User Acquisition Strategy For Apps: Grow Your User Base With Cost Per Install Campaigns

Roberto Tranquilli
September 29, 2022
User Acquisition Strategy For Apps: Grow Your User Base With Cost Per Install Campaigns

In the last years mobile user acquisition has become the core of marketing efforts for app developers and advertisers. Any app marketing strategy now includes a large amount of budget allocated to mobile user acquisition, which can be then combined with app campaigns on social media and other brand-focused advertising activities such as TV ads. 

The success of mobile user acquisition is due to the many benefits it brings to advertisers. An effective user acquisition strategy for apps allows app developers to reach a huge number of potential users, with sophisticated targeting capabilities, and to optimize their marketing efforts in order to reduce customer acquisition costs (CAC) and increase marketing ROI. 

In this guide we’ll describe what it takes in order to design an effective mobile user acquisition strategy, providing suggestions based on our experience with app advertisers from mobile games, shopping and fintech categories. 


The first essential step to take in order to run app install campaigns and get to the heart of your mobile app user acquisition is to set up the integration with Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs). These companies are attribution platforms which allows advertisers to track users' interactions with their app and to measure the results of app install campaigns and marketing partners. 

By implementing a piece of code, known as SDK link, into their app, MMPs can trace back users who clicked on a specific ad, downloaded and installed the app, and even carried out certain in-app events. This way, advertisers are able to measure costs and revenues coming from every campaign and partner, and, as a result, to take data-driven decisions about their user acquisition strategy for apps. 

Examples of Mobile Measurement Partners are: 

Integrating with one of these attribution platforms is necessary in order to run app install campaigns with Google, Facebook and any other media source such as Mobile Ad Networks and Demand Side Platforms. 

Speaking of which, our second suggestion is about marketing partners and media sources!

2. Select Paid Media Sources for your mobile user acquisition strategy

Google and Facebook are the two most popular sources for mobile user acquisition, since they provide user-friendly self-serve platforms where advertisers can upload their creatives and budget, select targeting options and set KPIs. The automation of these platforms represents the biggest benefit, together with the huge reach that Google can provide and the accurate targeting information that Facebook has. 

However, in the long term it becomes difficult to scale the volumes of installs generated by Google and Facebook, which also means increasing costs because both Google and Facebook work with variable prices. That’s why we suggest designing a mobile user acquisition strategy which combines Google and Facebook with other media sources, which can run complementary app install campaigns. 

Ad Networks and Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) are examples of marketing partners which run app install campaigns. Both kinds of companies can run programmatic app campaigns, either with self-serve platforms or with a team of marketers and advertisers who take care of the whole process. Compared to Google and Facebook, most DSPs and Ad networks work with fixed prices and they usually run both CPI (cost-per-install) and CPA (cost-per-action) app campaigns, optimizing the traffic buying in order to generate revenues for advertisers and not only installs. 

In addition, DSPs especially work with automated platforms, optimized through machine learning algorithms and A.I., which reduce the time to scale the results and allow the optimization towards any KPI set by the advertisers, from CPA and CAC to ROI and ARPU. 

3. A/B test and Optimize app install ads

Last but not least in our guide, we’d like to talk about the importance of testing multiple creatives. Indeed, any advertiser can produce different ad formats such as common banners, videos, playable ads, rewarded ads, interstitials and so on. Each format has pros and cons, and their performance varies also depending on the app category. For example, we have seen that for mobile games, videos have an in-app purchase rate almost two times higher than the one of banners. In addition, by comparing videos and banners performance over the same time period, videos have generated around 80% of the total in-app purchases. 

The example above shows why it is essential to rotate and A/B test multiple creatives and ad formats when running app install campaigns. You can decide early in the mobile user acquisition strategy which creatives to rotate and how, or you can also let DSPs and other automated platforms do that for you. Actually, some DSPs let their machine learning algorithms automatically test creatives and optimize app install campaigns according to their performance. 

Also, please keep in mind that different ad formats mean different costs, not only related to creatives’ production, but also related to the media buying process. DSPs which buy ad placements programmatically in real time bidding exchanges, place their bids also based on creatives’ formats and sizes. Thus, creatives’ formats can affect app marketing metrics such as ROI and ROAS. 

Furthermore, creatives A/B testing allows many different options to compare, such as language of the ads, calls to action, special promotions and discounts and so on. Only by keeping track of performances and results it is possible to improve your mobile app user acquisition strategy and increase your marketing ROI. 

Next steps for an effective user acquisition strategy for apps

The three steps described in our guide are necessary but not sufficient to design the perfect mobile user acquisition strategy, which, indeed, requires constant monitoring in order to improve and change what needs to be changed. Setting and monitoring KPIs such as ROI, eCPA, ARPU and many others is the only way to assess the effectiveness of your mobile app marketing efforts and understand the next steps for growth.