The ultimate user acquisition arsenal for mobile app growth

Welcome to the comprehensive guide on user acquisition for apps! Whether you're just starting out on your marketing journey or looking to scale your app's growth locally or internationally, this guide will provide you with valuable insights and strategies to effectively grow app users. Let's dive in.

UA definition

What is user acquisition (UA)?

Mobile user acquisition refers to the process of attracting and acquiring new users for your mobile app.

It involves employing various marketing strategies and channels to increase app installs. A successful user acquisition strategy focuses on reaching the right audience, driving quality installs, and optimizing campaigns for maximum ROI.

While UA campaigns will inevitably drive installs, approaching user acquisition strategically with Adjust’s powerful suite of tools is proven to have a much higher payoff. Just take a look at these client case studies:

Let’s dive into UA to find out how you can facilitate similar results for your own app.

What is organic user acquisition?

Organic user acquisition focuses on attracting users to your app through non-paid methods. It involves optimizing your app's visibility on the internet for brand discovery, encouraging positive user reviews, and building a loyal community. Organic strategies help you reach individuals who are actively seeking apps or recommendations, resulting in organic growth and engaged users.

What is paid user acquisition?

Paid user acquisition encompasses investing in advertising campaigns to drive app installs. A paid acquisition strategy involves utilizing various advertising channels that may allow you to target specific demographics, reach a larger audience, and more quickly increase your app's visibility. Careful optimization and monitoring of paid acquisition ensures a positive return on investment (ROI).


Organic user acquisition strategies

Organic acquisition strategies involve leveraging techniques to naturally increase your app's visibility and attract users without solely relying on paid advertisements. Here are some common organic user acquisition strategies.

Optimize your app store pages

App store optimization (ASO) is the process of improving your app's discoverability in app stores. It involves optimizing your app's title, keywords, description, and screenshots, among other features, to improve its ranking in search results. By utilizing relevant keywords and compelling visuals, you can increase your app's organic installs.

Increase app reviews

One component of ASO that deserves its own user-based spotlight is positive user reviews. A high average and volume of ratings plays a crucial role in attracting new users. Encourage satisfied users to leave reviews via follow-up emails if they are subscribed to your newsletter, or in-app messages if they are not.

This prompt could ask users to give an initial rating out of 5 stars, directing them to the relevant app store for 3+ stars, or asking them to message you with constructive feedback for 1 or 2-star reviews, allowing you to address concerns outside of the public eye. It’s also important to respond to reviews publically, both positive and negative. This shows that you value user feedback, and can improve your app's reputation.

Deep dive app reviews as a UA channel.

Create quality content

By creating valuable and relevant content, you can establish your app's authority, increase brand awareness, and drive organic traffic to your app or website. Content marketing encompasses various tactics, primarily distilled into the following three approaches.

Refine your website

Having a well-designed and informative website that is optimized for its technical structure and user design (UX) can significantly impact user acquisition. Ensure your website and campaign landing pages highlight the app's unique features, benefits, and user testimonials. Incorporate clear call-to-action buttons and download links to drive app installations. Complete keyword research to optimize your copy with high-volume, low-difficulty keywords.

Build a community on social media

Leverage social media platforms appropriate to your audience to promote your app and engage with potential users. Post fresh, compelling content regularly, especially in video format. This is an ideal opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality outside of conversion advertising. Create a Facebook group for your app where you can moderate discussions, keep an eye on topics of conversation, offer exclusive content, and bring together users to foster a feeling of community.

Get tactical with email

Building an email list allows you to reach out to potential users and nurture relationships. Offer valuable content, exclusive offers, or information on important app updates to encourage users to stay subscribed to your newsletter. Use analytics to determine how many emails on average a user will open before converting, and use this data to optimize your email marketing.

Deep dive email marketing for mobile apps.

Cross-promote if you’ve developed other apps

If you have developed other apps, promote your portfolio within one another. Cross-promotion allows you to tap into each app’s unique and engaged user base to expand your reach. Cross-promotion can be done through various methods, such as displaying banners, interstitial ads, or native placements within the existing apps.

Deep dive post-iOS 14.5 cross-promotion.

Facilitate easy user referrals

Implement a referral program to incentivize your existing users to invite their friends and acquaintances to download your app. Offer rewards such as in-app currency, discounts, or exclusive features to users who successfully refer new users. This not only drives user acquisition but also encourages user engagement and retention.


How to measure user acquisition

In the world of mobile app marketing, understanding the effectiveness of your UA efforts is paramount to success. Tracking and measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) allows you to gain valuable insights into the performance and impact of your campaigns. By analyzing these metrics you can make informed decisions, optimize your strategies, and drive continuous growth.

Where you get your data matters

The most important consideration when looking to optimize your UA campaigns is where you get your data from. Comparing data across various platforms, both organic and paid, can lead to inconsistencies and errors. Plus, each advertising platform will want to present itself in the best light so that you spend more marketing money with them.

A mobile measurement partner (MMP) attributes your install data and collates this information across all of the platforms you use into one unified location. The data is clean and accurate and will save you time in switching between platform analytics. Most importantly, an MMP is unbiased toward any one platform.

Set yourself up for success from the start by choosing a reliable MMP that will give you the app analytics you need to maximize your UA budget.

Deep dive the benefits of using an MMP.

Metrics that matter: UA KPIs to analyze

The KPIs you prioritize will depend on your vertical and objectives. However, here are a few to get you started.

  1. Click-through rate (CTR): How enticing is your message? Are people interested in learning more, or downloading your app? CTR will give you an indication of the level at which your creative, copy, channel, and ad format is performing. You can test and learn these elements of your campaigns to get a crystal clear view of your advertising efficiency (we’ll get into this in just a minute).

    Comparing your CTR to your conversion rate can also indicate whether your app store listing(s) needs improvement. If a large number of users are clicking on your ad, but are not converting at the app store, this should be addressed before more budget is wasted.

  2. Conversion rate: How many people are converting from your campaign? This could be installs or another event in-app (such as a purchase or completion of a level) which you have pre-defined and integrated into your advertising. Conversion rate is an indicator of the quality of your UA.

  3. Customer acquisition cost (CAC): How much is it costing your business to bring these new users on board? This can be compared between audience segments, advertising channels, and more to help you fine-tune your strategy.

  4. Churn rate/retention rate: Once you bring a new user to your app, how long are they staying? If channel A is bringing in the most traffic but those users are immediately churning, while channel B is bringing in slightly less traffic but those users are retaining well, you may opt to put more money into ads on channel B.

  5. Lifetime value (LTV): What is the total value of your users? This allows you to assess which campaigns and channels are bringing in users with high LTV (and which are not).

Deep dive KPIs by vertical.

A/B testing your UA campaigns

Rather than only measuring the performance of your UA campaigns, best practice is to select one variable at a time to test against a control. These are just a few aspects of your ads that you can test to determine which strategy is the most effective for not only your audience but for attracting high-value users.

  • Frequency: For example, test the performance of an ad that is capped at 3 impressions per week versus the same exact ad that is capped at 3 impressions per day.
  • Creatives: Test which concepts resonate the most with your audience. For example, an app that is just starting out and has not yet solidified its brand style guide could test landscape imagery versus human imagery versus illustrations of various styles.
  • Copy: Keep the creative the same but change up your call to action (CTA) or your title or your description. Be sure to only test one copy variant at a time for decisive data.
  • Format: Assess static ads compared to video ads. For example, you could test a static image of a woman in a particular age range versus a video of a woman in the same age range, using the same copy in each ad.
  • Channel: Test the same creative on multiple channels. This is important when A/B testing as a static ad may do well on one channel while video performs better on another, and so on.
  • Audience: Compare demographics, interests, and other audience variables to see which audience is most attracted to a particular ad.

Deep dive A/B testing.

Automating optimization

Automation is revolutionary for mobile app marketers seeking to streamline and maximize the effectiveness of their user acquisition campaigns. By leveraging campaign automation tools, marketers can save valuable time and resources while continuously optimizing their advertising budgets.

By maximizing use of automation, marketers can receive real-time data analysis, enabling swift adjustments and optimizations based on performance indicators. From bid management and budget allocation to audience targeting and creative optimization, automation tools like Adjust’s Campaign Automation offer advanced algorithms and machine learning capabilities that can dynamically optimize campaigns to achieve desired outcomes.

Deep dive mobile marketing automation.

Fine-tune your audience with data

As we’ve seen above, data is the driving force behind successful marketing strategies. This can be applied to continuously developing your target audience.

Armed with advertising campaign performance data, mobile app marketers can fine-tune their target audience by adjusting demographics, interests, and other parameters to reach engaged users and those with high potential LTV. This data-driven approach optimizes user acquisition campaigns for better engagement and retention. Adjust’s Audience Builder helps to automate this process by suggesting segments based on campaign performance.


Key considerations for successful user acquisition

Staying ahead of the competition requires a deep understanding of the best practices that drive successful UA. This section explores a compilation of proven strategies, insights, and techniques to help mobile app marketers excel in their marketing efforts.

1. Hit the bullseye with a pre-defined audience

Catch-all audiences should only ever be used for two purposes:

  1. Wide-reaching brand campaigns.
  2. Gathering data about consumers who express interest via engagement in order to develop a targeted audience.

Defining your target audience before diving into UA is a critical step that sets the foundation for a successful marketing strategy. Segmentation involves dividing your target audience into distinct groups based on shared characteristics. This allows you to create more targeted and personalized campaigns, delivering relevant messaging that resonates with each segment.

Next, bring segments to life with user personas: Fictional characters that embody the characteristics, goals, motivations, and pain points of your target users. By creating these representative profiles, you gain a deeper understanding of your audience's needs, allowing you to tailor your messaging, channels, and strategies accordingly.

As you gather data, you’ll be able to further refine segments into cohorts based on specific criteria, such as the date of app install or a specific action taken within the app. Cohort analysis helps you identify patterns, behaviors, and trends among different user groups.

Deep dive how to execute customer segmentation.

2. Lay the groundwork with refined onboarding

Before spending marketing budget bringing new users into your app, avoid a catastrophic churn rate by polishing your onboarding journey. As the first touchpoint in-app, onboarding sets the stage for a positive user experience and long-term retention.

To optimize the onboarding journey, consider a few key points.

  1. Simplify the sign-up process by minimizing friction and requesting only essential information.
  2. Provide clear and concise instructions to guide users through the app's key functionalities.
  3. Personalize the onboarding experience based on user preferences or actions, making it more relevant and engaging.
  4. Incorporate interactive elements, such as tutorials or interactive tooltips, to enhance user understanding and reduce confusion.

A well-designed onboarding process ensures that new users understand the value of your app, can easily navigate its features, and are motivated to continue using it. This initial impression significantly impacts user engagement and conversion rates.

Deep dive perfecting your app’s onboarding journey.

3. Drive quality over quantity acquisition

Prioritizing the quality of users you attract over quantity will ensure long-term success. While it may be tempting to focus solely on acquiring a high volume of users, a more strategic approach is to prioritize acquiring high-quality users who are genuinely interested in your app and more likely to engage, convert, and become loyal customers.

By targeting a specific audience that aligns with your app's value proposition, you can attract users with a higher potential for long-term value who will contribute positively to your app's growth. Quality users are more likely to provide valuable feedback, refer others, and remain loyal, helping to support sustainable growth.

4. Don’t overlook a robust iOS & SKAN strategy

If your app is available on iOS, you’ll need to approach your advertising to these users with consideration for Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework. First, make sure you are handling your opt-in prompt(s) with care.

  1. Nail down the appropriate messaging and timing of your ATT prompt(s).
  2. Carefully approach the design of your ATT prompt(s) from length to button placement.
  3. Research benchmarks for ATT opt-in rates according to your vertical to get an idea of where yours should be (and what rate would give you a competitive advantage).
  4. A/B test your ATT opt-in strategy.

There will inevitably be individuals who do not opt-in to sharing their identifier for advertisers (IDFA). To perform attribution for these users, you must incorporate SKAdNetwork (SKAN) limitations (and opportunities) into your overall measurement strategy.

Deep dive how to fully leverage SKAN 4’s features or switching from SKAN 3 to SKAN 4.

Strategically configure your fine conversion values and coarse grain conversion values, mapping these values to events you would like to track. Not sure where to start? Adjust’s Conversion Hub is continuously being updated to support you in real-time through all data privacy changes.

5. Gamify your advertising

Gamification is gaining attention as a powerful strategy to captivate and engage users in-app. But did you know that in addition to playable ads, as discussed above, you can also gamify your user acquisition?

By infusing elements of game mechanics such as challenges, rewards, and competition into your organic and paid strategies, you can create an interactive and immersive experience that resonates with your target audience, motivating them to interact and install your app.

6. Consider local needs as you scale

As you scale your user acquisition campaigns to reach a larger or even global audience, localization becomes a pivotal strategy for maximizing your impact. Localization involves adapting your app, messaging, and marketing efforts to resonate with the cultural, linguistic, and regional preferences of your target markets. By tailoring your UA campaigns to specific locales, you can effectively engage users, build trust, and create a seamless user experience.

This entails not only translating content but also considering cultural nuances, localizing visuals, and optimizing user interfaces for different regions. By incorporating localization into your UA campaigns, you demonstrate a commitment to understanding and catering to the unique needs of each market, fostering stronger connections with users worldwide.

Deep dive localization considerations for app marketers.

7. A focus on UA should evolve into a focus on retention

As your app's growth begins to soar, it’s time to shift your focus from solely acquiring new users to nurturing and retaining the existing ones. After all, retention is the key to sustainable success in the competitive app landscape. Plus, retaining a user can be five times cheaper than acquiring a new one.
By implementing strategies that prioritize user satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty, you can build a strong foundation for long-term growth. Remember that retention is not just a metric but a mindset. Embrace a user-centric approach, continuously optimize the user experience, and invest in building lasting relationships to ensure your app thrives in the long run.

User acquisition serves as the foundation for mobile app growth, so aligning your strategy for success is critical. By implementing effective techniques and utilizing a diverse range of organic and paid strategies and channels, marketers can attract and engage their target audience, leading to increased app installs and user engagement.

However, success in UA goes beyond the initial acquisition phase. It involves continually refining and optimizing campaigns, leveraging data-driven insights, and adapting to the evolving needs and preferences of users.

Remember, the journey doesn't end with user acquisition. It should evolve into a focus on retention, where nurturing and engaging existing users become paramount. By shifting towards retention strategies and cultivating a loyal user base, mobile app marketers can ensure sustainable growth and long-term success.

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