are actually, personally. But as I understand it, you are into Spanish, not just to broaden your horizons, but I think it’s also because Duolingo has been really successful at getting you hooked, you know, making this a habit-forming habit for you, being that successful in influencing your behavior. So I’d love you to use that as a jumping off point and tell me, you know, I guess one, they must be getting retention marketing right. But how are they getting it right? And how does that fit in with your theme of, hey, how to get users hooked, right? 

Fouad Saeidi: Yeah. I mean, that’s my favorite topic after I read this book by Nir Eyal, the Hooked book. For anybody, any product manager or marketer out there should read that book. The whole psychological aspect of getting people hooked to a product. So, yeah, Duolingo, I mean, I love Spanish. I appreciate the culture, especially when [the] pandemic hit, I’m like I’ve got to do this, I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish. That was a hundred days ago. So yesterday I did my hundred day streak. So I didn’t miss a day, right. 

John Koetsier: Congratulations!

Fouad Saeidi: Yeah, thanks. Thanks. I mean, I could speak a word or two, but, after a hundred days … 

John Koetsier: I’m pretty sure we need a demo. I mean, like, you know, we’re not taking your word for it.

Peggy Anne Salz: It’s quiz time, it’s quiz time. I’m just kidding. 

Fouad Saeidi: Yeah, no, I mean, honestly, I know the first thing I did was, I knew Duolingo, right? So the word of mouth stuff, everybody was like when it comes to language learning the first thing that comes to your mind is Duolingo. There’s a lot of users on it, but it’s not without reason, right? So when you practice Duolingo it feels like you’re going back to school. Like honestly, you gotta commit to something. It starts with commitment, right? So a lot of products like that, they require daily habit involvement. They’re all based on hooked model.

So there is introducing obviously like internal and external motivation factors behind it, right. I want to learn Spanish. I need an app, right? But why this? So, one thing is you’re part of now you’re not just alone. Like a lot of these factors are you’re not alone, there’s so many other people that are learning like you. There’s so many others that are paying like you. You can see leaks, right? You can see some people are going faster than the other ones. There’s gamification, there is rewards, right? Like if I feel like I haven’t done something there are reminders. I get four notifications a day from Duolingo, it makes me nervous, at like 10 o’clock at night, ‘You haven’t done your homework yet,’ you know, like a kid. 

John Koetsier: What was that number? How many notifications?

Fouad Saeidi:  I’m getting four a day almost, I think. I’m not kidding. Like I get it around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, like, oh, this is like a few hours, at 10 o’clock ‘Are you sure?’ Or there’s one that is ‘You’re missing your daily streak,’ right? I feel like I’m on a marathon with this, but it is true, they are pretty competitive with these things. And I think a lot of like — I mean, there’s the right ratio of not spamming people, for this, it’s a commitment they’ve already realized that I’m a power user.

Obviously these push notifications are sent based on segmenting users. There’s some people that are active users, they’ve already paid a subscription. You want to keep them basically on the product, but segment the users based on are they like early adopters, are they people that they are just casual users of our app, or are there people that they’re dormant they’re not using this anymore, right?

So basically you’ve got to send those push notifications in a very systematic way based on certain flows, AB tested, and you know it’s not an easy thing to get people hooked to a new thing. There’s so many distractions out there, right, but … 

John Koetsier: No it’s not.

Fouad Saeidi: They find their ways to get under your skin.

Peggy Anne Salz: That’s something though, you know, think about, John, four times a day. Normally old school, which was pre-pandemic would have said, ‘No, don’t annoy people, watch your frequency, watch your recency, watch all that stuff.’ And it’s like this throws it completely out the window. Your model, as you love to say, John, is “toast.” New data, new habits, right? Four a day is fine because what’s he doing? He’s confined at home, right? 

Fouad Saeidi: Yeah.

Peggy Anne Salz: So he’s going to be a power user, he’s going to be a super student. I think that tells us a lot about what we think are the best practices of retention marketing. I would have thought four would annoy you, but it motivates you, it gets you going, Fouad. 

John Koetsier: And that tells us a lot, Peggy, about personalization. Because, guess what? Duolingo can send Fouad those four notifications a day because he’s that power user, because he has that commitment, because he’s just not casual and dipping in. And so he’s not ticked off when he gets a notification, he wants that.

Fouad told us that hundred day streak, that was a big deal. Still haven’t heard a word of Spanish from you, by the way, we need to have that. I’m not getting off this podcast without doing it, but you did that 100-day streak and you did not want to stop that streak. And so that notification was helpful. It helped you do something that you wanted to do.

Fouad Saeidi: And believe me or not, that behavior impacted one or two of my close friends, and I see them on it. And I’m like, what are you doing? And they’re like, well, I don’t want to lose it, my daily streak. So and that positive reinforcement, like the social factor, if I may share screen share with you guys, one or two elements of this — I think that like here, I think I’ve got this screen ready — like you can see here I am on Sapphire League. So you can see this, right?

John Koetsier: Yep.

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah. 

Fouad Saeidi: So there is a demotion zone. This was like, I think I got this screenshot one or two days ago, and I would get demoted. So think about do I want to get demoted for something that …

John Koetsier: That’s hardcore! 

Fouad Saeidi: You know what I mean?

Peggy Anne Salz: Wow, that is.

John Koetsier: Ouch! 

Peggy Anne Salz: That’s name and blame here, man. That’s really something. 

Fouad Saeidi: We are part of a league, right? And you’re putting users to groups of 45 at a time or something, right. 

Peggy Anne Salz: Wow. 

Fouad Saeidi: So this is randomized, obviously I don’t know any of these people there, but I don’t want to get demoted, I’ve accomplished something, right? I think …

John Koetsier: You don’t want to let down your buddies in the league.

Fouad Saeidi: In the league, or like I mean, you could see friends, there are friends that they are like experienced more or less, or there’s rewards. I was on like I think here the streak was 99, as you see up there I was about to go hundred. There is like achievements, you’re at a wildfire or they have named them like Sage or Scholar or whatever, and you need certain achievements then you get gems and tokens, which, I mean, at the end of the day you’re about to learn Spanish, right? 

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah.

Fouad Saeidi: You think about it. It’s not like rocket science here, but I mean that amazing kind of experience here I think it is very important here to kind of like, it’s not only about the core objective of every app. Whether there’s fitness, whether there’s meditation, whether there’s game, this is applicable in every single genre. 

John Koetsier: It’s super interesting. I mean, my son is learning Chinese right now with Duolingo and he’s pretty hardcore about it. He’s third year engineering student and he is just, he’s going to take a class, and so he’s doing the same journey as you’re doing. But you can’t have that in every app. And frankly, we can’t, we probably can’t have like 10 apps on our phones that are giving us four notifications a day. There’s probably maybe one, maybe two …

Fouad Saeidi: Right.

John Koetsier: … maybe three or something like that. But let’s talk about other verticals. You work with many verticals in dating, gaming, other things like that. The habits to trigger, the approaches may be a little different. What are some other approaches that you use?

Fouad Saeidi: I honestly think in every single there is a way to adopt it. Like, I mean, some business apps are harder, let’s say a FinTech app, an invoicing app, right? Like you don’t need to check your invoices every day, that’s a distraction. You need to check it once, twice a week to see the health check or if you’re getting paid, or there are certain gamification elements could be used for that.

Obviously reminders are important, you don’t want to send somebody a reminder every day that your invoices are past due. It’s just going to frustrate them. Like, that’s me, right. I get it. And not every project has that potential. But there are a lot of opportunities to adopt these best practices as much as possible.

I think achievements, every single product has a reason, right? Like you work with dating, right. You want to find a match, so you need to send push notifications to people, but how do we send it? How frequent to people so that they come back. Time spent on mobile is limited. I have half an hour before I sleep to spend either on a meditation app, or on Duolingo, on a game, or if you’re single, like dating or business networking app. So time is limited, right?

So obviously people are fighting to get that attention for people, and the only ones that are winning are the ones that in long term somehow got under your head with either notification, some matching algorithms for dating, especially like on a different match … you need to meet this person, right? Or some emojis even, you get mail, like, what is this? Like with this push notification, get somebody’s image on it, they get your attention somehow, right? 

John Koetsier: It’s pretty interesting. When you talked about a fintech app and invoicing and not wanting to send somebody the invoice reminder every day, I was going to say it depends on the client. Maybe you do, haha …

Peggy Anne Salz: John, we won’t go there.

John Koetsier: I’ll leave that alone. I will not talk about that, Peggy.

Peggy Anne Salz: No you won’t John.

John Koetsier: And I will turn the floor over to you. 

Peggy Anne Salz: Absolutely. But you did talk about push, you know, power of push here, but there are other channels and I won’t go down the road of iOS 14, but people are talking about how much more important it’s going to be to use some different channels and sort of mix it up, you know, get what you can to get your identifiers. But you talk about push, what other channel mixes do you see? What do you see? What are you telling your clients? What works, you know, is there like the mix that will hook me? 

Fouad Saeidi: Yeah, it is the mix, obviously push is in front of us on our phone, right, we’re working or whatever, like it’s just the easiest way out there. I mean, a lot of people might opt out of push. And there are some best practice out there even for push itself. When you know, a later push, like just don’t ask people right away, give them an opposite of yes or no option. Give them ‘Tell me later,’ right.

But there’s an option telling me later about it if they’re not ready to say ‘no,’ because once it’s no, you cannot never send them a push again, right. So tell me later. So later on, ask for their permission, when they are more kind of hooked on the product. Obviously emails are still not dead. Some people believe that emails are dead. I think there’s a way to send emails. Like how often, how frequent again with traditional email marketing, right?

The product by itself, obviously product reminders like on meditation apps that I’m using, by default when you download this app, ‘Do you want us to send you reminders?’ So 8:00 AM, 8:00 PM or something like that. So sometimes that could come from product bites and obviously it’s a form of a push, but it’s not like a push notification we’re sending for segmentation and basically based on events in the app. It’s just generic, right. Other than that, I mean … 

Peggy Anne Salz: What about nudges? What about like the cool approaches, because you’re talking about, for example, what got you to Duolingo. You know, are there any memorable emojis, any memorable campaigns, maybe something we can learn about here, because it seems to me it’s a mix of getting the right channel, but sort of like getting the right vibe as well.

Fouad Saeidi: Getting the right vibe, obviously, like, I mean, we have examples from dating, my favorite app is Coffee Meets Bagel. I get various — I mean, we use a lot of dating apps for clients and personal reasons too — but like their friends kind of, ‘you need to meet Maggie today’ because of whatever reason we have an algorithm, or there is an image of somebody waiting for you, or like with emojis trying to get under your skin. And we tested that, Peggy, with one of our clients that is in dating.

Like we just stressed when [the] pandemic hit, and a lot of people are scared to actually — so the message was all about networking or not being alone, and chat, and communication. And we kind of realized that  we were getting like double or triple open rate with some push notifications because of those emojis or messages. So that becomes copywriting, like the art of copywriting. Just like anything that you send out with emails, the push, like the open line was ‘Piña colada vs Margarita’ even. Like what? Somebody gets that on their phone. What is this?

But then, oh, this is the dating app, right. 

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah.

Fouad Saeidi: Because if you send them the same thing about, ‘Hey, meet somebody,’ ‘Hey, somebody’s waiting,’ you’re like, ‘Okay, stop. Like I’m working.’ But piña colada, right? 

Peggy Anne Salz: You’ll stop for that. 

Fouad Saeidi: For piña colada, right, yeah.

John Koetsier: I like the example. I think you gave it to us in the prep for this, is you sent out a notification, it says, “Do not read this notification.” 

Fouad Saeidi: John, that was from… 

John Koetsier: And then the text beneath was “Ah, you rebel you, we knew you were ready. Go find your crush right now.” So that’s kind of a cool way too. You can’t do it every time, obviously, but throwing in one that’s funny and interesting once in a while is a good tactic. 

Fouad Saeidi: ’Do not read this’ notification with an emoji that’s like a red stop sign or like do not enter. But this was, I think the dating app happened, I was just sent that, right, as an example. Like you could catch people’s attention somehow, right, and have fun with it. 

John Koetsier: Agreed.

Fouad Saeidi: And that’s what we [need in] the mobile world, right? So in the industry unless you’re like, you know, a government app …

John Koetsier: Haha, exactly. Let’s get a little more personal. You’re not just somebody who markets games for others …

Fouad Saeidi: Yeah.

John Koetsier: … or advises people on retention. You actually have your own games as well. I want to ask you why you’ve done that. What’s the purpose and everything like that. And some of the key learnings that you’ve discovered as a result of owning, and operating, and managing, and running your own games.

Fouad Saeidi: Yeah, John, that’s a very good question. I mean, I was a nerd playing video games since I was seven years old, like Atari and Sega, you know, probably a lot of us grew up with those. And gaming is almost 40% of these industries. I mean, I have a passion for games. I love it. And yes, we acquired some games, like we acquired them, we didn’t build them from scratch, but we felt like they have potential. They were having like, you know, some of them were having four digit downloads a day. We realized that they have opportunity for growth by fixing how we’re talking about retention, or opportunity for ASO ranking in the app store.

So, but you know, I underestimated the fact that it is much, much harder to actually work on your own project compared to other people’s ’cause now you have your own personal obsession. Now you’re taking the team’s time to work on it, and priorities and you know. So, tell me about it. It has been an interesting journey, right, a lot of learning. We have this game, our Kart Rush is a kart game, like racing game, and just users need to come back more and it’s like in a racing game, there’s a lot of distraction out there. Why would you go to another racing game and like play it all the time. So it has poor monetization. So we recently started heavily working on it again, the same process, the taxonomy, the events, getting the developers to code all those so we can know what’s going on.

The app monetization right now is poor, like you just need to buy coins. But why do I need coins? Give them a purpose to buy coins, give them a purpose to come back daily, or daily rewards like significant for people to come back, right? And at the end of the day, and for games, like what’s the purpose of playing games? 

John Koetsier: It’s to have fun. 

Peggy Anne Salz: I thought I was going to answer. I thought it was like quiz — have fun. Interestingly enough, Fouad, you haven’t gone into what we talked about before, which is now he’s totally hooked on Frozen, John. So it works.

John Koetsier: Hahaha.

Fouad Saeidi: Level 300.

Peggy Anne Salz: Level 300 on Frozen.

John Koetsier: Oh, are you trying to kill all his dating prospects here, Peggy?

Fouad Saeidi: Well, I got a four year old, she got me hooked to this. So …

Peggy Anne Salz: See? There you go. Getting hooked on games, absolutely. Something’s working in all of those campaigns. Which is a great segue, okay, to my next question, which is really, you know, we talk about how you need to hook people, but I’d like to understand how you hook people. So what can you share around the best rewards, the best incentives, maybe something that obviously got you hooked. We won’t use Frozen necessarily, but something must have done it, right? 

Fouad Saeidi: Yeah.

Peggy Anne Salz: And then more importantly, just as a side question to that, not just how you reinforce these habits, but how you know when you’re hitting the nail on the head. In other words, how you measure the results. 

Fouad Saeidi: Obviously. So I mean, there’s again, I said like about internal and external factors for getting people hooked on things, right. I’ve got hooked to, at times, like FIFA mobile was, I mean, football, soccer, right. Soccer games, so that’s my favorite sport. So I got hooked to FIFA mobile when I was at [home with] a newborn kid, she would wake up every two hours, every three hours.

And imagine, you can’t sleep after the kid just wakes you up. So what do you do? You play this game, right? And like you can’t sleep, just play — it’s a no brainer. At two o’clock in the morning nobody can work or function really after a kid wakes you up, right. So that was couple of years ago. And first thing was okay, time is important for some people, right? I think about push in a game. Sometimes a lot of these people that they spend money in games, I think some research by EA was saying a lot of these people that play games were in their mid-thirties — you think there’s a lot of teenage and young kids — but they’re actually the ones that are power users.

They spend a lot of money in those games, are the ones that they have some purchase power. They might be parents, time is more important. They don’t have time like those kids to sit there and do a lot of things, right, so they just purchase the $1, $2, $5, right? 

Peggy Anne Salz: Mm-hmm.

Fouad Saeidi: The first $1 transaction is the most important one. Now you’re committed to a purchase. 

Peggy Anne Salz: Right.

Fouad Saeidi: So Freefall mobile, what they do is the onboarding is just half an hour to get to the game. Like a lot of tutorial completion, a lot of things to get there. Obviously a lot of these are soccer fans, right? But they make you daily visit to app store, to the game store. You need to do a purchase and they give you a free purchase every day. So you visit the store, you get tempted, you see all those offers and the last one is the free purchase, right? So you get daily visits, it’s a part of your completion today.

At the end of the day, if you did all these things, you’ll get a good reward, which is like, I don’t know, whatever it is, like a gem or a coin or wherever that’s like important to purchase the better play or upgrade your players. But to get you to that daily habit of visiting a store to possibly do a transaction, right? So I think that got me hooked. I did the first 99 cents. I’m like, you know what, I’m a new dad, I don’t go out to drink, like four or five years ago, to party, or like do anything else. I might as well spend $5 for myself, or $1 for myself. And that led to $5 to $10. I spent $1,500 in two years on FIFA mobile eventually. And I’m like, you know … 

John Koetsier: You’re a whale.

Fouad Saeidi: I did.

Peggy Anne Salz:  I was going to say, definitely, you’ve got one of the 2% whales here. 

Fouad Saeidi: So even, I mean, I looked at one year of entertainment that was like, I had a lot of fun and I mean, babysitting, well, some of that, but really I had to eventually delete that and I got serious with business. And like, you either get to play games or do business, right. So, you can’t always …

Peggy Anne Salz: Now you’ve got a business with playing games, Fouad. 

Fouad Saeidi: Well, you can make money now. Now you tried to tell that to other people, all those learnings, right?

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah.

Fouad Saeidi:  So that’s what we’re doing. So, yeah, I mean for Frozen, same thing from my kid, I mean the game itself, Jam City and Disney, kudos to them. They’ve done a really good job with this. They’ve got the daily rewards. They’ve got like clean UI, a good story, obviously the brand. I mean every kid, you’re telling me a three, four year old kid out there that doesn’t know Elsa or Frozen, right? So they get under parents’ skin, they get parents hooked, and eventually the transaction happens, right? So … 

John Koetsier: It’s a whole new market for Disney. I had no idea. Parents who play Frozen, there’s got to be a support group somewhere for that. 

Fouad Saeidi: I’m sure there is, you can find it. 

John Koetsier: Haha, $1500 dollars later on Frozen. 

Fouad Saeidi: Right.

Peggy Anne Salz: Some community on Reddit where they’re trading their stories. But I do hear something here which is really about, you know, we’ve got clean UI. We’ve got very clearly connecting to your interests. We’ve got a little bit of FOMO going on. So I mean, underneath all of that, we are hearing the triggers that get people hooked, that influence behavior. What about that measurement of results?

That’s going to be a tricky one. That’s always going to be, ‘it depends,’ is the first answer. But I would like to understand a little bit more about how to understand when you’re hitting, when you’re missing. For the marketers, not for you playing Frozen

Fouad Saeidi: Well, obviously for the marketers, obviously it’s about like at the end, financial commercial goals of the app, which is like are they an in-app purchase or in-app advertisement revenue, right. But that doesn’t come til retention Day 1 is hit, and that doesn’t come til retention Day 7 is hit, retention Day 30 depends on retention Day 7, depends on retention Day 1, which is about onboarding and everything that the app does right away after installing the app, right?

So, basically all these things are to measure like in Firebase or any analytic tool that we’re using out there, that’s how to measure did we hit those goals with retention Day 1, 7, 30 and eventually the transaction, right? A lot of these apps out are giving free subscription. A lot of them are giving freebies, free trials. So measuring everything, all those funnels, all those basically events to be well-documented. It starts with taxonomy, as I said, and basically connecting the dots there, right? So that’s basically the measurement, there’s no other way to do it.

Peggy Anne Salz: Mm-hmm. 

John Koetsier: Well, Fouad, this has been a wonderful half an hour, a little bit plus, actually, listening to you, learning from you. It’s a real pleasure to have had you on the show. It’s a real pleasure, I mean, not only to have somebody who plays games, but market games and makes games. Those are challenging things to do, and thank you for your time. 

Fouad Saeidi: You’re welcome, and thanks for inviting me. And looking forward to participating in this in the future as well.

John Koetsier: Wonderful.

Peggy Anne Salz: Thanks, and also you’ve got us hooked in a way, so we will indeed do exactly that, full circle. Again, from my end as well, Fouad, thanks for sharing. Thanks for telling us about some of those triggers, those hooks, sharing your personal experiences — now we know which games and what gifts to give you for the next holidays.

Fouad Saeidi: Thanks Peggy. Thanks, John. Yes. 

Peggy Anne Salz: Great to have you. 

John Koetsier: Well, it’s been a real pleasure having a chat with Fouad and Peggy as well. Whatever platform you’re on, hey, like, subscribe, share, comment, all the above. If you love this podcast, listening to it later on, please rate it and review it, that’d be a massive help. Until next time — this is your line, Peggy — keep well, keep safe. 

Peggy Anne Salz: That’s me, because I’m going to be that empathetic one here, you know, John. 

John Koetsier: Hahaha.

Peggy Anne Salz: Keep well, stay safe. Signing off for Retention Masterclass with the one and only, John. Thank you so much. 

John Koetsier: Thank you so much. Have a great day! 

Fouad Saeidi: Thank you.