What Is User Acquisition (UA): 5 Tips to Run Effective App Campaigns

Giulia Zonno
November 23, 2023
What Is User Acquisition (UA): 5 Tips to Run Effective App Campaigns

In the world of mobile apps, a primary objective for achieving success is to acquire the highest number of users possible. This crucial process of acquiring new users for a mobile app takes place through multiple marketing activities known as user acquisition campaigns

The Importance of an Effective User Acquisition Campaign


For mobile apps to thrive in such a competitive market, carrying out effective user acquisition campaigns is essential, for several reasons.


First, a successful user acquisition campaign allows boosting the app installs and its ranking in app stores: with so many million apps available you can’t rely on users randomly discovering your app and deciding to give it a try.


Nevertheless, a good user acquisition campaign goes beyond simple install. Too many times it happens to download an app and then delete it shortly after. In order to avoid this, you need an effective UA strategy that allows you to target the right audience.


When we talk about the right audience we refer to all those users that show high Retention Rate and engagement with our mobile app and that generate revenues through in-app purchases. 

Yet, an important focus for any UA campaign is creating a positive ROI, that is that the revenue generated by your new users should surpass the costs incurred in acquiring them for your mobile app.


We can talk about effective user acquisition campaigns when they not only drive initial downloads, but also foster user engagement and retention, contributing to long-term success.


Different Types of User Acquisition

There are two main forms of user acquisition: organic and non-organic. An organic acquisition is the one that happens spontaneously without any marketing activity. On the contrary, non-organic (or paid) acquisitions are those obtained thanks to successful marketing activities.


There are three main marketing activities that can be implemented for a successful UA campaign: 

  1. Paid Media Marketing: all the channels and ad networks where you pay to promote and attract users to download and engage with your mobile app. It includes  various paid advertising methods such as in-app advertisements, social media advertising, influencer collaborations, and paid search campaigns. Because you’re paying to get your brand displayed, you’ll want to be sure your investment pays off by attracting high-quality users.

  1. Owned Media Marketing: the channels  you own and control yourself. These include emails, SMS, QR codes, your own social media pages, such as Instagram or Facebook.

  1. App Store Optimization (ASO): it basically corresponds to SEO, but while this one is used to optimize a website’s technical configuration, ASO is used within app stores. App Store Optimization, just like SEO, relies on the importance of keywords, good descriptions, and effective images and assets to boost store rankings and make your app more discoverable and appealing. 

Here, we will explore the concept of user acquisition in general, with a particular focus on paid user acquisition.      

Optimize User Acquisition Campaigns Towards your Most Relevant KPIs

As we mentioned above, given the vast number of apps exceeding in major app stores, it is imperative for developers and UA managers to establish a powerful user acquisition strategy.


No matter how effective your UA strategy may be, there is always room for improvement, and that’s where campaign optimization comes in. In this case, having a well-defined set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is crucial.


These metrics are the ones that have been identified as paramount for the success of your specific UA campaigns, as they will tell you if your UA campaign is meeting its objectives and optimizing your budget effectively.


Different UA campaigns may have different KPIs, according to the kind of mobile app and its monetization strategy. 


In the case of mobile games, it could be particularly useful to keep monitoring KPIs such as ROI and Retention Rate, while for other kinds of app – as shopping and fintech apps – you might find more suitable to check other types KPIs as CPA (Cost per Action), that is a pricing model in which marketers pay media sources when a user takes a specific action within the app – like subscription, purchase, or any other post-install event – after having engaged with the ad placed.

Rotate, Test and Refresh Creatives for User Acquisition

Another key component of most user acquisition campaigns is effective advertising; however, mobile users have become more hostile to ads. If you want to avoid this, you have to be sure you’re addressing the right audience and offer them high-quality ad creatives.

In order to do so, you need to rotate, test and refresh your creatives.


Creative rotation allows you to avoid showing the same creative for too long and to choose and switch among all the different types of ad formats - such as banners, videos and playables - each of which will have a different impact on the performance of your user acquisition campaigns. 

For example, banners ads are the most common and easy to implement creatives, but at the same time they are also the most ignored by users. Creative rotation allows you to replace them with others more engaging and interactive, such as video ads.


Testing is a crucial element within any marketing campaign. Regularly A/B testing your creatives allows you to optimize your UA strategy as it informs you about what’s working and what is not in your UA campaign. 

Creative A/B testing is a randomized test in which users are shown two different creatives simultaneously to determine which one is more effective in achieving results.


Overall, creative rotation and regular A/B tests allow us to refresh our ads with such a frequency as to constantly make graphic and performance improvements and optimize our UA campaigns. 

Allocate Enough Test Budget for User Acquisition Campaigns


In the light of what has been said, we can reasonably stress the importance of regularly testing our creatives in order to determine their effectiveness within our user acquisition campaign. 

Even if you don’t have at your disposal a huge budget, you can still run successful user acquisition campaigns. Of course, it will not be a smooth task, but if you can strategically allocate your resources, you will still be able to accomplish your mission.


One thing is sure: the test budget is something you must not save on. Indeed, the importance of regular tests that we have previously stressed doesn’t apply to creatives only, but it also covers other equally valuable components, such as the different possible partners and paid user acquisition channels. 

Every paid user acquisition channel has and makes available for our UA campaign their unique characteristics. For this reason, each one of them should be tested in order to find the one that best fits our mobile app. 

Thus, to run a test that is effective you need to allocate the necessary resources. By allocating a sufficient test budget you can avoid wasting money and it will allow you to truly evaluate the performance of your UA campaign and then optimize the allocation of the entire budget. 

Make Data-Driven Decision for User Acquisition


When running a user acquisition campaign, one of our goals should be to collect as much data as possible from them.


Data is a powerful tool that gives us the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of our UA campaign, ensuring ROI maximization. This, in turn, allows us to make informed decisions about where to allocate our resources.


A good method would be to track as many actions as possible in the user funnel within the app to better understand the quality of the users acquired and make optimizations where possible.


Making data-driven decisions helps us to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our user acquisition campaign and to refine our strategy.

This approach leads to numerous advantages: it allows you to make better decisions, adjustments and optimizations and to better understand the target audience, reaching them more effectively and offering them an improved experience.  


Moreover, adopting a data-driven for our user acquisition campaign is critical in a constantly changing market, as it gives you the opportunity to respond in real time to changes, to facilitate informed decision-making, and keeps you ahead of the competition

Combine Different Traffic Sources: Diversify User Acquisition Campaigns

Another action that can be strategically put into practice to enhance user acquisition campaigns is to diversify them across different traffic sources.


Developers and UA managers can combine different types of partners: from Google and Facebook to programmatic platforms and ad networks. By analyzing both your own user data as well as your partners’ data, you can identify the partnerships with the highest potential for new user acquisition.


Partnerships with such industry leaders like Google and Facebook offer great reach. Both of them can indeed be a strategic move to enhance your user acquisition campaign, as they offer powerful advertising platforms that allow you to reach a vast audience and target users with a high degree of precision.


In addition to the giants, leveraging ad networks allows for more niche targeting. Specialized networks cater to specific interests or demographics, offering a direct route to users who are more likely to be interested in your app. This targeted approach enhances the overall efficiency of your user acquisition campaign.


Another option for enhancing user acquisition campaigns is to employ programmatic platforms (DSPs). It is a data-driven approach to reach a specific target audience across multiple channels and devices and with relevant ads using automated technologies such as algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning,  


This procedure of diversifying user acquisition across various traffic sources offers several advantages: it broadens the exposure of your app to different audiences, reducing the risk associated with depending on a single channel.

For example, Google and Facebook offer very high targeting capabilities because of their user data and self-serve platforms that can be easily used independently. 

On the other hand, DSPs (Demand Side Platforms) present lower targeting potential than Google, Facebook or TikTok, but have high optimization capabilities and the ability to scale the volumes of new users in a sustainable way, employing CPI and CPA models that are unquestionably cheaper than the CPC used by Google and Facebook. 

Thus, each platform brings its unique demographics and behaviors, allowing marketers to cast a wider net and increase the chances for new user acquisition. 

To Sum Up 

In this article we have seen how a well-executed and effective user acquisition campaign, backed by continuous optimization and data-driven insights, is a key aspect for mobile apps to secure themselves a long-term success. 

We have seen that the main steps to take to carry out an effective user acquisition campaign are: 

  • Optimize user acquisition campaigns towards our most relevant KPIs. 
  • Test and implement different kinds of creatives and regularly refresh them in order to understand which ones are the most effective and to avoid wasting money. 
  • Strategically allocate our resources, especially the test budget. 
  • Make data-driven decisions so that we can refine our strategy.
  • Diversify our user acquisition campaigns across different traffic sources in order to widen the range of possible new users.  

Remember to continuously monitor and analyze the performance of your campaigns, adjusting your strategies based on the data you gather.