Joseph Vito DeLuca is marketing manager at mobile ad platform SponsorPay.

While mobile applications are one of today’s fastest growing digital sectors, many developers are continuing to struggle with finding monetary successes for their work. Then there are the few, that launch an app which yields a high ROI, but are then confronted with an even more daunting task of being successful across multiple platforms. Few developers have made a smooth transition from Android to iOS or vice versa. The select few that have crossed over prosperously have endured a number of hurdles on their path to mass distribution and efficient monetization. Here, we’ll examine the major roadblocks, look at a few successful cross-platform apps and best practices.

1. User acquisition strategies

The biggest difference between the two operating systems is that Apple doesn’t allow for incentivized installs within the in-app environment. They are very strict about maintaining the integrity of their top ranking apps lists. They have actually barred several developers from the App Store because of what they consider questionable distribution tactics.

The Android platform is a lot more flexible and thus a lot friendlier when it comes to distribution and monetization strategies. Developers are able to incentivize installs in order to move up in the app rankings. Where iOS has a distinct advantage is that it only has one piece of hardware, where the Android platform is on several different devices from several manufacturers. Because of this, it is a lot more difficult to develop an app on Android compared to iOS.

2. Retention rates

Although it may be easier to acquire users on Android, findings point out that it’s easier to retain users on iOS. Findings from Localytics tell us that retention rates are 52% higher on iOS than they are on Android. Furthermore, 35% of iOS users opened an app more than 10 times, compared to 23% on Android.

Also adding to higher retention rates found on iOS is the fact the iPhone itself has a 94% retention rate to just 47% on Android devices. When users stick with the same phone or at least same line of phone, they are far more likely to transfer or re-download preexisting apps.

3. Best practices

The likes of Electronic Arts, OutFit7, Nordeus, and Creative Mobile have all had top-grossing apps on both iOS and Android with titles including Talking Tom Cat, Drag Racing, Top Eleven, and Real Racing. They were successful because of their ability to understand each operating system and their ability to devise not only efficient user acquisition strategies, but also effective retention and engagement triggers.

Creative Mobile was able to monetize its Drag Racing game by leveraging value-exchange advertising. They implemented a customized offer feed and offer banners that gave users the opportunity to engage with ads and trial other apps in exchange for their virtual currency, Respect Points. Through this tactic, they were able to double in-app revenues on its way to becoming one of the highest grossing apps of all-time while also rising up the iOS charts.

A newly emerging user-acquisition tactic is the use of app trailers, which highlight the key features and then give users the opportunity to install the app. This is especially useful on iOS, as only a completed video view is required for the user to receive the reward, thus circumventing the incentivized install ban. This leverages the growing mobile video sector. More than 25 million mobile owners stream at least 4 hours of video per month, as mobile video rises at a compound annual growth rate of 28% over the next 5 years, according to a study by Dancast.

4. Trigger happy developers

One of the biggest pitfalls for many publishers is that they don’t consider user retention and engagement during development. The most successful games are the ones built with timely in-game triggers that function on both platforms, keeping users both engaged in their current session and coming back and opening the app frequently and consistently.

A prime example of an app with great gaming mechanics is MADFINGER Games’ first-person zombie shooter, Dead Trigger. Users are automatically rewarded for logging in daily to the app with gold to be used to purchase additional items and with casino chips that can be used in a slot machine, giving players the opportunity to earn additional rewards. Furthermore, additional daily quests are presented to give users the chance to earn additional cash and experience points.

Having effective in-game triggers can also have a direct impact on in-app purchases (IAP). Imangi Studios’ Temple Run 2 does a great job leveraging this opportunity. When a user’s run has come to an end from falling, running into something, etc., an opportunity is presented to use gems which revives the character and prolongs the run. If the user doesn’t have any gems, they still have the opportunity to obtain them by making a direct payment right on the spot. This can be a very tempting proposition for someone about to reach a new high score or build upon a newly reached high score.

Although monetization is one of the biggest obstacles to success for freemium apps, the market is certainly ripe with opportunity. By incorporating the appropriate tactics — both in technical development and business development — users can effectively and efficiently be both acquired and monetized.

Photo Credit: Blake Patterson/Flickr

Joseph Vito DeLuca is marketing manager at mobile ad platform SponsorPay.