User Acquisition Strategy 101: Combining Organic and Paid Acquisition

Paid Acquisition

The competition in the app marketplace of 2024 means that it is no longer enough to develop an innovative app and have it placed in an app store. The real challenge lies in both attracting and retaining your users and app marketers must navigate a variety of challenges to innovate their user acquisition strategies. These include managing customer acquisition costs (CAC), balancing the quality vs quantity of users acquired and implementing actionable strategies to integrate acquisition efforts.

The dual approach of combining both your organic and paid acquisition strategy not only maximises potential reach but also ensures sustained app growth. This blog post explores the best practices and potential outcomes of integrating these two strategies effectively.

What is the Difference Between Organic and Paid Acquisition?

Let’s begin by defining organic and paid acquisition. Within the context of app marketing, organic acquisition involves acquiring new users through non-paid channels, to create a loyal user base. Examples of organic acquisition channels include:

  • Social Media: Social media platforms offer valuable opportunities to promote your app and generate organic traffic. Engaging content tailored to your target audience can establish a genuine rapport and increase the likelihood of users trying out your app. Collaborating with influencers can further amplify your reach and attract a highly targeted organic audience.
  • App Store Optimisation (ASO): ASO involves optimising your app’s listing in app stores to enhance visibility and attract organic downloads. By incorporating relevant keywords in your app’s title, description and tags, you can significantly improve its discoverability. Additionally, eye-catching app icons and visually appealing images further entice potential users to explore your app.
  • Email Marketing: Effective email marketing can be a powerful source of organic user acquisition. By providing valuable content and encouraging sign-ups, you can expand your email list with users genuinely interested in your niche.
  • User-Generated Content (UGC): Encourage your existing users and followers to create and share content about their positive experiences with your app. User-generated content can significantly influence potential users and establish your brand as an authority in your field.
  • Word of Mouth: One of the most potent forms of organic user acquisition is word-of-mouth marketing, (referrals), often initiated by satisfied users. Delivering exceptional products or services and outstanding customer experiences can turn your users into advocates who spread the word about your app.
Source: TikTok

Paid Acquisition refers to the paid techniques used to advertise your app on different channels to drive relevant traffic to an app store and convert new users. Examples include:

  • Paid Social Media Ads: This is when companies pay to run their ads on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or TikTok. Paid social ads offer the benefit of allowing you to target your audience based on demographics, interests, and behaviours. Additionally, they provide detailed analytics and insights allowing you to optimise your approach and retarget your audience more effectively.
  • Search Ads: These include Google and Apple Search Ads. Google App Campaigns allow you to promote your app across Google’s vast network. They have a broad reach and are highly automated and algorithmic. Apple Search Ads are focused on reaching users searching for apps within the Apple App Store and are keyword-based. These ads use a cost-per-tap (CPT) pricing strategy and offer a direct app-install option.
    Using Search Ads targets users who are typically looking for specific solutions making them more likely to install your app. To get the best results from this channel, it is important to conduct thorough keyword research, write effective ad copy, and consistently optimise your bids and targeting.
  • In-App Advertising (DSP’s) In-app advertising involves displaying ads within other mobile applications. This method leverages various ad formats, such as interstitials, banners, and rewarded videos, to engage users. In-app advertising is often performed through demand-side platforms (DSP’s). A DSP is a software system that allows brands, agencies, and app developers to manage multiple ad and data exchange accounts through a single interface. With a DSP advertising solution, advertisers can bid on various ad formats and optimise performance based on key performance indicators (KPIs) like effective Cost Per Clicks (eCPC) and effective Cost Per Miles (eCPM). Some of the DSP’s available are Zoomd, Astrad and Revx.

Organic vs. Paid Acquisition: Which Strategy is Right for your App?

A benefit of using organic user acquisition strategies is that they offer cost efficiency and long-term sustainability. A drawback of organic strategies is that they can be time-consuming to carry out and slow to yield results.

Paid user acquisition, on the other hand, can quickly attract a large number of users, offering immediate visibility and measurable outcomes. However, paid acquisition can also be expensive and requires ongoing investment to maintain user growth.

The best results come from a balanced approach. Each strategy has its strengths and when used well together, they can complement each other to maximise reach, engagement and user acquisition efficiency.

How Can you Combine Organic and Paid Acquisition Strategies?

When considering how to approach your combined strategy, consider the individual strengths of organic and paid acquisition methods and the ways one strategy can contribute to the other.

For example, leveraging paid acquisition to generate brand awareness and increase visibility for your app, leads to higher downloads and engagement compared to relying solely on organic methods.

The quality of leads acquired through paid ads may not always match those acquired organically. However, your newfound audience from paid ads provides a valuable sample for organic retargeting campaigns. You could target users who engaged with your paid ads but didn’t download your app by using organic channels such as email marketing and social media.

17.5% of apps running retargeting campaigns see a 25% conversion rate. This is impressive compared with the average App Store Impression to Install Conversion rate of 3.6%. By using this strategy you can increase conversion rates and you app is more likely to attract quality users.

Another way to grow your app with a combined acquisition strategy is to use your gathered data. You can use the insights and data from your paid campaigns to optimise your organic strategies, making them more effective and targeted. By tailoring your organic acquisition efforts to user preferences and behaviours based on paid campaign data, you can improve your app’s performance and achieve better results.

Again, utilising the users acquired from your paid acquisition efforts, can significantly enhance app’s credibility. Positive reviews from these users can make your app more appealing to those who discover it organically, potentially boosting organic downloads. Positive comments and feedback also can boost your app’s ranking in app stores, increasing its chances of being discovered by users searching for relevant apps.

Tracking the Results of your Organic and Paid Acquisition Campaigns

Tracking and measuring your organic and paid user acquisitions are important factors in understanding the overall effectiveness of your acquisition strategies. There are several key metrics you should consider when determining the success of your campaigns’ performance, such as:

  • (CAC) – Customer Acquisition Cost: The total expenses incurred by an app business to attract and convert a new user, including marketing, advertising and other promotional activities.
  • CLV – Customer Lifetime Value: The total revenue an app can expect to earn from a user throughout the entire interaction with the app.
  • CPA (Cost per Acquisition): The cost to acquire a single user, lead, or conversion, typically measured in marketing and advertising campaigns.
  • ROI (Return on Investment): A measure of the profitability of an investment, calculated as the ratio of net profit to the initial marketing cost invested in user acquisition and engagement efforts.

CAC metric is particularly important as it helps you asses the profitability and efficiency of your efforts. It:

  • Shows your marketing ROI
  • Determines the effectiveness of your current marketing strategies and channels
  • Aids in product or service improvement
  • Can help you manage your expenses more efficiently
Paid Acquisition

What is the Difference Between Organic and Paid Acquisition Costs (CAC)?

Organic customer acquisition costs refer to the expenses associated with attracting users through non-paid methods. These costs are generally lower than paid acquisition costs and involve indirect expenses related to content creation, optimisation, and other engagement-based activities. While organic acquisition costs tend to be lower, they are usually harder to measure, especially as organic acquisition methods yield slower and more gradual growth. This said, organic acquisition strategies often provide sustainable longer-term app growth.

To some extent, your organic acquisition costs are out of your hands (but they are influenced by your acquisition strategy!). They require people to find your app naturally or enjoy it so much so, they then recommend it to their network. If your organic acquisition grows, it is a sign that people like what you’re putting out. But if it declines, it can be an indication that people aren’t overly impressed with what you’re offering to the market. See how your organic efforts perform and optimise your mobile app strategies accordingly.

Paid acquisition costs refer to the costs associated with paid advertising strategies like running ads with platforms such as Apple Search Ads or through in-app marketing, for example. These costs are higher per user but provide immediate and scalable results, often leading to quick user acquisition, but at the expense of potentially lower user engagement and retention. This is because, in comparison to organic acquisition methods, potential users will be less invested; they were sourced through paid advertising methods as opposed to organically seeking the app you are promoting themselves. Users acquired through paid acquisition strategies tend to be of lower quality (showing low engagement or high churn rate) in comparison to those acquired through organic acquisition strategies.

Where costs are concerned, integrating both strategies allows for a more cost-efficient approach. Paid campaigns can drive quick results and provide immediate data, which can be used to fine-tune organic strategies, ultimately lowering the overall CAC.  

In case you wanted to calculate costs for both your organic and paid acquisition efforts, you would measure your blended customer acquisition costs (Blended CAC). Blended CAC (is the average cost incurred to acquire a new user across all marketing channels, combining both paid and organic efforts.

By combining data from both organic and paid acquisition sources, businesses can gain a more comprehensive understanding of their user base, leading to more informed marketing decisions and more efficient budget use.

Do Paid Ads Increase Organic Traffic?

The short answer to the question above is – yes. Paid ads can increase organic traffic and here’s how.

  • Paid ads can increase brand awareness of your app. For example, Search Ads can increase brand awareness by as much as 80%. This heightened awareness can lead to more organic searches and word-of-mouth referrals. Users who see your ads may not immediately download your app but they are more likely to remember it and search for it organically later on.
  • Paid ads also create high traffic towards your app leading to increased downloads within shorter periods. The surge in downloads improves your app ranking in app stores. This higher ranking increases the app’s visibility and exposure to potential users who are browsing or searching for apps, making it more likely to be discovered organically.
  • As a result, the initial investment in paid downloads not only drives immediate user acquisition but also creates a cycle where increased visibility leads to more organic downloads, further reinforcing the app’s presence in the marketplace.

Over time, the combined acquisition contributions will lead to a more diverse user base. Paid acquisition can quickly build a user base, while organic methods nurture long-term engagement and loyalty. The initial influx of users from paid ads can create a snowball effect, attracting more organic users who are typically more engaged and have a higher lifetime value (LTV).

You’ll then find that your paid acquisition techniques are synergistically contributing to your organic acquisition efforts, offering you an effortless holistic strategy.

Top Ranking Apps – Google Play Store


If you’re ever unable to decide on whether to use organic or paid acquisition efforts, the most advisable answer would be to use both. Using a combined approach allows you to utilise the advantages of both organic and paid acquisition strategies. We have observed the effect this approach has on CAC, the quality of users acquired and we have also explored potential strategies that can be used to combine acquisition efforts.

The combined approach is a surefire way to supercharge your mobile app growth. For more insights on ways to improve your mobile app growth, read here.

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

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