Best use of FastStats® 2016 Award
Using the FastStats PeopleStage™ integration with Facebook Custom Audience to reactivate 30% more players
Travian Games GmbH, located in Munich, is a globally known self-publishing developer of cross-platform games (online and mobile). The company offers complex and multilayer adventure worlds, which impress customers worldwide due to their game depth and guarantee long-lasting gaming fun for the users. A motivated team develops and markets online entertainment for players of all ages. The company’s focus lies on cross-platform strategy games. Travian Games’ current portfolio includes the following games: Rail Nation, goalunited Legends, goalunited PRO, Travian: Legends, Travian: Kingdoms, Truck Nation, Miramagia and UnitedGP. These games are translated into 42 languages and hence can be used by fans of long-lasting gaming entertainment around the world. Products from the Travian Games portfolio are played in more than 200 countries around the world by more than 137 million registered, confirmed players worldwide.
Travian Games license FastStats via their chosen Apteco approved reseller in Germany - b.telligent GmbH & Co. KG.
Within the gaming industry, “buying” valuable players is getting more and more difficult; in particular, it is getting more and more competitive with new mobile games such as Pokémon Go popping up continuously. So Travian Games was looking for a new way to make use of its existing database of former players within its campaign orchestration. Here’s what Travian Games did and how it achieved relevant financial impact.
In a business model such as free-to-play games - as Travian Games is focussing on - it is not only the prices of acquiring new players through online marketing channels that rise; there is also a high risk: Only around 25% percent of the newly acquired players continue to play and only a share of around 15 percent overall are going to pay. So only every 7th player acquired through traditional online marketing channels will result in revenue. Thus having to finance not only the game, but also the marketing costs for the 6 other inactive or non-paying players.
Not only were 30% more players reactivated but also more payments were generated. These payments overran the CPC costs from Facebook, so we achieved an ROI >100%
One major issue still remained open: As some of their games are on the market for more than 10 years, they have a huge database of email-addresses from more than 137 million registered, confirmed players worldwide. Usually a player has to register only with his email-address or Facebook account to start playing. But unfortunately they can’t address all of this huge player base with email marketing. If they use the old addresses, they could harm their reputation sending emails to unused addresses or long time inactive players. So Travian had to find a different way to make use of this asset. Especially for the cornerstone of their company: Travian: Legends
Travian: Legends is a genuine phenomenon. What began as a self-written game in 2004 is now enjoyed by millions of players around the world. The goal of this browser game is to use skills and tactics to develop a tiny, sleepy hamlet into a powerful empire. Travian: Legends can be played free of charge, but for a few pieces of gold, premium customers can enjoy additional game features.
So during more than 12 years of being on the market, Travian acquired more than 40 million email-addresses from players. As a potential estimation, they analysed what share of the database they could actively address and found out that they could use only less than 6% of the email-addresses for reactivation or cross-selling via email marketing!
More than 22% of the player base either had no confirmed double-opt-in process, had a hardbounce in previous email campaigns, or their email-address was of poor quality. Hence these addresses had to be left out completely. In most countries and communication situations you are forced to have an explicit permission to legally contact your customer via email. Only every third player has this email permission in place at this time. So Travian were left with 25% of the huge database accumulated over the years usable for email marketing.
But they had to cut even deeper:
You can harm your email reputation addressing players inactive for several years and collecting bounces or complaints even having an email permission for these valid email-addresses. From an economic point of view, the use of email marketing is also not recommended at quite low open and click rates of long-time inactive players. So at the end of this funnel Travian can use less than 6% of the email-addresses within the email channel.
Travian had the challenge of finding an additional way to make use of the huge database to reactivate old players rather than buying new, expensive players for Travian: Legends
- Using the enormous potential to reactivate people that were playing their games occasionally, some of which were paying players
- Avoiding black listing not using old, inactive email-addresses and keeping their reputation with ESPs worldwide high
- Staying efficient with their reactivation campaigns; conversion rates decrease in direct proportion to the term of a player´s inactivity
- Keeping within legal constraints by complying with permission requirements and data protection laws
- Additionally getting in contact with inactive and active players through channels other than email
The new channel
Last year a new, promising channel has been integrated into FastStats PeopleStage: Facebook Custom Audience. Based only on their email addresses, Travian can now target players on a different channel integrated in their existing processes and technical infrastructure. They tested this feature of Facebook via agencies in advance, but this was quite a manual process and thus costly. Hence they were very happy when Apteco announced last year that they could use Facebook Custom Audience as an additional channel into PeopleStage.
As shown above the Facebook Custom Audience-channel is integrated into a normal communication flow in PeopleStage. The email-addresses are then hashed and transferred via Facebook API to match with the existing Facebook accounts, if the players are using the same email-address there. Based on the accounts found, a Custom Audience list is generated and a Facebook campaign could be configured with the usual Facebook tools. The hashed transfer of email-addresses is quite relevant for Travian, so they can ensure compliance with data protection laws.
After getting everything within Facebook and FastStats configured correctly, Travian were able to start using and testing this channel. They did a lot of testing and got some impressive results. First question for every marketer is of course, how many of my customers can I address via Facebook and what are the matching rates. The rates differ a lot between regional markets, as you can see in these examples:
Comparing this Facebook statistical data, nearly every second player of Travian: Legends could be reached via Custom Audience. Consistent with the overall smaller usage of Facebook in Russia as compared to other local social networks, the matching rate here is below average. In Russia the social network VK is the most relevant network, it’s going to be interesting for Travian to compare the results when a similar integration is available.
The matching process is of course only the first hurdle to overcome. Reaching the player for a reasonable price, getting him to click and reaching the aim of the campaign to finally reactivate the player are consecutive steps. To test the efficiency of Facebook Custom Audience campaigns, they did a test in these three markets addressing a part of our database for Russia, Germany and Turkey with around 500,000 addresses. To compare the results, a control group of 30% of these have not been used for the Facebook campaign. And here are the results:
Overall 50% of the matched players could be reached during the campaign running time. For Russia, the matching rate was lower, the reached rate (7%) and the other KPIs also strongly deviate, so they excluded Russia with around 1/3 of the email-addresses used from further analysis.
As you can see in the table above, 30% more players from the group targeted via Facebook Custom Audience started to play again (as compared to players in the control group). Not only were more players reactivated, but more payments were generated, as well. And these payments overran the CPC costs from Facebook, so Travian achieved an ROI > 100% only a short time period after the campaign started. This is overall a positive result. And with this test they only targeted a share of around 1% of the before unusable email-addresses in the database for this game.
As a result of the test analysed above and other tests they ran, Travian can conclude that using Facebook Custom Audience is a valuable channel for them to reach a relevant share of the formerly hidden asset of long time inactive players or players without permission. To optimize costs for Facebook advertising using this targeting method they have to test even further how they can improve marketing materials, timing and target groups selected. This will have an influence on click rates and even reach rates as Facebook is optimizing impressions based on CPC or conversion. Especially the results of Russia from their test shown above seem to have great potential to be analysed in more detail and optimized. The newly established Facebook relevance score might help them improve.
Using the new PeopleStage channel integration with Facebook Custom Audience campaigns already has a positive financial impact for Travian as the numbers above show. And these are from one campaign for reactivation targeting around 1% of the player base only. More campaigns for game specific events, cross selling are already executed and more are planned to use the full potential of their accumulated player database and frequently generate relevant revenues for the company. Additionally using the channel integration within PeopleStage saves them around 5.000€ agency costs per year which they previously incurred for manual processes.
Using this channel within their campaign orchestration in PeopleStage gives Travian the advantage to select the target groups more specifically. Now they can combine campaigns via several channels to the same audience in parallel without using different tools to strengthen the effect of their communication. Facilitated by the continuous process within one technical infrastructure using FastStats they want to leverage the CA campaigns even more purposefully with differentiated segments (e.g., active and inactive) in the future.
Unfortunately, they do not get back individual response data from Facebook for addresses matched or clicked. So they can not analyse and optimize on an individual basis, as they are used to in email marketing. But at least Facebook provides some really valuable insights on socio-demographics based on Facebook profile data. As an online and mobile gaming company, they do not have any customer data besides game relevant data, so these reports support Travian in learning more about their customer base.
Travian took another learning from using Facebook Custom Audience campaigns to active and inactive players, partly executed in parallel with email send outs:
"Using this additional channel can support our existing email communication and has a positive impact on our active player base as well. So our case for the Best Use of FastStats 2016 Award was not only about reactivation with formerly not usable email-addresses, but also on combining channels to improve the effect of the existing email channel." Niko Rees, Head of CRM, Travian Games GmbH