The 1-2-3 Guide to Ace Mobile App User Acquisition

Acquiring users for your native mobile app isn’t a new challenge, but it keeps getting harder. The number of apps on the market keeps on rising, and competition in every app sector keeps increasing.

Acquiring users for your native mobile app isn’t a new challenge, but it keeps getting harder. The number of apps on the market keeps on rising, and competition in every app sector keeps increasing.

Last year, over 6,000 apps were released every day on average in the Google Play store alone.

App marketers are working in a saturated market, competing for a limited number of users, who are becoming more discerning when it comes to the apps they install and use.

Without an enormous budget, there’s no choice but to get creative with user acquisition if you want your app to get you any meaningful usage among your customers. It’s time to master some new tactics in order to make sure your app remains a center of growth for your business, while keeping your cost per acquisition (CPA) in check.

1. Get Creative With ASO

App Store Optimization (ASO) remains a key pillar of any good user acquisition program. Careful use of keywords is still crucial to get your app to rank highly in app store searches and on app charts, with 65% of downloads on the iOS app store still coming through organic search, as per App Annie’s “State of Mobile in 2019” report.

App marketers continue to use updates to the app’s name, description, and icon as their go-to methods for improving ASO, although updates to app name and description dropped slightly in 2018.

app user acquisition chart

However, ASO tactics have evolved and improved. Working ASO to the max in 2019 means using seasonal keywords, images, and branding to take advantage of yearly events, like winter holiday sales; whether it’s something geography- or culture-focused like Singles Day, or a global shopping hype machine like Black Friday.

App marketers are also seizing the opportunity to use tentpole marketing to adapt ASO to sporting or cultural events, like the Super Bowl or the Oscars, as a way of attracting more users. High-profile feature launches are another window for ASO updates that bump your app’s visibility in app stores. For example, Progressive Insurance created a game called Super Duper Bingo, created from ads of the previous years and marketing clichés to air during the 2016 Super Bowl.

app user acquisition example

What’s more, today’s app marketers also update screenshots and videos on a regular basis, in order to keep app branding consistent across all touchpoints. For iOS apps, updates to keyword banks and promotional text copy also provide important potential for ASO.

2. Make Mobile Affiliate Marketing Measurable

Affiliate marketing may have a bad reputation in some circles, but it’s going through a rebirth for app marketers.

Some marketers are starting to approach affiliate marketing as they would any other type of performance marketing, by vigilantly measuring conversion lift using more sophisticated attribution solutions.

With smarter measurement in place and less risk of fraud, marketers can allow influential affiliates to promote their products with social media posts, native paid advertising, and sponsored on-site content, as well as traditional affiliate marketing ads and UTM-enabled links.

The more holistic approach to affiliate marketing channels leads through a trackable and measurable process that makes it easier to optimize each stage of the user journey. Because you only pay after a lead has converted, affiliate marketing is a great way to keep your CPA down and improve ROI.

Succeeding at affiliate marketing for increasing app users requires plenty of research into finding the right third-party partners to help extend your reach to new audiences. You’ll also need to tread the fine line between developing an attractive affiliate program, with healthy commissions and low barriers to entry, and keeping it cost-effective so that you aren’t paying over the odds for each lead.

3. Drive Revenue With Retargeting Ads

App retargeting ads are still among the most effective ways to drive conversions and revenue uplift. Over the last two years, one out of every four conversions was enabled by retargeting programs, and apps running retargeting ads enjoyed nearly 50% more revenue uplift over those that did not. That’s according to a recent study from mobile attribution analytics company AppsFlyer, based on its analysis of 4.5 billion retargeting conversions.

app user acquisition graph
Credit: AppsFlyer


Thanks to the availability of more sophisticated retargeting engines from the various ad networks, app marketers are better able to identify and build ad targeting audiences of potential users who have shown interest in the app, but failed to convert to paying users.

These are prime leads for retargeting ads that remind people about the benefits of the app and convince them to return, to upgrade to a paid license, or to make in-app purchases.

New segmentation tools also allow marketers to develop focused retargeting ads that are shown only to those leads who are likely to deliver the highest revenue, improving ROI. This should be combined with advanced personalization techniques, drawing on your existing data on lead behavior and interests to make retargeting ads more relevant and more effective.

4. Get All the Reviews You Can

The importance of reviews is old news for app marketers, but many still seem to overlook just how significant reviews and ratings can be. About 95% of people read app reviews, and 80% say they trust them, per a BrightLocal survey, making app reviews highly influential for success in acquiring users.

Many app marketers focus on app reviews on third-party sites, and fail to bring in enough reviews on the app site itself. After the app store, the most likely place that potential users will look for reviews is your app download page. Plenty of app reviews and a high customer satisfaction ranking impacts on your app’s overall scores for ASO, significantly improving download and installation rates.

Frequently, marketers who bring in user reviews don’t gather enough of them. Your app needs around 60 reviews to get an average rating, and around 150 reviews to be ranked as one of the top apps in the app store. So it’s imperative to constantly find new ways to bump up the number of your reviews.

app user acquisition example two

And don’t forget that your reviews need to be authentic to potential users. If you have dozens of reviews that are all positive and uncritical, visitors will dismiss many of them as fake and won’t take them seriously. So resist any temptation to pay for positive reviews or to make them up yourself.

Combine Multiple Tactics

App user acquisition isn’t easy — and it can be very expensive — but using the right tactics can help you get more downloads, installs, and in-app time without spending a fortune. Retargeting ads for interested leads who haven’t yet converted, fine-tuning your ASO in creative ways, gathering enough authentic reviews, and advancing affiliate marketing networks are all critical pillars of a successful user acquisition campaign.

By mixing and matching these smart tactics, you’ll be able to create an app user funnel with multiple entry points that keeps your app profitable.

Should You Create a Mobile App?

As a marketer, you’ve created a Web page, established a social media presence and even experimented with mobile marketing. Is it time for the next step? Should you create a mobile app so your customers can engage with you more easily?

Mobile appsAs a marketer, you’ve created a Web page, established a social media presence and even experimented with mobile marketing. Is it time for the next step? Should you create a mobile app so your customers can engage with you more easily? According to the “Synchrony Financial 2017 Digital Study,” 63 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 15 have downloaded a retail app. The average adult has two retail apps on their phone at any given time.

Why People Download Mobile Apps

What are the driving forces causing customers to download retail apps? According to our study, the top reason why people download a mobile app was because they frequently shop at the brand — 51 percent said they downloaded an app for this reason. As a marketer, your most loyal customers are the best targets for an app.

The second reason was to make a purchase, at 48 percent, followed by the desire to browse and compare prices, at 37 percent. So, if you are planning on launching a mobile app, ensure that it’s easy to buy and browse products on it. These are driving factors for your customers.

Who are most likely to download mobile apps? You guessed it, it’s the Millennials. Millennials are downloading apps in huge numbers. Eighty-one percent of those aged 26 to 35 said they have downloaded a retailer app on their phone. The top reasons are the same, to browse, buy and compare prices.

Retailer App EngagementMost Important Mobile App Features

OK, so you’ve launched your mobile app. Now, you want to get people to use it, right? Well, do you know which features are most important to your customers? Below are the top-rated app features:

  • 69 percent — access to discounts and coupons
  • 30 percent — ability to order products quickly
  • 27 percent — product search feature
  • 23 percent — ability to make payments and check balances

So, the number one feature customers want from an app is the ability to save money and access to special offers. Other features that rate highly are speed, product search and payment-related features. If you want your customer to regularly use your mobile app, keep these features in mind. A few surprise and delight perks are always great ways to get customers interested and engaged.

Why Good Mobile Apps Go Bad (or Get Deleted)

The top reason mobile apps get deleted was due to poor functionality. Thirty-five percent of people deleted apps for this reason. If your app has poor functionality, doesn’t meet your customers’ needs or customers have a bad experience, your app will most likely get deleted. There is only so much space on a smartphone and today’s digital consumer doesn’t have much patience for a dysfunctional mobile app.

Coming in as a close second reason for deletion was simply that the app didn’t provide enough value. Thirty-four percent of consumers said they deleted a mobile app because they didn’t see the value in keeping it. This is a warning sign! Even if you spend the time and effort developing an app that runs great, if you don’t provide enough perks or benefits, it just won’t matter — it will get deleted.

In our hypercompetitive world of digital engagement, it’s important to prioritize our digital programs. One of the strategies to explore is engaging with your customers through your own mobile app. If that’s the case for you, be aware of the delighters and pain points for mobile app usage. It can be a great way to engage, but it can also be a lot of work for a minimal amount of gain, if not done correctly.

Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the blogger and not necessarily of Synchrony Financial. All references to consumers and population refer to the survey respondents from the Synchrony Financial 2017 Digital Study unless otherwise noted.