Mobile Apps: Measuring quality of your user acquisition channels

Written by on May 12, 2016

Google announced providing better user acquisition and engagement tracking data. So, why does this matter, and what more should you be doing?

App developers spend a lot of effort and money in figuring out the right channels for them to reach their users. They look at:

  1. Reach – Which marketing/distribution channels give them quick access to a large audience?
  2. Conversion – The eyeballs don’t matter much if the channel isn’t giving you enough new users. At what rate is the channel converting eyeballs to installs?
  3. Cost – Which acquisition methods have lower cost of acquiring new users.

Tracking the channels driving your app download or app installs usually ends with the install and first open of the app. In some cases, it ends with a specific action taken within the app on first use.

Don’t stop there!

Here is how slicing your metrics by source can give you better insights into the quality of users your channels are driving:


Look at your 2-day, 1-week, and 1-month retention by source. You may be surprised to see how an acquisition channel that got a lot more users to click and try out your app for real cheap resulted in users who leave as fast as they came. Even optimizing an ad campaign for clicks can often lead to expectations your app cannot fulfill or just curiosity to try your product rather than need – and hence more early drop-offs.

Usage Patterns

You may find different channels giving you users who use your product in different ways – one channel might give you more sophisticated users who use all your features while another gives you very basic users who desire simplicity. Which kind of user is your product better suited to serve?

Spending capacity

For a game or utility with an in-app purchase, you may find users from a source leading to more in-app purchases or spend within your app than others. Guess what? It might turn out that its worth spending the extra buck to get those users in through the costlier channel. Look at your LTV (life time value of user) per channel.

The k-factor

If you care about your viral coefficients, also see how users coming through different channels are helping your app reach more users. Maybe users coming in through one channel are more socially connected and tend to invite more friends than the other. Maybe its just about the demographic that the channel provides access to. Measure and be aware!

Take aways

  1. Make sure your acquisition methods and campaigns are giving you the quality of user you are looking for.
  2. Don’t miss out on channels that give high quality and higher LTV users at potentially a higher cost.
  3. Skip channels that give you worthless users at low cost [unless your need is specifically driving download numbers – to get up on rankings]
  4. Be aware that tricking users into downloading your app through misleading campaigns can reduce user acquisition cost, but also lead to bad ratings and reviews.

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