5 Ways to Improve Your App Acquisition Strategy

Plenty of great apps get stalled without any user acquisition strategy in place, because unfortunately, the “If you build it, they will come” mantra is no strategy at all. Acquisitions represent the number of users who download and install your app from a certain location, through organic search, word-of-mouth, paid campaigns or in-app referrals. But most brands primarily invest in and measure paid acquisition campaigns.

As with any successful marketing plan, creating an effective acquisition campaign all comes down to tracking and working from the right set of metrics. These metrics enable you to create an informed strategy based on behavior, retention, and user engagement. We’ve outlined five ways to use metrics to improve your app acquisition strategy now and over time.


1. Track More Than Just Downloads

Too often brands judge the effectiveness of an acquisition campaign on simple attribution metrics like downloads, but not all downloads turn into users. In fact, it can be the case that only a small percentage of users actually come out of downloads. Someone can download your app without ever opening and interacting with it, so distinguishing between users and downloads is the first step in measuring and evaluating actual engagement.


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Beyond that, it’s important to think of your acquisitions in terms of further user behavior and retention. App downloads don’t show the long term value of mobile users to your business, so additional measurement is necessary to see what really impacts your bottom line. Looking at session length and interval, retention, and other key user behavior metrics will allow you further insight into the benefit of paid-to-acquire users and specific campaigns.

Here’s a use case: if you value social sharing of your content, track the behaviors of those who downloaded your app. If one campaign produces more users who share content on social networks, that being a high-value goal, you may want to invest more in that campaign.


2. Segment by Channel and Behavior

Segment the users you gain from different campaigns by channel, like Facebook, Greystripe, or Impact Radius, to see which source brought in the most new users and has the highest sessions per user, along with other key behavioral results that demonstrate campaign value. Creating these user segments allows you to track minute details like date range, action taken, campaign, and other characteristics that give you deep insight into how your paid-to-acquire users are acting.

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For example, you can use behavioral analytics to determine if your paid-to-acquire users are becoming powerful influencers or super fans, demonstrating a better ROI and pinpointing worthwhile channels. If instead these users are under-using your app, you can clearly identify which groups and campaign sources need revisiting, and test different paid channels, types of ads, and targeting techniques.


3. Determine Retention of Organic vs. Paid Sources

Users that come from paid sources should be behaving the same way in-app as organically acquired users, or better. Since you’re spending money to acquire these users, you want them to be quite active in your app, interacting in meaningful, measurable ways, in the same way that organic users are. Analyze your paid vs. organic users to see which are most loyal, use the app the longest, and act as influencers. In doing so, you can understand how users are coming into your app and which audiences are worth the most, giving you a benchmark for the costs and ROI of continuing campaigns in comparison to organic growth.

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4. Measure LTV as Part of ROI

It’s easy to misjudge an acquisition campaign early on based on preliminary data. If you have a figure in mind, particularly a number of desired acquired users, it can be easy to write off a channel that didn’t deliver based on your initial goals. But what these earliest metrics don’t reflect is the lifetime value (LTV) of a user. LTV is a critical part of measuring ROI, as it allows you to track how much a user is worth over his or her lifetime, and isn’t clearly identified based on vanity metrics like downloads.

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For example: you’re a marketer running two campaigns out of two different paid channels. Campaign A returns a larger number of downloads and initial users, while Campaign B delivers 25% fewer. The clear winner would be Campaign A, right? Not if you measure LTV over time. It could turn out that Campaign B, while it returned fewer downloads, delivered users who are more active and make more in-app purchases over time. Because of this, you’ll see a greater ROI from Campaign B once you take into account LTV and the purchasing behavior of the acquired users.


5. Optimize for New User Acquisition

Use the information you gain from segmentation, retention analytics, and other metrics to determine the paid channels with the best ROI, and concentrate your acquisition efforts on those areas that have seen the greatest return. Much like with web marketing programs, deciding where to focus your efforts and budget is a give-and-take, and can vary based on testing and evaluation.


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In your analytics, you can record a value with every subscription, every product purchase, every ad view, and compute a total LTV score for your users, segment that by the same channel sources or campaigns, and shift your ads then to those that are generating the most actual value.

So using the right analytics means you never have to start from nothing. By employing appropriate testing and spending the time to track and analyze key metrics, you as a marketer will be able to build on your acquisition strategy with each new insight gained.


Building Scalable Acquisition Campaigns

Following these five steps sets you up to experiment across channels, including paid vs. unpaid, A/B testing campaigns, and tailored app messaging and acquisition strategies over time to be more successful. Consider using the information you acquired through these attribution methods to optimize the messages you send to users, either in-app or through push. For example, you can send specific messages only to users acquired through Facebook to run a targeted marketing campaign.

Setting up a strategic acquisition plan means that you’ll get the most bang for your buck. With powerful analytics and the right ads, you can create a system that attracts, engages, and retains key app users, providing big returns and value over time.

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