Mobile user acquisition is important like never before. Why? Just look at the Google Play, AppStore, Windows, and Amazon stores altogether: there are more than 2.56 million different mobile apps and dozens appear every day. According to analysts, the number of downloads recorded in 2016 (140 billion) will grow to 204 billion by 2021 — this illustrates an unprecedented growth rate of the mobile application market.

The mobile environment is super competitive and app marketers have to jot down the working plan of how to set up user acquisition campaigns beforehand. If previously it was enough to build your own mobile app, today barely 0,01% of applications manage to capitalize. This is why you should carefully think through user acquisition as a part of your mobile marketing strategy even prior to actual app development. What is user acquisition mobile strategy and how to implement the best five of them in your marketing plan? Let’s discover.


Before we get started Mobile user acquisition measures how many new customers you can attract to your application in order to convert them: make them download your app, purchase in-app items, fill out the form, subscribe to the news, or purchase the product or service. What makes mobile acquisition tricky: there are plenty of channels to drive the traffic from but all of them should be suited particularly to the mobile ecosystem.

According to studies, up to 80% of customers who have downloaded and installed the application will uninstall it within the first three months after installation, and this is considered to be a norm. In this regard, before you think about mobile user acquisition, you should raise a number of questions regarding how you will retain attracted customers in the app.

Seamless user experience. The main task of the app owner is to constantly make sure that the application is optimized. For example, it loads quickly, doesn’t consume too much battery, does not drag all mobile traffic. According to surveys, downloading problems are most annoying for customers, so we recommend that you pay maximum attention to this issue. An easy way to optimize the application is to listen to your target audience and regularly revise comments on the app page in the store.

The value you give to the users. The ultimate goal of any app developer is profit. But monetization of application will be possible only if you offer your audience a truly useful service. Therefore, at the app design stage, it is recommended to answer the main question: how will application facilitate or improve the user's life? If you have a simple, understandable answer, half of the job is done.

Competitiveness. While developing a user acquisition strategy for mobile apps, think about the benefits you offer your customers, choose the key one, and bring it to the audience. Do they save time? Or they reach a service they can’t get with any other equal application? If the value is not obvious, the app won’t be able to stand the competition and earn money. In this case, you can create a value proposition with advertising. E.g, if the app allows users to receive a ten-percent discount on each order, then most people who download the application will continue to use it — this is an obvious and understandable benefit for everyone.

You need to create a perfect balance in the app: on the one hand, do not let customers forget about your product and on the other hand, think about the user experience that doesn’t pressure them into purchasing straight away. This short mobile user acquisition guide with examples will help you to get the knack of the most popular techniques and mobile acquisition channels used in 2020.

1.Mobile app user acquisition with ASO (or app store optimization)

Mobile app user acquisition enabled by ASO is not going anywhere. This user acquisition strategy is still one of the greatest ways to attract attention to your application. App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing the store page of a mobile application in order to maximize its visibility and convert more visits into downloads. In many ways, app store optimization resembles Search Engine Optimization — you need to select the right metadata and assets (icon, screenshots, title keywords) in order to rank higher than other similar apps to persuade users that your app is popular and worth installing.

Essential elements of ASO:

  • Application name (with keywords included in it).
  • Keywords (available only in the App Store, but for Google Play it’s also good to have a semantic core that describes the functionality of your application and description of functions).
  • Subtitles (only available on the App Store).
  • Application description (indexed for direct search only on Google Play, but, of course, affects users of any store).
  • Icon
  • Video
  • Feedback and testimonials
  • Localization Weblinks, etc.

If you prepare a user acquisition strategy for mobile apps, just focus on the most important steps:

Key page elements. Make an app store optimization on the page for your target audience: make research on top keywords and incorporate them into the title and subtitles, make an attractive and easily recognizable icon, craft a description keeping in mind that it should be interesting enough, yet focused on features. Certain apps also support videos, links, “what’s new” sections, don’t neglect these opportunities to draw more attention to your app. Here’s an example: the weather forecast app owner added several weather-characteristic keywords to the name like “Weather Radar”, “Hyperlocal Forecasts”, and “Storm Alerts”. Results? The app now ranks #1 in the Weather category.


Localize the app. If you don’t localize your app, you lose a significant part of the audience. Even if your application works only in one region and with one language (for example, English), you can make copies of the app page in different languages and thereby acquire users who speak other languages. Find out the keywords for each region and include them to localized pages.

Make changes regularly. In case you regularly improve pages in your app stores, you are able to understand which of them can influence the growth of your app. Make one change at a time and evaluate it (on Google Play, e.g, you can run built-in experiments with your app page). Experiment with one variability at a time to find out what factors influence your page position most.

2.Organic mobile marketing user acquisition

Organic mobile marketing user acquisition works especially well for B2C segment stores that know their target audience well enough. Organic traffic can come from various sources and channels: social media, website, etc., so don’t hesitate to apply the following principles to maximize the effect:

Work with your website. Ideally, you should also optimize your landing pages and website for certain SEO keywords. When you launch a mobile ad campaign create a landing that will receive traffic and make sure that information on the creative corresponds to the information stated at your landing/website (e.g prices, coupons, dates, etc.)

Don’t focus solely on SEO. While optimizing your blog for search, remember that you shouldn’t sacrifice the quality for quantity and the readability of content for keyword stuffing. First, you need to make sure that content is correctly rendered on mobile devices. After this, create a content plan for the blog. Each piece of content should be written for a particular audience persona. If you promote an app, you can create a blog that educates your user how to use it just like Evernote once did (picture below).evernote-sample

Optimize content with the right ad formats. Publishers who have great traffic volumes usually don’t miss additional content monetization opportunities. Per each ad view accrued at their source, they get paid on a per-impression basis. Programmatic advertising technology is joining such publishers with advertisers. Using big data, programmatic algorithms personalize ad messages for every recipient so that it could be a win-win strategy for advertisers, publishers, and users (71% of consumers prefer personalized ads).

Remember that mobile ad formats aren’t the same as digital ad formats designed for desktop, instead of browsers they appear inside of apps when the application is active. Developing in-app or mobile creative, don’t forget to craft them in the right height, width, and resolutions. Include CTA and links in the banners to lead your audiences straight to the landings.

3.Mobile user acquisition: a platform for paid ads

If you search for a mobile user acquisition platform, you need to know what a DSP platform is. Through DSP, you can promote the app, product, or service on various mobile platforms and in various apps (according to the CPM revenue model). Advertisers can register at the platform and set up campaign controls. Then, through RTB protocol, the system will automatically bid on suitable inventory and show mobile ads to the selected group of users, at the right device and time. Likewise, advertisers can opt for the programmatic direct deals to avoid auction and trade with publishers directly.

Use targeting. Targeted advertising allows you to segment your audience by a large number of parameters, showing each group the ads that they can be interested in. For instance, ads featuring mobile gadgets can be shown to the audience that likes mobile games and so on. Targeting options will depend on the chosen DSP, for instance, SmartyAds mobile DSP is a true mobile app user acquisition platform, it allows you to target according to geo, GPS, IAB categories, gender, age, connection type, OS, browser, language, and device brand. See more in the guide.


Diversity media-mix with engaging formats. If your app is free, there’s no better way to monetize it with banner formats as they are most affordable, convenient and can be supported by virtually any mobile user acquisition platform. For a more detail-oriented approach, it is recommended to use 30-second long video ad formats since they drive 88,3% completion rates, longer ones will not be as effective. Native ad formats are suitable for seamless, non-intrusive experiences. If your primary goal is engagement, go for rewarded video ads and playable interactive formats suited specifically to drive in-app engagement.

A good example of geo-targeting is Red Roof Inn hotels that launched targeted campaigns near the airport to address arriving passengers as their prospective customers. As a result, the hotel increased sales by more than 60%.


Use retargeting. DSP gives you a chance to apply mobile retargeting. It means that you can return and convert into customers those users that once visited your website but didn’t buy anything. Retargeting campaigns are also available at SmartyAds DSP. The best option is to start a campaign for example on desktop, and then, after some time, use the retargeting feature to remind users about your product on the mobile device.

4.Mobile user acquisition strategy with influencer marketing

Mobile user acquisition strategy сan be strengthened with influencer marketing as well. It implies that products and services are getting advertised through media personalities — opinion leaders. Who can act as an influencer? — well-known blog owners, celebrities, vloggers, microbloggers, a well-known person or expert on social media, and even artificially created AI personalities like e.g Lil Miquela or Shudu Gram.

Not only one person can advertise a brand, but also an entire organization or the community that inspires people. The peculiarity of influencer marketing is that it does not look like direct advertising, the promotion is delivered in native format as a recommendation.

The goals that brands can pursue when working with opinion leaders:

  • increase brand awareness.
  • educate audiences (especially in the segment of IT and high-tech products).
  • improve search engine performance (when reputable sites link to your resource, this improves performance in search engines).
  • demonstrate complicated products in detail.
  • increase in the number of subscribers and involvement in the brand’s social accounts.
  • increase sales.
  • increase loyalty to the brand, etc.

Define the target audience. Again, the effectiveness of this mobile app user acquisition strategy boils down to a targeted audience. The most important thing here is to select the influencer whose target audience matches yours. If you run a family-run country hotel with a variety of activities for children, it’s pointless to advertise at e.g video game channels full of youngsters. If you found the right influencer you also have to check their speech aesthetics to make sure they will share the word of mouth about your brand in a suitable manner.

Choose the platform. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Tiktok, and privately run blogs — there are plenty of platforms where you can find a suitable influencer. Don’t try to hit them all. The good practice is to map out beforehand where your audience spends time and aim only for those channels. A good example of this is Headspace, it grew mobile user acquisition after teaming up with fitness experts Knox Robinson and Paul Karmiryan on Instagram.

Know how to measure effectiveness. One cannot single out some universal indicator in influencer marketing. Before you start working with opinion leaders, you need to determine the goals of your marketing campaign according to which you will define KPIs: reach, the number of leads acquired, sales made, and so on.

5. Acquiring new customers with e-mail marketing

Mobile user acquisition meaning would be incomplete without old good email marketing. In fact, advertising emails can work 40 times better than Facebook and Twitter combined. Apart from this, emails can generate a higher percentage of link clicks when they are getting opened on mobile devices. Planning a mobile email campaign remember that emails are displayed differently on different device screens and in different applications. Therefore, testing your newsletter on iOS, Android, as well as other smartphones and tablets, is still a must.

Less is more. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about the lengths of the subject or the letter itself, try to make your message as short and clear as possible. For example, the subject should not exceed 50 characters. CTA placement and pictures should also be optimized for mobile. For instance, Uber has increased mobile acquisition by 443% over just three years applying simple, clear, and concise email letter design.


Personalization. Personalization on mobile is no less important than on a desktop. Create separate lists for different segments of the audience. Given that most mobile applications have a global audience, you should definitely split and segment email lists for distribution by region. This will allow you to send letters to users timely. As well, you can segment by interests of your users and behavior data.

Incorporate deep links. If your users have not installed the app on their devices yet, a deep link will direct them to the appropriate app for instant installation. It’s not only good in terms of user experience. The most important thing is that you will be able to track all your email retargeting campaigns using data that is tracked specifically via deep links. 

To sum up

There is no universal algorithm for mobile user acquisition but there are great recommendations, following which it is easier to develop an effective marketing strategy that takes into account the characteristics of the mobile ecosystem. Use this mobile user acquisition guide to attract new users and create a positive impression of a brand. Also, remember that you can advertise in different mobile applications and different mobile platforms of your choice using a demand-side platform. Given the low cost of attracting a user with the CPM model, it gets easy to maximize the value of each impression and convert visitors into customers.

Use SmartyAds demand-side-platform to attract brand-loyal mobile customers!

Written by
Irina Kovalenko, CMO of SmartyAds
May 2020