User segmentation approaches for games

Discover approaches to segmentation to better target your users and grow your business

Alyssa Perez
Jul 26, 2018 · 12 min read
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Advantages of segmentation

Before discussing the “hows” of segmentation, let’s define some of the advantages. Segmentation enables you to:

  • Create relevant content. Surface the right content to players based on the features and benefits that will matter to them the most, especially when considering where they are in the player life cycle.
  • Drive strong perception of value. Ensure you’re driving the strongest perception of value for your game. This will keep players engaged over time and bring continued monetization growth as players see value in spending both time and money in your game.
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Segmenting by engagement

Engagement is a key component of effective segmentation. If you’re not engaging your players, they won’t see value in sticking around and in-game monetization strategies will be ineffective. The more someone plays, the more they’re enjoying the game, the higher the likelihood they’ll see value in making a purchase. Also, for titles that are concerned with player fairness in offers, engagement segmentation may be the easiest or preferred place to start rather than using monetization segmentation.

  • Creating and assigning attainable goals. Analyze player’s actions and asset consumption in the game to understand different player types. It doesn’t make sense to give a beginner the same goals or assignments as a more skilled and invested veteran player.
  • Creating new habits throughout the player lifecycle. Early insights into gameplay preferences can help you convert beginners to veterans.

How do you measure engagement?

It’s important to consider what increased engagement means in your game. In one game, increased engagement may mean more time spent. For another, it may be about driving players to spend the same amount of time in more significant, impactful areas of the game. These are the areas where you want players to spend their time taking key in-game actions to maximize monetization opportunity.

  • Social casino games enable players to collect free in-game currency daily, sometimes even hourly. A key action in these games is to consume that in-game currency. Things such as a spin on a slot machine, playing a round of bingo, and even quantifying the users who consume their entire in-game wallet can be a meaningful measure of participation and engagement.
  • Strategy games have depth and demand players to take a multitude of actions, both alone and against other players. Participation and engagement are heavily driven by player interactions. Attacks on other players is a good participation metric to consider in this genre. Attacks drive reciprocal actions in-game, such as replenishing resources, re-building camps, and retaliation attacks. Alternatively, players who start construction or collect resources from in-game missions are also taking key actions that capture segments of the population that tracking the attack action alone may miss. Both of these player actions drive higher demand for consumption of in-game currency.
  • Player engagement level can help you assign attainable goals for the quests. Use a player’s gameplay history to assign a value that will increase engagement, but feels achievable to the player.
  • Reward type can help give a stronger incentive for your players to complete quests. Knowing what a player needs, based on their in-game progress, will enable you to design quest rewards that are immediately useful to the player. You can also leverage this to direct players to areas of the game they wouldn’t normally explore.
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Segmenting by monetization

The goal of monetization segmentation is to maximize revenue while minimizing revenue hangover. It has a dual role, to help you understand how to convert your non-paying users and to help maintain or increase revenue from existing buyers. Here are some things to consider to drive meaningful monetization segmentation:

  • Create a payer purchase cycle for buyers.
  • Ensure you’re surfacing relevant offers.
  1. Payment tiers: Once a player has converted to a payer you have a data point telling you how much they’re willing to spend on a given purchase and what types of in-app currency they will open their wallet for. Consider using average transaction value over a recent period (like 4–6 weeks), to create relevant offers for each buyer that they are more likely to convert on.
  2. Purchase frequency: This information is used to keep players on a regular transaction frequency cycle or, possibly, increase the number of transactions. This helps you understand the user’s preferred purchase cycle. It can also indicate whether the player needs an additional offer, based on how recently their last purchase occurred.
  • Refining approaches to converting non-paying users, especially long tenured non-buyers.
  • Segmenting supply-side sales.
  • Targeting lapsed buyers with special offers.
  • Creating post-purchase offer sales.
  • Enhancing your content cadence to drive additional demand for in-app currency by driving up paid asset consumption after a player makes a purchase.
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  • Purchase frequency by knowing when their last purchase was. If it was within the last week, maybe it’s not the best time to surface an offer, since this can lead to the player hoarding assets thus delaying their next purchase further.
  • Engagement behaviors by understanding what your player’s engage with most in your title can help you create different bundled offers that you can assign based on gameplay preferences and demand.
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Approaches to storing data for segmentation

As a mobile developer, your most powerful tool is data. You’re probably already tracking a lot of important information in your game, and much of that data is usable in creating meaningful segments. As with all data tracking, it’s a good idea to track more than you think you need. After all, you can easily ignore extraneous data, but it’s impossible to go back to collect something you’ve missed.

  • What are the core engagement metrics that you want to use? Consider metrics such as core engagement and participation metrics, sessions, time on device, and interactions with features (including tournaments, social, limited time events, and seasonal content vs. progression).
  • What is the critical user data that can help further segment your players? Look at things like in-game level, noting that the user’s position in the player lifecycle can impact behavior drivers, content consumption, and in-app currency inflows and outflows (including sinks, gross and net, as well as where it is spent).
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Approaches to segmentation implementation

There is a perception that segmentation needs to be 100% customized to be effective. While some of the most sophisticated games can create 100% personalized offerings, it’s not required to drive increased performance for your game.

Closing Thoughts

Every game developer can approach and implement player segmentation differently. There’s no one size fits all, but it’s a powerful tool to help you drive engagement and monetization in your game. Hopefully, you have found these different approaches to player segmentation for games useful for your title. While your long-term goal may be to achieve fully customized offers, start small to gain immediate learnings and benefits. You know your game best, so utilize the data you have to make educated assessments on the input factors to create meaningful segments and execute thorough testing to drive iterative improvements.

What do you think?

Do you have thoughts on player segmentation and measurement? Let us know in the comments below or tweet using #AskPlayDev and we’ll reply from @GooglePlayDev, where we regularly share news and tips on how to be successful on Google Play.

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