App Retargeting Strategies for Mobile Gaming in 2023

Gaming apps see one of the lowest retention rates. In 2022, the global average D30 retention rate is only 2.4%.(Statista)

Historically, mobile gaming marketers have had KPIs that are highly skewed toward user acquisition. While acquisition drives the engine, retention is what will sustain it.

Retargeting is a powerful way to retain, engage, and monetize your user base. In this blog, we talk about three strategies that can be a game-changer for your gaming app’s growth. 

Audience segmentation 

Retargeting is all about showing ads that are hyper-relevant to the user at a given moment. This starts with a solid audience segmentation strategy.

Gaming app marketers often segment users based on indicators such as 'leveling up' or 'achievements unlocked.' In addition, you should also segment based on additional identifiers like conversion rates, session duration, inactivity time, most active time, and revenue generated from in-game purchases.

Here are some recommendations from our team:

1) Understand Player Motivations

Develop a clear understanding of various player motivations and use that for effective segmentation. Each segment will have unique characteristics and needs. The more you understand this, the better your campaign’s results will be.

For e.g., ‘the need to feel competent’ might be a driving factor for certain players.
Look out for micro-indicators and patterns in their app engagement data and group these players into one segment.

2) Dynamic Audience Segmentation 

Audience segmentation must take into account the evolving nature of a player’s behavior within the app.

For instance, a user's inactivity period is an indicator that changes every day. This data needs to be updated in real-time for effective audience segmentation. 

3) Bring Dormant Users Back

The average user acquisition cost has been on the rise, year-on-year. The now-dormant users once installed your app for a reason. With a little investment, you can win them all over again and maximize their LTV.

For e.g., dig into past behavioral data and create unique bonuses and messaging for each segment. Don’t wait until the players become dormant. Instead, have a clear plan to reduce the inactivity period for every user segment.

4) Turning Free Players into Purchasers

Monetization is every gaming team’s dream! With the right use of user data, behavioral psychology, and creative innovation, turning free players into paid ones can be a reality. 

For paying users, you can segment audiences based on monetization signals like purchase drivers (in-game events, level upgrades, etc) and purchase frequency for paying users.

For non-paying users, segmentation based on engagement signals and player behavior is effective. Understand the features, levels, and rewards that drive different user segments and use that to make offers they can not resist.

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Newly installed free players are yet to understand what's so fun about your gaming app. Re-engagement can help them gain a deeper understanding.

"Reaching users who installed in the last two weeks and are inactive for more than three days at the right cost works effectively.”

- Tomohisa Akiba, Business Head - Japan 

Creative Optimization and Innovation

Once you have nailed your segmentation, your ad creative strategy determines the success of your retargeting campaign.

What makes a gaming ad creative great?

- The messages cater to each player’s distinct journey within the game.
- The ad is immersive and feels like an extension of the game itself. 
- It effectively guides your user through the game.
- It tells a powerful story, reminding them of all the reasons to play it.

Some best practices to create highly effective ads

1) Creating Ads Relevant for Each Stage: 

Put yourself in the shoes of a player going through your game. Make a list of what would motivate them at each stage. Use that to build a broad storyline and then craft messaging variations for each stage.

For example, a frequent player who has completed 15+ levels would care about competence and being in the know about the game. Create compelling messaging on character updates or throw a hint to give them a competitive edge!

For inactive users, use strategies like:

- Leverage social validation - “Your team/friend needs you.”
  You can also induce a sense of FOMO with player testimonials.

- Remind them of their Competence -  “Only the top-three percentile of players reach this level”

- Let them know that they are missed - “ The < gaming world> doesn’t seem the same without you. You were one of the few players who < state achievement >”
Make them feel like they are part of your gaming community, and do this authentically. You don’t want to send out a hollow “ we miss you” message.

- Build Intrigue and Amusement - Consider creating events within the gaming world and offer rewards around it.

2) Leverage Hybrid Ads

Retargeting ads work best when the messaging looks like one-to-one communication.

Hybrid ads are innovations built for powerful re-engagement. These ads combine different static and rich media elements to create outstanding ad templates. These are AI-powered to show each user the most interesting ad each time.

Mock-up of a hybrid ad combining video, image and animation in the same ad.

Our Japan team confirms that the clients who have tried hybrid ads have seen performance that is 2x better than static ads.  However, it’s important to work with programmatic platforms that have expertise in these niche technologies.

3 ) Creative Testing and Optimization

Creative testing is a crucial part of any ad creative strategy. It ensures that you are  investing only in your best-performing creatives.

It helps you identify the formats, ad copies, sizes, and messaging strategies that are really resonating with your audience. While this process seems exhausting, technologies like DCO and methodologies like A/B testing scales it effortlessly.

For instance, the A/B testing module in the RevX programmatic platform can test different

  • ad messages 
  • ad formats
  • ad sizes
  • ad targeting
  • ad placements

This level of granularity empowers you to make intelligent decisions and reap incredible results.

4) Leverage Video ads and Playables: 

This year, we have seen a significant increase in video adoption across our gaming clients. And for a good reason! The impact of video ads in retargeting campaigns can not be overstated.

It’s engaging, and immersive, and the best canvas to paint your game’s story.

Bet big on user-generated content 

For action and adventure categories, gameplay footage is a good way to highlight the game mechanics and draw players in. Combine that with real gameplay footage from your user base; your ads will truly engage and captivate your users.

A popular gaming app once ran a campaign featuring gameplay failures. These were obvious mistakes, giving viewers a sense of superiority. It left them with the thought, “I could definitely do better.”  This was a highly successful campaign and worth taking inspiration from!

Adopt playable ads to strike a deeper connection:

Playable ads turn the user into the ‘main character’. They let users play a scaled-down version of the game and experience the spirit of the game.

Users get to deeply engage with a brand and decide whether they want to install it, which also improves retention.


In a crowded marketplace, it’s storytelling that will help you rise above the rest.

Gaming audiences are highly motivation-led.  Understanding and leveraging the core needs hard-wired into the human brain, which, when met, is a powerful intrinsic motivator.

The theory of self-determination provides an insight into player motivations

Ask yourself and your product teams two questions; what makes them play, and what makes them stay?

The former could be for stress relief, entertainment, escapism, or social connection.
The latter could be for the need for competence, autonomy, a sense of accomplishment, and belonging.

Leverage these player motivations with compelling storytelling to engage and convert your players better. 

Closing remarks

Gaming app marketers are among the most sophisticated ones in the entire mobile apps ecosystem. Keep an eye on how the industry is evolving and take inspiration from the innovations your peers are adopting.

At the same time, you need to work with a retargeting partner that excels in the above-mentioned aspects.

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Gaming app marketers should master the art and science of storytelling.

We see that apps that use new features (new levels, characters, plots) to attract users have higher retention rates. Such is the power of storytelling and world-building. It can turn dormant users into long-term players.

While a solid messaging strategy helps re-engage users, effective audience segmentation ensures that you are reaching a wider user base at the right cost.

Ensure that you are working with a DSP who can support you in all these aspects. "

-Tomohisa Akiba  

Reach us to see how we can support your gaming app's retargeting strategy.


Shreelaxmi takes care of all things content at RevX. A creative at heart, Shree is passionate about the ever-evolving digital space and what that means for businesses and customers.