Blog Mobile retargeting: How to succeed at remarketing with Audience Builder

Mobile retargeting: How to succeed at remarketing with Audience Builder

It’s a common belief that you’ll hear from many mobile marketers: “80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers.” Often, though, app businesses go after as many users as possible, prioritizing user acquisition instead of trying to maximize the value of that 20 percent.

Mobile retargeting is a great method of keeping that 20 percent of valuable users interested, engaged and retained. So what is retargeting really? And how could it help move the needle for your app’s performance? Read on to find out much more about app retargeting.

What is retargeting?

Retargeting is a marketing strategy where brands attempt to re-engage users who already have an app installed on their mobile device. By retargeting these users with targeted ads, marketers attempt to re-engage them - whether to bring them back to the app if they have bounced, or to continually appeal to users with specific incentives or offers.

Why shouldn’t I just keep focusing on new users?

It’s pretty common for app users to bounce after about a day’s use of an app. In fact, if you’ve read one of our mobile benchmark reports, you’d have seen that retention averages around 11-14 percent (depending on device) at around day seven after install. That means out of 100 installs, up to 89 of those users won’t be using your app beyond a week, let alone a day.

So what’s the value in those users? Logic should suggest that once they’re done with their experience, they’re no longer part of the equation, right?

Wrong! Users who’ve already installed an app already present a greater opportunity to engage and monetize than new users if they’ve already converted in the first place. In fact, our benchmarks might indicate that user acquisition without continued re-engagement might be more wasteful. After all, if nearly 90 percent of users disappear, why try and get them in the first place?

Let’s look at an example of retargeting success. One of our clients, Akbank, wanted to increase uptake in personal loans. They used our tool Audience Builder to segment active users based on a criteria that matched who they thought would want to take out a personal loan. Then, they advertised through Facebook (alongside other channels) to their current user base, targeting potential users with personal loan ads. Through this approach, Akbank tripled applications of personal loans versus campaigns not retargeting with Adjust’s Audience Builder.

How retargeting works

This section gets technical, so you might want to skip ahead if you don’t want to plunge into the machinery that powers retargeting. However, what you’ll learn can be valuable, because it’ll give you more background on what makes Audience Builder so different. Anyway, let’s look at how retargeting works.

Mobile retargeting ads operate pretty similarly to the rest of web retargeting, with a caveat or two. For example, on the web, a user who looks at a pair of shoes in an online store could later be shown a banner ad featuring those same shoes (on a completely different website). When the user clicks on the ad, they’re redirected straight to page in order to continue shopping. Swap ‘website’ with ‘app’, and you have the basics of retargeting.

Where mobile differs from web retargeting is with how users are tracked. Instead of cookies, mobile retargeting uses a mixture of user login information, attribution tracking and device identification (advertising IDs such as the GAID or IDFA).

Now let’s look at how ads get served. First, a demand-side platform (or DSP) will pre-analyze user activity to get an understanding of which ad is best to show to the user. The DSP uses variables, such as the frequency of their app engagements, how often this user makes in-app purchases, and a record of their various levels of engagement (e.g. reaching a certain stage within a gaming app) to figure out the ad it’ll pick. This all happens in less than a second.

After this, unique ads which cater to the user are then launched. So, some users might receive a banner ad deep linked to an offer for a reward, or to a page on an e-commerce app for shoes which are waiting, unpurchased, in the user’s cart.

Audience Builder builds on this retargeting with more sophistication via segmentation. The feature allows you to create custom audiences within the Adjust dashboard. These audiences can be highly targeted based on in-app behavior and certain privacy-compliant demographics. (Please note that Audience Builder won’t replace our partner modules).

Examples of these segments include day of install, time last seen, or total time spent in-app (both user and per session). Segmentation by revenue is also popular, and includes the number of revenue events, first and last revenue event, and total spend. Device, country, language are also very useful common identifiers which let you pinpoint users based on where they’re from, or how likely their device is to run an app well.

The network connection

In the middle of the mobile ad ecosystem are mobile retargeting networks. These networks have access to specific inventory - from publishers who have ad space to sell - which they offer to app businesses (known as advertisers) to buy. Certain networks sell different inventory - so one network may offer ad space coveted by one brand (because of its user base, for example), while another might want to advertise elsewhere, for different users.

With older kinds of retargeting, you’d normally send a list comprising of your entire user base to the networks, earmarking the ones you want to target. Networks then get to work reserving the ad space for you.

Audience Builder has since done away with that model - you don’t send a list, but a link. And in that link contains only the users you want to include, not the entirety of your current user base.

You can also segment the networks you want to work with. Audience Builder includes a function which lets you choose what you do with an audience - you can split an audience up to ten times, giving you the chance to work with many networks on the same audience without the worry that you're spamming your users with the same message, driving up the price of a user. This means you can find your best users more easily by spreading your bet, then later you can refine your spend once you’ve found the networks which bring you your best users.

These two powerful features also offer our clients more confidence in retargeting - as often sharing data is a reason why many apps don’t want to try retargeting in the first place. With Audience Builder, it’s a pain point which we’ve eliminated.

A use case overview

This section is dedicated to looking at retargeting in the real world. We’ve spent time looking at various Audience Builder use cases here, but below is a section from that article specifically to do with retargeting:

“One question we encourage e-commerce apps to think about when they’re setting up custom events in their dashboard is what are the first five things they want users to do in their app? We’re not talking about cart abandoners here, but those who are closer to the beginning of the user journey. Would they register? Search for a product? Subscribe to a newsletter?"

“When they have these events in mind and have set them up in the dashboard, they can go into Audience Builder and create segments of users who have completed any number of them. For example, an app that sells designer socks and shoes can create an audience of users who have registered but haven’t searched for any footwear yet. They can then target this list with coupons encouraging them to check out the catalogue.”

“Revenue is one of the most popular ways our clients segment their audiences. Here's what that looks like in the dashboard. This audience includes all users who have spent more than €100, as well as over 60 hours of their time in the app. They're also segmented by their last session - more than seven days ago - meaning this segment is made entirely of dedicated, high-value users who have become inactive within the last week. Knowing this, the marketer can focus on who's worth getting back into the app and likely to respond to a targeted ad campaign.”

“We have also seen certain apps (those built around the purchase of services or goods) use Audience Builder to create an audience based on the user’s country. Many apps want to target specific geographic regions after they do their homework and discover that users in a certain country spend ten times more than users elsewhere. With Audience Builder, it’s possible to build a list of those users’ device IDs and retarget them with special offers as well.”

For more ideas on use cases, there are five categories to consider:

  • Inactive users: New ads remind users of their already installed application. The aim here is to boost engagement and retention.
  • Upselling: Users are shown the benefits of upgrading their membership (if possible), as well as new apps, or updates.
  • Heavy shoppers: With new ads, you can drive repeated conversions, and promote new products that may interest your spend-heavy users.
  • Conversions: Whether a user’s cart is full, or they haven’t completed a registration event, retargeting can help get users to return and fulfill their conversion potential.
  • Testing: You can test creatives on different cohorts to see how they perform.

Setting your goals

Let’s have a quick glance over the types of goals you should think about for potential retargeting campaigns:

  • Brand awareness: Is your aim to keep your brand or app front-of-mind at all times? Here, the metrics you want to follow are ad impressions and engagement.
  • Cross-promotion: Do you want your best customers on one app to try the experience of another? With this, you’ll want to follow the overall installs your app receives.
  • Retention: Do you want to improve retention as part of a wealthier look at lifetime value?
  • Conversion: Not only pure transactions, but also to ensure the funnel is completed. You could also look at each stage of the funnel to identify drop-offs too. With smart retargeting you can pinpoint the stage where you're having the biggest dips, and activate those users to complete their conversion.

How to succeed with mobile retargeting

There are five extra points to be aware of when it comes to retargeting. Have a read below to see a short summary of each of them:


We always talk about the importance of getting creatives right. Ultimately, you could target the best users in the most efficient way, but without a compelling reason to click the ad, it might not be for anything. A mixture of testing and targeting can help get at the creatives which work best.


As with creatives above, using pinpointed retargeting should go hand-in-hand with the right message. For instance, user level progress in a game app can be used to entice them back to the action, recalling their in-game status.


There’s a mass of channels to work with, from the most popular social networks to niche websites. Each are unique, and offer a means to experiment. Reddit could work for you, Quora for someone else. Apps may be the best source of users in one case (for acquisition), but ongoing retention may be more effective on the web. Working with various channels can become a delicate matter, but worthwhile in the long run.

Frequency Capping

This refers to the maximum amount of times a user is exposed to an ad. By creating a cap, you prevent a user from seeing an ad too many times. Depending on your campaign, you may or may not choose to deploy a cap - as you might be going for impressions, or downloads by pure volume rather than quality.

It’s a general view that up to 10 impressions is about the maximum before an ad’s effectiveness declines. By having a frequency cap, you’re able to limit exposure and keep the ratio between impressions to results strong.

As with all of these points, you need to test in order to find the right balance. Always go back and understand who your audience is, and why they’re seeing your ads. Then make an estimation as to a ballpark frequency, experimenting as the process goes on.

Deep Links

Deep linking is a must for any mobile ad, so it’s important to make sure those links point to the right place. It’s a small point, but worth keeping in mind, especially if you’re working on both Android and iOS.

Further reading

We announced Audience Builder back in February - and you can see a full list of features within that post. We followed up with updates in June, and you can see what we added here. Audience Builder is always improving following feedback we receive from our customer, and we’re all ears to our current users as we continue to iterate on the feature.

On the blog, you can find an interview with our CTO, Paul Müller, where he talks about the decisions that went into creating Audience Builder, along with many other articles we’ve linked to in this one.

And if you want to go back to basics, check out our ebook on how to do retargeting here.

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