In the mobile app world, focusing on ANYTHING too much is already a growth killer. You know why? Because there are a dozen things to take care of and if you invest too much energy into one thing only, you might end up losing the others. The same applies to focusing too much on user acquisition. Of course, it’s tempting to invest money into acquiring new users especially if you are just starting but there are other growth factors you should consider too such as engagement and retention.

Let’s start with understanding what user acquisition is and how it can help you.

Basically, mobile user acquisition equals to getting people to download your mobile app.

User acquisition is sometimes rather costly but you cannot overlook it because let’s face it, you need people to learn about your app and to download it to understand what a treasure it is.


There are tons of acquisition strategies you can use. You can start with the following:

  1. You can build a landing page with links to your app in Google Play and App Store. You can use AdWords and social media ads to boost this page and get more traffic coming.
  2. You can invest in ASO that is App Store Optimization. Since app stores are too crowded, you should do a few ASO tricks to get your app ranking higher. For example, you can think about optimizing your app description or app screenshots or adding a video in the app video section.

The strategies are many and you will have to invest at least some money into them to make your app more visible and thus boost user acquisition.

What happens after user acquisition?

Let’s imagine, you have done your homework right and you have got 1000 new downloads. What’s next? Should you continue investing in user acquisition only? This is where it’s time to make a little pause and look back at the things retrospectively.


First thing first, user acquisition is just the first stage in the pyramid. If you want your app to succeed, you need to take into account user engagement as well. User retention is another key factor here. Only with the right balance of these three (acquisition, engagement, and retention), you will be able to receive revenue.

What should I do to have a high engagement and retention rate?

Engagement is about getting people to take the required actions e.g. click a button, travel through a set of screens, make a purchase, refer a friend etc. Retention is getting users to come back to your app and most importantly NOT uninstall it. Increasing engagement and retention will lead to more loyal users. The following tested methods will help produce the desired results:

  1. Providing easy onboarding

A seamless onboarding experience can help reduce uninstall rates. The more difficult the app is to use, the more likely users are to abandon it. Make sure to explain the key features through onboarding and keep the onboarding itself easy enough. For example, make logins and signups easy (offer a few registration options instead of one). You can check out a few onboarding best practices before getting started.

2. Reducing the number of instructions

If your app needs too many coach marks, you might be doing it wrong.

3. Eliminating bugs and crashes

Bugs and poor app performance are the user’s worst nightmare. Act instantly when you see something in your app has crashed.

4. Failing to notice details

Good UX design is all about details. Follow best practices suggested by Google and Apple and make sure to carefully optimize user flows.

What metrics should I track?

To properly balance user acquisition, engagement, and retention, you must track the right metrics.

For user acquisition, you might want to track the Cost Per Acquisition (CPA). To measure the CPA of a campaign, you should total your costs for that campaign and divide it by the acquisitions the campaign produced.

For user engagement, you might want to track the Weekly Active Users and the Monthly Active Users (MAU). For a better understanding of your app usage, you can even track the Daily Active Users (DAU). If the number of active users is higher than that of the new ones, then your app is doing quite well.

For user retention, you might want to track the Churn Rate. The user Churn Rate is the percentage of users that get lost over a specific period of time. Churn can be expressed in different ways — the users might stop making purchases (in the case of an e-commerce app) or they might simply uninstall the app.

There are a bunch of other metrics you can track. You can see that there is a lot to do after you gained a user. You need to engage them first so that they don’t abandon the app. Sadly enough, the statistics show that nearly 1 in 4 people abandon mobile apps after only one use.


There are a number of analytics tools that will help you measure important metrics in your app, but you should rely not only on quantitative, but also qualitative data. Inapptics is a great tool to use to measure mobile app engagement through tracking user behavior. It’s an in-app analytics that you can integrate into your app in just 2 minutes and visually analyze real-time user behavior.

So, here you go! Just like anything in life, your app marketing efforts should be balanced, too. First, you put some money into user acquisition, then you might need to invest some energy into user engagement and retention. And then back to user acquisition. Note that satisfied and engaged users are going to become brand ambassadors for you. So, if you do your job of engaging them well, then you might not have to invest too many resources into the acquisition.

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Originally published at on April 6, 2018.

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Why Focusing Too Much on App User Acquisition is Not Right was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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