Trends & Insights
The A to Z Guide To Mobile App User Acquisition
November 2, 2021
Minah Lee

If a product doesn’t have any active users, the product will die. Users are a must for the success of your product. In this post, we will learn everything there is to know about user acquisition (UA) marketing. UA is an absolute must compete with many other apps to win the hearts and time of users. 

The ultimate goal for the true growth of each product is not merely acquiring users but going over and beyond to acquire users, keeping users around as habitual users, and encouraging them to turn into active users. To achieve this, User Acquisition marketing for apps - the starting point of the user journey - requires strategies for both short-term performance and continued growth.

This post will discuss the following.

1) What you should prepare before launching your product 2) Importance of user acquisition at the initial stage of your product 3) Two strategies of user acquisition - Organic & Paid marketing 4) The importance of deep links 5) Accurately measuring UA campaign performance 

App Marketing should begin even before launching your product 

Mobile app marketing is something that should begin even before launching your product. It’s a process that includes branding, understanding your customers, and competitor analysis serving as the basis of your overall app marketing.

Raising awareness of your brand and products 

Raising awareness of your brand and product to as many people as possible is one of the key strategies for a marketer before launching a product. This could fall under branding, but it is an essential part of marketing as well since users who are favorable to your products may be converted after actual product launching to become avid users. Having users recognize and identify with the core values and purposes of your brand will have greater effects on marketing in the future. 

This is one of the marketing methodologies considered to be important in Growth Hacking. Ryan Holiday introduced several methods to approach your first time user group in his book [Growth Hacker Marketing]. He proposed introducing your brand and products to websites frequently visited by potential users and posting blog posts on major issues in relevant fields. Holiday actually applied the methodologies introduced in his book in the process of publishing [Growth Hacker Marketing]. He published a brief ebook to test the market before publishing the actual book, overwhelming his competitors in the market. He also could improve the content of his book and receive direction for future marketing by feedback from readers. He wrote relevant articles before publishing his book and submitted them to influential websites. He was able to advertise his book easily through a list of email addresses with his Newsletter list.

Setting a persona through customer and competitor analysis 

Before starting your full-fledged app marketing, you need to go through the process of deciding which user group your product targets and understand your customers and the market to decide on an appropriate persona. Understanding your customer will need the utilization of both quantitative and qualitative data, which will serve as an important key to achieving goals in business. 

Consumer surveys could be carried out with a wide spectrum from surveying friends, family, and potential customers to analyzing market demands and interests with accurate figures. Here, expectations for the user for your services and products could be identified to add new features or improve UI/UX for user-oriented product development. This is why you should continue to understand and analyze your customers after launching your product. 

Here are some tips for customer and competitor analysis from 14 Ways To Determine Need Before Launching A New Product Or Service published on Forbes. 

  • Use Google Trends: Google Trends will help you find top search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages. This could serve as a helpful indicator to identify what your potential customers are searching for and to plan relevant content and features. But one thing you need to be aware of is that there can be a disparity between an informational search’s volume and actual intent to purchase. 
  • Analyze competing products and services to seize opportunities: It is especially a good idea to thoroughly analyze the No.1 products and services of the same industry. There will be some room for improvement in design or function for even the top products. It would be a good idea to interview or survey users actually using the product. 
  • Try launching a beta version of the product for free or receive pre-orders: Try launching the product for free or receive pre-orders on social media to check the responses of potential customers. Make sure to analyze all potential causes for
  • reactions and think of ways to put the best foot forward and make up for the shortcomings. 

Establishing concrete app marketing strategies 

After analyzing your customers and competitors, you need to establish specific app marketing strategies based on your analysis. If you’re lost on where to start, a suggestion for you would be to start with ‘app marketing funnels’. With app marketing funnels, a strategy for each funnel is established, and the condition to pass the funnel is established clearly. It is important to understand the funnel for your products and services and establish strategies for the different stages to be connected organically rather than considering each stage separately.

Also, this strategy must have the concrete Key Performance Indicator(KPI). Major KPIs to be considered include DAU, MAU, CPI (Cost per Install), CPA (Cost per Acquisition), CTR (Click-Through Rate), conversion rate, and churn rate. Appropriate metrics for each stage of the customer journey must be tracked to ensure that the process from user introduction to conversion and retention is seamlessly in place.

Organic and Paid marketing strategies for user acquisition

If you’ve finished preparing for user acquisition before the product launch, now is the time to acquire more users for your app. The success and failure of most mobile apps depend on the number of users introduced at the initial stage of your product. The users introduced at your product’s early stage would be able to lead to loyal customers. In fact, many apps and services carry out massive marketing right after their launch, and this is something you wouldn’t want to miss as a marketer. You must raise awareness of your app to as many users as possible, encourage the installation of your app, and onboard them successfully. 

The full-fledged mobile app marketing strategies to raise awareness of your app and acquire users can be categorized into organic marketing and paid marketing.

Organic marketing Strategy 

1. Building a landing webpage to introduce your app 

Even for services focusing on a mobile app, a webpage to land customers and introduce the app is a must. 

That is because many users tend to search on the web when they have a need or are experiencing difficulties. They also tend to search on the web before downloading an app when learning about specific products and services. If your webpage has good visibility on search engines such as Google, thanks to SEO, potential customers can easily access the webpage. The website can affect the first impression of your app. If the website cannot persuade users enough to download the app, they may bounce as it is annoying to download the app at the app market, which may be a barrier to acquiring users. Above this, some advertisements including search ads (SA) require redirection to the web that a web page is a must. Since a webpage is an owned media, even no additional advertisement cost occurs.

It is important to show what users would be offered after app installation on this webpage through videos and images. The webpage must include links to app markets and an accurate call to action (CTA) to guide users on their next steps. Email addresses could be collected to send out newsletters and keep customers updated before the app launch to form a foundation for communication with users.

2. Content marketing 

Content marketing is an effective method to capture your potential customers. The keys to content marketing are ‘target audience’, ‘business goals’ to be achieved, and ‘high-quality content’. 

First of all, you need to plan content marketing by analyzing your users and market trends including who your product’s user base is, which websites and social media your target users use, what their interests are, and why users use your app. It would be great if you could decide on specific goals to be achieved by this plan. 

If you are done planning, you must create and release the content. Here, ‘content’ refers to not only short-form posts posted on social media but blog postings, playbooks, customer case studies and videos, newsletters, and emails. Here are some things you may pay attention to for each content marketing channel. 

  • Social Media: In 2020, the average daily time spent on social media globally was 2 hours and 25 minutes. This is an increase by at least 150% compared to 1 hour and 30 minutes in 2012.(Statista statistics) Social media which people spend lots of time is an effective means of naturally approaching customers and raising awareness of your products in addition to advertisements. In addition to simply posting ads, social media serves as a channel to form communities or receive customer feedback through comments. 
  • Blog: Compared to social media focused on images and videos with a relatively short text, blogs mainly offer lengthy and informative content. Content with valuable and high-quality insight relevant to the industry and trends will be shared more and wanted by more people. This is also an effective means of securing users by search engine exposure through SEO. The aforementioned book [Growth Hacker Marketing] also emphasizes securing potential users and communicating through blogs. 
  • Newsletter and email: If you’ve posted some great content through your blog, you can let your subscribers know about the new post through newsletters. If you make continuous efforts to let your users know about the latest updates and relevant market trends, active users will be engaged even more deeply and dormant users will be reminded of your products. Newsletters and emails are some of the most important means of engaging with your customers outside of the app. 

3. Media exposure and press releases 

If the news of the new product launch is exposed through the press with app launching, many people will naturally get to learn about the app. Carrying out PR activities in line with product launching won’t be easy for small startups or those in their nascent stages, but press releases are one of the most important means of marketing to acquire early stage users. 

4. ASO(App Store Optimization)

You could say that ASO is an app marketing equivalent of SEO and LPO with the same principles as SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and LPO (Landing Page Optimization). According to the App Store Data of all nations and regions using Apple Search Ads in 2020, 70% of App Store visitors search for which app to use next through searches, and 65% of all downloads happen after a search. This goes to show how much exposure in the app market is important. That is why you need to optimize to ensure that users are able to find your app when they search for your app’s name or specific keywords. You should improve the visibility of your app through the process of continuously updating and testing the app introduction, description, and preview images exposed on the app market, encouraging more downloads.  

👉 Find the more detailed ASO strategy in this post.

Paid Ads Strategy 

Acquiring new users for your app through paid ads after launching the app is natural and necessary. After ad campaigns through different channels, it is necessary to optimize the advertisement expenditure and the media mix to boost ad performance. 

Think with Google

The above image shows the proportion of advertisements impacting app downloads researched by Google and Ipsos. Since the impacts of search ads, social media advertisements, in-app banner/graphic advertisements, and in-web banner/graphic advertisements for app downloads are all around 40-50%, the importance of paid advertisement cannot be neglected. Let’s learn about the most notable paid advertisement strategies.

1. Apple Search Ads and Google Ads

You can advertise on iOS App Store and Android Google Play - the most notable two app markets - to encourage app installation and user engagement. As mentioned before, 65% of downloads occur after organic search on the App Store, it would be more effective to advertise on the App Market in addition to ASO. 

One choice is promoting your app on the Search tab or at the top of search results via Apple Search Ads. This channel is the one you wouldn’t want to miss when advertising for app installation on iOS.

Also, Google Ads offers three types of app campaigns on Google Play including App installs (ACi), App engagement (ACe) and app pre-registration (for Android only). You can plan advertisements for both iOS and Android users since you can advertise your app across Google’s properties including Google search, Google Play, YouTube, AdMob, Discover on Google search, and Google Display Network. 

2. App install ad campaigns on social media 

Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok also offer app install ad campaigns to boost the app installs on their platforms. Here, a tip is to use platforms that are frequently visited by your app’s target customers. Images and videos could be used on social media to effectively introduce and encourage installs of your app. Here, content from social media and owned media in an organic strategy could be used for added effects. 

3. Offerwall and rewarded ads

Rewarded advertisements are literally advertisements that reward your customers, such as receiving in-app coins when they install an app or complete in-app engagements. A case in point would be advertisements through ‘offerwall’, which presents app users with a list of rewards. Easily put, offerwall is a ‘free charging station’. Users can receive rewards in real-time for installing an app, following social media accounts, and purchasing products. With their reward points, customers can pay for online content or products in the app. 

You can use the offerwall advertising in various apps to encourage installs of your app and advertise your app. Rewarded ads are especially appropriate when you need to boost your ranking in the app market shortly after launching your service. One thing you need to be aware of is that there are cherry pickers who will churn and delete the app right after receiving their reward.

4. Non-incentivized Cost Per Install Ads (NCPI)

‘Non-incentivized Cost Per Install Ads(NCPI)’ are advertisements that encourage app installation and specific behavior after app installation without incentivizing the users. NCPIs are in the form of banners and video advertisements and are generally charged based on CPM, CPI, and CPC. Unlike rewarded ads, users acquired naturally through NCPIs are likely to be more active on your app and engage deeply. In other words, your app’s retention rates can be improved. However, since there is no direct nudge to encourage app installation, a long time and greater budget may be spent on user acquisition. 

You may want to prepare against ad frauds such as install hijacking and SDK spoofing which may occur on some ad channels. While ad channels will have filtering technologies, filtering by advertisers and fraud detection & protection technologies by MMPs like Airbridge can help effectively defend against ad fraud. 

Connect your users to the apps seamlessly with deep linking

If you’ve succeeded in acquiring users through the various strategies of the UA marketing, you should make sure that your users do not drop off. Here, deep linking can be your life-saver.

Mobile app marketing greatly differentiates itself from digital marketing in that users download apps through the app market. Even when customers have been introduced to an app or service through advertisement and content, they may drop-off as soon as they move on to the app market. Or when they are not redirected to the in-app promotion page after app installation when they’ve decided to download the app by being attracted by specific promotion, this will negatively impact user experience and have a low conversion rate. That’s why you should use ‘deep linking’, especially ‘deferred deep linking’ to connect users to specific in-app content from advertisements or webpages.

Airbridge deferred deep linking redirects users to a specific in-app page regardless of whether they have installed the app

Users are able to be landed on the event page of the product detail page by deep linking after installing the app. This will also have a positive impact on the conversion rate since users are provided immediately with what they have been expecting. 

Also, Airbridge deep linking helps redirection of users with deferred deep linking, which also serves as a tracking link for attribution, tracking user activity, and measuring advertising performance analysis.

After UA marketing, it's time to measure the marketing performance accurately.

Marketing performance measurement analysis is the last stage of UA marketing journey, which could also serve as another starting point. After marketing, data and performance must be analyzed in real time and reflected to revise the existing strategy. This involves analyzing the metrics of the previous marketing campaigns and analyzing them with the KPIs of the app marketing strategy. It is recommended to revise the content strategy and adjust the media mix based on the gained insights to improve the marketing performance.

Especially, as apps should be downloaded through the app market, mobile attribution solutions for measuring advertising performance such as Airbridge are a must, unlike web tracking through referral, cookies, and UTM parameters. Such tools can measure campaign performance across different marketing channels and attribute subsequent conversions so that all the tracked data could be used for campaign optimization. This allows you to focus on real marketing without having to check and analyze ad performances for each ad channel.


In this post, we’ve learned about marketing strategies to acquire mobile app users. The most effective marketing strategy for each product and market will differ. Nevertheless, user acquisition is one of the most important parts of the product’s growth, and UA marketing is the initial contact point with your customers and the starting point for mobile app marketing. We hope that you would be able to learn from the strategies introduced in this post and apply them to your app appropriately for your product’s success.

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Minah Lee
Product Marketing Part Lead
Minah is Airbridge's product marketing part lead. She creates content, plans various marketing campaigns, and collaborates with the growth of teams, customers, and partners.
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