Finding loyal app users at scale

Mobile Marketing discusses the fine art of acquiring and re-engaging loyal mobile app users with Moshe Vaknin, founder and CEO of YouAppi.

With more than 2.2m apps in the Apple App Store and 2.8m in the Google Play Store as of March 2017 (source: Statista), and estimates suggesting that as many as 3,000 more apps are released every single day, it’s becoming harder than ever for app publishers of all colours – from brands to eCommerce companies to games developers – to get their apps seen and downloaded.

For many of these publishers, the first recourse is advertising – and rightly so. The ‘build it and they will come’ mentality is of little help where mobile apps are concerned. To stand out from the sea of other apps competing for users’ attention and home screen space, you have to make some noise.

The problem with the reliance on advertising, however, is that many app marketers think that noise is all that matters. If they make more noise than the competition, by spending more money and serving ads more frequently, the downloads will surely follow, or so the theory goes. This idea is in fact perpetuated by the numbers. Often, an advertiser who throws a lot of money at advertising their mobile app will reap the benefits in terms of healthy app download numbers. But look beyond this snapshot and the cracks begin to appear. Because in truth, the scattergun approach to mobile app marketing merely results in large numbers or irrelevant downloads, where the app may be used once or twice or never again, and the app publisher never sees any revenues as a return on the investment they have made in acquiring that user.

Growth marketing platform
YouAppi’s approach is different. The company offers a fully managed, 360 growth marketing platform for mobile brands, designed to dramatically increase acquisition and retention of high-value customers. The company is not interested in delivering a download for the sake of a download, but rather, in acquiring loyal users, who are likely to return frequently to the app, and to have a high lifetime value. It delivers on marketers’ distinct KPIs across five pillars, covering the tech (machine learning), the ad format (brand video and rewarded video), and the desired outcome (user acquisition or re-engagement).

“Big advertisers spend a lot of money to acquire new users for their apps, but they need to acquire valuable users, so they use our 360 platform to identify users who match their existing valuable customers and reach out to them,” explains YouAppi co-founder and CEO, Moshe Vaknin. “We partner with big publishers of all types of apps – content, music-sharing, games etc. – and through these partnerships we have built up 2bn user profiles. Then when an advertiser is looking to acquire new users for their app, we can map these profiles and build user categories based on their relationships with different groups.

“Over time, we gain a good understanding of which types of user are most likely to respond well to ads for different types of apps, whether it’s shopping, mapping, education or whatever. Then when we advertise these apps to them, we log their responses to increase our understanding of what types of app appeal to them.”

Those 2bn user profiles span 4,200 apps and mobile sites in over 200 countries and territories. For each user, the AI and machine learning-driven platform analyses 66 unique data parameters, including behaviour and interests, demographic information and location. All of which adds up to over 250TB of data analysed every day, in real time, to target the right user with the right app.

What this does in practice is to take a large chunk of the guesswork out of mobile app user acquisition. So if a company wants to work with YouAppi to attract new users for its eCommerce fashion app, for example, it can tell the advertiser with a high degree of confidence that it would expect to attract between, say, 50,000 and 100,000 new high-quality consumers per month for that app.

“We run the initial campaign for 48 hours and then, as the responses come in, the platform optimises the campaign using AI and machine learning, focusing on the best-performing segments at the expense of the others,” says Vaknin. “Then we can scale that out to find more of these users and lookalike users to maintain the same level of new user acquisition over time.”

It’s an approach that has gone well with advertisers. Among the companies buying into YouAppi’s user-centric approach are Spotify, iHeartRadio, Rovio, SGN, Draft Kings, Etermax, Miniclip, Jump Ramp Games, Huuuge, Glu, Poshmark, StubHub,, HomeAdvisor, Tokopedia, Go-Jek, Lazada and many more global brands. And over the last five years, it has delivered over 300m app installs.

While it seems logical that the YouAppi approach and platform would deliver better results for advertisers, Vaknin is not naive enough to think that once they have downloaded an app, users can be left to their own devices. Even the most loyal customer needs a nudge now and again, so alongside user acquisition, re-engagement is a key part of the YouAppi platform.

“Research shows that 60 per cent of app users stop using an app after they have opened it five times, so a re-engagement strategy and mechanism are vital,” says Vaknin. “Our technology can help clients identify the point where the user stopped engaging with the app and approach them with the right message to bring them back to the same point in the app to use it again. We use a creative optimisation engine to help each client reach each user in the most relevant way, and it works. Overall, 30 per cent of our clients’ users who are targeted through a re-engagement campaign come back to the same point in the app and become revenue-generating customers again.

“The KPIs are different for each client. For car makers, for example, they may want to bring users back to the app to sign up for a test drive for a new model at their local dealer. Whatever the KPI, however, the important thing is to target the user with the right message that has the greatest chance of bringing them back to the app.”

As we all increasingly look to our mobile phones, and the apps we have on them, to help us manage our lives, the competition for brands to get on users’ devices is only likely to increase. Seen in this light, YouAppi’s approach seems to make sense for everyone in the ecosystem, including the brands that want to get their apps seen and downloaded by the right people, and the users themselves. After all, don’t we all prefer to be targeted with things we have shown an interest in, rather than being bombarded with noisy, irrelevant spam?