CPI App Campaigns: The Most Comprehensive Guide To Cost Per Install

Beatrice Bursese
December 23, 2022
CPI App Campaigns: The Most Comprehensive Guide To Cost Per Install

Mobile user acquisition can be defined as the strategy employed to drive new users to an app. This strategy includes various possible activities such as paid media marketing, owned media marketing, and app store optimization (ASO).

Cost Per Install (CPI) is one of the main metrics used in mobile user acquisition, which sets the price the advertiser has to pay to the publisher once an app is installed as a result of an app install campaign. Therefore, the goal of an app install campaign is driving as many installs as possible, and it should always be optimized through post-install events, as in the case of in-app purchases, for example.

CPI is one of the most widespread payout models: since the advertiser is only paying for results obtained by the app, there is no waste of money. Therefore, the CPI strategy is different from CPC and CPM: CPM involves the amount of money an advertiser needs to pay for 1000 impressions or views. On the other hand, CPC is the amount of money an advertiser needs to pay for 1 click. 

1.     The anatomy of a CPI app campaign

As we have already explained in the introduction, an app install campaign is a perfect strategy to acquire new users and grow the user base of your mobile app. Over the past few years, it has become more and more important to increase your user base due to the competitive mobile app world. The real focus of an app install campaign is acquiring high-quality users that can engage with the app generating revenues.

If you want to accomplish an effective CPI campaign, you should check the following key elements: advertisers, budget, creatives, publishers, attribution platform, and campaign manager. These will help you monitor the different key elements of your app install campaign and move forward with the optimization of your campaign.

The advertiser is an app developer whose goal is to promote its app and increase the user base through high-quality users. Advertisers can rely on self-service platforms or ad networks and managed DSPs to run their app install campaigns. As opposed to advertisers, the publishers consist of all the apps and sites where the ads are shown. Web and app developers who sell ads within their websites are called publishers.

The very first decision of every advertiser is selecting the right payout model for the allocation of the budget of the campaign. The budget is a way of calculating the expected costs and installs, and it can also be used to produce testing as well as get data to optimize campaigns. On the other hand, creatives are the actual ads used to promote the apps. There are many possible formats such as videos, banners, videos, and other formats to promote the app within websites and mobile apps.

Advertisers and marketers should integrate an attribution platform, which is used to keep track of installs and post-install events, allowing the advertiser to recognize the partners of the conversions. On the other side, there is the campaign manager, who is mainly found in ad networks and DSPs and whose main goal is to manage the set-up, the launch and the optimization of the app install campaign.

We have explained in depth all the main features of a CPI campaign in our complete article What does it take to start a successful CPI app campaign


2.     Benefits of running CPI app campaigns

CPI app campaign is what you need if you want to increase the user base of your app, boosting app visibility. Thanks to this strategy, the advertiser is able to save money, taking fewer risks and increasing the ROAS. However, if you are running a CPI app campaign, you should consider the difference between Android and iOS users. It is well known that iOS users usually spend more than the average Android users, that’s because of their greater purchase power and their geographical position (GDPs countries, mostly).  

Nevertheless, we should take into consideration the real benefits that a CPI app campaign can guarantee. On the one hand, there is the reliability of the effectiveness of the campaign. CPI is a good method to monitor the index of your campaign because it focuses on the number of installs. It is also less risky than any other model since you will only pay for customers who are really interested in your app and who are more likely to interact with it.

Finally, CPI can also help spread the brand awareness of your app, supporting the visibility of the app in the app stores, thus boosting its popularity and the chances of installs.

If you want to learn more about all the benefits of running a CPI app campaign and all the possible optimization strategies, you can find useful information in our article on CPI campaigns: top 3 benefits for user acquisition.


3.     Differences between CPI and CPA app campaigns

An app install campaign is focused on the acquisition of users, encouraging them to produce in-app events and generate revenues. The selection of the best payout model is crucial because it should always be aligned with the goals of the campaign, taking into consideration the app, its purpose, and the overall strategy of the publisher. CPI and CPA are the two main payout models. They share the same goal of acquiring high-quality users and growing the app user base.  

Since CPI allows you to pay the publisher only after an install, it can help you scale the installs’ volume to increase the popularity of your app and acquire new users. CPI can also aim for high-quality users to optimize the campaign. That’s why the CPI model is a good indicator of the performance of your app.

CPA comes into action when the goal of the advertisers is to increase the revenues of the app through high-quality users who generate in-app revenues. In this case, the advertiser only pays the publisher after a predetermined in-app action is performed by the user. This action is usually chosen for the client’s goals. Overall, CPA campaigns are very popular because they reduce the risk of wasting the budget with customers that are not really interested in the app.

Therefore, there is not a single suitable method for your app because the choice of the right payout model will merely depend on the strategy of the campaign. If you want to know more about CPI and CPA differences, don’t miss our article CPI vs CPA: some tips to grow your app install campaign.   


4.     CPI app campaigns’ optimization

Running a CPI campaign can lead to several benefits for your marketing strategy. A CPI campaign works through the acquisition of mobile users, showing ads placed by an ad network to encourage people to download the app.

The low risk for advertisers is the first benefit brought by a CPI campaign. Compared to other pricing models, a CPI campaign seems to be less risky because the advertiser only pays for the installation of the app. This payout model also helps grow your user base quicker than organic installs alone. Last but not least, CPI also represents a good KPI that can be optimized.

As an advertiser, you can find several reasons to optimize your CPI campaign. If your goal is to increase your conversion rate or to decrease the costs used to boost the convention rate, you should always go for the optimization of your CPI campaign. To achieve a successful optimization, we suggest you to follow these 3 parameters: location, Os version and creatives.

The location of the user is important to customize the cost of the campaign, as well as the Os version parameter, which can help you understand the difference between users in terms of profitability for the CPI. Finally, creatives are used to generate more revenues and decrease costs.   

If you want to read more about all the tips for the optimization of a CPI campaign, you can find useful information in this article: CPI app campaigns’ optimization: how to get it right!


Running a CPI app campaign is the perfect strategy for all the advertisers that want to increase their user base quickly without dealing with many risks. The article lists all the benefits of running a CPI campaign, as well as the important differences between CPI and CPA.

The optimization of a CPI campaign can bring a lot of benefits to your strategy, helping to grow your user base quickly. That’s because CPI is a key element for the spread of the app, boosting its popularity with the right tips.