Your Complete Guide to Mobile User Acquisition (UA)

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Mobile apps have become a vital part of people’s daily lives, used for communication, entertainment, media, business, and much more. The massive growth of the mobile app market has resulted in intense competition among app developers. It’s of no surprise that to keep up with the competition, app marketers need to acquire high lifetime value (LTV) users who will continuously visit and engage with their app and its features. To this end, app marketers are turning to user acquisition (UA) as a strategy proven to succeed in attracting the right users for their apps.

User Acquisition definition

Quick links: 

  1. Aarki’s User Acquisition
  2. How Programmatic User Acquisition Really Works
    1. Key considerations for a successful User Acquisition campaign
    2. Three phases of a User Acquisition campaign
  3. Key Metrics and Objectives When Running a User Acquisition Campaign
  4. Machine Learning Models for User Acquisition
  5. Creative Strategies for a User Acquisition Campaign
  6. The Role of Ad Formats
  7. User Acquisition vs Retargeting
  8. Case Studies
  9. User Acquisition and Aarki

How Programmatic User Acquisition Really Works

Key considerations for a successful User Acquisition campaign

Increasing the popularity of your mobile app shouldn’t be a challenge if you follow trusted ways to structure your UA campaign. Targeting the right audience is the foundation of a successful UA campaign. By using first-party data to develop models that are optimized for your key performance indicators (KPIs), we can craft a variety of dynamically personalized creative ads that are aligned with your app users' interests. Let’s explore the main drivers of Aarki’s success with UA campaigns.

1. Scale

With our five global data centers and our integrations with all major ad exchanges, Aarki has 5M+ QPS (queries, or auctions, per second) capacity, providing unmatched access to global inventory. 

2. Performance

Billions of device IDs with user profiles are used as key features in our machine learning models, delivering against down-funnel KPIs for events such as registration, sale, and purchase. Machine learning algorithms leverage users’ historical data to target similar audiences and predict the probability of future behavior. It determines whether users’ actions are likely to result in a conversion. 

3. Creative

We keep creativity at the heart of campaigns, by investing in creative automation and high-quality creative production and finding new and innovative solutions to promoting mobile apps. Leveraging our deep repository of creative learnings, we compose ad variants across all the creative ad formats and sizes and localize them for 26 languages.

Three phases of the User Acquisition campaign

The process for a successful UA campaign should include three main phases: learning, scaling, and optimizing.

1. Learning

The initial Learning (or explore) phase includes activities wherein we collect a minimum number of installs and impressions that are fed into our algorithms. We aim for a deep understanding of the app’s users’ journey to inform our prediction model. All new apps must go through this phase – which lasts typically for up to four weeks.

 2. Scaling

The Scaling (or the install optimization) phase is the second part of the campaign, where our robust machine learning models predict the probability of a user installing the app and optimizes towards a stable cost per install (CPI).

 3. Optimizing

Finally, we enter the Event Optimization phase where custom models are developed from the data gathered previously, to deliver against your campaign KPIs, such as return on investment (ROI) or CPI.

Key Metrics and Objectives When Running a User Acquisition Campaign

As the mobile marketing industry continues to evolve, app developers need to adjust their strategies accordingly to meet the needs of this maturing market. The primary focus is to increase brand awareness, and improve the app’s visibility in the market, which in turn, drives traffic and downloads. Let’s discover some of the key metrics and objectives that will help you manage your campaign and improve your app store rankings! 

Clicks to Installs
Ad clicks used to be the most important metric for app developers. A higher click-through rate (CTR) is an indication of user interest, and initially, that was good enough for app developers. However, app installs are what drive revenue, whereas clicks seldom result in a direct install. So it’s no surprise that years later, CTR is no longer the primary key performance indicator (KPI).

Instead, app developers are paying more attention to downloads, i.e., the number of users they can acquire, as the more users an app acquires, the higher it will rise in the rankings of the app stores’ charts. The visibility that comes from being on the top chart brings a significant lift in organic installs.

While acquiring a high volume of installs is a great initial objective, app developers are now focusing on a more mature strategy: acquiring high-quality users. For an app that operates under a freemium model, offering free install and monetizing through in-app purchases, the return on investment (ROI) is dependent on the quality of users who have installed the app. Thus, many app developers have moved away from focusing only on the number of installs as their campaign KPI.

Realistically, the number of installs will not contribute to the success of an app if its users don’t make any in-app purchases, or if the users don’t stick around. As a result, app developers are now targeting high LTV users, who are the users which spend - or will spend - real money in the app.

Post-Install Events
Apps generate revenue when high LTV users conduct post-install actions, such as purchasing an extra game life, utilizing paid subscriptions, booking a hotel room, or listing an item for sale. The more post-install actions a user conducts, the higher the user’s LTV. Thus, app developers are optimizing their app marketing campaigns for post-install events as a method to acquire high LTV users.

This can be accomplished by forecasting the probability of post-install events to determine what optimization should be implemented in real-time bidding (RTB) situations. The accuracy of the forecast determines both the media placement and, consequently, whether advertisers will achieve their post-install goal. With a programmatic media-buying platform such as Aarki Encore, bidding algorithms can be tuned to forecast the probability of post-install events, enabling app developers to make data-driven campaign decisions and implement necessary optimizations to achieve post-install goals.

Top funnel metrics

  • Cost-per-mille (CPM) - Also known as “cost per thousand impressions,” is a pricing model wherein the advertising cost depends on the number of impressions served.
  • Cost per install (CPI) - This pricing model charges a rate per app installation.
  • Install volume - This metric is the volume of installs your campaign generates.

Bottom funnel metrics

  • Retention - This means maintaining high-quality and engaged users, which contributes to the success and revenue of your app.
  • Lifetime value (LTV) - LTV is a way of calculating the value of a new user. This predicts the worth of your user to your app, over their whole relationship with your app.
  • Return on ad spend (ROAS) -  This is the amount of revenue you earn for every dollar spent on a campaign.

Understanding objectives and key metrics will assist in planning your campaign approach.  

Find out more about the role and potential of UA in the mobile app marketing industry by clicking on the button below:

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Machine Learning Models for User Acquisition

The success of our UA campaigns relies greatly on sophisticated machine learning models. We at Aarki have developed machine learning models to effectively learn user behavior that delivers an optimal cost and return, at scale. Some machine learning models that delivered success are the Install Optimization, the Multiplicative, and the Pointwise Mutual Information Model. 

Install Optimization Model 
Install Optimization is one of the steps of Aarki’s setup for UA campaigns. It uses a model that is focused on delivering a reasonable cost per install (CPI) while generating volume. We then monitor installs to see how they convert to the desired post-install event, which is used to measure campaign performance. The goal is to predict the install probability using a generalized linear machine learning algorithm, combined with features derived from the auction, geographic and temporal context. In addition, user profile data is incorporated with historic ad responses and in-app behavior.

Multiplicative Model 
The Multiplicative Model gives us the opportunity to directly use predictions from a model trained on non-attributed event data (e.g., organic installs and other paid media data). Advertiser’s non-attributed event data is used to model the post-install conversion funnel while Aarki-attributed data is used to model the impression-to-install funnel. These predictions are multiplied at bid time, forecasting user in-app spend and ad revenue

Pointwise Mutual Information (PMI) Model
The Pointwise Mutual Information Model allows us to effectively model Aarki-specific user conversion funnels while pre-training on non-attributed event data. The advertiser’s non-attributed event data is used to compute pairwise correlations between user profile features and in-app purchase events. These correlations are then used to “warm up” features in a direct optimization model, which predicts purchase probability at the time of the ad impression.

Creative Strategies for a User Acquisition campaign

Machine learning technologies alone cannot achieve significant results. A critical factor in driving engagement is the quality of the creative. Below are some of the best-performing creative strategies from the numerous UA campaigns we have run.

When trying to reach global markets, the first thing you want is for your target audience to understand you. The solution is Localization. Speaking the same language as your target market makes it easy for your audience to understand and recall your ad message. Once we have the localized creative variants prepared, we dynamically serve the appropriate ad to the targeted regional audience. 

Event-based Creative
Once you have established the various languages to target, you want to make your creative relevant to each specific audience. A great idea is to incorporate real-world events into your ads. For example, Ramadan, Guy Fawkes Day, or Christmas, etc. Here are some creative practices that have proven successful: 

  • Integrate the event theme into your specific app style 
  • Make it festive 
  • Tell a story

Seasonal Creative
Another creative strategy that can help you broaden your app’s appeal is to leverage seasonal trends in your creative. Tailor your marketing campaigns to the changing seasons so that the user will notice the relevance

  • Change the background, use the right colors 
  • Make the characters relevant 
  • Display cute characters or mascots

The Role of Ad Formats

To grab a user’s attention, it is also vital to choose the right ad formats for your app marketing campaign. Mobile ads must be relevant and deliver an enhanced user experience. The focus of the creative should be to grab attention and stimulate action. The call to action should be single-minded and clear e.g., install an app, register for an account, or make a purchase. Choosing the right ad format will help to drive more conversions. At Aarki, we craft data-driven engaging ad creatives using multiple elements in multiple formats:



User Acquisition vs Retargeting 

Very often we are stuck with a dilemma: is it better to re-engage lapsed users or to spend all the budget on acquiring new users? Should we give higher priority to RT or UA?

UA is about growing your high LTV user base, whereas RT is about driving lapsed users to become active app users again. These strategies have similarities and differences, so let’s explore each:
RT vs UA_Infographic

Despite the differences discussed above, there is no room for doubt that the success of UA and RT campaigns lies in achieving balance. UA and RT should go hand-in-hand to create positive user experiences and lift campaign performance. Once you finalize user onboarding through UA, the best possible strategy to encourage users to return to your app or remain engaged is RT. Below are the key benefits of running UA and RT simultaneously:

  • Scale user base with lower churn
  • Increase the LTV of users
  • Unified creative & campaign management strategy

Case Studies

We at Aarki are always running UA campaigns for mobile gaming apps and want to call out two of our recent campaigns for casino and casual apps.

Case Study #1

Triwin Games partnered with Aarki for a UA campaign for their Billion Cash app targeting iOS users with Limited Ad Tracking (LAT) enabled on their device. The objective of the campaign was to understand the return on investment (ROI) potential of the LAT traffic while acquiring new users for Triwin’s Billion Cash Casino app.

The campaign proved to be successful right from the start. Though the non-IDFA environment limits some of the targeting and optimizations possible, we were able to train our models using the available signals for this campaign successfully and exceeded Triwin’s ROI goal by 24.80%. Furthermore, LAT traffic outperformed the IDFA traffic with over 30% higher ROI. Learn more by following the link here.

Case Study #2

Another partnership was with Brain Games where they aim to widen the reach of their Word Farm Adventure app, specifically in the United States and other tier 1 countries (Australia, Canada, and United Kingdom).
Brain Games sought a DSP partner to deliver high-value users, generating a strong return on investment (ROI) at an optimal CPI. 

Aarki’s custom bidding models and dynamic creative optimization are a match made in heaven and were the key to the campaign’s success. We at Aarki ensured a high probability of installs and engagement by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to serve an optimal personalized creative variant to each user. Read the full story here.

User Acquisition and Aarki

Aarki is a 100% real-time bidding (RTB) demand-side platform (DSP). Aarki’s mission is to build the best-performing mobile app marketing ecosystem by connecting users to apps they love, and by delivering the strongest performance to advertisers and publishers. We help companies grow and reengage their mobile users, using machine learning, data, and large customer reach.

Leveraging a rich database of audience and user engagement data, Aarki’s data scientists use robust machine learning algorithms to find audiences who share similar interests and are most likely to engage and spend with the app. This enables Aarki to consistently deliver strong app marketing performance. Thus, making your mobile app popular shouldn’t be a challenge with us.

Let Aarki help you create an acquisition campaign that will catapult you to the top of the charts!

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Topics: Marketplace Insights