The Engagement Challenges of a Seasonal App

Hana Aljoofri Edlund

Marketing Director at Billhop

Learning Objectives

'Tis the season ... for apps! What happens when your app usage flucuates by 50% every 6 months - naturally? For sports apps, including Fishbrain, which focuses on fishing, it means you need to capitalize in-season as well as mitigate the drop in engagement during the offseason. No fish story here just some great bait for external marketing tactics and adjustments to the user experience to correspond to different user needs at different times of the year.

"When we ran these discounts, there were actually a 3 to 5% increase in conversion rates to premium. So that was a big shock to the engineering team. "

Hana Aljoofri Edlund

Marketing Director at Billhop


I’m Hana. I’m the Marketing Director at Fishbrain. I am actually from Singapore based out of Stockholm, working for a fishing app. Previously, I used to work for a company called iZotope, doing the performance marketing. It’s like the competitor to Square in Europe.

Today, I’m going to talk about the engagement challenges of a seasonal app. Anybody here fish? Oh, so all of you know that fishing is actually seasonal [inaudible]. Great. So fishing is a seasonal hobby, a seasonal sport. I mean, the states even have like dates where you can fish and when you can’t fish, right? So I’m going to talk about Fishbrain from the user acquisition perspective, from the CRM, and the product. What we do during the season, and how we mitigate during the off season as well. Cool.

Firstly, Fishbrain is actually a social utility app for anglers around the world. In a nutshell, it’s like Instagram for fishing but with a utility function, so you can have a catch map where it shows like different locations and what fishes people have caught. Then, we have like a machine learning where you take a picture and then they say like, “Okay, this is like 95% a large mouth bass.” Then, you have the fishing forecast, like, what’s the best time and best bait to catch specific fish.

We run on a premium subscription, so a lot of features such as the forecast is locked behind a paywall. Our main market is in the US. During the offseason, we do like Southern Hemisphere. We have 8 million users as well.

So what do we do during the on season? A lot of people think, and also investors, think that most of your work will actually be during the on season, which is now all the way until August. But actually, most of our work and our crunch time for the marketing team is a couple of months before that. Then, I can go on a six week vacation and there’s nothing that’s going to happen during that time because we’ve already prepared for that.

What we do is that we expand user acquisition. All year round, we do a US campaign. But then during the offseason, we capitalize on all our countries that monetize. We have Sweden, UK, Canada, and Nordics. When I showed my husband this presentation, he was like, “You only market in these countries?” I’m like, “Yeah, because you need to know your product, know your customer, and know your market.” So our product is only valuable to users that will log catches in the app. It’s not going to be valuable in Brazil, it’s not going to be valuable in Argentina, but it will be valuable in those specific countries, and we see that they monetize it.

Also, know your market. We don’t advertise in Germany because it doesn’t advocate catch and release. Anybody know what’s catch and release? Basically, you just catch a fish, and then you release it. They think it’s cruel, we don’t think is that cruel. So we don’t advertise there. Then, in China, we don’t advertise, in Africa, because they fish for sustenance and we believe in catch and release. So that’s what we do. The app is global. We could blast us acquisition to all these countries, but we don’t, because we know after they install the app, they will drop off. and we’re wasting our money. So that’s what we do.


We pace budgets higher at the beginning. We have a 30 day free trial, so we have to wait 30 days before they convert. That’s why we push a lot in the beginning so that we acquire as much users with the tri annual and then they lock in. That’s how we get our revenues up.


We also freshen up our UA creatives, and test new channels. So those of you who have been approached by a new channel, they were like, “Oh, it takes four weeks to kind of get your algorithm in place and know what type of customers are going to get before you see any type of performance.” Great. So then I’m going to adjust my acquisition plan and test on my channels in April, May, and June. Then, I know that okay, fishing season is here and you’re still not performing. Sorry, you got to go. I’m not gonna keep you.


Also, freshening up your new UA creatives. Everyone knows that for Facebook and for Google, there are three things that affect your your campaign. Basically, it’s the marketplace bidding, the creatives, and the targeting. We have optimized on targeting day in and day out so we know what works for us. Then, for the creatives, we want to have a bunch of creative so that it’s not the creative that is affecting your CPIs or CPRS. So then we can go and see is actually the marketplace that is. Everyone who uses Facebook, you’ve seen suddenly it rises in the CPI. It’s probably because of marketplace bidding because we have tested, we have run so many creatives, and we have perfected our targeting. We’re like, go back to the CFO, so why is it increasing? It’s because the environment is changing, the bidding environment is changing. It’s not always going to be a linear growth from last year.


Once we get these users, what do we do? So we reengage our dormant users that we have from from the past. We push out new features because during the offseason, what our engineering team does is that they work on new features to improve the app. So we release fishermen bite time, which is a more enhanced machine learning on the best time to fish in the best bits. There’s also the visuals, easier to digest. Then, we push it out. We push on new features, push on a newsletter, like, “Hey, this is what you’ve missed. Come back. Fishing season is coming.” We also push out promotions, so like, Fishbrain bite time pre-season sale. We give a kind of a hype to fishing season. We know fishing season is coming, we want to help you, here’s 30% off our annual subscription. It works.


Also, we use brace to also kind of do a product onboarding of our new users to help our user acquisition. Because for a banner, you need to explain something in less than one second and why I explained to you about Fishbraid took me a minute. So we utilize emails and push kind of like, “Hey, this is why our products [inaudible]. You can do catches. Did you know you can log all catches?” We work with sustainable agencies to work with our data. All these kinds of things we want our users to know, but we use our CRM tool base.


On the product side, during the offseason, what we do is update the best value pricing options based on your geographic location. At Fishbrain, we have this thing called Innovate The Core and Copy The Rest. So what we could have done is we could have used push annual as the best pricing option. That’s why usually most apps do, but for us, it didn’t make sense for our users. We noticed that the LTV on annual subscription during the high season was actually higher. But during the low season, our monthly was actually higher. It makes sense. I mean, you want to lock in your users, but we want them to be having seen this customer experience, right? We don’t want them to get the money, and then not use the app at all, and then not renew this subscription. So we shift our pricing models during seasons, so monthly on the low season and annual on the high season.


Then, comes offseason. All engagement metrics dropped by twofold during offseason. So our catches drop, our likes drops, or shares. Everything just drops. As a company, we should panic. But actually, it’s just fishing. Fishing is a seasonal hobby. We try to mitigate this by a few things. We shift our geographic focus. So yes, we do US all year round, but then we shift more into state focused campaigns. We do Texas, Florida, those states where our monthly active users are the highest, and also the warmer states. Then, we shift over to southern hemisphere like Australia and New Zealand. That’s the fishing season for them, and it’s the most value for them as well. They want to find places to fish.


Then, we have creative ways to keep up engagement. So what we did at Fishbrain was instead of “Come back to the app and log a catch,” we will like “Get your friends to join fish brain and enjoy 40% of your next [unintelligible] purchase.” We work with fishing brands, like Muster and Rappeler to help boost their sales, and also help them get back to the app, and engage with our content again, or lock three hatches you haven’t locked before and receive 20% off the Fishbrain store.


One misconception that we have about Fishbrain is that you need to log current catches. That’s something that we couldn’t communicate in user acquisition. We have tried to communicate in our email marketing, but people forget. Also, because they don’t use our app during the offseason. So we need to remind them that you need to log three catches, and you’ll get 20% of our store. We saw that the engagement had increased by 20%, where we actually launched the series of we caught them like fish breeding challenges. Before that, we didn’t even have Breeze. So we use customer [inaudible], and we use our staff picks and [inaudible] to try and push that. Now with [unintelligible], we’re looking forward to seeing how that engagement will increase even further.


On the product side, what we did was that we introduced the commerce feature. So the people here who fish, you guys know that or you guys probably do your gear and baits buying during the offseason.We saw that people have actually only research their gear and baits at the offseason. So what we did was that we created a commerce. There’s no screenshots in commerce, but we’ve created a commerce tool where you can review baits, you can see what bait has been used for a particular catch, and then you can actually go in and buy the baits through our affiliate links. We want to give our users a whole see seamless experience for their fishing trip, basically, or for their fishing journey. Basically, closing the loop.


Then, there’s the holidays, especially for the US. All your holidays are in the offseason. During the holidays, there’s also an increased willingness to purchase, so we capitalize on that. There’s also an expectation of discounts. That’s how we try and plan our discounts. During Veterans Day, we have a small discount. Then, it comes to Thanksgiving, which is a bigger discount. On Black Friday, we know everyone’s expecting a really, really big discount. So we go over biggest discount of 60% off our annual.


Before this, when we try to go to our engineering team and say, “Hey, I think we should create a campaign page or something within the app or something with a desktop to kind of push discounts for holidays.” They were like, “No, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Your revenue will go down. Your conversion rates to premium will probably not be—there’s not going to be like a huge incremental difference.” They’re like, “Well, there’s this thing called fear of missing out.” So if we tell them that there’s going to be a discount, there’s going to be a fear of missing out and they want to buy it. So in the end, we managed to get some kind of buy in from the product manager. When we ran these discounts, there were actually 3 to 5% increase in conversion rates to premium. So that was a big shock to the engineering team. That’s how we managed to get them to improve the campaigning abilities on our app.


I think that’s it. Anybody have any questions? No, I’m ahead of time. Thank you guys.

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