A Question of Trust

Marcus Ramark, CEO of 123play.com, argues that ad-funded games providers must
focus on building consumer trust if they want to enjoy sustained success

123playMarkus Ramark
A year or so ago,there were plenty of people who thought the idea of advertising-funded mobile content would never really work. The mobile content industry had settled into a convenient pattern, here developers and publishers were simply providers to mobile operators; it was the perators who controlled any and all access to consumers. Easier to leave it with the party that already knew its audience, and which was trusted and trustworthy.
Except that a year is a long time, especially in the mobile content world. Operators have now shifted their focus from games and video to music and the mobile web, meaning that not only are there opportunities to sell direct to consumers, but if the market is to continue to grow, alternate retail models must be encouraged to thrive. Ad-funded games and music have seen strong uptake, and for advertisers, its proving to be a valuable channel to reach engaged consumers. The growth of ad-funded is one of several reasons why off-portal sales (i.e. non-operator downloads) is projected to overtake on-portal sales by the end of this year. Its been a while since the furore over Crazy Frog, but if off-portal is going to thrive, companies will need to put building trust at the centre of everything they do.

Easier said than done
And for some, thats easier said than done. Creating services that consumers can trust requires time, effort and vigilance. So while some companies have succeeded, many are still failing. Consumer group Which? recently stated that a majority of advertised off-portal services breach many of the rules governing download services, and provide a very poor experience for users.
For any mobile service to succeed, the overall experience needs to be perfect, or as close to perfect, as you can get. Even more so for ad-funded content: its more likely that consumers trying an ad-funded service will be downloading content for the very first time. In my experience, there are a handful of factors that are key to building a successful and trustworthy service:

1) Quality – Any service in any industry relies on the quality of its product. Services which appear to offer something cheaper, but with less quality control, may seem like a more appealing option initially, but inevitably, there is always a downside. Quality content is essential to attract consumers and compete with the carrier decks. Providing high-quality, popular games for a variety of audiences means consumers are more likely to re-use the service on offer to them. With advancements being made in the handset world, mobile phones are more capable than ever in providing consumers with a better service. The games on offer need to reflect this.

2) Quality advertisers – Using advertisers that are of interest to the user means that you are giving the consumer exactly what they want. Working with the right advertisers allows a service provider to deliver tailored and relevant key advertising to its audience. In a world where its easy to filter adverts through advanced TV systems, and you have iTunes competing with the radio, advertising needs to be smarter, and directed to its target audience, and not just in a blanket fashion.

3) Minimise poor experiences in the service – Providers need to work towards keeping an excellent end-user experience front of mind. Choosing an ad-funded mobile game means the consumer is accepting the whole package, from the time it takes to download the game, to the quality on their mobile phone. Each step needs to be 100% right, and if it isnt, then the overall quality of the service will be diminished. 

4) Enough downloads, volume and users to get quality advertisers on board – Success in ad-funded mobile gaming includes getting a wide-distribution audience. Affiliate deals with key publishing houses and websites give access to key consumer audiences, emphasising free mobile games, with targeted, quality advertising from top brands. With an established consumer base already in place, users trust the publishers and their recommendations to provide a service of high quality, right from the outset.  

5) Build trust among users by keeping the service quality high and avoiding negative impacts such as hidden costs, spamming etc – Once an audience has been generated, it is important not to let that level of service diminish.  By working only with top brands and games providers, companies can ensure the service works perfectly for its audience. 

By following these steps, providers can aim to supply top quality games for their user-base, and provide advertisers with a wide-ranging user-base for their services, whilst maintaining high standards for the consumer – in short, everyone wins.