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The average cost of app user acquisition was US$3.52 as of August 2019. It is a hefty sum to pay for your app to gain the popularity and downloads it deserves.
One of the biggest challenges app creators face is maintaining good numbers for acquisition, retention and engagement. Even if you have done a great job in developing an app, users will fail to appreciate it unless you notify them of its existence.
That’s where user acquisition (UA) proves to be beneficial. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about starting a successful user acquisition campaign, along with some best hacks to make it effective.
What Is User Acquisition?
User Acquisition (UA) is the act of gaining new users for an app through different strategies involving organic and promotional methods. These strategies are designed to inform users about the app’s existence and offer more reasons why they should install it.
Why Is App User Acquisition Important?
With user acquisition, you can expand your app’s user base and find users with the highest value in the process. This will ultimately increase the return of investment (ROI) made in the app. Here are some of the top reasons why app user acquisition strategies are essential.
- To grow the user base, which otherwise will remain stagnant.
- To counter the effects of uninstalls and also the decline of organic installs.
- To boost an app’s presence and ranking in app stores.
Crucial App User Acquisition Metrics You Need to Know
Measuring the app user acquisition campaign metrics is as important as having one. Otherwise, you will fail to recognise the strategies that fetched the maximum number of users and the ones that didn’t turn out well.
Here’s a list of the key performance metrics you need to consider.
1. Click-Through Rate (CTR)
It is the percentage of the number of users who clicked on an app install ad that was served to them.
2. Install Rate (IR)
It is the percentage of the number of users who downloaded the app by clicking on the ad displayed.
3. Conversion Rate (CVR)
It is the percentage of the number of users who performed the desired action over the total number of impressions. For example, if you served an ad for users to purchase a bag, then buying the bag is the desired action.
4. Cost Per Install (CPI)
It is a fixed amount paid to the publishers each time the app is installed via their advertisements.
5. Cost Per Thousand (CPM)
It is the amount paid to the publishers for every 1000 impressions of an ad.
6. Effective Cost Per Thousand (eCPM)
It is the cost of every 1000th ad impression, regardless of the buying method (fixed price, CPM, CPC, CPA or CPO).
7. Cost Per Click (CPC)
It is the amount paid to a publisher for every ad click, calculated as the total amount spent divided by the total number of clicks.
8. Cost Per Acquisition / Action (CPA)
It is the total amount associated with acquiring a new user, calculated as the total amount spent divided by the number of conversions.
9. Lifetime Value (LTV)
It is the prediction of the net profit a user can bring to a company, during their entire relationship.
10. Return of Investment (ROI)
It is a measure to determine how much you earned from ads opposed to how much you spent on them.
11. RR (Retention Rate)
It is the percentage of returning users. You can calculate it by comparing the number of users within a specific period, to the same users in a previous period.
12. CR (Churn Rate)
It is the percentage of users who stopped using your app. They may have either gone with a competitor’s app or may have found your app uninteresting.
13. DAU (Daily Active Users)
It is the number of unique app users in a day.
14. MAU (Monthly Active Users)
It is the number of unique app users in a month.
It is the percentage of how often users return to your app. It is calculated by dividing the DAU by MAU.
How to Get Started With App User Acquisition?
1. Have a Plan
Planning is crucial for every app user acquisition campaign as it helps you set goals, structure your strategy and come up with a budget. It will also help team members such as writers, designers and managers get an idea of what you are trying to achieve.
2. Estimate the Cost of Acquisition
The cost of customer acquisition (CAC) is an estimate of what you will have to spend to get one user. Of course, if you are new to user acquisition, deciding on the CAC will be a daunting task. But having one in place will help you judiciously make a budget.
CAC is calculated by dividing the total amount spent during a specific time for the user acquisition by the total number of users acquired.
3. Identify Your Target Audience
Understanding who your target users are and who isn’t is critical for streamlining your efforts and budgets. Imagine showing an app install ad of an FPS game to a 70-year old. They may try it out of curiosity, but chances are slim.
By not defining your target audience, you are wasting the viewers time and your budget. Showing app install ads to users who have already installed the app isn’t rewarding as well.
Knowing your target audience has benefits. You get to plan where and how you are going to entice them to use your app.
20 Hacks to Improve User Acquisition
1. Relook Your Monetization Strategy
Your app monetization strategy will significantly affect its install rates, especially if you are following a premium model. With several freemium alternatives to consider, users may be a bit reluctant to pay for your app upfront.
If changing the revenue model of your app is not feasible, try offering free trials to entice users or publish a free version of your app with limited features. If users understand the value of your app, they will be willing to pay for it.
To know more about the revenue models you can adopt, have a look at our detailed guide on app monetization.
2. Perform App Store Optimization
App Store Optimization (ASO) must be your first step towards user acquisition as 1 out of 2 users discover apps while browsing the app store. It is the process of optimizing an application for maximum visibility in the app stores when a user searches or browses.
The higher the app is in search results, the more is the chance for users to install it. Unlike paid app user acquisition strategies (discussed later), ASO is purely organic and is based on several factors, including keywords, title, ratings, downloads and engagement, to name a few. You can also run paid ads in app stores.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind while performing ASO for better app user acquisition.
- Choose the right set of keywords and use them in the app’s title and description.
- Use an eye-catching icon.
- Include insightful app screenshots and videos.
- Respond to all reviews, especially the negative ones.
The app store product pages are indexed by search engines as well. You can also use tools like Google Keyword Planner to find the right set of keywords for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
3. Perform App Store Localization
Localization is a part of ASO that customises app store pages for other language speakers. It boosts app downloads by 300% and will help users from non-native English speaking countries to discover your app with ease. You need to localize the following components of the app pages:
- Keywords and text
- Video content
- App Previews
4. More Organic Reviews
The search ranking of an app is also affected by its reviews and ratings. The higher the number of reviews and ratings an app receives, the better. Similarly, the type of reviews your app has matters. Both the App Store and Play Store tends to rank apps with positive reviews and ratings higher than those with negative ones.
The reason for using the term “organic” is that there are several ways you can manipulate the system and gain reviews. Incentivized reviews are condemned by Google Play’s policies, and paid app reviews spoil the essence of having reviews in the first place. This makes it almost impossible to trust app store reviews.
Make use of in-app prompts to remind users to rate your app. If they love using your app, they will most likely share their experience as reviews.
5. Have a Website
Having a website has two notable benefits. One, you get to rank on search results and two, you get to educate the users more about the app. Even if your app is in the pre-launch stage, you can utilise a website to build an email list, showcase the app’s features and build momentum.
Use attractive banners on your website that highlights all the essential features of the app. Make use of app store badges to direct users to app pages. You can also utilise deep links to take users directly to a specific section of the app, even if they haven’t installed it.
6. Perform Content Marketing
With content marketing, you can entice users to try out the app by educating them with insightful resources. You can make use of blogs, videos, social media posts, infographics, checklists and so on. Make sure every piece of content you create is of high quality and offers values to users.
Generally, you can expect the following with an effective content marketing strategy.
- Gain more traffic to your website and app store product pages.
- Establishes you as a thought leader.
- Better brand desirability for better install rates.
- Building relationships with users.
- Generating backlinks and social shares.
An excellent example of this is the Headspace app. Its website has several enriching content that match different stages of users’ journey and personas.
7. Use Social Media to the Core
Social media marketing (SMM) is an excellent user acquisition strategy to adopt, especially if you are targeting the younger generation. But before you start with SMM, you need to set a tone for your brand, like an app’s public persona.
Along with setting your app’s personality, you need to consider to whom you will be talking to. For example, if your app is a productivity tool that targets experienced professionals, you need to set a formal tone that they will find appropriate.
Similarly, if you have an entertainment app, like Netflix, you can add all sorts of humour and be the less formal. Either way, it is always better if you remain consistent with your voice as otherwise, users may feel confused about your intentions.
Here are some of the social media platforms where your user will be spending most of their time:
You can run paid app install campaigns in social networks, but always have a fair share of content for organic social shares to create trust. Make sure you post content that tempts users to have a conversation with your brand, which ultimately leads to organic growth and word of mouth praise.
Another way social media can help with app user acquisition with user-generated content (UGC). By offering a platform for users to share and discuss your app, you are building trust and social desirability. This has the potential to entice users to try your app out of curiosity, and due to peer pressure.
8. Use Influencer Marketing
Just like UGC, having influencers promote your app can enormously increase its credibility and desirability. This is especially helpful if you are new to the market and want to acquire users quickly. Adding to that, 89% of marketers feel the ROI of influencer marketing is equivalent to or better than other forms of marketing.
While choosing influencers, make sure they have already established a solid reputation and relationship with your target audience and also aligns with your brand’s interests. Also, keep in mind the platforms your target users are more likely to engage. There’s a huge difference between an Instagram celebrity and a YouTuber.
Even though the influencers will be talking about the features of your app, give them the creative freedom to do it their way. This will make the promotion more authentic and effective. Use storytelling to highlight the key benefits of using your app and how it can add more value to a user’s life.
There are several influencer marketing tools you can use to find influencers matching your brand’s voice. Closely monitoring social media platforms or even directly asking the app users can help you find the right influencers.
9. Leverage PR and Press Coverage
While marketing focuses on promoting your brand for app user acquisition, public relations (PR) aims to build and maintain relationships, which, in the long run, can help you gain more users. From visiting offline events to making friends in the industry, PR is essential to make your mark.
Before reaching out to journalists or bloggers to improve your app’s awareness, you need to tailor your PR pitches. You need to make sure that your app aligns with what they write about and will resonate with their audiences.
You can also make use of services like PRWeb for publishing press releases, which, in turn, has a profound impact on your search engine rankings.
Also, make sure you reach out to media outlets and reporters who will be keen to hear about your app. This will help in generating a buzz about your app, even before its launch. You can also create a media kit or PR kit that allows bloggers and journalists to get more information about your app. Ideally, a media kit will include:
- Overview of the app and its purpose.
- Eye-catching screenshots.
- The total number of downloads.
- The App Store and Play Store rankings.
You can also pitch your app’s concept to online mobile review sites to get attention from a wide range of users.
10. Launch Pay Per Click Campaigns
Using pay per click (PPC) campaigns, you get to show your app to new users by paying for the exposure. Along with platforms like Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, there are several app advertisers that let you target your audience at the place and time you choose.
Generally, PPC campaigns appear as clickable ads on websites, other apps or social media platforms, which when clicked, redirects users to a mobile app landing page or the app store product page for downloading it.
With PPC campaigns, you can personalize your ads based on user demographics, interests and also make sure they are delivered only to users who will be keen to download your app. Depending on the platform you choose to run your ads, there are several degrees of customisations you can apply for hyper-targeted advertising.
11. Think of CPI in Terms of LTV
While formulating a user acquisition plan, you need to keep in mind the lifetime value (LTV) of a user. By doing so, you will be able to find users that are worth acquiring. To start with, try answering these questions.
- How much does a user spend on your app as in-app purchases or contribute by viewing in-app ads?
- How often do they engage with your app?
- How likely are they to bring in new users?
If all of these questions are answered with good numbers, then you have a high LTV user. And yes, you need more of such users to increase your app’s user base and ultimately improve the scope of revenue generation from it.
When it comes to app user acquisition, a majority of marketers opt for cost per install (CPI) campaigns. But the problem is that the users acquired through CPI have the lowest LTV.
If you are planning to acquire as many users as possible within a short time, then CPI can be one of the effective customer acquisition methods to follow. But in the long run, it will add little to no value to your efforts, not to mention the ROI you will fail to receive.
12. Paid Reviews
If you are relatively new to the industry, you will have a hard time standing out from your competitors. For that, just like influencer marketing, you can look out for paid reviewers, who can help in shaping your app’s desirability. As they are thought leaders in specific niches, their opinions can make or break your app.
13. Leverage Word of Mouth
Your users itself can become the biggest ambassadors of your app. For that, you need to make them feel special and give them several reasons why they should share your app with their friends.
For mobile game apps, you can utilise social login options for users to connect with their friends. You can also try gamification of the referral / invite programs or offer an incentive for the same. Also, make sure your app has a social share button that is easy to access.
14. Perform Email Marketing
For every dollar you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42. Even if your app is in the pre-launch stage, you can make use of your website’s subscription section to gather emails of people who are interested in knowing more.
To start with, almost everyone has an email account. All you need to do is offer an insightful resource such as an ebook or webinar in return for a person’s email address. Once your app is released, you can notify them.
Even after your app’s release, email marketing is a useful tool to retain users. Here’s an example from the Duolingo app.
15. Market Your App on Multiple Channels
Especially when you are launching an app, you need to market your app on as many channels as possible. There are two reasons for it.
One, you get to try multiple acquisition channels and find the best one that works for your app. This can help in rightly channelling your resources to future campaigns.
Two, you get to expand your app’s awareness to as many people as possible. Even if many of the people who saw the ad may not be interested in trying out your app at the time, in the future they might. Due to the mere-exposure effect, next time they search for an app within your niche, they will most likely download it first.
16. Run a Test Campaign
If you have a limited budget, trying out the effectiveness of each channel will be risky. For that, you can start with a test campaign that targets a small group of people, resembling your ideal users, and see what works best for them.
A/B test your user acquisition strategies and see which channel reaps the best results. Once you find the perfect combination of tactics, you can channel your resources accordingly.
There are several marketing campaigns such as transactional, triggered and dynamic content campaigns, which you can easily incorporate into your acquisition strategies to make sure your hard-earned users engage and retain.
17. Perform a Burst Campaign
If you have a considerable amount of budget to spend, try a burst campaign to gain the maximum number of users, in the shortest time. As the name suggests, a burst campaign spends a large portion of your marketing budget in a short time.
This is especially useful if you have an app that is highly useful or entertaining and has an extremely specific target group, for example, a car racing game like Need For Speed targeting teenagers.
However, you have to make sure you hyper-target the users. Otherwise, the number of users you acquire may not last for long, not to mention the irritation many people may face if your app seems irrelevant to them, as they may see your ad multiple times.
18. Use Traditional Marketing Techniques
You don’t have to stop your app user acquisition strategies with just online platforms. You can make use of TV, print media and even radio ads to expand brand awareness. Make use of QR codes to direct users to app store pages.
Here’s an example of how Clash of Clans did it.
19. Analyse and Optimize
For all your acquisition efforts, A/B testing is a necessity. You need to try different variations of ad copies, design and timing, and see what works the best. If you stick to just one variation, you are wasting your time and budget because you will never find out what users like.
Similarly, you need to couple all of your app user acquisition strategies with adequate monitoring. This will help you sort the acquisition channels that bring the highest ROI, from the ones that don’t. There are several tools available for measuring your campaign’s effectiveness.
However, if the numbers don’t live up to your expectations, don’t be discouraged. It just means you need to tweak your strategies further. And do keep in mind that there’s no such thing as an overnight success for app user acquisition unless your app goes viral.
20. Craft Better User Experience
Ultimately, the number of users who engage with your app and bring in new users is directly related to the user experience you offer. It may be easier said than done, but matters a lot to new user acquisition.
Make it fun, exciting and useful. If you are developing a game, concentrate more on its design process. You can also make use of engagement tactics like push notifications to engage users and help them find the value of your app.
Be Consistent With Acquisition
There is no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to app user acquisition. To be honest, some of the best tactics may not work or at the very least won’t give you the results you expected. The key is not to stop trying, and A/B test each component.
Make sure you give importance to monitoring your campaigns as it will help in understanding what works the best for your app. Also, once you have acquired an ample amount of users, don’t stop there. There will be users who churn, and it is a natural process until you sustain the right set of users with high LTV.
Maintain consistency with your user acquisition efforts as a user might be just an ad away from installing your app. Along with the acquisition techniques, focus on engagement tactics to not lose your hard-earned users.