Budget, Users & Beyond … What is User Acquisition? 3 Things You Need to Know

Elena Strappato
April 6, 2023
Budget, Users & Beyond … What is User Acquisition? 3 Things You Need to Know

What is user acquisition for mobile apps? You may have read thousands of articles about it, and all of them probably focused on two main goals of any user acquisition campaign: budget optimization and the quality of users.


In fact, in a fast-growing industry such as the mobile app market, where billions of apps are constantly facing one another in a last-blood duel on the app stores, a survival mood and a golden strategy are necessary to hit the mark and win the fierce competition.


This article seeks, therefore, to come up with an answer to this simple question: what is user acquisition? We will try to do so from two perspectives that are deeply intertwined: budget and users. Here are the points we are going to discuss:

  • User Acquisition: a strategy to find new customers.
  • Where to find new users? Which kind of users?
  • Budget and User: data-analysis and data-gathering for UA.
  • Why do in-app purchases and post-install events matter?
  • AI and machine learning to optimize your budget.

What is User Acquisition?


First, the world of apps would not have even existed without users looking for them. However, users do not grow on trees, and for you to catch them, you need a good marketing strategy. So, what is user acquisition and what does it consist of? User acquisition is precisely that set of marketing activities and practices that serve you to acquire new users that can generate revenues, increase your budget, and make ends meet.


Organic User Acquisition 


There are multiple activities on which you can count to find new users, but your choice may depend on which kind of users you wish to acquire. An efficient technique to catch spontaneous customers that have not been influenced yet by paid ads and marketing activities is through organic and non-paid activities. 


For instance, App Store Optimization (ASO) represents a good option for acquiring organic users visiting the app store, checking what’s new and perhaps what is good to download. In fact, by leveraging ASO and using the right keywords and texts, you can intervene directly on the app ranking among all the results on the app store. You will manage to improve your app ranking and increase the number of users prone to download your product after visiting the app store.


However, organic user acquisition may not entirely suffice for your purposes. First thing’s first, if you want to scale up the number of your users but you are not as popular or worldwidly known as whatsapp, twitter and other social media apps, you cannot do without paid activities to acquire those millions of users that may be necessary as a form of monetization. 

Secondly, imagine that organic users - who once were just spontaneous visitors on the app store or your landing page – are to download your app for curiosity and interest. How can you ensure that they are really interested in your app and not going to delete it in a week? Are they going to interact with it even after the installation? In short, how can you find loyal and trustworthy users? 

How to find the right ones with user acquisition


Who are the right ones? In jargon, we say “high-quality users” to refer to the most loyal customers you can engage with. Why are they so important? High-quality users are more likely than others to perform post-install events and in-app purchases within the app, which contributes to generating revenues and increasing your budget. 

Especially when it comes to free-to-download apps, especially mobile games, developers do not have any other source of revenue, but in-app purchases and advertisements displayed to users. Loyal users are precious because they are likely to purchase items or spend more time on the app, being shown ads and generating profit for developers. 


Before diving into paid activities and other marketing solutions designed on purpose to acquire high-quality users, let’s jot down a list of the most common platforms and media activities to promote your app and spot the right ones:

  • Social Media such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
  • Influencer marketing to leverage your app promotion on social media.
  • Google Universal App Campaign to run highly-target paid campaigns.
  • Mobile Ad Network to sort through the most appropriate ad inventory.
  • Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) to buy ads using automation. 


The Budget and The User in Paid User Acquisition

Organic user acquisition may have some limits if we look at your app promotion from the perspective of both the user and the budget. Not only is it less scalable, but also less immediate if you wish to reach out to as many users as possible in a quick time. Moreover, it does not really help you understand what your audience wants, and which kind of users can suit your product, which limits not only your possibilities to create a solid and active customer base but also your expected profit. 


1. Data driven activities in paid user acquisition


Here come paid and data-driven activities to boost your sales and acquire the most suitable users for your app. In fact, after asking “What is user acquisition?” - and before understanding how it does work – you need to understand what your users want depending on who they are. 


Data are here for this reason: they allow you to identify patterns and tastes that can lead to specific typical behaviors. By doing so, you will grasp which patterns can better adjust to your app and goals, identify your target audience, and try to catch them. 


Focusing on the quality - rather than on the quantity – of your users, you can allocate more responsibly your investments in those paid ads and sets of users that are most likely to be productive. 


However, you need to work on data-gathering and data-analysis operations to examine both your campaign results and users’ behaviors to adjust them and hit the target at best.


2. Mobile Attribution 


In the previous paragraph, we briefly mentioned the importance of campaign results. App developers relying on marketing partners for running their ad campaigns need to assess their performance to understand where to allocate their investments and maximize their revenues. 


It is mobile attribution that connects users’ interactions with the ads you are paying for and the events (such as installs or purchases) that users have performed. The role of mobile attribution is to assign those events to the marketing partners who are responsible for the advertising campaign generating those events.


By implementing mobile app tracking systems, mobile attribution technology allows app developers to track users’ actions through their apps. Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs) deal with clicks and impressions related to advertising activities and inform app developers about which media sources generated those new users.


3. What Algorithms Can Do for User Acquisition


Living in a world surrounded by algorithms, performance marketing has used these machine learning technologies to solve problems based on specific actions and instructions to follow. In this case, machine learning technologies and A.I. are tools to optimize your user acquisition campaign from a budget perspective.


It is algorithms that collect specific data to find patterns and suggest which directions you may want to take. A.I. allows marketers to analyze users’ behaviors and then identify those that match more with the app to promote. In mobile attribution, for instance, A.I. and machine learning algorithms help you not waste money on the wrong media channel or advertising campaign, driving you directly toward what can provide you with generous conversions. 


Moreover, algorithms at the core of mobile programmatic advertising are possible via DSPs. To put it simply, programmatic advertising through DSPs allows marketers to buy and sell digital ad spaces automatically with real-time bids, providing more holistic insights into campaign performance. 


By determining the best and most valuable audience to whom to display an ad, and selecting the best time and place, programmatic advertising is incredibly beneficial, providing full transparency, real-time app campaign optimization, and highly targeted and personalized advertising operations, and resulting in better results in terms of ROAS and ROI. 


What is User Acquisition Then?

Essentially, A Good Deal…


To sum up, working on the quality of your audience is essential to boost your sales. By using programmatic advertising, you can count on actionable patterns to expand the grasp of your messages and achieve better results. All in all, then, this is what user acquisition does: improve the quality of traffic to increase your profit. Few but good users to scale up your campaign, that's the deal!