7 tips on mobile user acquisition for beginners

Written by
Sofia Bogunovic
Marketing Manager
Published on
May 11, 2023

Mobile apps are a world in and of themselves. There isn’t a secret recipe or a generic formula for success - every app needs to be shaped and to grown based on its own merits. However, if there is something all apps have in common, it’s the need to acquire users. Hence the term “user acquisition”. But what does that even mean? Where should app developers or creators start in their attempts to attract users to their apps?

If you’re at the beginning of your user acquisition journey, this is the perfect place to start. Kovalee’s team of UA experts gives you a beginner’s crash course into what user acquisition is, the terms you need to know, and 7 useful tips on getting started. This really is a beginner’s guide, but readers with more experience in UA will still be able to benefit from the practical examples we’ve provided of our own apps and experiences.

User acquisition 101: what is it?

As the name suggests, user acquisition (or, UA) is about driving app growth by getting more people to download and use your app, while paying the right price per user. This applies equally to all apps, whether that’s mobile gaming, fitness, wellbeing, travel - you name it. Acquiring users can generally be achieved through app marketing activities that will form the basis of your user acquisition strategy - the goal of which is quite straightforward. Get people to install your app.

Now, you might be wondering why you need a strategy for this. After all, everyone in the world uses apps! The whole world is a potential user, right? Wrong. Acquiring users is possibly one of the most difficult elements of making your app business profitable. Competition is fierce both on the Apple App Store and on Google Play Store, so relying on a simple organic search on those platforms isn’t an option anymore. Your app is competing against giants, with significant resources and large teams to back them up. You need to take it further.

The definitive glossary of UA-related terms

Before you crack on with creating your mobile user acquisition strategy, you need to understand all of the key terms you’ll no doubt come across.

  • Active users: a user who regularly engaged with your app within a certain period of time
  • App installs: your primary metric in user acquisition. Put simply, how many people have installed your app
  • App store optimization (ASO): the process of improving your app’s visibility in an app store through the use of searchable keywords. It’s pretty much like SEO, only inside the app stores
  • Attribution: essentially identifies activity at every stage of your funnel, including if a user reacts when they see an ad, if they then proceed to install the app, and how they behave once it is installed
  • Churn: another metric you hope to keep low, churn measures the percentage of users who delete or uninstall your app
  • Conversion rates: the number of people who have actually downloaded your app divided by the number of impressions you’ve made (i.e. how many people have seen an ad, arrived at your landing page etc.)
  • Cost per install (CPI): a price that whoever is promoting or marketing your app (yes, that could be you) pays every time a user installs their app
  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC): put simply, the amount of money you need to spend to acquire a new customer for your app, including paid advertising campaigns and app marketing
  • Lifetime value (LTV): how much a user is predicted to be worth to your app for as long as they use it - i.e. throughout the “lifespan” of your customer. This can help you forecast your potential growth and define mobile marketing budgets
  • MMP: Mobile Measurement Platform. It basically tells you where your users come from and how much you paid for them. 
  • Monetization: how you generate revenue through your app’s user base
  • Retention: the percentage of users who continue engaging with an app over a certain period of time. This is usually measured 1 day, 1 week and 1 month after a user installs an app

7 easy & useful UA tips for beginners

1. There is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” user

No doubt you’ve heard the phrase “high quality user”. It’s true that there are different “types” of users - think about yourself and the way you use mobile apps. You’ll no doubt have apps you use all the time; apps you only use occasionally; and some that you probably don’t even remember you have in your phone. That’s normal, and every app out there has users who engage with it differently. 

However, there’s a common misconception that user acquisition is about only chasing those “high quality users” (i.e. those who use their app all the time and spend money on in-app purchases, for example). That approach is all wrong - you want any and all users, especially early on. Think of it this way: if a user has a lifetime value of $10, you can afford a $6 cost per install. On the other hand, if a user’s lifetime value is just $0.50, you’ll still want that user, just at a lower cost per install at about $0.35. These are all considerations you’ll need to take into account when developing your mobile app user acquisition strategy.

The bottom line is that at this stage, you’re looking for a large quantity of new users, so you can increase your brand awareness and potentially even gain more users through word-of-mouth recommendations, for example. All that comes with volume. 

2. No measurement? No user acquisition, plain and simple

As with any marketing strategy, you need to know where your target users come from, how much they cost, and how much they’ll generate. The good news is that there are plenty of tools out there today that can help you with that! They’re often referred to as “MMPs”, or mobile measurement partners, and are essentially third-party tools that help you analyze the performance of your marketing or ad campaigns. By using an MMP, you’ll be able to check on metrics like app installs, engagement rates, clicks, revenue, and more. 

To get you started, here’s a short list of some of our favorite tools:

Adjust: known to be one of the safest attribution partners on the market, offers app marketers essential metrics like organic installs, clicks on ads and in-app events, mobile analytics, and uninstall and reinstall data.

Appsflyer: an easy-to-use attribution tracking tool, predominantly focusing on app downloads. It’ll show you which campaigns and media sources are generating the most downloads, and allows you to link app installs with specific marketing campaigns.

3. Forget about your low CPI, focus on LTV/CAC

Everyone thinks that getting a low cost per install (CPI) is the key to success. The truth, though, is that it’s practically all sizzle and no steak. What you’ll actually want to focus on is your return on ad spend (ROAS), or the revenue you earned for each dollar you spent on marketing and advertising. 

We experienced this at Kovalee with our app PepTalk. Our CPI on PepTalk was at $6, but our LTV was at$12 (LTV/CAC = 12/6 = 200%) vs CPI of $3 and LTV of $2 (LTV/CAC = 2 / 3 = 66.7%).

4. Understand the demographics for your specific app

Who are you creating your app for? What kind of app are you creating? What kind of person is likely to use it? Who is going to get the most out of your app and see the most value in it? These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself in determining the “who” behind your app. For example, the user base of a barre fitness app is likely to differ a fair amount from the user base of a war gaming app. Can there be some overlap? Absolutely, but you’re going to have to work off of more general personas.

5. Focus your efforts on a few user acquisition channels 

Our best piece of advice when determining what user acquisition channels to focus on is to start small and specific, and then expand. Once you understand your user demographics, you can begin identifying the best way to communicate with them. Find out what social media channels they might be on and plan your campaigns accordingly. We suggest that you start with Facebook ads, ads on Google, and app store advertising.

Once you’ve done that, you can think about diversifying. Consider the different platforms you could use, such as TikTok or Instagram, and then broaden your horizons a little. Can you leverage influencer marketing for your target audience, for example? You can also consider other apps you can advertise inside of. Then you can think about what formats your audience will best react to - GenZ and millennials, for instance, respond best to video ads. Once you have all that sorted, you start planning your user acquisition campaigns and attributing your ad spend.

6. Take app store optimization seriously

Ok, this article is not about ASO (it's coming soon), but you can’t ignore it if you want to start User Acquisition.

One thing you know for sure is that no matter who your persona is, they’ll download the app from a store. That’s why, whether you are focusing your efforts on Android or iOS, you can’t forget ASO. This will be key to your new app’s success, and every component matters. Your app title, your short and long descriptions, your keywords, and your visuals (like screenshots, for example) all matter in the larger scheme of getting discovered on either app store. Try 3 sets of screenshots first and identify the top performer. 

7. Maintain a global consistency with your brand

Remember, a large part of what you’re doing here is building a recognizable brand. That’s why there needs to be visual consistency across all your touchpoints - your target audience needs to know quite clearly that the ad they clicked on has led them to the relevant app download page, for example. The easiest and most effective way to do that is through creative design. 

But it’s not just that you need your ad creatives to resemble the visuals on your app page. You also need consistency across all of the ads themselves, the store page, your app content, your app homepage, and even the store screenshots you decide to exhibit. This is a relatively simple principle in brand marketing - don’t miss an opportunity to make it incredibly clear who’s talking. 

How Kovalee can help you acquire more users for your app

At Kovalee, we are firm believers in the power and potential of apps. If you’ve got an app with great content and code, we can and want to help you. Today’s app landscape is fiercely competitive, and if you don’t have a huge team with endless resources, thinking about how you can take your app to #1 can be incredibly daunting. And that’s exactly what we’re here to fix.

Our team of user acquisition experts can help you navigate and overcome this challenge. Their know-how and industry experience, coupled with our in-house technology, has boosted user acquisition for a number of top-ranking apps today. Our partner app Bend has grown to be the #1 stretching app worldwide, while PepTalk is topping the charts for motivational apps. We helped them astronomically grow their user bases, and we can help you too.

Want to know more? Just fill in the form below and our team will be in touch with you shortly.

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