Paid User Acquisition (UA) for Mobile Apps: Top 5 Strategies

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Research indicates that 204 billion apps were downloaded worldwide in 2019 alone. With consumer spend peaking at $120 billion in the App Store last year, the growing global app user base and increasing engagement with mobile is evident. 

Putting mobile at the centre of digital transformation investments will undoubtedly benefit many businesses due to increased screen-time and high-conversion on mobile. However, entering the app marketplace as part of your product or business strategy doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically cash in on this lucrative market. In fact, more apps fail than succeed. Businesses need to be prepared to scale effectively and this futureproofing will come from implementing acquisition methods for sustainable business growth.

What is paid user acquisition?

Paid user acquisition on mobile focuses on driving installs and engagement through targeted advertising and app install campaigns. These campaigns push traffic to your app store listings to encourage installs. They can also be used to re-target existing users who already have your app downloaded and they can be used to push users towards high-value, post-install actions like purchase or registration.

Why is paid user acquisition essential?

Many businesses put their marketing investment towards paying to acquire and engage users through spending on one or a range of paid app install channels, like ad networks, social channels or paid search in the app stores. That’s why we’ve put together our top 5 paid user acquisition strategies for mobile apps, to ensure the successful growth of your user base.

1. Attribute your installs

This one is very important. Before you even begin to think about spending money on paid user acquisition for your mobile apps, you need to implement an attribution SDK. It’s vital to know where your app’s users are coming from and this tool will help you to attribute your installs. Did your users discover it by searching the app store? Did they download your app from an instagram advert? Were they referred to your listing via your smart banner on your website? Your attribution tool will reveal all. You can:

  • Identify you best performing paid and organic channels, which will inform you of where to invest your future paid user acquisition budgets
  • Identify the most compelling messaging and advertising that encourages users to download the app
  • Detect ad fraud. Many attribution tools can detect what installs are fraudulent, keeping your attribution data clean and reliable
  • Calculate the Lifetime Value (LTV) of your installs, and forecast who your highest revenue generating users are

Attribution dashboard example from Adjust. Source:

2. Lay the groundwork for high conversion

Before you go live with your paid user acquisition campaigns, you need to lay the groundwork to safeguard your marketing spend. Paid user acquisition, if done right, will drive high volumes of traffic to your app store listing. But if your listing isn’t compelling enough to encourage download, you’re in danger of achieving huge drop-off rates and low conversion to install. That is why implementing an effective App Store Optimisation (ASO) strategy will be essential before you go live with your paid user acquisition campaigns. You should:

  • Focus on optimising visual, on-page elements of your app store listings, like your app icon, screenshots and app promotion videos 
  • Incorporate gripping and informative visual elements that are reflective of your app’s value proposition and unique features
  • Leverage (if applicable) your app’s strong brand presence in the three most important assets of your store listing to your brand: icon, title and subtitle

Nike Run Club app, iOS listing on iPhone X. A good example of leveraging brand recognition and engaging screenshot visuals. 

For more information on implementing an effective, app store specific ASO strategy, refer to our ASO for Success blog post.

3. Define your target audience 

Having a clear view of your target audience for your app will be essential in developing a comprehensive paid user acquisition strategy. In fact, this understanding will shape your marketing efforts beyond paid growth. When you’ve populated your app, you will utilise these learnings to create user segments for effective engagement strategies. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, first you need to acquire these users! A clear vision of your target audience will greatly help you in choosing the right acquisition channels to spend your budgets on. Here are some audience identifiers that could help you in defining your target audience:

  • Are you targeting specific operating systems, device models or wireless networks? You need to make sure that you are making this differentiation depending on which users are most valuable to your app. For example, a gaming app will benefit from targeting users with stronger wireless networks as these apps tend to rely on strong connections for seamless use.
  • There are many other demographic markers you should consider like age, gender, interests, territory, language and location, which should feed into your audience targeting down the line. These all need to align with which user types would find best use of your app and align with your launch plans if you are scaling by territory.

Facebook audience insights dashboard. Source:

4. Choose the right paid acquisition channel blend   

Now that you have a clear view of your target audience, you can start focusing on your channel mix. With paid user acquisition, it is important to determine the best possible combination of channels to acquire your users from and how much budget to allocate to each channel. This will be very dependent on your overall strategy and your target audience. For example, certain channels may offer cheaper paid user acquisition costs but offer volume, in comparison to more premium publishers, who have the high-intent, niche audiences that you’re looking for. Some channels you should consider include:

  • New and emerging channels. If you are targeting Generation Z, who are on track to become the largest generation of consumers this year, you should consider channels like TikTok and Byte. See more from our blog post here.
  • According to Apple, 70% App Store visitors use search to find apps. Take advantage of high conversion rates through Apple Search Ads and Google’s equivalent (across its largest properties) Google App Campaigns, to drive installs and in-app conversion actions.
  • Social channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all offer granular demographic targeting options due to their extensive user profile databases, which will be useful in acquiring your target users. 

Find a list of all the different app install ad platforms you can take advantage of in your acquisition channel mix.

TikTok advertising, example. Source:

5. Execute a comprehensive creative strategy

Your creatives can make or break your paid user acquisition campaigns for your mobile apps. Not many businesses can rely on brand recognition to drive the success of their creative strategies. That is why you need to consider how to put forward your app’s value proposition, whilst remaining creative and engaging. Some key points to consider for an effective creative strategy include:

  • Doing your marketplace research. How does your app plug a gap in the market? What great and engaging strategies can you learn from competitors? These learnings could make a great basis for an initial creative testing hypothesis
  • Experimenting with creative formats. Consider what creative types will work best for your app and how you can leverage the capabilities of your chosen acquisition channels. Your creative formats could take the form of a live demo video on Instagram or a carousel of stills that tell an emotional and compelling story on Facebook.
  • Testing your creatives. It is very rare that you will get it right the first time, and there is always room to optimise. Experiment with imagery, copy, tone, CTAs, visual types and styles. These learnings will be essential in improving your conversion rates.

Paid user acquisition and your app growth strategy

Cutting through the noise to get your app into the hands of your target users may feel like an impossible task. However, paid user acquisition for your mobile apps will be an essential strategy for the successful growth of your app user base. By applying these strategies, you can take your first steps towards acquiring high-value and engaged users for your app. But remember: paid user acquisition is most effective when applied in-line with a holistic app growth strategy. Your organic acquisition efforts, such as your ASO strategy, will only boost the value of your advertising spend. Furthermore, by prioritising your retention and engagement strategies, you can rest assured that you’re driving users towards a great experience in your app.

How Yodel Mobile can help

Yodel Mobile is an agile consultancy, aligning the views of the marketing and product teams for holistic app growth marketing. We work across the whole app user journey, understanding the wider business needs throughout. This methodology enables long-term sustainable growth and success, and we’ve executed our app growth programme for over 200 apps since our launch in 2007. Want to find out more? Get in touch here.

Make sure to sign up to our newsletter to get notified when we release a new blog post. Want to find out more about optimising your app and keeping up with the latest OS capabilities? Make sure to subscribe to our Mastering Mobile Marketing video series. You can also get in touch by visiting the Contact Us page. Follow us on LinkedIn, chat with us on Twitter @yodelmobile, and join our #AppMarketingUK LinkedIn group.

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Smokehouse Yard, 44-46, St John Street, London, EC1M 4DF 🇬🇧