App Marketing

Paid user acquisition strategy: 5 ways to become an App Store Champion

Marne Litfin
Product Content Strategist

When it comes to mobile user acquisition, the only consensus among professionals is that there’s more than one way to win. In fact, there's an incredible range of choice, including video ads, incentivized installs, app cross-promotion, email, social media, app store optimization (ASO), native ads, banner ads, interstitial ads, offer walls and more.

We decided to take a deeper look into different types of acquistion strategy. What follows is a spotlight on the best paid strategies for user acquisition campaigns. In mobile marketing, paid media includes opportunities like native ads, banner and interstitial ads, native app preloading, traditional adverts (think print and TV), retargeting, and working with top influencers.

Native ads: Blend in for best results

Native ads are different from banners and interstitial ads. They seamlessly blend into the space you’re currently browsing in, adopting the look and feel of that environment.

The most popular type of native ads are interstitial ads - a full-page ad within the app that typically freezes for a couple of seconds - with custom borders and styling designed to mimic the game in which it appears. While native ads come with a heftier price tag and may be more of a challenge to scale quickly, customized experiences come with a big payoff. According to Sharethrough, users look at native ads 53 percent more frequently than they do at traditional display ads, resulting in an 18 percent higher lift for purchase intent over traditional ads.

Video ads: Personalization + localization = Inspiration

Between 2011 and 2016, video ads doubled in volume - and it’s expected that US mobile video ad spend will balloon to $7bn over the next year and a half. Users who arrive at your app after clicking on a video ad have retention rates three times higher than that of users who came to your app from a non-video ad.

Mobile video advertising is unique in its capacity to contain exceptional content. In particular, user-generated content gives viewers insight into how the app will function once it’s installed and simultaneously inspires users to share, post and engage with the app directly upon install.

Localized video ads that respect the styles and languages of the geographic targets can further personalize the advert and give it an individualized feel (which lends itself well to retargeting campaigns). What’s on the horizon for video ads? Engaging, playable ads that users can participate in.

Cross-promotion: Stand on the shoulders of giants

In-app cross-promotion is a strategy that works well with multiple types of ads, including video, native, banner and interstitial ads. The idea is simple: you promote your app through one that already has a built-in audience whose interests overlap with your potential audience. This can mean promoting your newest gaming app in a game you already have, or advertising in a related but non-competitive app with a robust user base with relevant interests.

For example, if your app provides live music listings in a specific region, you could think about cross-promoting with a regional record store’s app. The best opportunities for cross-promotion are non-competitive and appeal to common interests between the two groups of users.

Incentivization: Because everyone loves a reward

Rewards come in many forms. Incentivized downloads, temporarily-free installs, referral rewards - these types of promotions can all have massive viral impact on customer acquisition.

The perfect storm involves a few conditions:

  1. The campaign makes it clear that the reward is a one-time (rare), special treat. This is so a potential user doesn’t think they can simply wait for the offer to come around again. Users who think they’ll get something for free by waiting it out aren’t necessarily what you’re aiming for. It’s important to communicate that the reward is temporary - which fuels a sense of urgency.
  2. The reward could be well-publicized in a burst campaign that has maximum impression reach.

The biggest positive to a reward-based campaign is that they can quickly give your app the power-up it needs to make it into the app store listings. Because so many users find apps just by browsing lists in the store, this can quickly compound your efforts. Rewards are also opt-in, meaning that users are automatically more engaged than users who arrive via traditional ads. Combined with the relatively low cost to run, reward campaigns can easily be integrated into push notifications for a campaign that is unobtrusive and has viral potential.

The major challenge of reward-based UA strategy is that both Apple and Google have gotten wise to the game and have taken steps to limit the extent to which incentivized offers can affect your app’s rankings in the store. Some networks have found that moving away from pay-per-install and instead towards pay-per-engagement (the advertiser would only pay for a complete install + secondary in-app action) campaigns have reduced the risk of incurring penalties. If you decide to move forward with a reward-based acquisition strategy, keep in mind that you’ll also need a plan in place for how to keep your new users engaged once they’ve arrived.

Retargeting: Hold on to the users you already have

Rather than target new customers who have never heard of your app, a retargeting campaign is designed to target those who are already further down the funnel. Users who have already shown interest in your app (for example, they’ve clicked on an ad already but never installed, or they’ve installed the app but have abandoned their shopping cart and failed to complete conversion) are your target. Depending on whether you want to drive volume (with banners) or engagement (with native ads), a retargeting campaign segments customers into cohorts which allow for laser-like retargeting with personalized messaging.

The main reason to pursue a retargeting campaign together with an acquisition campaign is LTV. It’s not only cheaper to retain already-interested users than it is to acquire brand new ones. These users often have greater (and sometimes exponentially greater) value over time.

Want to read more on user acquisition strategy? We have lots of tips on the topic. Take a look at our soft launch strategy guide to learn about what it takes to get started. From there, you can look at the three areas of focus which can help you identify the areas of your campaigns to optimize for even better performance.