Your app is more than just a product -- it’s a business that will ultimately need to scale in order to succeed. After emerging from the depths of coding your app, it is time to establish your mobile app as a business and consider the many aspects that go into finding and growing your user base. That is where user acquisition (UA), user experience (UX), and personalized monetization strategies come into play.
In this article, we will explore how mobile apps can scale successfully by implementing effective UA, UX, and monetization strategies.
Before you scale your app
There are a few criteria that the app product will have to fulfill before dedicating effort to scale.
First, ensure you have an established app build. Are all of the features functioning properly? Is there a journey for the user to embark on? Have you ensured that the app has a minimal crash rate? Do you have a curated app store listing?
Second, ensure that ad-driven monetization fits into your business model. The suggestions and tips included here are tailored for both hybrid business models that include ads and in-app purchases as well as a strictly ad-based business model. If your app will lean solely on subscription, then this information may not be as relevant.
Third, it would be ideal to have some consistent users on the app platform already with the aim of expanding the audience. These tips will be applicable to apps starting from a user base of none but are more tailored to apps with a small user base that your team is ready to multiply.
Now that we have done a gut check on your app’s eligibility, we can start with the steps to scale.
Scaling with user acquisition
Users do not just interact with your app’s content, they also influence your app’s reputation by writing reviews, reporting bugs, and making a commitment to return to the app consistently. These user activities are essential to keep in mind given that install volume and ranking are correlated with ad revenue. The more users who install and favorably review the app, the higher the probability that other users will notice these positive trends and join your user flock.
The most efficient way to invite the maximum number of users to your app is to invite them at scale with an ad campaign platform that leverages machine learning.
One important hallmark of these types of ad campaign platforms is multidimensional signals. Rather than using one-dimensional proxies like age, gender, device, and category to target hundreds of user combinations, you want to aim to have hundreds of proxies that include additional information about the user to generate millions of targeting combinations. Platforms such as Google Ads are known for implementing machine learning marketing.
In addition to proactively reaching out to prospective users, you can also convert visitors by:
- Optimizing for your app store listing to rest above the fold in search results
- Experimenting with icons, images, and videos in your app store listings to convert more visits to installs
- Reply to user reviews to let prospective users know that you value user feedback
Driving scale with user experience
After acquiring users, you want them to meaningfully engage with your app and to become consistent repeat users. This is where you will take a look at your conversion funnel as pictured below.
The goal of retention and engagement efforts is to transition your users from average engagement to deeply engaged -- and to ensure the content turns from minimally sticky to highly sticky. You can affect this change by improving a few key entry points and the overall onboarding process for your app.
- Welcome Screens: Your welcome screen is the user’s first impression of the app content. Be sure to translate the value of your brand and your app upfront in a clear and concise manner.
- Account Set Up: If your app requires that users sign up, ensure to decrease the amount of choices that the user makes in the onboarding process. Keep the focus on providing an easy journey from installation to the in-app experience
- Tutorials: For gaming apps, or apps with complex user flows, consider offering users a tutorial to get acquainted with the rules, buttons, and interface of the application. Use animation to guide users through your app's functionality as they decide whether or not to convert. Always give users the option to opt-out of a tutorial as well. Put as little friction as possible between the user and your app’s content.
After verifying that your user flows are fluid and engaging, you will now want to start optimizing for revenue per daily active user.
Incorporate ad formats that bring value to the user and minimally interrupt the user flow. Your options include:
- Rewarded Video: This format enables users to play games, take surveys, or watch videos to earn in-app rewards, such as coins, extra lives, free trials, or points. You can set different rewards for different ad units, and specify the reward values and items users will receive.
- Native Ads: If you want your ads to seamlessly integrate with your app content, consider native style placements. These are ads that would fit the color scheme and branding of your app and are available in various sizes.
- Interstitial Ads: These are full-screen ads that function as a type of “quick commercial break” from app content. When they are properly placed, they have the potential to generate premium eCPMs.
Once your ads are placed, automate the competition between your ad networks to increase the likelihood of a favorable eCPM. Work with ad servers that have both mediation and real-time bidding as options.
Mediation uses historical data to select the highest paying ad network to serve an ad, whereas real-time bidding is a solution that allows a variety of eligible bidders to compete in real-time for your inventory. These two features can be used in tandem with one another for more optimal performance.
Keep in mind that ad pricing is heavily context-dependent. Invest some time in learning about the user behavior, advertising norms, and eCPMs for your top geographies and verticals. You can use that information to set strategic price floors and to run experiments to continually improve your app.
There you have the basic steps to transform your app into a scaled business.
Just remember that when you pivot and start to scale:
- Be sure that your app is equipped to accept a steady influx of users
- Select an ad campaign platform that leverages machine learning
- Ensure minimal friction during the user onboarding process
- Automate competition between ad networks
Zora Williams hails from the Washington DC Metro Area and has always had a passion for understanding how to leverage technology to its most fruitful purpose. She currently works as a Strategic Account Manager for the global mobile apps business at Google. Her partners predominantly represent the Utility, Communication, and Dating verticals operating within North American and Canadian markets.