Money isn't Everything: Alternative Measures of User Lifetime Value

Revenue-driven apps have it easy when it comes to determining user lifetime value (LTV). It’s all about a user’s bottom line over time. But what if your app isn’t monetized through user-driven revenue? Can you still measure a user’s LTV and identify your most valuable user segments?

The answer is yes! Not only do you have the ability to measure and track a user’s LTV using non-monetary standards, it’s also an extremely important metric for your business. While It’s easy to get caught up in user engagement data that tracks the occurrence of specific events in your app, LTV is arguably the definitive metric when it comes to getting a broad-level view of your app’s success and improvement over time. The more you see LTV increase, the more successful your app is. Therefore, the way you choose to define user LTV should be closely related to how you define success for your app.


Defining User Value When Money Isn’t on the Table

Whether you’re a growing company in the beta phase of your app, or a category leader for whom in-app purchases simply aren’t part of your business model, it’s important to have a quantifiable definition of user LTV.

Ask yourself, what is the goal of my app? If your goal is to help people lose weight, then your app is successful when users lose weight, and user LTV can be quantified in terms of pounds lost. In this case, your highest value users are the users who have lost the greatest number of pounds.

In an app that monetizes through advertisement, rather than user purchases, your goal is to generate advertising revenue. At the user level, that means encouraging user behaviors that lead to the greatest advertising revenue. For example, in a news app, advertisers may look at the number of article reads when deciding to purchase ad space. In this case, the users who contribute most to the number of article reads are the highest value users and LTV can be quantified as the number of articles read per user.

Here are some other category-specific measures of LTV that Localytics customers are tracking:


Measure of User LTV

Media & Entertainment

articles read, videos watched, songs played


levels completed, points earned

Health & Fitness

calories burned, miles run, workouts logged, pounds lost

Travel & Lifestyle

check-ins, reviews written, photos shared


notes saved, messages sent, events created


friends invited, conversations started, posts shared


How to Track User Lifetime Value

User LTV tracking is built into many app analytics and marketing platforms, making it easy for anyone in your company to see the progress of this metric over time, and compare LTV across various user segments.

Advanced analytics app platforms allow you to pick certain events to count towards a user’s LTV by passing an additional parameter to the event tag call. Events can include purchases, ad clicks, articles read, and a number of other user actions. For more details on best practices for LTV tracking, see our documentation.

Acting on Your User LTV Data

You already know that user LTV can give you a broad-level overview of your app’s success, but how can you act upon your data to impact this success and improve average user LTV over time?

Understanding LTV by User Segment

Powerful segmentation capabilities allow you to compare LTV for various segments of users. Looking at user LTV by segment can help you identify where your highest value users are coming from and what they’re doing in your app.

Taking Action

Once you’ve segmented users to identify your most valuable acquisition source, you can optimize your acquisition campaigns to further select for the highest value users. This can save you time and money as you build a more valuable user base. Understanding what your highest value users are doing in your app can help you identify what in-app behaviors you should encourage to increase average LTV for all users. You can then actively encourage valuable in-app behaviors by engaging with users through push and in-app messaging campaigns.


Conclusion: No Money, No Problems

Measuring user LTV without a monetary value is not only possible but is equally as important for your business as tracking revenue-based LTV. With that in mind, find the LTV metrics that mean the most to you and start identifying who your highest value users are and where they came from. This will help you optimize your acquisition campaigns by identifying the types of users, i.e. high value, you want to target, and the in-app behaviors that lead to more value. After all, an app with an upwardly trending average user LTV is an app that’s succeeding. So, take a moment and think - what is the best LTV metric for your app and are you tracking it?

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