June 16, 2023
Between a return to pre-pandemic mobile app habits, an increase in user privacy policies across the mobile landscape, and a general tightening of belts for marketing budgets, it’s proving to be a particularly challenging time for mobile growth marketers. User acquisition (UA) managers must ensure that they’re acquiring and retaining high-value users to maximize the effects of their ad spend.
To that end, marketers need to adjust their user acquisition strategies to focus on the strategies that balance top-of-funnel UA with long-term loyalty. The most successful apps on the market won’t limit themselves to a single mobile user acquisition strategy. Instead, they will view mobile user acquisition like a well-balanced investment portfolio, employing a combination of one or more of the following strategies to fuel sustainable growth for years to come.
Some users may come and go, but the most dedicated ones will sustain you over the long haul. These users will evangelize your product and build excitement for it, driving growth – especially when, according to The Nielsen Company1, 92% of consumers say word of mouth beats all other forms of advertising. Building this community will help you to develop and grow your base of dedicated users, further enhancing your user acquisition efforts.
The strategy: Community-driven user acquisition employs the energy and engagement of a core group of highly-active users to fuel organic, word-of-mouth-driven growth.
Apps best suited for this user acquisition strategy: Any app where users interact with each other directly, whether through socialization or competition. In the case of games, this can include multiplayer RPGs, strategy, action, or card games. For apps, this includes social media and shopping/marketplace apps. However, a community-based approach can benefit any app where users invest significant time to develop and grow (like single-player RPGs or education apps).
Tools and resources for pursuing this strategy: Social media channels, such as Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, Discord, Reddit, or Twitch, are a fantastic asset for finding and developing a community of members for your app. However, it’s crucial to seek out where your potential users are and cater to where they gather rather than force a community within a platform they have no desire to use. On these platforms, you can:
Company blogs, product release notes in Google Play and the iOS App Store, and in-app messaging can also allow you to reach out directly to your user base. Here, you can use a soapbox that you control to provide patch notes, set up contests, and more. For example, popular card battler Marvel Snap2 uses its blog to post important game balance updates, inform players about upcoming character additions, and provide development roadmap updates on new features. This level of direct communication shows your dedicated users that you pay attention to feedback and are transparent about when, how, and why you’ve made these changes.
Measurable outcomes: The impact of community efforts on user growth can be difficult to measure since you’re putting in work with your target audience to grow beyond it. That’s why it’s crucial to examine core user acquisition metrics like lifetime value (LTV), as well as engagement, retention, and conversion metrics and compare them to pre- and post-community event numbers to see how your efforts affect organic growth and the potential impact to effective cost per install (eCPI).
As organic discovery becomes more difficult, building user loyalty is rapidly becoming a critical path toward profitable growth. A system that rewards players for coming back provides a tangible connection to your app, develops habits that get them to return, and fosters organic growth through sustained word-of-mouth messaging and app store rankings.
The strategy: Reward dedicated players to keep them invested while simultaneously encouraging new, potentially valuable users to stick around beyond the initial onboarding phase.
Apps best suited for this user acquisition strategy: Games with in-app purchase (IAP) models, collectible items (like consumables or cosmetic equipment), and strong progression systems (such as RPGs, card, and strategy games) are well suited to a loyalty-based strategy. Shopping apps that can reward repeat visits or purchases will also benefit.
Tools and resources for pursuing this strategy: In-app rewards are a simple yet effective way to improve app loyalty and retain users, making them a perfect user acquisition strategy for mobile apps. There are several ways to implement these, such as:
Additionally, third-party loyalty apps like Mistplay provide tangible rewards (like gift cards for popular online retailers) for repeat users — the more they play, the greater the rewards. This encourages repeat visits to your app, which instills long-term habits — according to Business of Apps3, 90% of users are more likely to become loyal over the long term if they engage with your app at least once per week. And the longer they use your app, the more likely they are to spend.
Once you’ve built your loyalty programs, stay on top of in-app and push notifications to maximize your reach and engagement. Optimize these messages with incremental testing to get the most out of each player you acquire.
Measurable outcomes: Loyalty is an abstract concept and is best viewed as the product of multiple engagement and retention metrics. One effective proxy is “stickiness”, which can be calculated by dividing your daily active users (DAU) by your monthly active users (MAU).
Other measurable outcomes include rolling retention rates (day three, day seven, day 30, day 90, and so on) to show how often people keep coming back, session intervals to show how long they’re playing per session, and repeat purchase rates to show how often they’re spending money beyond initial IAPs.
Crafting your listing on the App Store and Google Play takes more than a catchy title and some eye-popping images – though those do help. This is where app store optimization can shine, taking a buried app and making it rocket up the charts. The more easily users can search for, find, install, and engage with your app positively, the higher it will rank, further increasing organic growth.
According to SensorTower4, almost two-thirds of iOS app downloads come from users who search for them directly within the App Store. As such, it’s crucial to understand how each element of your app store listing on iOS and Android stores aligns with their respective search algorithms and build your page to leverage these components while still delivering a human touch.
The strategy: Employ app store optimization strategies to set listings up for success, then maximize your store ranking to foster organic growth through search.
Apps best suited for this user acquisition strategy: Any app can benefit from an app store optimization strategy.
Tools and resources for pursuing this strategy: First, you must understand the similarities and differences of each app store before you set out to create your listings. One example is the app subtitle: according to Apple5, the App Store provides a 30-character subtitle to help describe your app’s value proposition to potential users, while Google’s Play Store does not. Description language should be natural and readable but also contain important keywords for elements you want your app to rank for, such as genre, popular app search phrases, and more.
Well-optimized app store pages yield greater returns on all other forms of UA because it’s the final step in the user acquisition funnel. In the case of burst campaigns, for example, the increase in installs will boost your app’s ranking within each store’s charts, which will then cause it to become more visible to other potential users through organic search, generating a feedback loop building toward sustainable long-term user acquisition.
Measurable outcomes: The biggest outcome to measure here is your discoverability – app store ranking, page visits, organic installs, and so on – as these are the key indicators of your optimization efforts' effectiveness. Where possible, segment organic users and track their conversion rate, retention, and LTV to better understand and quantify your return on organic investments.
As Google and Apple continue to update and refine their stances on privacy and overhaul the information advertisers can access, app marketers need to continue to develop expertise in leveraging the information that they do have. With such limited data available (along with limited access to levers for manipulating and analyzing that data), implementing creative testing methods and aligning results with your desired audience is absolutely critical for mobile marketers looking to squeeze the best results out of their ad spend. This approach requires a dedicated team of performance marketers or tight collaboration with your in-house data team, who will analyze data while staying on top of upcoming data and privacy changes so that they can recommend tactical adjustments to overall strategy.
The strategy: Develop a deep data-science talent bench to launch, optimize, retarget, and test ad campaigns across multiple performance marketing channels.
Apps best suited for this user acquisition strategy: Apps moving past the initial user acquisition phase and looking to grow beyond.
Tools and resources for pursuing this strategy: As this is a heavily metrics-driven approach, advertisers must become performance marketing experts in both iOS and Android app store channels, as well as social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, to ensure the math adds up in their favor.
Additionally, focusing on incrementality – that is, the incremental lift of tracked metrics on paid marketing campaigns – will become increasingly important in the wake of the deprecation of the identifier for advertisers (IDFA) marketers have relied on for years. By examining the rate of change to return on ad spend (ROAS), marketers can ensure that their ad dollars are being spent wisely, even without direct access to user-level attribution data.
Measurable outcomes: Important KPIs worth tracking (especially through incrementality tactics) include CPI, ROAS, conversion rates, app engagement, and app install rate.
While mobile marketing remains a primary channel for advertisers, it’s crucial not to write off legacy channels, such as television. These channels are less common because they’re less measurable than the performance marketing channels advertisers usually rely on. Still, they will also open your app to new target audiences that would otherwise be inaccessible.
The strategy: Utilize legacy channels to broadcast your brand, providing access to additional user segments and promoting a halo effect across other channels.
Apps best suited for this user acquisition strategy: Mid to large-scale apps with the capital to make campaigns on these channels effective.
Tools and resources for pursuing this strategy: Television – through traditional linear and CTV (connected TV) options – remains one of the largest and most effective legacy advertising channels. According to Civic Science6, most Americans watch at least one to four hours of TV content every day – choosing the right time and spot will enable you to reach your core audience or branch out to demographics you’re not currently catering to.
Other options include print and out-of-home advertising (such as billboards, posters, and other signs common in most major metropolitan areas). Utilizing QR codes, custom website links, referral codes for audio-only campaigns (like podcasts), and other measurable tactics will help you gather more data on campaign effectiveness.
Measurable outcomes: While CTV advertising (through smart TV and streaming set-top boxes) enables wide access to performance marketing metrics, legacy options like linear TV won’t have access to this data. Instead, you will want to target metrics such as reach (through audience numbers and demographics) as well as brand lift (by tracking hashtags and other conversation markers on social media networks).
Fostering a dedicated base of loyal users is the keystone of any effective mobile app user acquisition strategy, especially in the highly-competitive world of mobile game development. That’s why Mistplay has become a leading loyalty platform for advertisers and players alike. We’ve helped studios like East Side Games harness the power of our AI-powered platform to target high-value users and reward those players for installing, playing, and sticking with their games. As a result, East Side Games saw a 15% increase in installs and an almost 10% increase in D7 retention to their overall user acquisition performance on Android.
Ready to learn more? Read the study, and discover how Mistplay’s unique loyalty platform can drive user acquisition and retention for your mobile game.
Need to brush up on your user acquisition fundamentals? Check out our comprehensive article, “Mobile user acquisition: The modern developer’s guide”