Over the summer, Google Play started accepting real-money online gambling apps for the first time. For the current issue of iGaming Business (iGB) we explored the impact of the search giant’s decision on app marketing in the gaming space.

You can read the article in iGB’s online edition of the print issue, which is also being distributed at this week’s Berlin Affiliate Conference. Alternatively, you can read the piece here. Part one is published below, with the second and final part published tomorrow.

In August, the Google Play app store opened the door to real-money gambling apps. The search giant’s decision to liberalize its approach on iGaming apps provides operators with an important player acquisition opportunity.

Following Apple’s recent introduction of App Store Search Ads, smaller and mid-tier operators now have another reason to develop both Android and iOS apps. Nonetheless, to successfully market apps today requires a segmented app store optimisation (ASO) strategy, the use of app store advertising and the support of other marketing channels, including affiliates.

Killer Apps

European consumers are increasingly mobile. Smart phone penetration in the UK market reached a peak of 81% adults in July 2017, according to GlobalData. Tablet usage is not far behind, with Deloitte reporting that an unprecedented two thirds of British adults now have access to a large-screen mobile device.

With our online lives dominated by tablets and smart phones, marketers are increasingly focused on how consumers interact with their devices. Mobile usage is split between apps and the mobile web. The majority of users’ time spent in-app: 84.7% of the average consumer’s mobile usage, according to eMarketer.

Nonetheless, not all apps are created equal. Users tend to limit their installs to a select clique of social networking and messaging apps such as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Google Maps. eMarketer reports that the average user only actively engages with 21 apps a month.

As well as ensuring that their app is one of the chosen few that a user installs, iGaming operators have faced the additional challenge of being excluded from Google Play since 2010. The prohibition has not been inconsequential, given the importance of app store search in app discovery. Apple estimate that over 65% of iOS app installs result from users searching within its App Store, and Google Play is no different. “Search makes up the majority of installs,” says Relly Brandman, Product Manager at Google, in a company video.

Excluded from Google Play, operators hosted their Android apps on-site. More recently, they hosted them in gambling-focused app stores such as Betcade, though these third-party sites lack Google’s reach and brand recognition. As a result, those operators that invested in Android app development tended to primarily use them to engage existing players and raise their customer lifetime values.

Operators’ use of apps for new player acquisition focused almost entirely on their iOS apps, which Apple allowed to be hosted in the App Store. Google’s recent decision therefore significantly broadens iGaming app marketing, allowing operators to target new users across devices. Considering that Android smart phones have a dominant market-share in the UK – 55% versus iPhones’ 42.3% share, according to Kantar Worldpanel – the importance for brands’ customer acquisition cannot be overstated.

Check out the second and final part of our two-part article for iGB Magazine on the Content Hub here. Once you’ve read both pieces, please leave your thoughts in the comments section.