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The Best of Mobile Heroes: User Acquisition Tips and Tricks

By James Haslam | October 12, 2020

Consumers are turning to apps at an increasing speed, growing 11.6% year over year. And though analysts expect apps to perform strongly into 2021 and beyond, you might not find these gains impacting your app business. That’s likely because, without active and effective user acquisition (UA), it’s tough for businesses to find and convert new users. 

We’ve brought together top tips from the best mobile marketers out there to make up our latest Best of Mobile Heroes collection on user acquisition to help you get ahead and claim your share of this growing user base. From e-commerce to gaming, our Heroes have a deep knowledge of app marketing to pull from, making this an unmissable read.

Blending Brand and Performance

Most guides kick off advising marketers to think about their goals. Either you’re focused on performance marketing, or brand. However, our first Mobile Hero sees things a little differently: “As marketers, we intuitively know that both higher-funnel and lower-funnel advertising impact one another,” says Amanda Carvell, Sr. Manager, Digital & CRM at RetailMeNot. Amanda believes that fundamentally, “performance ads should help drive brand recognition, while brand ads should eventually lead to a sale” meaning for apps, the two are mixing closely together. Since most of what marketers spend is measurable, the lines between “performance” and “brand” have blurred.

Measuring the impact of this trend is difficult unless you utilize what Amanda calls blended metrics. “If you are still part of the old-age performance marketing team who works in a silo to drive revenue, you’re doing it wrong,” Amanda says. It’s vital that you focus on blended metrics, quality over quantity, and work closely with peers to create shared goals and initiatives. At RetailMeNot, the team look at several KPIs across all channels to define their blended metrics:

  • Quality users: what actions will this user take in the app in 1 day, 7 days, 30 days?
  • Incrementality: would this user have converted anyway?
  • Retention: what is a user’s lifetime value?
  • Brand consideration: did this ad have a positive impact on whether a user chooses to use RetailMeNot in the future?

“No matter how many cheap installs you drive, it can’t last forever,” says Amanda. “Your brand will ultimately be impacted since it’s at the forefront of everything you do. Use your advertising, no matter where you get budget, to help people feel what your brand can offer. The sales will follow.”

Want the full view into how brand and performance marketing can successfully blend? Read Amanda’s post to learn more.

Nailing Your North Star Metric

The next Mobile Hero, Mikhail Biteryakov, Business Analyst at e-commerce giant Joom, tees up our second UA tip: pay for value, not metrics.

Most app marketers fall into a familiar pattern, utilizing a multitude of different payment models before settling on a handful that work “best”—but this approach might be suboptimal. For Joom, cost per install (CPI) and cost per action (CPA) relayed little value. Since the company’s goal is to acquire users that make high-value purchases using the app, such models were, in Mikhail’s words, “just proxies keeping us from focusing on the most important metric—revenue generated from acquired users.”

Though metrics define a marketer’s life in some ways, it’s better to nail your north star by focusing on your single biggest goal, then building your secondary metrics out as your knowledge grows.

It’s important for marketers to figure out their ‘north star’ metrics with partners in mind because in Mikhail’s case, revenue generated impacted how they paid the platforms they worked with. In Joom’s case, they “started working with affiliates using this revenue-sharing model and as a result we were moving in the same direction, creating a win-win cooperation.”

Feeling lost at sea? Mikhail has three more tips on how to simplify app marketing to improve results. 

Getting to Know Your MTTI

Metrics have multiple values beyond acquisition—and, according to Kurt Geater, Mobile Marketing Manager at Groupon, “one of the most under-valued metrics that is not talked about enough is the MTTI, or the median time-to-install of an app download.”

For those not in the know, the MTTI is the median time it takes for the user to download an app after they have clicked an ad. “The shorter the MTTI,” Kurt says, “the easier it is to make the argument that it was the ad that drove the download.” The MTTI can be a useful way to attribute app installs and benchmark particular network performances. 

For example, say Network A has a median time of two minutes from click to install. Barring fraud, this short turn around suggests that it was the ad that incentivized the user to download. In contrast, Network B’s MTTI is around 60 minutes, which could mean that there may have been some other touch-points along the way.

With MTTI it’s key to set your lookback windows correctly in order to avoid cannibalization, but Kurt recommends testing the metric first to see whether it can help you attribute installs and optimize campaign spend to channels that show quicker MTTI rates than others.

Learn four more pitfalls of mobile app marketing from Kurt’s full post.

Diversify, Diversify, Diversify

Mobile Hero and Lead Digital Marketing Manager at Playtika, Harry Bienenstock, has one message he wants all marketers to hear: diversify!

“Competition doesn’t really ever slow down,” Harry says, drawing comparisons with UA managers and the stock market, “while trading alongside such heavy competition, there’s one golden rule that the savviest investors follow: being well-diversified is the strongest way to achieve long-term financial success.”

In mobile UA, diversification means finding new channels then experimenting and iterating with each success. “You can do that,” Harry suggests, “by looking at campaigns on a platform level (Android vs iOS), a media source level (Facebook Ads vs Google AdWords vs Apple Search Ads vs Ad Networks vs Exchanges), a publisher level (Angry Birds vs FIFA vs Subway Surfers, etc), or a geo level (US vs Australia vs China vs India vs Hungary, etc).” And the beauty of diversification is that it allows you to accomplish two things at once: spreading your risk out and finding new opportunities in different places.

Harry reminds marketers that it’s vital not to go in blind. You need to identify which of your sources are over-achieving, under-achieving, and just OK. In Harry’s words, “being able to identify and invest more heavily in over-achieving sources will quickly allow you to generate higher ROI.”

To identify what’s what, set benchmarks to understand where you are over or under-achieving. Harry pinpoints one such metric to use: “ROAS for a certain number of days for any given cohort: Day 0, Day 1 and Day 7 ROAS tend to give you information the fastest.” You can also set up other types of goals centered on engagement, such as tutorial completion rate, achievements unlocked, levels achieved. These metrics do move beyond the ‘North Star’ approach outlined earlier, but utilizing data for your specific use case is a necessary step to becoming a Mobile Hero.

Want to find out how Harry measures his results? Read his full post to learn more.

Our series of tips continues! You can read up on channels to choose and how to fight ad fraud in the next week’s installments. Want to start from the beginning? Learn the Heroes’ soft launch tips, or go to the source of truth and browse our Mobile Heroes back catalog for much more on mobile marketing.