This post was guest authored by Agata Baran, Marketing Manager at Yodel Mobile.

Paid user acquisition is a crucial element of any app marketing plan. Not only is it effective in driving new users to your app, but it also provides a level of predictability and accountability that can give app marketers peace of mind. The nature of paid user acquisition allows for clear, performance-driven results, making it easy to track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and make data-informed decisions. This type of marketing is essential for any app looking to scale and grow its user base and, if done well, is a valuable channel to discover and attain new app users.

Understanding Paid Acquisition for Mobile Apps

Paid mobile user acquisition involves using paid advertising to attract new users to your mobile app. The specific details of your strategy, such as channel mix or creative concepts, may vary. However, the ultimate goal is to bring on new users for your mobile app through these paid efforts. It’s important to carefully consider the type and quality of users you want to target, as this can impact the success of your paid user acquisition strategy.

So how can you spend your acquisition budget? According to a report, the top paid user acquisition channels in 2022 were:

  • Meta (30% including Facebook and Instagram)
  • Google (30%)
  • Mobile Ad Networks, such as banners on third-party sites (10%)
  • Apple Search Ads (10%)
  • Tiktok (~5%)

Because more users typically means more revenue for your app, paid user acquisition is a strategy worth incorporating into your app marketing plan. However, the type of acquisition channels you choose, as well as your budget allocation, need to be done with consideration. To promote sustainable business growth, it's important to ensure that you don’t pay more to acquire a new user than that user's lifetime value (LTV). That’s true unless the number of users you have is more important than revenue, which might be the case at certain points of a business’s lifecycle, such as before funding rounds.

What is an organic user?

Organic users typically discover your app through app store search results or word-of-mouth recommendations. These users can account for up to 90% of your app’s user base!  Although paid user acquisition can be an effective strategy, it's also important to consider organic user acquisition as part of your overall marketing plan. Combining paid and organic acquisition efforts can maximize your app growth and help you stretch your marketing budget. App Store Optimization is one of the most effective organic app marketing strategies.

Whereas paid users are likely to have searched for something and come across your advert, organic users have discovered your app through their own search. Organic users are likely to use an app more (more engaged) and over a longer time period (lower churn), giving them a higher lifetime value than paid users.

Think about the difference in intent between someone who thinks, “This language learning app advertisement looks interesting; maybe I should try it,” and someone who thinks, “I’m going to download this language app today because my friend recommended it to me.” The second mindset tends to be more motivating because the potential user has a personal, preexisting connection with the app.  

Why is paid user acquisition important for mobile apps?

So if organic users are more valuable, why bother paying for users? Why not focus all your attention on organic users?

With over 6 millions apps fighting for attention on the app marketplace, the competition is fierce. In an ideal world, there would be a never-ending stream of potential customers just waiting to come across your app organically. But in reality, that’s not the case.

It’s safe to say that your competitors are also keen to recruit the same organic users as you. So how do you pull ahead of the competition? By using cold, hard cash. By paying to appear in front of users looking for an app like yours, you gain a competitive edge when it comes to user acquisition.

5 Benefits of Leveraging Paid Mobile User Acquisition

Recruiting new users who are ready to spend money is the most obvious benefit of paid user acquisition, but there are some supplementary benefits that demonstrate the importance of this type of marketing.

1. Test Marketing Concepts

Creative learning can be accelerated by paid user acquisition campaigns, as they provide you and your team with the opportunity to test various concepts and decide what works best for your target audience. For instance, you could test whether you get more downloads from an advert using lifestyle photography or branded illustrations. When you figure out which concept is the most popular, you can use this information to inform everything from the design of your email campaigns to audience targeting to the graphics you use in your app store listing.

This is particularly important for a business that's just starting out. Although it might be tempting to rely on your gut feeling, validating your assumptions through data is a fundamental part of designing a successful marketing plan.

2. Accelerate Brand Awareness

At app launch, marketers are faced with a catch-22 situation: you need users to recommend your app to others, but how do you go about getting people to become users in the first place?

That’s where paid user acquisition can be invaluable. By running a paid user acquisition campaign, you can get your brand in front of a wider audience and increase awareness for your product or service much more quickly than with traditional marketing methods. This can be especially effective if you’re targeting specific demographics or interests that align with your target audience and attract users who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. Acquiring better quality users leads to improved user retention and better brand loyalty in the long run.

3. Better User Targeting

Targeted reach refers to the ability to target specific groups of users with your ads. For example, you might use targeting options such as demographics, interests, behaviors, or location to reach users who are most likely to be interested and find value in your app.

By targeting your ads to specific demographic and interest groups, you can increase the likelihood of converting them into users of your app. This can be especially useful if your app is targeting a specific market or if you are trying to reach users who have expressed interest in similar products or services. Targeting your ads effectively can help you reach a highly qualified audience and increase the ROI of your marketing efforts. It’s worth mentioning that some paid user acquisition channels give you more targeting flexibility than others, so remember to factor this in when planning your paid media strategy.

4. Scale Results

Although it's possible to quantify your number of organic leads, it can be difficult to identify what organic acquisition strategies are having the greatest impact. It’s simply not possible to poll every user to your app to find out what led them to download it.

In contrast, paid digital marketing allows you to not only see where your users have come from (literally what they clicked to arrive at your app store listing) but also go into varying degrees of granularity (depending on the platform, ad set, and creative group) to understand who those users are and what they’re looking for.

This ability to see how your money is being spent allows you to better understand your users and adjust your marketing budget over time. This insight can help you to optimize your ad campaigns and improve the ROI of your marketing efforts.

5. Boost Organic Users

Earning more paid users can boost your organic user base, with apps getting an average of 1.5 additional organic installations as a result of every paid install. In fact, in some categories, that number can be as high as 17 times more installations, such as social apps or those that tend to go viral or spread quickly (think Uber or Deliveroo).

Paid mobile user acquisition can help improve your app ranking in the Google App Store and Apple Play Store. This is because both of these companies consider the number of downloads an app has received as an important factor in determining the app's ranking in their native search results. When you pay for additional downloads, Google and Apple will view your app as more popular and, therefore, may rank it higher than your competitors when users search for keywords related to your app. As a result, paid mobile user acquisition can help increase the visibility and discoverability of your app, which can lead to more organic downloads and engagement from users.

Monitoring & Optimizing Your Paid Acquisition Strategy

By carefully monitoring and adjusting your marketing activity, you can be confident that your results are significant and sustainable. Of course, implementing a robust marketing strategy can be time-consuming — if you want some help managing your mobile growth strategy and reaping the rewards of paid and organic marketing approaches, a partner agency can give you the support and expertise you need to outpace your competition.

Paid app marketing activity can be monitored by a Mobile Measurement Partner (MMP), which will act as a third-party provider to attribute, collect, and organize data so you can be confident in your results.

If you'd like expert support implementing and managing your app growth strategy, OneSignal offers a variety of strategic partnerships that can save you time and help you meet important growth milestones.  Learn more about our partner, Yodel Mobile, a leading app growth consultancy specializing in user acquisition, engagement, retention, and app monetization.

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