The mobile advertising industry has matured over the past few years. We can look at its brief history in three main stages. Let’s take a deeper dive into the evolution of mobile app marketing to understand today’s current strategies.
Early Stage: Aim for App Store Rankings
Dating back to 2009, common ad formats included editorials, banners, and incentivized installs. Mobile marketers used Apple’s App Store (and later Google Play in 2011) as the primary platform for user acquisition. The main strategy was to acquire a large volume of installs in order to gain higher chart rankings, often taking place within a short period of time. These incentivized or “burst” campaigns were in favor of a cost per install (CPI) pricing model. User acquisition was focused on quantity rather than quality. This strategy was not necessarily data-driven or technology focused, and attribution tracking was not implemented.
Second Stage: Track Performance and Quality of Acquired Users
The mobile app marketing industry began to shift in 2012. While the approach remained relatively focused on the volume of installs and cost per install (CPI) campaigns, performance marketing started to gain traction as mobile marketers began to leverage non-incent campaigns. The main ad formats were interstitials and videos. Attribution tracking and in-app analytics solutions also emerged, enabling mobile marketers to closely analyze app usage, retention, engagement, virality, and monetization metrics. There was a growing interest in measuring the quality of users by estimating a user’s lifetime value (LTV). However, these estimations were used to primarily understand a user’s experience when using the app and not to optimize user acquisition campaigns. Since attribution tracking and in-app analytics solutions were distinct from each other, campaign performance did not focus beyond the install.
Current Stage: Optimize for High Quality Users
Since 2013, there has been a massive shift in focus towards acquiring high quality users. Mobile marketers have grown to realize that acquiring users at a low price, even if there is massive scale of installs, does not make sense if these users are not retained, engaged, and converted to payers. Volume continues to matter only if there are quality and loyal users.
Changes in technology have also significantly contributed to the maturity of the mobile advertising industry. The diversification of strategies including cross-device targeting, retargeting, and programmatic media buying allow for better targeting of users and post-install optimization. With the widespread presence of attribution tracking and in-app analytics solutions, mobile marketers have become highly data-driven.
As this industry continues to evolve, app developers adjust their strategies accordingly. At the current stage, app marketing strategies go beyond running a simple user acquisition campaign. Mobile marketers can now spend more efficiently and effectively. By optimizing for loyal, high LTV users, app marketers can ensure the success of their apps and drive stronger ROI.