ROI (Return on Investment)

Pietro Castellani
March 5, 2024
ROI (Return on Investment)

What is ROI in user acquisition?

User acquisition ROI, often referred to as "user acquisition’s return on investment," is a critical metric in the realm of digital marketing and business development. It serves as a cornerstone for evaluating the effectiveness and profitability of various user acquisition strategies employed by businesses across diverse industries. 

At its core, user acquisition ROI measures the financial returns generated relative to the resources invested in acquiring new users for a product or service. In an era where customer acquisition costs continue to rise, understanding and optimizing user acquisition ROI has become imperative for sustainable business growth and success.

To grasp the significance of user acquisition ROI, it's essential to delve into its components and methodologies. Firstly, user acquisition encompasses the processes and tactics employed to attract, engage and convert individuals into customers or users of a particular product, platform, or service. 

This encompasses a wide array of activities, including advertising campaigns, content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, influencer partnerships, and more. Each of these channels incurs costs, whether it's through advertising spend, content creation expenses, or personnel salaries. 

The ROI calculation itself is relatively straightforward. It involves comparing the revenue generated from acquired users to the total costs associated with acquiring those users. The formula for user acquisition ROI can be expressed as: 

USER ACQUISITION ROI : (revenue from acquired users - cost of user acquisition) / cost of user acquisition, all multiplied by 100% 

This formula provides a clear picture of the efficiency and profitability of user acquisition efforts. A positive ROI indicates that the revenue generated from acquired users exceeds the costs incurred in acquiring them, signifying a profitable investment. Conversely, a negative ROI suggests that the expenses outweigh the returns, highlighting inefficiencies or ineffective strategies in user acquisition campaigns.

Moreover, user acquisition ROI serves as a valuable tool for assessing the overall health and sustainability of a business model. A consistently positive ROI indicates that the business is effectively acquiring users at a cost that is justified by the revenue they generate. This not only contributes to short-term profitability but also lays the foundation for long-term growth and scalability. Conversely, a declining or negative ROI may signal underlying issues such as market saturation, ineffective targeting, or competitive pressures, prompting businesses to reassess their user acquisition strategies and adapt accordingly.

In addition to assessing the financial returns, user acquisition ROI can also factor in non-monetary metrics such as user lifetime value (LTV) and retention rates. While these metrics may not directly contribute to short-term revenue, they play a crucial role in determining the long-term profitability and sustainability of user acquisition efforts. By incorporating these qualitative measures into the ROI analysis, businesses can gain a more holistic understanding of the value generated by acquired users over their entire lifecycle.


User acquisition ROI and return on ad spend (ROAS) are two crucial metrics that play distinct yet complementary roles in evaluating the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, particularly in the realm of digital advertising. While both metrics provide insights into the performance and profitability of marketing initiatives, they differ in their scope and focus. 

User acquisition ROI measures the overall return on investment generated from acquiring new users, encompassing all costs associated with user acquisition efforts and comparing them to the revenue generated by those users over their lifetime. This metric provides a comprehensive view of the financial impact of user acquisition strategies and helps businesses assess the long-term sustainability and profitability of their customer acquisition efforts. 

On the other hand, ROAS specifically focuses on the revenue generated from advertising spend, calculating the ratio of revenue to the cost of advertising. Unlike user acquisition ROI, which considers all costs associated with acquiring users, ROAS provides a more granular view of the immediate returns generated from advertising campaigns. 

While user acquisition ROI offers a holistic perspective on the overall effectiveness and efficiency of user acquisition efforts, ROAS enables marketers to evaluate the immediate profitability of specific advertising campaigns or channels. By analyzing both metrics in tandem, businesses can gain a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between marketing investments and revenue generation, enabling them to optimize their advertising strategies and maximize returns. 

In essence, user acquisition ROI and ROAS serve as complementary tools for measuring the effectiveness and profitability of marketing initiatives, each offering unique insights into different aspects of the customer acquisition process. By leveraging these metrics in conjunction with other key performance indicators, businesses can develop data-driven marketing strategies that drive sustainable growth and long-term success.

ROI in mobile games user acquisition

User acquisition ROI in mobile games is a pivotal metric that serves as the cornerstone for evaluating the effectiveness and profitability of marketing efforts aimed at acquiring new players. In the fiercely competitive landscape of mobile gaming, where thousands of titles vie for users' attention, understanding and optimizing user acquisition ROI is paramount for success. 

In this era of intense competition and economic contraction, game developers have shifted their primary focus towards maximizing Return on Investment (ROI) rather than simply acquiring a huge number of users. 

By using predictive software, the vast majority of game developers forecast the ROI of newly acquired users by analyzing historical user data including app engagement, time spent playing and purchasing behaviors. This predicted ROI can be calculated across various time windows such as day 0, day 1, day 7, day 30, etc., with each developer prioritizing a specific time frame based on their monetization strategy. 

Speaking of monetization strategy, in mobile games, ROI from revenues predominantly stems from two components: In-App Purchases (IAPs) and In-App Ads (IAA). The balance between these two components often hinges on the game's category and target audience. Developers meticulously analyze user data to optimize this balance, aiming to strike a harmonious equilibrium that maximizes revenue without compromising user experience. 

Therefore, developers must strike a balance between maximizing short-term ROI and fostering sustainable growth through player satisfaction and retention. By leveraging data analytics, A/B testing, and user feedback, developers can iteratively refine their user acquisition strategies to optimize ROI and drive long-term player value. In essence, user acquisition ROI in mobile games serves as a vital compass for navigating the competitive landscape, guiding developers towards informed decisions and strategic investments that maximize returns and ensure the continued success and growth of their titles in an ever-evolving market.

Why is ROI important in user acquisition? 

  • Cost Efficiency: ROI in user acquisition allows businesses to assess the cost-effectiveness of their marketing efforts.
  • Resource Allocation: Understanding ROI in user acquisition helps businesses allocate their resources more effectively.
  • Performance Evaluation: ROI provides a quantitative measure of the performance of user acquisition campaigns.
  • Profitability Assessment: User acquisition ROI helps businesses assess the profitability of acquiring new customers.
  • Strategic Planning: ROI in user acquisition guides strategic planning by identifying opportunities for growth and optimization.
  • Risk Management: ROI analysis enables businesses to mitigate risks associated with user acquisition investments.
  • Competitive Advantage: Understanding ROI in user acquisition provides a competitive advantage in crowded markets.
  • User Lifetime Value: ROI in user acquisition considers the long-term value of acquired customers.
  • Scalability: ROI analysis facilitates scalability by identifying scalable user acquisition channels and strategies. 
  • Performance Optimization: User acquisition ROI serves as a feedback mechanism for performance optimization.