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Non-Paying Users: To Support or Not to Support?

The author of the article, Nataliya Krylova, works in Ansvery support outsourcing team. She entered the field of customer support in 2014 and has worked her way from a support agent to a team manager. Nataliya knows about support internal organisation and can build it from scratch, set up a helpdesk system and establish communication with a Client. She can create a perfect balance between the players' needs and the Client's requirements. 

Which players affect the revenue?

Revenue is one of the most important and pleasant metrics in the world of mobile games (even if a game is a “free-to-play” one). Developers are happy to see revenue grow and always search for new ways to increase it. This article will show how an efficient support service can contribute to this very purpose.

Revenue mainly consists of the sum total of purchases that players make during the whole time period spent in the game. The metric that represents total revenue gained from a player throughout the in-game time is called LTV (Lifetime Value). All players can be divided into two major groups based on their payment habits. And let's be honest, paying players are of a greater value to developers. To be more precise, the most valuable players are so-called “whales” as they ensure high ARPPU figures (the average revenue coming from a player who made at least one purchase during a certain time period). The analytic data say that “whales” provide 86,6% of the revenue.

A good service: who deserves it? 

Developers often believe that only users that directly affect the revenue are worthy of high quality support. As a rule, maximum attention is paid to the “whales”: they get fast and polite responses to their requests, generous bonuses and compensations, and their issues resolved in the shortest time possible. According to this strategy, non-paying users are not worth any time, effort – or, indeed, any support at all. Since there is a small body of users that ensure income, one should work mostly with them. But to what extent is this strategy justified?

By excluding non-paying players we seem to be saying: "They will never pay us money". But we cannot be absolutely positive that a player who doesn’t pay us at the moment will never start doing that in future. It is quite possible to miss a potential “whale” by refusing to work with non-paying players.

What profit does support of non-paying players bring? 

Let’s take a look at a real-world example. Two men came into the shop. One of them was wearing an elegant suit, expensive shoes and a luxury watch. It was obvious that he was used to spending money in fine boutiques - perhaps, in this one. The second man looked like an average provincial. The shop staff met the first customer with a glass of champagne, turned on their charms and surrounded him with care and attention. The second visitor remained undetected. He was smitten with the shop and its exquisite interior, variety of goods and their convenient position on the shelves. But the staff paid no attention to him. Now, the key question: will the second visitor wish to buy anything in this shop? No. He won’t even buy the cheapest piece of goods there. This shop won’t become a perfect place in the world for this man. He won't ever return there and surely will never recommend this place to his friends. On the contrary, there is a great possibility that he will start sharing negative feedback based on his personal experience with his friends and on social networks. Of course, it can damage the shop’s reputation. And the man will take his money to a shop with customer-driven support members.

Now let's imagine that this man visited not a shop but a game. He liked the app and enjoyed the gameplay. When he faced an issue and asked the support team for assistance, he received no answer or just a canned response. How will he feel? He will, probably, feel like the second man in the shop (the one who was ignored) as the situations under analysis are basically similar. Not only won’t the player wish to make purchases in this game but he can also stop playing at all. He will never recommend the game to his friends and will likely give it a low rating in the app store and share his negative feedback to let other players know about the way he was treated by the developer. 

But what if a user receives professional high-quality support coupled with their favourite app? Quite possible that it can lead to their decision to start making in-game purchases. Can such type of conversion from a non-paying player to a paying one influence the game ARPU? According to the researches, paying players make 1-2% of the free-to-play games audience. Actually, paying users are not so numerous. Thus, if we manage to acquire more paying players by “transferring” them from non-paying ones, it will influence the overall picture.

Even if you have a small loyal group of “whales”, increasing the percentage of paying players will be a great achievement.

Results players support can achieve

In order to determine a way to convert a non-paying player into a “payer”, first of all, one should pay attention to basic principles of player behavior

Experience and analysis of mobile “free-to-play” games show that non-paying players prefer to play several games of the same genre. On the contrary, paying users usually choose one app where they keep making purchases. “Whales” are even more loyal to their game of choice. 

The company’s goal is to drive a player to choose its product among a great number of similar apps. It is necessary to take every opportunity for achieving this goal due to a highly competitive environment on the mobile game market. We believe that an accessible and effective support service is one of such opportunities. In case a player runs into an issue in several similar games and receives fast and competent response in one of them, they are more likely to purchase from the company that provides them with support.

Perhaps, you won't win the player's favour at once. The same GameAnalytics research shows that it takes “whales” some time to get started before they begin making purchases. Providing a player with qualified support during this period makes a positive contribution to achieving the followings goals:

  • to preserve the user’s desire to keep playing the game;

  • to encourage the player to make their first purchase;

  • to ensure the player’s loyalty to the game so they continue making purchases and perhaps become “whales” someday.

When players are most exposed to influence?

As mentioned earlier, paying players make 1-2% of the free-to-play mobile games audience. Thus, a vast mass of users consists of non-paying players. How to cope with them all?

There are no ready-made solutions on how to work towards that goal. A great deal depends on the app itself, its genre, and its users. Nevertheless, we can give you some hints and suggest a line of the analysis based on our own experience.

First of all, try to determine what "good support" means for your players. It will save you time and effort if you don’t get distracted by things that won't be appreciated. For example, players of hardcore games are more likely to appreciate fast response from a support team rather than an ornate and flowery style. 

Further on, we recommend to analyze your non-paying users and mark out a group of the most flexible players that you can influence.

Review your game to find out a perfect moment when you can impress users most. Try to pay attention to the following periods:

  • Onboarding

During this period users are just beginning with the app, so they can reach the support team with different issues. It’s precisely the right time to influence a player and shape their opinion.

What issues can bother new players? Their questions mostly relate to the game content and mechanics. If a user receives competent support at this very moment, they will be even more excited about getting a starter-pack that so conveniently appears at the beginning of the game.

  • Time-limited events (Live Ops)

Events are used in a game in order to increase the revenue. But if a player comes across any difficulties and doesn’t receive proper assistance from the support team while taking part in the event, they may not make a suggested purchase or even ask to refund their previous payments. That’s why it’s important to support users at such a moment and don't let them get disappointed. 

  • Trial by bug

This is another key moment for a player. A period when glitches occur in a game is the busiest time for the support. But this very moment can turn out to be a defining one for a user - they may keep on playing the game or they may quit it forever. Hence, it’s important to communicate with a player and assure them that you have received their request and are working towards a solution.

Closing remarks

Even if in the end it all doesn't work out as you initially expected (a player doesn’t make a purchase) you can reach some other important results. Having received a mass of positive emotions from a game and strengthened them with good support, a player may be of benefit to you, that is: 

  • recommending the game to friends and acquaintances that will increase the app k-factor, DAU and MAU parameters (number of active players per day and month);

  • watching commercial videos that will bring you revenue anyway;

  • writing rave reviews about the game that will increase its rating in the app store;

  • telling about the company and the game to somebody who may turn out to be your future “whale”;

  • starting to play your other games.

And now you are one step closer to the top of the Forbes list :)

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