Originally published on 08.08.19 and updated on 12.04.20.
It’s one of the most frustrating feelings for app developers: you’ve created the most amazing product, yet barely anyone is using it. Perhaps it’s time for some expert help?
Full-service mobile user acquisition agencies are the gold standard when it comes to mobile marketing. They’ll help you with everything from crafting your strategy to achieving your desired metrics. Usually, they have their own proprietary technology that they’ve developed over time to drive results.
The best mobile user acquisition agency will increase your user base quickly and dramatically, while raising brand awareness. They’ll help you segment your audience for a highly targeted approach with the right message at the right time. The more relevant the audience, the better they’ll engage with your app. A win win.
As a mobile user acquisition agency ourselves, we’ve worked with some of the best app developers who are passionate about what they do, which in turn has led them to unparalleled app success. So, we think we know a thing or two, and we’d like to share it with you.
Throughout this article we’ll look at the role of the mobile user acquisition agency, the difference between mobile app user acquisition and web user acquisition, and the benefits of using an agency instead of going at it alone.
Mobile User Acquisition: Challenges Faced
The two biggest app stores, Apple App Store and Google Play, have nearly 5.5 million apps between them. Standing out from the crowd in such a saturated, highly competitive marketplace is difficult. This is before you have to deal with conversion difficulties once you do have the user’s (short-lived) attention.
The staggering amount of competition has other implications, too. For example, if an app in a category is featured by Apple, or is on a top 10 list, it makes it a whole lot harder to compete with.
Wouldn’t it be great if users organically found your app, installed it, and became lifetime fans? Unfortunately, this is very rarely the case. User acquisition has become a key battleground for app developers.
A full service UA agency can help you with all parts of the acquisition funnel by taking a holistic approach. This means that the UA team works with the ASO team, who work with the Creative team, and so on. Considering that all of these elements interplay to acquire the most users, this is an invaluable asset.
What are some tricks a mobile user acquisition agency can help you with?
- ASO: App Store Optimization covers a range of things including keyword strategies, localization and creative assets – it’s all about generating the most organic installs. It’s crucial to app marketing since the majority of users discover new apps in the app stores. Why will your app bring users more value than your competitors? Show them. The better the first impression the higher the acquisition rate.
- Reviews: everyone knows good reviews are positive for brands, but not everyone knows that they impact your app ranking in the app store algorithms. Every time you receive a positive review, the algorithms bump your ranking higher than a competitor. A higher app ranking = higher visibility. Higher visibility = higher acquisition. It’s all the insider knowledge like this that makes agencies worth the bucks (especially since the algorithms are dynamic and you need to keep on top of them to know the tricks).
- ASA: Apple Search Ads are a way of bidding on keywords to make your app the first result in Apple’s App Store search listings, even above the number one organic spot. There’s no better way to stand out and reach the most users than gaining the top spot. However, ASA is a complex world and mastering it requires expert knowledge. The key is to be truly successful without wasting money, which an agency is best equipped to help with. The wrong tactics can do more damage than good.
- Expert knowledge: let’s face it, you probably don’t have the same depth of user acquisition knowledge as a UA agency. They dedicate their everyday lives to it. And since you likely won’t have the budget to outspend the big guns either, you’re going to have to outsmart them to attract new users. So you need an agency, right?
- Dynamic awareness: the mobile marketing landscape changes constantly, so working with an agency who’s top priority is keeping up with and leveraging these updates means you can be confident you’re always maximizing your potential. An agency can help you make the most out of every opportunity.
- Changing preferences: how you reach your audience is important. Do you just use Facebook? Or have you migrated to Instagram and Snapchat to reach your users and bump up your installs? Each channel requires different creative strategies that an agency can help with.
How is User Acquisition Measured?
“What can’t be measured, can’t be managed”. Thankfully, user acquisition can be accurately measured using some of the following success metrics:
|Cost Per Acquisition||✅||✅|
|Cost Per Install (installs can also come from web, but this is used as a metric for mobile not web)||✅||❌|
|Daily Active Users (DAU) or Monthly Active Users (MAU)||✅||❌|
|Lifetime Value (LTV)||✅||✅|
The metrics that you use will depend on your campaign goals. The best UA agency will help you decide on the right ones for your brand and campaign. With these critical metrics at your disposal, you can slice, dice and use them to optimize and strategize.
How is Mobile User Acquisition Different from Web User Acquisition?
Mobile app user acquisition, particularly when done through an agency, has a number of distinct advantages over traditional marketing. From cost savings to quicker conversions, these can play a significant role in achieving targeted user acquisition metrics. We’ll go through them all below, but first:
The biggest difference between mobile and web acquisition comes in the form of attribution, which without there is no user acquisition at all. Mobile attribution is a lot more fragmented than web attribution; it’s hard to track when a user has seen an ad on social media and then searched for the app in an app store a day later.
It’s important as a brand to know where your users came from as well as where they stayed. For example, did they come from the web but stay in the app? If so, you’re going to want to retarget them within the app.
In app-events allow for tracking users, and deep links help with the retargeting and remarketing – they send a user to a specific location within an app, reducing the friction in the process. A user who follows a deep link can be attributed to their original source. By contrast, web acquisition tracks events that come through pixels on website landing pages.
Why is attribution important, anyway? Well, we need to know what campaigns are the most successful (measured by how many users can be attributed to them) so we can most efficiently and profitably strategize for the future. It reduces wasted finance and time, and maximizes ROI and KPIs. An agency understands best how to overcome the UA challenges that attribution brings with it.
Mobile Media Partners
MMPs are a huge part of mobile user acquisition that aren’t used for web acquisition. There’s a whole host of MMPs out there and it can be overwhelming to know which one to choose. Agencies have established relationships with the MMPs they work with to get the most out of their offerings, and to keep on top of the dynamic industry.
Trusted MMPs include AppsFlyer, Adjust, Branch and Kochava. AppsFlyer controls around 70% of the mobile market world, with Adjust holding around 15-20% and the others splitting the rest.
Attribution Windows on MMPS
When establishing your mobile user acquisition campaign, you need to focus on attribution windows on MMPs and various platforms. The results of your campaign will be affected by the length of the window. It’s standard to do a one day attribution window, but you’ll see better results from a 30 day window.
Consistency is key here. You need to compare like to like. You can’t take the attribution from a 30 day window for one report and then take the attribution from a one day window for the next.
It’s a fine art to find the exact window that’s right for your campaign, which an agency can help with. It really depends on your product. For example, mobile games require a shorter attribution window as users usually download the app and perform actions quickly.
Any changes in the window need to be organized and tested to figure out the best way to calculate what it was exactly, and to see what window will bring the most value and accurate results.
It’s important to remember that you can’t play around with the attribution window too much. You just have to know your app well and choose a window that reflects your product.
Now, you may be wondering how mobile UA agencies overcome these challenges. They use MMPs like AppsFlyer, Adjust or others to overcome the tracking challenges between mobile and web. Navigating metrics such as CPI on mobile vs. web can be difficult, but the MMPs products are designed precisely to make it easier.
iOS14 Updates to IDFA
With iOS14 now rolled out, and the corresponding changes to IDFA, the user attribution industry has been seriously shaken up. Granted, the IDFA updates may have been delayed, but 2021 is creeping up on us and so it’s vital that preparations are made.
Now that users will have to opt in to let apps track them across other apps and the mobile web, via an in-app pop-up notification, it’s likely that most users will deny permission. That poses a big problem for MMPs since their whole business model relies on tracking users. And a problem for MMPs means a problem for app developers. This recent development, announced in June 2020, is difficult to navigate to say the least, so it’s best to let the experts do the work.
A top mobile UA agency will be working with MMPs to fully understand and help them build the most effective solutions. All MMPs now have their own solutions on offer, from AppsFlyer to Adjust. Apple has introduced the SKAdNetwork, its new ad network API, to continue tracking users in the post-IDFA era. AppsFlyer already has a SKAdNetwork Overview feature with a special dedicated UI for iOS14.
Considering this is still a relatively new update, it’s great to see such rapid responses from all the MMPs out there. Given the dynamic nature of the industry, their solutions are constantly evolving as they try to continuously improve their offerings. It can take even an advanced user acquisition expert time to get their head around, but since it’s what they dedicate their daily work to, we suggest leaving it to them.
iOS vs. Android
A huge difference between web and mobile user acquisition is that web acquisition operates in one sphere, whereas mobile does not. With Android and iOS dominating the mobile landscape and offering two different approaches to mobile user acquisition, it could be said that mobile acquisition is slightly more complex.
With mobile you can choose between targeting Android or iOS users, so you need to start carefully and test the two against each other. You can’t just split every campaign 50/50 and expect to see the best results. Every mobile campaign soft launch starts with a small A/B test to see which users bring the most profit and lowest acquisition costs.
If Android users prove to be cheaper to acquire, you might choose to target them more. However, iOS users tend to be more valuable. So if bringing value is your top priority, you may choose to target them more. It all depends on your goals and KPIs when considering which to target. This is precisely what an agency can help you calculate to see optimum campaign results.
With mobile user acquisition, it’s easier to target specific users. Instead of a “spray and pray” strategy, a targeted mobile user acquisition strategy allows you to market your app to the specific users for whom it’s relevant. From this, your other metrics will also spike. For example, engagement and retention will rise because you’re onboarding the perfect users from the outset, as opposed to users who have no desire or need for your app.
With performance marketing, you can target a CPA or similar metric, and ensure that you’re achieving your goals by constantly evaluating against the metric. This is the perfect way to keep track of your campaign spending, too.
What’s more, mobile user acquisition agencies are always using the best existing and new products on the market. Often, these are unattainable to publishers alone since they’re tens of thousands of dollars a year. You can’t realistically compete with the big guns without utilizing the same top products, so taking advantage of an agency’s resources can really benefit you without having to splash the cash yourself.
Conversions are often immediate. Many times, a user sees an ad that speaks to them and downloads the app. Obviously, this is an oversimplification, but it’s certainly quicker than in many “traditional” industries.
The flow often goes: targeted ad —> app store search —> app store page —> install (if successful) or app store search —> app store page —> install (again if successful).
Working With A Mobile User Acquisition Agency to Create A Mobile User Acquisition Strategy
Why use an agency to help with your strategy? In a nutshell, you’re able to draw from their experience, expertise and depth of knowledge, not to mention their industry contacts. They have access to and expertise with using media technologies to target the right user at the right time, in the right format. It’s also worth knowing that most app developers choose this route.
A top mobile user acquisition agency will formulate its campaign around the following tactics:
- Targeting and personalization: you can target your campaign from user behaviour to demographics to traffic source, and beyond. This requires identifying potential users based on their behaviour and assessing the best time and method to reach them, with personalization being key. Essentially, it’s a hyper-targeted approach.
- Burst: to reach the top of an app store’s charts, your app needs to be downloaded a number of times a day. Bursting your app to the top will increase your visibility and lead to thousands of organic downloads. The result is at least 0.5 organic downloads per paid download. Not bad, right?
- Optimization/ Acquisition: a user has to go through a number of steps in order to become an active and engaged user: Impressions –> Clicks –> Installs –> Registered users –> Loyal users –> Paying users. Naturally, there will be drop off along the funnel, so a premium mobile user acquisition agency will ensure this is minimized throughout.
A top agency will use the following resources for acquisition:
- Social Media: with each platform you can be hyper-targeted, reach users where they spend their time anyway and access detailed analytics for constant optimization. Agencies have access to expensive tools like AppTweak (upwards of $10,000 a year) to gain the best insights from the data and metrics.
- Video: it’s increasingly becoming the primary way users interact with content. Creative teams at an agency can help make the most engaging videos and work with the ASO team to optimize them based on metrics such as drop off rates.
- Web: you can easily drive installs from the web, with call-to-actions, deep links and the help of MMPs.
- Email Campaigns: well-crafted email campaigns, with a call-to-action to download your app, can be highly effective in driving installs. Often underrated, they can return some of the highest metrics of all. Platforms like MailChimp make this feasible.
- Influencer Marketing/ PR: although more effective in raising brand awareness than generating installs, influencer marketing can be used to drive a relevant audience to download an app. Positive and genuine reviews from a trusted and relevant type of influencer can introduce new users to an app and encourage installs.
- Native Ads: these are highly targeted paid ads that appear in the right contexts, matching the look and feel of the channel they appear in. They often appear in social media feeds or on web pages, but purposely don’t look like traditional ads.
- Mobile Ads: these allow you to target users who are already immersed in an in-app experience. If your targeting is good, this method can work wonders.
Methods for Reaching Users
There are different methods and platforms that can be used to reach your users.
- Ad Networks: these connect advertisers and publishers in a supply and demand model for paid ads.
- Real Time Bidding/Exchanges: RTB allows media buyers to purchase ads on a per-impression basis. At a UA agency, media buyers use them to optimize multiple ad networks for the creation of advertising campaigns.
- Social: as touched upon above, you can use ads to target users where they’re already hanging out.
- Video/Rich Media: Rich Media are digital ads with multiple features including animation, audio and video. They tend to have higher engagement levels than ad banners because of the different features at once.
- Retargeting: it’s sometimes better value to invest in user retention and re-engage lapsed users rather than acquire entirely new ones.
- Search: Apple Search Ads allow you to bump your app to the number one spot in the App Store search listing so that you reach more users.
- Incentivized: these are platforms that reward users for their actions. The user performs a task and receives a reward such as online money, encouraging them to engage with ads. There is naturally less opposition to ads when there’s an incentive for the user too.
Each has its own cost, advantages, and disadvantages, and each should be discussed with your mobile user acquisition agency when putting together your user acquisition strategy.
Mobile User Acquisition Campaign Types
Brand awareness campaigns:
There are many different strategies to brand awareness campaigns. We like to take the approach of first introducing users to the brand and then running a UA campaign. A strategy we often follow at Moburst is:
- First, we start a general brand awareness campaign without targeting specific KPIs, exposing users to the brand. With mobile, it’s important to do a brand awareness campaign to help with your UA, especially if you’re a new brand.
- Then, we remarket a performance campaign to the same people.
Five years ago, it wasn’t common for the brand to impact the user acquisition strategy. Brand awareness campaigns were seen more as standalone campaigns. Only after a few months would brands consider doing a mobile user acquisition campaign as well.
However, in 2020 we know that there’s a clear correlation between brand awareness and user acquisition campaigns. For example, with influencer marketing campaigns (e.g. getting an influencer to put a link in their social media bio that can then be tracked by brands) it’s often a bit more difficult to track the brand awareness impact than the influencer impact. Which leads us nicely onto…
With the industry constantly taking new directions, agencies are often at the forefront. TikTok, Instagram and other influencer marketing campaigns are used by agencies to promote apps. They’re two relatively new strategies that we’ve seen increasing in traction in recent years.
One way influencer campaigns work in the user acquisition world is through brands giving social media influencers special app coupon codes to offer to their followers. Any conversions from these coupon codes are therefore easy to attribute.
Agencies can help you with your whole influencer marketing campaign strategy, from finding the right influencer and platform to the right way to scale (including your budget and frequency).
Organic vs paid user acquisition:
ASO is a complex world in its own right, with different systems and partners like MobileAction or AppTweak. So, it’s complicated to know the exact impact of organic user acquisition on your paid results within your app campaigns.
Even when coming to a conclusion on the organic impact on paid results, it’s less of a science and more of a speculation. However, it’s more straightforward for a publisher to do it alone for web acquisition because you have analytics to see the organic vs. paid traffic.
An agency has the benefit of an ASO department to deal with the organic side of UA for you, so they can take over the complications. Without an ASO team working closely with the UA team, e.g. acting alone as a publisher, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have – you won’t be able to fully understand the relationship between organic and paid and see the whole picture.
Working With A Full-Service Mobile User Acquisition Agency
Certain types of mobile user acquisition agencies will cater to specific parts of the market, such as social media user acquisition, or just Facebook. However, a full-service mobile user acquisition agency is the cream of the crop.
A full-service digital user acquisition agency usually has its own proprietary technology that they have developed over time to drive results. For example, here at Moburst, our team of media experts works in conjunction with our in-house media-buying productivity tools and API integrations.
Using algorithms to automate the optimization process for every campaign, our teams are able to utilize budgets more effectively to deliver better results and generate the best ROI.
Another way a full-service mobile user acquisition agency sets itself apart is through transparency. A top mobile user acquisition agency will let you see your campaign stats in real-time, and see exactly where your media budget is going and the returns you’re getting.
Getting Started With A Mobile User Acquisition Agency
Your app is awesome, and it’s about time the world knew it. This starts with user acquisition, so it’s certainly worth engaging with a top mobile user acquisition agency in order to discuss your goals and how best to achieve them.
When it comes to premium mobile user acquisition companies, get in touch with Moburst. As one of the leading full-service user acquisition companies, we’ve worked with some of the biggest brands in the world to achieve app success. It’s what we’re passionate about, and we look forward to working together to help you achieve this too.
To conclude, premium user acquisition companies will be able to deliver the following benefits while you focus on developing your app:
- ROI: they generate the best Return on Investment possible for your app.
- User base: they significantly increase your user base within a short period of time.
- Segmentation: they reach a highly segmented target audience with the right message at the right time.
- Super-relevant: they attract super-relevant users that will better engage with your app.
- Awareness: they significantly raise your brand awareness.
See you at the top of the charts!