6 retargeting tips to keep users hooked

James Haslam

Mar 10, 2020

What is mobile app retargeting?

App marketers employ retargeting strategies to re-engage users who already have an app installed on their mobile device. By reaching these users with targeted ads, marketers hope to either bring back a lapsed user or inspire a not-particularly-active user to come back more often. Whether the goal is to keep users from bouncing shortly after install, or to get your loyal users to spend more time and money in-app, marketers are finding retargeting existing users stretches marketing budget further and delivers more bottom-line impact than focusing on installs.

6 mobile app retargeting tips to keep users hooked

As CPIs increase, and bidding becomes more competitive, marketers need to consider retargeting as a viable alternative. When this happens, a marketer’s mindset shifts from wanting to bring everybody in the world to their app to a pragmatic approach that focuses on high-quality users. Some marketers may still be wary, based on past failures in retargeting campaigns, or from poor performance overall. To avoid these pitfalls, we’ve come up with six retargeting truths that clear up the misconceptions, providing you with more insight into successful retargeting campaigns.

1. Use event tracking to find the key conversion point

To make sure your retargeting campaign is well-informed and hyper-relevant to the user, you need to track your app’s most significant events. For example, let’s say you have a gaming app. Your analysis reveals that most users who complete level 3 will continue playing all the way to level 10. However, users tend to drop off once they’ve completed level 2. You can use your analysis to set up campaigns that retarget users who have completed level 2 but haven’t made it past level 3 — the key conversion point that will give you the best possible ROI.

2. It’s not all about installs: Retargeting efforts must align with team goals

When setting up retargeting campaigns, it’s imperative that you align them with the KPIs of your company. If your KPIs aren’t tied to your company’s internal goals, you may be overvaluing the success of a campaign or even undervaluing campaigns that could be scaled up.

A focus on installs often obstructs marketers from seeing how their campaigns contribute to the company's meaningful targets. Rather than focusing on the number of installs a campaign brings in, you could try setting a revenue target as your key KPI. If you focus on installs, you’re only incentivized to hit that target. The goals of the marketer needs to align with the overall business, which comes down to generating as much revenue as possible.

3. When defining key events for retargeting, less is more

Clients often turn to us to gauge which in-app events to set up. I often take a look at different types of apps and see what it takes for me to convert, then relay that information to the developers to advise which events are the most useful. The only events they really want to track are those which are profitable, so we try to pinpoint two or three key events as opposed to setting up 20.

Some app developers might set up 50 events or so. Though it sounds beneficial, this can result in an overabundance of data, which makes certain events seem bigger, or smaller, than they are. This stops marketers from optimizing the most valuable conversions in their funnel. If you have 50 events, you might believe that 15 of those convert better. But focusing on 15 events is a lot of work for your marketing team (and isn’t really focused at all). Instead try to focus on 10 events, and then limit your analysis to one or two key events to focus on at a time. Always drill down to as few events as possible, and improve the conversion funnel from there.

Narrowing down events isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. When you first venture into retargeting, prioritize events that happen at the beginning, such as “registration” and “add to cart.” Generally speaking, marketers initially need to understand what users do when they first get into the app, as opposed to focusing on Day 30 LTV right from the start.

4. Ad campaigns aren’t the only way to retarget users

Use other retargeting methods to strengthen your arsenal and help you find the best experience for returning users. For example, you can use retargeting data to send push notifications to users with tools like Braze, CleverTap or LeanPlum. If you’re at the stage where you’re considering push notifications, you can use the data Adjust collects with our Audience Builder to keep users engaged. Push notifications aren’t free, but they are cheaper than ad campaigns and can be a great way to remind users to return.

These kinds of automated processes will help you push forward with your KPIs. It’s also helpful to consider best practices from Remerge, an app retargeting network, which is also bullish about the importance of harnessing machine learning and other technology to streamline campaigns and improve results.

If your goal is to achieve maximum scale and best performance, then Remerge says “it’s crucial to choose a partner that is streamlining the process by replacing all manual processes with technology to make things more efficient.” This includes dynamic audience segmentation, which, Remerge says, “saves you the work of segmenting users manually and — more importantly — excludes your users in real time.”

5. Don’t get too focused on lapsed users

It may be tempting to focus your retargeting efforts on bringing lapsed users back to your app, but it often makes more financial sense to focus on bringing your loyal users back to the app more often. But marketers know that “80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers.” So it only makes sense to bring the users who are most likely to spend money in your app back over and over again.

For instance, if a frequent shopper left a coat in her shopping cart, it may make sense to retarget her with ads for that coat you know she’s already thinking about buying, rather than trying to convince a lapsed user who has never made a purchase to come back. (Bonus tip: Any time you’re retargeting users, it’s important to keep frequency capping in mind. You don’t want to appear as though you’re stalking your users across the internet, so make sure you set common-sense limits on how often you’re using retargeted ads to engage your users.)

6. Don’t underestimate the power of creative

How much time and money do you spend on creating and testing creative for your UA campaigns? Do you put the same resources into the creative for your retargeting campaigns? If the answer is no, then you might want to reconsider your strategy. Creative matters, even when it comes to retargeting users who have already installed your app.

At the simplest level, you want to make sure you’re retargeting users with ads for products they’re interested in — not general ads, or worse, ad for products that completely miss the mark. But it’s also worth getting creative and using emerging ad formats — like Playables — to get your users back through the proverbial app door. This is especially true of loyal users you know will spend money once they’re in the app — those are the users worth spending a little extra on engaging. So don’t forget to pay a little extra attention to your ad creative before sending it out to re-engage your users.

So, what have we learned?

  1. Zero in on the right events: Some will matter more than others, so find out where your users lapse, and leverage retargeting as a way to bring them back.
  2. Align your goals: Don’t waste time on retargeting if your work doesn’t match company goals.
  3. Less is more: Don’t focus on hundreds of events. Instead, pick 10, then focus on two or three to optimize at a time.
  4. Retargeting isn’t just ads: Make use of push notifications to amplify your message. Also, choose the right networks who specialize in retargeting to avoid wasting budget.
  5. Focus on loyal users: Don’t spend all your resources trying to get lapsed users back. Instead, invest in engaging the users you know will pay off.
  6. Creative matters: Just because these users have already downloaded your app doesn’t mean you can cut corners on creative.

Want to learn more about retargeting? From our retargeting guide to blogs on Audience Builder and the real stats behind retargeting vs. new user acquisition, we have plenty of resources for you.

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