Where you should spend your app marketing budget…

Where you should spend your app marketing budget…
June 29, 2018 Simon Whittick

For growth marketers at rapidly scaling mobile app businesses, this can be a $1m (per month) question.

It was one of many tough questions asked of the mobile app marketing community at yesterday’s App Promotion Summit in London, where we all gathered to ‘discover the future of mobile growth’.

What’s working in ASO (apps store optimisation) right now? How should I build an app marketing data layer? How much impact will my creative have on my CTR (click-through rate)? Judging by the number of bums on seats in the auditorium, budget optimisation was amongst the hottest topics of the day. The answer came from a panel of UA (user acquisition) experts from across; Hoop, the parenting ticketing app, Avis/Budget, Peak Labs gaming app developer, Syft the recruitment app, and Appsumer.

Panel discussion including Inga Meskauskaite from Appsumer at App Promotion Summit London 2018 discussing the future of mobile growth

Here is their answer summarised in 5 parts:

One: Instagram Stories, Facebook & Snapchat

If only the answer were that simple! It was evident from the replies that it’s a complex question that faces UA teams on a daily basis as they seek to re-forecast, re-plan and re-optimise. Each growth marketer has their own unique challenges, goals and addressable market. Daniel, Angela and Thiago each had a slightly different answer when asked, “what’s your best performing channel and why?” Sure, there was a significant overlap in the channels they were using to acquire and retarget users for their apps at the top level, however, each uses them differently for different reasons and with different expectations. Within each channel and publisher, there’s a significant variance at the keyword, placement and sub-publisher levels which affects the performance of each.

Two: Search and video

An analysis across Appsumer’s client base that spans gaming, travel, gambling, messaging, financial and more, and who spend over $200m pa between them, indicates that search consistently drives the highest ROI in the short term. However, when the same analysis was done over a longer period, video wins out when it comes to user acquisition.

Three: Fail fast but re-optimise faster

When Fiona, the session’s chair from TodayTix, asked panellists to shed light on what wasn’t working for them, they were cautiously candid in their responses. Daniel from Avis/Budget preferred to reframe the question, and told how he attempts to identify instead what could be working better. He reported that having allocated budget across a number of channels in his plan, by the time he’s able to, the best performing channels are ‘maxed out’ and he finds himself in danger of missing his targets. Without real-time reporting, performance marketers can find it a huge hassle to reallocate budget and some channels can be a pain to scale.

Panel discussion information from the App Promotion Summit website, describing who is taking part in the panel - including Inga Meskauskaite from Appsumer

Four: Measure what matters

With a variety of monetisation models represented on the panel, it was no surprise to hear them say that they were tracking different performance benchmarks, and how these had changed over the lifetime of their apps as their businesses scaled. Some reported a move from CPI (cost per install) to retention, LTV (lifetime value) and ARPU (average revenue per user) with others focussing purely on ROAS (return on advertising spend).

Inga’s analysis of Appsumer client campaigns reported that predictive LTV and ROI (return on investment) are the metrics that matter to them. They are eager to see how their users monetise over time, and importantly how this differs between users who’ve been acquired through different channels. She quoted apps who’ve seen their search activity yield a 60% ROI after 7 days, but a radically different return over a longer cohort window of 2-3 months where video delivered higher returns.

Inga Meskauskaite from Appsumer taking part in the panel discussion on "where to spend your app marketing budget"

Five: Spend on what works

The panellists were united as they each described the budgetary pressures they face and in their preference for generating organic traffic and using owned channels, especially when it comes to retargeting and reactivation. All have budgets for paid UA activity and all reported them to be finite! And as you’d expect from brands at similar scales, they each used attribution tools like Appsflyer and Adjust to measure how effectively they’re making their budgets work for them.


As budgets rise, the stakes rise. As complexity rises, it becomes harder and more time-consuming for performance marketers to optimise with confidence, and in a timely manner. For these guys, it remains a $1m question, but one they increasingly need to answer. Thankfully a growing number of them are finding the right tool that lets them do just that!