How did organic and paid acquisition channels perform in 2022
Prashansa Shrestha, Content Writer, Adjust, Jan 4, 2023.
As of Q3 2022, there are more than six million apps across Google Play and Apple’s App Store, making the mobile app market more competitive than ever. Once an app is created and launched, the challenge for app developers and marketers is to find the best way to acquire users. There's often discussion on whether paid or organic channels bring in more users and which channel brings in high-quality users. While both organic and paid channels are essential to reach your app's audience, comparing the two acquisition channels can help you better understand their importance, impact on revenue, and how you can bring them into balance with one another.
There has been a steady increase in both organic and paid installs over the last few years. Although paid campaigns are bringing in more users than before, organic growth still accounts for a more significant percentage of users. While paid campaigns only attract users when they're active, organic user acquisition continues as long as the app is available in app stores. However, as the mobile app landscape becomes busier, it is also becoming more difficult for users to find apps organically. That's why marketers must also leverage paid ads to increase their visibility.
In this article, we've analyzed the volume of installs from organic sources and paid channels in 2022 to help app marketers build the right UA strategy, maximize return on spend, and drive their app's growth in 2023. We've also examined the difference in user behavior of organic and paid users, looking at sessions and sessions per user per day.
Organic installs came out on top
According to Adjust data, in 2022, 58% of global installs of all apps were organic, and 42% came from paid channels. This suggests that most users installed apps by searching for them on app stores after reading about them in a blog or completing a generic keyword search in the app stores. This also shows the importance of App Store Optimization (ASO). Though installs from paid channels accounted for less of the total share represented by organic sources, they still accounted for a significant portion of the total installs, indicating that paid user acquisition strategy must be combined with ASO for an app's sustainable growth.
Paid installs drop by the end of the year
Paid installs decreased and organic installs surged in the last two quarters of 2022. In Q3 2022, organic made up 61% of all installs, with only 39% from paid sources. While paid ads can lead an uplift in longtail organic app installs, this change also indicates that app marketers have decreased their paid marketing efforts—likely due to the impacts of inflation and budget constraints. However, mobile advertisers are continuously improving creatives, getting better at targeting, and the overall quality of apps is increasing. All of these factors combined means that at the end of the day, downloads are continuing to climb.
Organic sessions take the cake
Looking at installs alone only reveals part of the story; it's critical to assess user behavior beyond the install to analyze the difference between paid and organic cohorts throughout the user journey. The gap at session-level between paid and organic users is far wider than for installs. Organic users accounted for an impressive 72% of total sessions, with paid coming in at 28%. This indicates that users who download an app out of interest and curiosity are more likely to invest more time in-app and use it for longer.
Organic users also clocked in more sessions per day than paid users. On average from Q1 2022 - Q3 2022, organic users started at 2.11 sessions per user per day on day 1. This figure dropped to 2.04 on day 3, 2.02 on day 7, and by day 30, it reached 2.01. Paid users logged 1.98 sessions on day 1, 1.92 on day 3, 1.9 on day 7, and 1.93 on day 30. While organic users recorded a higher number of sessions than paid users, the number of sessions for both stayed consistent from day 3 to day 30. This shows that organic channels tend to acquire higher-quality users, but paid acquisitions are also critical as they help improve organic growth and reach and drive volume at crucial times. For example, paid marketing helps boost ASO. Your listing's traffic is a known ranking factor - and the more traffic your listing gets, the more downloads it receives. You get more visits that can lead to conversions by ranking higher, creating a positive feedback loop.
Leverage app analytics to improve your UA strategy
Due to the fierce competition in the current mobile app space, marketers need to know which channels bring in users with high lifetime value (LTV) and the most revenue. But because there are so many different user acquisition sources, it can take time to determine which ones convert better for your app and segments. This is where mobile app analytics solutions like Adjust's Datascape can help you to dissect the data. Datascape allows you to view and analyze what is working and what isn't across all apps, campaigns, channels, and platforms in one place. You can make fast and informed marketing decisions with this detailed overview of granular data.
Want to learn more about MMPs and mobile analytics platforms, what we do, and how Adjust can help you achieve your growth goals? Check out this article on why you need a mobile measurement partner or request a demo.