The holiday season is upon us, bringing purchases and gifts of shiny, new mobile devices to new users.

This tremendous growth and adoption is not only an opportunity for mobile developers to draw new and existing users to their apps but also a chance to generate significant revenue via their various marketing channels.

mobile-apps (1)But finding the right audience for your app is not a trivial task.

It requires blending high volume acquisition with high value users. Adjusting these balances depending on your app’s lifecycle is paramount. For new apps, in order to get discovered and drive higher app store rankings, blending your media buying but with a skew towards volume is the best strategy.

For instance, new apps can set the following goals for their paid media buying:

  • 60 percent on high volume, low cost per install (­CPI) users (possibly low LTV)
  • 20 percent focused on acquiring high value users via video ads to showcase your app experience
  • 20 percent on high value users through cost per engagement models

This mix will ensure your overall install numbers, engagement metrics, and retention metrics are high, and you will maximize your chances of getting to the top of the app stores.

230 developers with 400M active users
told us what works and doesn’t work in mobile user acquisition

Conversely, publishers of older apps that need to maintain a steady stream of users and also maximize their chances of acquiring paying customers should consider this mix:

  • 20 percent on high volume, low CPI users; though these users might make fewer IAPs (in-app purchases), they drive the app towards critical mass
  • 40 percent on high value, high CPI users by using video ads to demonstrate the app experience
  • 40 percent on high value users through Cost per Engagement model

mobile-appsWhether during the holidays or throughout the rest of the year, developers must start looking at aggressive A/B testing methods in order to help find their sweet spot. Regardless of stage, every developer needs to be critical of the media partners they engage with.

Here are some guidelines to look out for:

  • Deeper targeting options that leverage device level usage/engagement differences. For instance, focus on larger-screen devices such as iPhone 6/6 Plus for racing titles.
  • Platforms that allow for pricing fluctuation per user, and the ability to adjust based on user profile, choice of carrier, time of day, and geolocation.
  • Global footprints with a higher focus on high-value markets outside the U.S., such as South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong.

Managing traffic acquisition during the holidays

The big players in the industry with healthy bankrolls are able to sustain high volumes of traffic even with a holiday increase in advertising costs. The same cannot be stated for smaller app developers who are not able to acquire enough traffic due to the increased cost.

Here are four basic guidelines that developers should consider:

  1. mobile appsBudgeting is an important initial step in preparing to run your marketing campaigns. Remember to set aside a part of the marketing budget to discover new audiences outside of your standard high performing segments.
  2. As the holiday season approaches, focus on building up a solid, engaged user base through optimized and sustained campaigns up to the last week of November. As the fourth quarter of the year progresses, leverage this optimization to do smart bursts during the days leading up to the holidays. As the holiday bursts are running, it is important to assess the acquired organic users and include this while calculating your ad ROI.
  3. As your organic uplift increases I strongly recommended you attribute this to the various channels being used. Keep driving organic users by using timed, recurring smaller bursts. Weekends are most important for games, Mondays and Fridays work best for dating apps, while business and education apps peak in adoption during Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
  4. As with all revenue-generating initiatives, it is important to incorporate post-install metrics tracking. Use this in assessing ROI and — more importantly — in optimizing your media spend.

Tying it all together and other helpful tips

Marketing acquisition costs are expensive and are even more so during the holiday season. Spending marketing dollars smarter during these peak seasons is paramount. Preparing your campaigns in advance, establishing good relationships with ad networks and setting up marketing initiatives correctly will help you more through this holiday season with less stress and more strong wins.

Harish Thimmappa is VP of Mobile User Acquisition at Supersonic and has worked with many major app developers across the globe. With over seven years of experience in Mobile UA, and two years in strategic consultancy, Harish has worked with many large-scale brands including IBM, Yahoo, InMobi, and, since 2013, Supersonic.