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9 minutes read

The Quick Guide to App User Acquisition

By Robert Kazmi
By Robert Kazmi
9 minutes read

Launching a new app is not easy.

You’ve probably put a whole lot of time and monetary investment into building an app that you hope will be a winner with your target market. But, actually reaching people and acquiring new users is a huge challenge.

It’s especially so if you’re starting from scratch. You need to grow a strong user base as quickly as possible, yet you also need to manage how and where you’re adding people to ensure that you’re reaching the right target audience.

Added into the challenging mix is some data gleaned from the Comscore 2016 U.S. Mobile App Report. Nearly half of all smartphone users don’t download any apps in a month while the average user only downloads two. Yikes! You’re competing with thousands of available apps to be one of two that the user will actually download.

If you’re in this position, all is not lost. There are a number of apps that have been exactly where you are and have gone on to enjoy great success. Most of them had a plan for user acquisition and were prepared to work hard to see it through. Let’s look at how successful apps are strategizing:

Be Smart About Your Target Audience

The most successful marketing efforts always begin by identifying the target audience. This helps you to hone your messaging and identify the most likely places to reach the people who your app is made for. Casting your net too wide can often result in bland or confusing messaging that has no particular appeal to any group.

Know Your Market

You’ve got choices now about where you actually want to launch your app. Will it be suited to the competitive U.S. market? Europe? Or possibly markets such as South America or Russia?

Assuming your aim is to have your app rank well in the relevant market, you should analyze and determine where your best fit is going to be. This will also help you to hone your reach so it’s not diluted over broader markets.

Nail Down Messaging

What is your core message for users? How are you different from competing apps? Your messaging should capture the attention of your target users and entice them to want to download your app.

Otherwise known as a value proposition, you need to be clear on the unique value your app delivers or the problem you are solving. As we’ve talked about previously:

“The problem your app is solving might not be unique, the concept behind your app might not even be entirely unique, but the point is that you find your point of difference. You look for how you can take that solution and make it better, if not solving the problem in a completely unique way.”

Be clear about this before you create advertising or build websites so that you can create a consistent message from the beginning.

Optimize for the App Store

App store optimization is the SEO of the app world. Just like how you try to optimize websites for search engines, you can optimize your app listings so that they have a better chance of showing up in app store search results.

Whatever platform your app is on, use of the right keywords plays an important role in getting your app found. They should be used in titles and descriptions, and be as clear as possible to browsers what your app is about. Many app creators add descriptive words to app titles, especially where the title of the app doesn’t immediately give away what it’s about. For example, your investing app might be called “Squirrel.” You’d then add a tagline that explains what it’s about like, “Investments on autopilot.”

App stores work like search engines in that more popular apps tend to rise to the top. One way to help your app (besides ensuring that it’s well-made) is to create a listing that looks attractive. Give good descriptions and use high-quality images so that people are clear about what they’re getting.

Test Different Acquisition Channels

If you’re starting from scratch, you may have intuitive ideas as to where your best channels for acquisition may be, but they are as yet untested. There may be other channels that surprise you.

A good strategy is to have a wide range of acquisition channels, at least at first while you work out which are the most profitable for you. What are other app owners using that has worked for them? Here are a few ideas:

Pre-Launch Outreach

There is a whole host of pre-launch ideas to help generate some buzz around your app, so let’s look at just a couple here:

Firstly, there are websites that specialize in getting attention for pre-launch apps, such as Preapps. You can list your app on the site and use it to attract beta users from their community of early adopters. As with the app store, it’s better if you can provide quality images and screenshots, as well as good descriptions.

Another way to generate some buzz is to create a landing page that presents your app in the best possible light. You then promote the landing page and gather email addresses of those who are interested so you can stay in touch. Build a page off your own website or use a service such as Launchrock to create your page.

Leverage Social Media

Hopefully you’ve been building up a social media presence from the get-go, because that is one thing that takes some time to grow a following on. It’s not about the number of followers you have, but the engagement you’re getting and the quality of the interactions.

Social media should be used to generate discussion and interest rather than simply push product, so you can be doing things like connecting with influencers, joining or starting conversations, and posting anything that will be interesting to your particular audience.

Consider: Active Reddit subgroups, groups on Facebook or LinkedIn, joining Twitter chats, and using popular hashtags to help you reach your audience.

Build a Website

Branch posted recently about how downloads as a result of the mobile web are often forgotten. The thing is, if you can build a website that attracts decent traffic, it can become a great source of user acquisition for your app.

Branch found that there is a close correlation between the Alexa rank of a website and number of app downloads, so this is definitely worth considering.

app store rank by website rank

Referrals and Incentives for Download

Referrals from other users or incentives to download (or a combination of both) can be an effective strategy to reach a wider audience. For example, investing app Acorns offers users a bonus for every person they refer who signs up, while they are also known to offer incentives to new sign-ups.

Build an Email List

We briefly mentioned building an email list as part of pre-launch, but this is something you can use as an ongoing acquisition strategy, as well as part of a good user retention plan. The key is to actually use that email list and communicate regularly with your people.

Another point to remember here is that you need to think about the typical “instant gratification” needs of today’s mobile users. When you’re emailing them, instead of basic linking to app stores or websites, use deep linking that will take them to the relevant place in their mobile app. As Get Response points out, use of deep linking has improved user experience and supported app acquisition.

Paid Advertising

There are dozens of possible options for paid advertising for your app, so we’re just going to list a few. What we would advise is to test out a few first that seem like they’d help you to meet the right audience, before investing large amounts into anything you’re unsure of. Here are a few possibilities:

  • App store advertising
  • In-app advertising
  • Paid Facebook advertising
  • Twitter app cards
  • Retargeting campaigns

In-App Sharing

Another strategy that works well for apps with shareable in-app content is to encourage sharing out to social media directly from the app. For example, Vine had users sharing videos out to Twitter, or apps such as MapMyRun can have automatic sharing enabled to share workouts on social media.

Content Marketing

Content marketing can cover a broad range of possible activities, and is designed to draw people who are interested in the content you have created. There are a couple of things to remember here. First, content tends to be a “slow burn” strategy that draws people to you over time. Secondly, it has to be good content!

Here are a few ideas:

  • Write related niche content on your own website blog.
  • Answer related questions on Quora (perhaps providing a link to a blog post of yours in your answer).
  • Write posts for Medium.
  • Create interesting Slideshare presentations.
  • Produce an attractive infographic.

Product Curation Sites

If you can manage to get some PR from any of the more popular product curation or technology sites, this can be a great boost for new apps. It’s not always easy to convince them to cover you though, so it’s best that you’ve really worked on presenting a unique angle and good reason why their readers will be interested before you pitch your app.

Here are some to consider:

Time to Plan…

There are dozens of possible ways to acquire new users and no one right way to attract them, as long as you create a logical plan. Be prepared to review and refocus efforts into your best channels, especially if you are at an early stage and still determining what those channels are.

While you might have a need to bring on large numbers of new users quickly, remember that it’s equally important to nurture those you already have and work on retention efforts. It is these that help your acquisition to pay off, because it’s always cheaper to retain a customer than find a new one.

Koombea helps companies to build amazing apps that attract users. Talk to us today about how we can help.


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