It’s time to ditch the “any install at lowest cost” theory of user acquisition. Join leading marketing minds from mobile app powerhouses Gilt and Zillow as they reveal why high-value users should be your real target — and how to acquire them the right way.

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“There’s a lot of temptation out there as you grow your business and your brand to get a lot of new users or a lot of reengagement,” says Alexandra Press Maguire, digital marketing director of luxury ecommerce company Gilt Groupe. “But if they’re not taking the actions that are important to your business, it’s a waste. We want to be able to track and attribute users to those actions, and then we want to focus on those metrics.”

The first step in hunting down the users that mean the most to your bottom line, Maguire says, is understanding the metrics that actually define high-quality users for your specific business and product.

“It’s not just one thing,” agrees Ashley Blackmon, VP of marketing at Zillow Group, which houses a portfolio of real estate and home-related brands. “We want to understand our users, and we want to understand their behavior so we can find users who are like them. We want to understand what their affinities are, what their preferences are, so that we can be a part of the conversation in terms of what’s relevant to them, and we want to measure success over time.”

Finding quality users and identifying them takes not only analytics tools, measurement tools, and working with partners that provide metrics; it means having the patience to find them and track them, Blackmon explains. “It takes time,” she says. “It takes that patience to test and learn as you go.”

One of the major challenges in shifting your focus to finding users that offer long-term value isn’t just acquiring the necessary data but attributing it correctly, to gain real insight into what’s happening with your user cohorts, and where the value arises.

“It becomes critical to have very detailed infrastructure for reporting in place so we can measure all down-funnel events possible and really optimize to the maximum possible level,” Maguire says. “Without that infrastructure in place, it’s really challenging for us to convert customers as opposed to just installers.”

Dave Myers, COO and founder of mParticle, urges companies to focus on building the necessary foundation. “There is a common theme around the challenge, and that is investment,” says Myers. Not only does it require that investment in time that Blackmon advocates for, it requires investment in analytics: “Both tools as well as the talent,” he explains. “Investment in personalization, and then investing in systems of engagement where you can actually engage and nurture those high-value users.”

That circumvents the temptation to paint a broad brushstroke across a cohort of users and label them all high LTV — when the reality is that there are many subsegments and many cohorts, each of which requires specific targeting and personalization efforts.

“One of the most critical pieces to our success here at Gilt for our mobile app acquisition program, and really taking it to a level of driving customers as opposed to just installs on the actual device, is really based on our lifetime value model for our install cohorts,” Maguire says. “And these really need to be customized obviously over time as businesses change, as seasonality changes. So we are looking at our retention curves constantly, both historic as well as at the close of each new cohort.”

It’s a particularly important piece to help fuel paid marketing in your install economy, to not only ensure that you have the right media mix in place, but you’re also as efficient as possible with your spend. And again, this goes back to having the analytics in place to drill down into what is happening not only inside your app, but in relation to your app.

“As marketers get increasingly sophisticated, we’re starting to see them bring in additional sources of data to refine their tests and experimentation,” says Myers. “Rather than just relying on data capture within the app, they’re bringing back push interaction data and email data and maybe even enriching their data with third-party data.”

In the end, Blackmon says, it’s making sure you’re not relying on one trick to get users. “We invest in learning,” she explains. “I would encourage everyone who’s thinking about really getting after a strong user acquisition program to encourage your team to really invest in testing and failing fast, rewarding successful tests as well as tests that don’t go so well, so that your full team is looking for new sources.”

To learn more about understanding the user journey, using data to inform personalization, and driving customers down the funnel to engagement and long-term use, catch up on our free VB Live event!

Don’t miss out!

Access this VB Live event on demand right here.

In this webinar, you’ll:

  • Learn the price app publishers are currently paying to acquire quality users across several categories
  • Review the top user acquisition platforms and why
  • Understand the role of timing in UA
  • Maximize organic installs of your mobile application


  • Dave Myers, COO and Co-Founder, mParticle
  • Ashley Blackmon, VP marketing, Zillow Group
  • Alexandra Press Maguire, Digital Marketing Director, Gilt Groupe
  • John Koetsier, Mobile Economist, TUNE
  • Rachael Brownell, Moderator, VentureBeat

This VB Live event is sponsored by mParticle.