[NEW PODCAST] The 2 Most Important Elements of Successful App User Acquisition

App user acquisition is an important topic for two reasons:

  1. If you don’t have new users, you probably have no business. We live in a world where no matter how good you are, there’s always something more shiny. If you don’t continuously acquire users, you won’t have users at all.
  2. It’s unbelievably, disgustingly expensive, and if you do it wrong, it’s costly. Depending on the size of your company, you can only afford to be wrong so many times.

In the most recent Appy Hour episode Jonathan Kay, Founder of Apptopia, explained how to build out a user profile for your acquisition strategy.

Two elements emerged as more important than the rest.


1) Target Your Competitors’ Users

One of the most important elements of any app user acquisition strategy is targeting the right user base. But how do you go about targeting these right users?

“When I think about targeting the users I want,” Jonathan said, “I want my competitors’ users.”

It’s the dream, not only because you’re taking away from the enemy but because those users are highly qualified. The worst thing you can do in any sale—and user acquisition is a sale—is have to explain why they need the tool and why they should pick you. You only want to sell once, so knowing who is using similar apps is essential to high-quality user acquisition.

Apptopia has something called a “user graph.” Essentially, it says active users of App A are also active users of App B. For example, Jonathan was looking at what users of Candy Crush are also active users of.

What did they find? Two of the five other apps that Candy Crush users also use are adult coloring books.

It’s a funny example, but a very important one: think about the type of game Candy Crush is. It’s a monotonous time-waster you play when you want to slow down your brain. It goes to show that people who are looking for that type of casual gaming are also looking for things like coloring.

Let’s say you’re the coloring book trying to acquire users. You might think you need to find your users in other entertainment or lifestyle apps, whereas through this data you’re actually learning that your user is looking for the same thing as an arcade user or casual gamer.


That kind of insight allows you to focus your acquisition spend and make sure you’re paying to get your message in front of users that you know will care about what you bring to the table.

2) Geography Matters

What else should you focus on other than competitors when building out user profiles?

A close second element for Jonathan is geography.

Geography matters because it affects cost. Acquiring a user might span $6 to $0.40 for certain publishers, all based on the country the users sits in.

It’s a tricky game: if you only acquire the users in Australia, the UK, and the United States that you know are spending a lot of money, it’s great, but $50,000 gets you nowhere. Or if you acquire all the users in the Caribbean or Sri Lanka for $0.40 a user, you can get a ton of users but they won’t be able to spend as much money. There has to be a balance.

It goes back to understanding what your competitors are doing. Here’s an example: Apptopia was working with one of the biggest racing games in mobile stores recently, and they said, “Let’s look at CSR Racing, at Real Racing by EA, at the popular Free Bike Game app, and let’s see in what countries they’re seeing the highest-average revenue per user and highest retention rates relative to the CPI for that country.

There are Tier 2 and 3 countries where your competitors have already proven out that users have a willingness to pay for your specific type of content. The cost to acquire those users is less than the cost to acquire users where it’s a bigger country and the average revenue is the same. With data, you can identify those inefficiencies of your competitors and capitalize on them.


If you’re a small-to-mid-size publisher, you’ll have a smaller budget to spend each month, in which case you need to make every penny count. Or if you have lots of money to spend, you can’t allocate all of your budget in Tier 2 and 3 companies, but you can certainly take a portion of it to invest.

An Important Note

It’s not 2011. The app store is more of a structured economy than a jungle now.

If you think that you know something that someone else doesn’t know, you’re probably wrong. You’re likely not a juggernaut, and if you don’t have money to spend to make mistakes, you need to put your ego aside and learn from what other people have done.

The Future of Mobile

We like to ask all of our guests on the Appy Hour podcast this question: Where do you think the future of mobile is headed?

Here was Jonathan’s answer:

“Extremely search driven. You search things on Google type two things, and it actually autopopulates all the questions that people are asking. I think that it’s starting to happen on mobile more and more. One of the examples I love the most is, if you take 1-800-FLOWERS, we were working with them and they reported that 30-40% of their sales on Mother’s Day came from new users that searched for something like ‘buy flowers on mobile.’

“People are starting to transition their wants, desires, curiosities, questions to the search field in their app store experience, and I think you’re going to see more and more of that.”

This post is based on a podcast interview with Jonathan Kay from Apptopia. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Appy Hour.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.