Oksana Vengrovska: “The key driver of mobile growth is a product that meets user needs”

Written by Tappx
Created Jun 08, 2023 - Updated Jul 31, 2023

SKIDOS is an educational games company for kids. It helps 3-7-year-old kids learn tracing letters and practice mathematics while having fun. SKIDOS has grown mostly organically thanks to ASO and rapid experiments across different steps of the funnel, starting with awareness and finishing with revenue and retention. This is precisely what their Head of Brand, Oksana Vengrovska, has explained at GamesForum Hamburg. We at Tappx were able to talk to her in advance, and here is the insightful chat. 

How are you doing, Oksana? Hectic days before the upcoming events and the summer break?

Yes, very busy days, so many plans and things to do before the summer holiday. 🙂

You are going to join the GamesForum Unfiltered UA panel talking about the success story of SKIDOS. Can you tell us something about your intervention in advance?

I am really excited about this panel, it is going to be very insightful. The participants have tons of experience, at the same time, we come with different backgrounds and knowledge. SKIDOS is in the kids’ category, and we are a subscription-based business. We need to follow lots of regulations about privacy and provide kids with a safe gaming environment. This influences how we acquire users and how we build a product in general. Most of our subscribers are organic, and we have grown without substantial user acquisition spending. We are focusing a lot on experimentation across different steps of the funnel – starting with awareness and finishing with monetization and retention. So I will be talking about how we grew at SKIDOS thanks to the rapid experimentation culture. And if someone wants to have a further chat about it, I will be glad to continue after the panel. 

As you say, SKIDOS has grown organically and that is a long-term work that requires a lot of effort and also a lot of time. What advice would you give to those who might be considering giving up the organic part?

My expertise lies primarily in organic growth. I have seen such great results that I cannot imagine someone would ever want to give up on the organic part. 🙂 Especially now. But you are right, it requires a lot of time, initial research, and continuous effort. In my practice, I have seen several common mistakes (if we can call them that). 

  1. First is when you don’t iterate after running successful experiments. Let’s say you run a screenshot experiment, it shows great results, you are happy, top managers are happy and you relax. But that’s not what should happen. There is no such thing as ideal screenshots, even if App Store Connect and Google Play Console are showing that you are way ahead of your competitors. You should always strive to be better than your previous self. So iterating on a successful experiment is very important. At SKIDOS, we have a portfolio of over 50 games. Our top games perform very well in terms of conversion to download and bottom-of-the-funnel performance. And to be honest, sometimes we are hesitant to run experiments on those games so as not to break anything. But we still do that, just on a smaller sample size. And we always get new insights and learnings that we can extrapolate to our other games.
  2. The second case is a bit the opposite: you run an experiment or maybe a couple of experiments, and the results are positive but insignificant. And you think: ok, all those things don’t make sense, they don’t bring big improvements. But this is also not something that should discourage you. First of all, a lot of small improvements will show good results if you look at it over time and compare before and after. Second of all, insignificant results don’t mean that a big change is not possible. You can try to introduce a more radical change and try out a whole different approach with your creatives. Or you can experiment with another visual asset (not screenshots but an icon, for instance).
  3. Another thing I have seen at some companies, especially at bigger organizations, is that there are different people responsible for different steps of the funnel, and a lot of the time, they work in silos. This is something that doesn’t work for us at SKIDOS. We are a subscription-based business. Our organic acquisition specialists follow the user starting with the discovery and finishing with starting a trial. We don’t have a separate ASO manager and a separate monetization manager. You cannot launch a successful monetization experiment in onboarding if you don’t know how your users found you, which keywords bring you traffic, what they see in the app stores, etc. It is important to understand users’ intent and the whole user journey.  

So yes, the general advice would be: don’t give up on organic. 🙂 


Tips to develop a winning ASO strategy

Apart from ASO and brand awareness, could you give us more details about the experiments you did in the different steps of the funnel? To the extent that can be told…

Yes, sure. The Growth Marketing team at SKIDOS is responsible for all the steps of the AAARR funnel (awareness, acquisition, activation, retention, revenue). As I mentioned above, we have acquisition managers who are responsible for driving traffic to the stores and converting them to downloads. Mainly it is organic traffic but we also do run some ASA campaigns for our top iOS apps. I cannot say we do a lot of keyword experiments, this is not something that works nowadays. We focus mostly on visual assets to convert impressions and product page views to downloads. So we are talking here about experiments around video poster frames, screenshots, icons, etc. Since we are a subscription-based business, onboarding is very important since it helps to convert downloads to trialists. We run a lot of experiments on onboarding screens. This includes testing different messages, creatives, pricing plans, offers, etc. 

Once we get a trialist, our goal is to keep him/her. Our retention communications happen primarily through emails and push notifications. There is a lot of room for experimentation in those channels.

We imagine that developing video games for children is quite a challenge. Are they the most demanding target?

Kids are very demanding but their parents are demanding as well. 🙂 In our case, we need to take into account the interests and pains of both groups – kids (our user personas) and their parents (our buyer personas). Parents usually would like to see learning and educational benefits while kids are looking for fun and engaging content. It is not easy to balance those needs. Our researcher spends a lot of time talking to parents and play-testing with kids. And we as marketers spend a lot of time learning the insights from our researcher. 

You have extensive experience not only in mobile apps and games growth but also in marketing and PR. What do you like most about your job?

I started my professional journey as a PR specialist. For about 10 years, I have worked with external and internal communications. I love working with people, talking to them, telling them stories, being creative, and building long-lasting relations and friendships. Of course, nobody likes crisis situations but dealing with crises in the organization or related to the business builds your strong personality as well. This is something that working in communications has given me and I am very grateful for this experience. 

But I am also a very structured person and I like to see the results of my ideas. And that’s what growth marketing is very good at – you research, build your hypothesis, plan the experiment, run it, see the results, and then use your creativity and previous experience to iterate further.  

Actually, a month ago I switched to a new role – I am now leading the brand team. SKIDOS is not a strong brand. We have been growing organically thanks to ASO and experiments for quite some time but we understand very well there is a limit to that. So now, I will be working with the team to build the brand and raise awareness about it. We are just at the very beginning of this journey, it will be exciting. 🙂 

How has the industry changed in these more than 10 years of career? Did you imagine, for example, that Artificial Intelligence would become as relevant as it is now?

I am a bit jealous of people who remember clearly what was 10 years ago because I don’t. 🙂 You see, within the last 10 years I have also changed industries, so whatever I imagined back then might not be relevant for the mobile space. Let’s see, at that time, I was still working in communications within large organizations. To be honest, I never thought that I would end up working with mobile apps and games in the first place. I didn’t imagine it would be such a big industry. Funny story: 2 years ago, I was at the SEO meetup here in Copenhagen. I don’t remember what the discussion was about specifically but I mentioned something about ASO. And the SEO expert who gave the presentation didn’t know that there is a “thing” similar to SEO but for app stores. I was so surprised that there are marketers who have not heard of ASO but I meet such people even now.   

About AI: no, I don’t think I was imagining it to become so approachable to all of us. My husband is a software engineer so we have had talks about machine learning in the family but to me, it has always been something distant and very complicated, something that can be used for business purposes. I never thought that a tool similar to ChatGPT would be available to any person with Internet access.

If you had to pick only one driver for mobile growth, which one would you choose?

When I first read this question, I was thinking it is not possible to pick just one driver. Because there are different stages of a company’s development, products are different in nature. When you start, you focus on acquisition. After some time, you will switch to focusing on activation, retention, etc. However, I believe that no matter what the stage of the company is, a key growth driver is a product that meets the existing needs of its users. It is obvious that a good product is a key to good retention and no matter how many emails or push notifications you send, they will not save you if the product doesn’t solve customer problems. But even if you look at the top of the funnel and awareness-acquisition stage: if you don’t show a good product on your screenshots or in your ads, nobody will even download the game or app. Of course, you can use fake visuals, but that’s a different discussion.  

We guess that leading a growth marketing team implies a lot of research, uncertainty, and experimentation. How do you deal with that in an industry that is constantly changing and growing so fast?

There is no secret here and no silver bullet. You just need to learn constantly about the industry and your users: follow the trends, read professional newsletters and blogs, watch webinars, read case studies, attend conferences, observe what your competitors and apps from other categories are doing, learn about behavioral psychology, talk to your users a lot and understand their pains. And another part is testing out those insights and experimenting regularly. Even if you think you have the best conversion in the world. 🙂 

You have also worked in different markets including Europe, North America, and Asia. Do you see many differences between them?

If we talk about creatives in app stores, I have not seen that many differences between Europe and North America. But Asia, and specifically countries like Japan, South Korea, India – this is a different story. I used to work at an app company where Japan was one of the core markets. It was a new market to me, and I had to do extensive research about the market, the culture, design preferences, user behavior, etc. Just look at Japanese publishers and how they communicate about their apps in App Stores – the difference is very obvious. Very often, the screenshots that worked in the US and Europe didn’t perform well in Japan.

Talking about product offering and pricing – at SKIDOS, we see a difference between North America and Europe. And within Europe, countries can also react differently to pricing experiments.  

Thanks for your time, Oksana. We really appreciate it, and enjoy GamesForum to the fullest!

Thank you too. See you at GamesForum!

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