A Simple(ish) Guide to App Marketing: Measuring Acquisition (Part 1)

app acquisition
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You’ve had an app in market for a while, have tried various marketing tactics, and have seen downloads and users grow. To maintain your growth, you need to assess your results, identify what’s working, and create a plan that builds on your strengths. I’ll show you how, by following the stages of your customer’s relationship with your app: acquisition, engagement, monetization, and lifetime value.

First, you need to measure and assess your current acquisition flow.  This step is crucial because it will provide you will a view of everything that is currently driving downloads, and give you a chance to clearly determine what’s working for you and what isn’t. Plus, once this work is complete you’ll have a model in place to build goals and measure future acquisition efforts.

Step 1: Review Data Sources

You can use iTunes Connect and Google Developer Console to get impressions and download volume by virtually any timeframe you wish. For a view across different apps, countries, and even a roll-up of all versions of your app, tools like App Annie provide easy-to-read dashboards and custom reporting.

Total downloads are a great metric of performance and provide a solid acquisition volume baseline. However, you need to understand where those downloads came from and how well you’re converting to download from all the ads, emails, webpages, social media posts, and other app promotions you’ve run. You, my friend, need to establish your funnel:

funnel nrg

Dealing With Incomplete Data

Even if you haven’t used tracked campaigns and attribution links in your marketing (companies like TUNE and Branch are great for this, and iTunes Connect and Google Developer Console also offer tracked URL builder tools), there are plenty of ways to gather data:

  • Review past marketing campaigns. How many impressions and actions (clicks to app listing) did they generate? Look at your download volume before, during, and after. Was there a clear lift in downloads during the campaign period?
  • Was your app featured in the App Store or Play Store? Compare download volume before, during, and after featuring. You’ll definitely notice a lift, so thank your friends at Apple and Google for the assist!
  • The iTunes Connect “App Analytics > Sources” report shows the total referrals and installs received from specific webpages.
  • Check out your website and email reporting. How many views and clicks have your app’s download buttons received? If you aren’t using tracked links, you won’t be able to get install data, but will be able to measure traffic sent to the App Store and Play Store.
  • Using the Google Developer Console, track the number of Play Store impressions that came via Google search.

Step 2: Establish Your Baseline

Once you have this data assembled, complete a baseline funnel. This will give you a view of your overall conversion performance:

Total Funnel (This is your baseline funnel, and will use all available data)

  • Awareness = Total impressions of your promotions, from all sources (if known)
  • Consideration = Total visits/views to your listing on the App Store and Play Store
  • Conversion = Total downloads / Total visits/views to listing
    • Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) = What were your total app marketing expenses? Divide that by total downloads to get your CPA.

You may not be able to calculate the Awareness total precisely, due to third-party promotions and organic awareness that isn’t tracked or measured. If you find that you have considerable gaps in your Awareness total, skip it and focus on your Consideration, Conversion, and CPA numbers.

app acquisition example
Once you have your baseline funnel, you can use it to compare all your activity and see what is driving the most value for you and what’s under-performing. List out all of your marketing tactics (assuming you can get the data) and group them into three categories: Paid, Owned, and Earned.  For each category, list every tactic and its results:Step 3: Compare Paid, Owned, and Earned Funnels

Awareness = Impressions received by each tactic

Consideration = Click-throughs to your app’s listing on App Store or Play Store

Conversion = Paid-generated downloads / Total click-throughs

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) = How much money did you spend on each tactic to promote your app? Take that total and divide it by the number of downloads.

An easy way to organize, track, and compare all of this is to use a spreadsheet like this one.  Once each tactic is laid out and results calculated, add up the numbers from each category and create three sub-funnels.

total funnel

Paid Funnel

This is a secondary funnel that shows results generated by paid marketing sources such as search and social media ads. If you’ve paid a website for a link, or a blogger for a story, put it here.

Add all Paid efforts together, and create an all-up view of your Paid Funnel, along with your total CPA rate for Paid marketing.

Owned Funnel

This is a secondary funnel that shows results generated by the marketing assets you own like your website, blog, social media accounts, and emails.

Add all Owned efforts together, and create an all-up view of your Owned Funnel, along with your total CPA rate for Owned marketing.

Earned Funnel

This is a secondary funnel that shows results generated by links on 3rd-party websites, shares and mentions in social media, App Store and Play Store featuring, organic search results, and more.

Add all Earned efforts together, and create an all-up view of your Earned Funnel, along with your total CPA rate for Earned marketing.

Step 4: Assessing Acquisition

Go back to your Total Funnel. What is your overall conversion rate? How effectively are you moving people from awareness to consideration to conversion? Is there a steep drop-off between click-through and download, or are you converting to acquisition pretty well? How’s your CPA looking?

Do the same for your Paid, Owned, and Earned Funnels, comparing them to your primary funnel and each other. Some things to look out for:

  • What percentage of total downloads come from each channel type?
  • Within the channels, are certain sources driving more downloads than others?
  • Which sources contribute most to your total download volume?
  • Do certain sources have higher conversion rates than others?
  • Are your CPA rates consistent, or are you finding that some are much higher or lower than others?

Unless you had already set up a solid tracking framework, you likely found gaps in your data. Don’t panic — this exercise is intended to give you directional data that you can use to assess the current performance of your app acquisition efforts, and a baseline to help guide and measure future plans. Plus, now that you know where the gaps are, you can work on filling them in.

You’ve now got a model for measuring and assessing acquisition marketing efforts. This model will help you understand what’s working, what isn’t, and which of your efforts are driving the best results. It also provides a solid baseline of performance and cost-per-acquisition to help you budget and set objectives for future acquisition work.  You can use it as-is to acquire even more users.

Step 5: Looking at ROI

Depending on where you are in your lifecycle and business maturity, acquiring downloads and increasing your Active User number may be all you need to care about right now.  That is ok for a while, but if you want to make money and stay in business, you will need to shift your thinking toward attracting quality users and earning revenue. High volumes of acquired users and low CPAs mean nothing if your users churn out or don’t become monetized.

Eventually, you’ll need to consider the quality of your users in terms of revenue, retention, and lifetime value.  In order to do that, you need to understand user engagement and monetization. This insight will help you identify your best customers, understand what is driving revenue, and optimize your marketing to attract even more high-quality, revenue-driving customers.  I’ll get into that next.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Engagement and Monetization

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Nikisha Reyes-Grange

Nikisha Reyes-Grange

Nikisha Reyes-Grange is Principal of aka NRG, a marketing consultancy that works with early-stage and growth-stage technology companies. Nikisha is a marketer with 15 years of experience, and has launched and rapidly grown digital, lifestyle, and entertainment brands and products for Virgin, Xbox, and Starbucks. Most recently, she led the redevelopment of positioning and go-to-market approach for the Starbucks App for iPhone and Android, resulting in double-digit growth in downloads, active users, and monetization.
Nikisha Reyes-Grange

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