Forget Mobile, app User Acquisition is Going to Kill the CPA

Gary Vurnum

Gary Vurnum is a mobile consultant who has been successfully driving sales online since 2001. A public speaker, entrepreneur and published author of over twenty books, he works direct with advertisers on their mobile and app user acquisition, engagement, and retention strategies.

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Forget Mobile, app User Acquisition is Going to Kill the CPA
Photo by E-Plus Gruppe Fotostream Creative Commons license

Many advertisers are finally waking up to the power of mobile. However, outside of the games world, very few people are talking about app installs. Yet they are ignoring this powerful method of lead generation at their peril.

While freemium games may reign supreme in the overall App Store charts on both iOS and Android, there is a huge movement by non-games advertisers to use their App Store ranking as a driver to not only acquire users, but registrants, subscribers, and depositors, too.

As an example, there are a number of casinos (including Big Fish, William Hill, and 32 Red) that consistently run app install campaigns. Firstly, they know that if their app ranks high in their respective App Store category, they will automatically pick up extra users (and hopefully depositors) for free. Secondly, instead of running an expensive CPA campaign they just pay for the app installs, knowing that their metrics will back out more cheaply.

What is interesting from a performance marketing perspective is that, in this case many of these app installs are driven by incentivised traffic – mainly from in-app offer walls which offer in-game credits, or vouchers, instead of cashback.

From Installs to Leads

Many a gaming incentivised CPA campaign in the past has quickly burned through its budgets offering CPA campaigns through cashback sites – yet the model of using app installs to generate leads for registrants and depositors appears to be working at scale for some of the big players in the gaming market.

It is not only in this sector that this method appears to be working. Over the last six months or so, there have been very successful campaigns by dating companies (such as Lovoo and Cupid) who have successfully driven monthly subscriptions at scale using this method. More recently, music subscription sites such as Spotify and Bloom.fm have been doing the same.

Even companies that do not have a subscription back-end understand the value in app marketing. Travel websites such as Hotels.com, Expedia, and HRS Hotels understand that if you can engage a user enough to be an app of choice on their phone, then they will not go out to the wider Internet to comparison shop when it comes to the time to make a purchase.

The freemium model pioneered by the likes of Candy Crush Saga is here to stay – and definitely works outside of the games world if you know what you are doing.

Yet, having conversations with a couple of different Agency directors recently, it seems that a lot of  advertisers – many of whom are household names - cannot grasp the value in running an app install campaign to not only drive users of their app, but also as a lead generation mechanism for purchasers and subscribers. Do they forget that they themselves probably spend more time shopping on their mobile than they do on their computer at home?

A 'Powerful Walled Garden'

If managed correctly, an app is an amazingly powerful ‘walled garden’ through which to capture your users’ attention and wallet. Facebook’s profits have gone through the roof as its mobile advertising revenue now outpaces display – purely on the back of app install advertising within the Facebook app.

After seeing many weak attempts at in-app engagement myself, I can understand why many advertisers struggle to see the value in using an app for lead generation and monetisation. Yet, the fault is more in app design than with the model not working.

Apps aren’t going anywhere. Us smart phone users have so much choice at our fingertips that we will always need apps of some description as virtual gatekeepers to the wider web. Developers get this and leverage and market their apps for all they are worth. Yet, many companies don’t understand that going ‘mobile’ is as much about apps as it is about making their website mobile-friendly. It’s time to understand how truly powerful, and profit-generating, app marketing can be.

You’re already leaving up to 50% of your income on the table if you are not mobile-ready – and soon it will be even more if you are not using an app as part of your user acquisition and monetisation strategy. If you do not believe me, just leave it a year, and your drop in income from today will speak for itself!