Forming a user acquisition plan for apps: Three areas of focus

James Haslam

Jul 26, 2019

When refining your user acquisition strategy, there are several areas you could focus on and optimize. In this instance, it’s imperative for marketers to identify the metrics that matter most.

This guide will cover the three main channels that bring users to your app; organic installs, paid marketing and PR. We’ll also explore how to refine your approach to cohorts, the channels you’re advertising on, and your ad creatives. Before you become stretched across metrics that may or may not count, consider these focus points when attempting to improve your app user acquisition campaigns.

1. Organic user acquisition

By definition, organic users have installed your app without the influence of paid marketing. Your mobile measurement partner (MMP) will therefore identify any install that cannot be attributed to a paid source as organic. These users are important to your user acquisition strategy because they tend to be more valuable than paid users, improving ROI and boosting engagement. This is because organic users found your app independently, and are therefore self-incentivized to engage and keep returning.

How to improve organic user acquisition

Although influencing the number of organic installs sounds paradoxical, this just means bringing users to your app without paying for them. Fortunately, there are several ways to help users find your app organically:

App Store Optimization (ASO): It’s no coincidence that the app store’s highest ranked apps are regularly maintained. ASO helps bring organic users to your app by boosting its visibility in the app store, giving users a better idea of what to expect from your app. ASO can be performed by using the right keywords in your app’s name and description, localizing content for specific regions, and selecting the most appropriate primary and secondary app categories. Another great way to boost organic installs is to include relevant images and screenshots. This gives users a visual impression of what to expect from your app – a factor that can significantly increase organic growth at no extra cost.

Your app will inevitably change over time, and this should be reflected in the app store. Keep your description and screenshots up to date, as well as utilizing app store reviews to improve your product for best results.

Word-of-mouth: The details of how word-of-mouth can generate installs is specific to app vertical, but this is something marketers can facilitate in most cases. For example, consider ways that make it easier for users to share articles featuring you in various media outlets. This helps generate interest and consequently drive downloads.

Localization: Even if your app can theoretically survive without localization, going the extra mile and localizing content can help you boost installs by making it more accessible to users. This also streamlines the user’s path to purchase by avoiding moments of hesitation. For example, displaying the cost of in-app currency in a local currency prevents users from having to calculate it themselves. This may seem trivial, but eliminating these small bumps in the road will give your users the best possible experience.

Because organic installs occur based on word-of-mouth and ASO, it’s unlikely that any install will be truly free. However, driving organic installs using any of the methods above is a cost-effective method of lowering your CPI and gaining a loyal user base. With organic growth increasing thanks to these optimizations, you now can look into ways your budget can make a positive impact.

2. Paid marketing

Paid marketing is a term that encompasses new user acquisitions (ensuring new users are brought to your app) and retargeting campaigns (with the aim of bringing the most valuable users back to your app). This is why, when looking for areas to improve, you should consider retention rates, cohorts and segmentation, and the efficacy of your ad creatives.

Paid user acquisition

With a fine-tuned acquisition strategy, marketers can find and convert new users who have been calculated to be of high value. This is a data-heavy science that involved trendspotting and learning patterns that will boost ROI.

Ongoing evaluation of the channels and networks within which you’re delegating spend should change over time with optimization. Seeing which perform best, and attracting great users, is an obvious point that might become overlooked among campaign calibrations, discussion, and finding out which channels may not be performing so well.

Focusing your spend could also be aided by tackling mobile ad fraud; it’s increasingly relevant to most campaigns to ensure fraud stays away from your dataset and your campaign spend, something our Fraud Prevention Suite could cover. Other areas of waste could include undefined global spend, and channels not directly relevant to you. Spending time reducing losses, rather than chasing gains, could help much more than you expect.

Retention

Retention rates are used to measure the performance of your app over time, highlighting how many users are still active after a certain point in time. High retention rates are important for app health, showing that users are satisfied with their app experience and regularly find your app useful and engaging. Users who have stayed active for longer periods of time are also more likely to generate the most revenue.

During data analysis, it’s common practice to look at retention rates at Day 1, Day 2, Day 7 and Day 30. In our study devoted to finding retention rate benchmarks, we found that retention decreases 21% from Day 1 to Day 7. In the first week, app will lose 79% of users (for more insights, take a look at our Global App Trends.)

It’s possible to learn the specific point in time where most users churn, highlighting key areas for improvement. For example, you may learn that most users in your Gaming app churn at level 3. It could be there is a difficulty imbalance or that gameplay has become too repetitive without reward. Along with user feedback, retention rates work as a key identifier of these types of issues. (To learn more about retention rates, take a look at this blog post.)

Cohorts and user segmentation

One of the most important things when it comes to retargeting, reattribution, and re-engagement is utilizing cohorts to the fullest. By segmenting users into different blocks depending on what you want to identify, you can reach the users you want and stop buying users who have a negative effect on your ROI.

A cohort is a group of users who share a particular trait, pulled together over a set period of time. This trait can be to do with spend, behavior, or route to install (among many others). For instance, you could segment users who installed on Facebook, or if they made an in-app purchase on Day 1. Cohorting itself can become quite complicated unless it’s tied to improving a bigger metric, such as lowering acquisition cost or exploring the best channels which users come from. By performing an analysis of your segments, you’ll have a better understanding of what your app user acquisition strategy should look like.

With Adjust’s Audience Builder the retargeting process is simplified, allowing you to create user segments with ease. Powered by Adjust’s data , segments can be based on user attributes, as well as events triggered by your app users within any timeframe, country, or OS. Only the data you want to send is transferred to retargeting partners, which you can download at any time.

Creatives: the power of persuasive message

Consistently building, testing and improving your creatives is a sure-fire method of gaining new users. Brands change over the time, reacting to the changes in recognition and success. Even the smallest change can have a big impact on your campaign, from color changes to facial expressions of characters. Consistently reworking designs and investing in creativity can have big returns. As such, the better a position you have, the more confident you can be in trying new tactics. Adjust’s mobile app analytics can help you A/B test your creatives, establishing what works and what doesn’t.

3. PR

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to mobile PR. Mobile users have more communication channels available to them than ever before, making it increasingly difficult to know how they can be reached. This obstacle should be approached by considering the specific functions of your app: it’s essential to identify how you want users to respond (your CTA) and how each communication helps to bring attention to your app.

These questions will help you form your PR strategy. If you’re new to this component of user acquisition planning, there are a few things to remember about mobile PR.

Firstly, it’s important to actively engage on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can also find tools that help you manage multiple channels with ease. Secondly, set up a dedicated “newsroom” on your website to share news stories relevant to your company. This allows clients and potential partners to learn about your brand in a way that is efficient and cost-effective. Lastly, remember to include relevant links in your press releases, sharing your company’s USP and giving readers a clear pathway to learn more about your app.

By looking at all three facets of user acquisition planning, your strategy can help you get ahead of the competition and push forward with your most ambitious UA targets. If you’d like to learn more about bringing new users to your app, take a look at our paid user acquisition guide. If you are more focused on retaining valuable users who have lapsed, we also have a guide for user retention.

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