User Acquisition vs User Retention: Rethink Your Mobile Approach

When it comes to mobile app marketing, the decision between user acquisition vs user retention can be crucial. Today I’ll show you why you should consider both to bring in the best results.

If you’ve just launched your mobile app, user acquisition is your primary concern.

Users are a lifeblood of every mobile application, so downloads and installs are definitely the most important thing that you have to get at the very beginning of your app’s life.

You need a proper user base in order to benefit from your app, whatever your monetization strategy is.

Then, when you reach your desired user base, it is a time to pay more attention to user retention, forming a relationship between them and your app.

In a world of over 1.8 million of apps in the Google Play and 1.5 million of them in the App Store, you have to work really hard to make your app stand out. And let’s be honest, user acquisition is getting more and more expensive.

It’s even worse.

About 80% of those who you will acquire so hard, will abandon your app within first 3 days, says Andrew Chen, Growth at Uber.

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Yet still – many marketers focus so much on constant growth of the number of new users, that they tend to forget about the existing ones.

Is that true?

After a quick search for terms like mobile acquisition vs retention, you can find out, that many mobile marketers start to pay a little bit more attention to retention rather than acquisition.

mobile acquisition vs retention

But is simply turning from one strategy to another a good mobile marketing approach?

When you think of how marketers deal with acquisition and retention, it turns out that for many of them it is a binary choice.

In this post, I will try to show you (and maybe convince you, who knows) that the choice between them shouldn’t be based on current trends and some articles telling you that one or another is more worth for your business.

The strategy of user acquisition or retention should fit your current app development stage

But first, let me show you some data on how marketers handle user acquisition and retention these days.


User Acquisition vs User Retention: How Mobile App Marketers Do It

user acquisition vs retention

When you take a look at the data presented by Invesp’s infographic, it occurs that only 40% of companies and 30% of agencies have an equal focus on acquisition and retention.

Still, 44% of companies pay more attention to an acquisition, while only 18% have their focus on retention.

So why is that, if studies proved that customer retention is more ROI effective than acquisition?

Let’s quickly recap what user acquisition and retention are and how to do it right to drive the best results for your app business.


What Is User Acquisition? (Help People Find You)

User acquisition equals getting more and more people to use your app.

Let’s face it, you need people to download your app, otherwise, what is a point of making it?

And saying that acquisition is expensive and has a big bounce rate doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. You should, but you need to be smart about it.

There are already tons of acquisition strategies, based on paid ads or growth hacking tricks. These 5 tips may be something to start with:

  • Build a landing page – create a landing page with links to your app in app stores and bring as many traffic as you can, using AdWords, social media, and others.
  • Use good old PR – press releases are still a very powerful tool for every marketer. Craft compelling story about your app’s features and send it to journalists in your niche. If it’s good, they will spread it out.
  • Invest in ASO – app stores are already overcrowded, it’s true, however, you can still get a lot out of them if you invest in App Store Optimization. Take care of your app’s descriptions, screenshots, keyword optimization and reviews, and you will see it climbing the app store ladder.
  • Use cross-promotion – you are not the only one struggling with user acquisition. Thanks to cross-promotion you will use others’ ad spaces to promote your app, simply returning the favor with yours. This way both sides can benefit at low cost.
  • Join communities – places like Quora can help you to get in touch with hundreds of potential users without spending any money. Spend some time understanding what people are looking for and offer some value instead of over-promoting your offer, and you will see how powerful it can be.


What Is User Retention? (Show Your Users You Care About Them)

So acquiring new users is important and, especially at the beginning of your app’s existence, you should invest a lot to bring your app in front of as many people as you can.

But at a certain point, it is good to slow down a little and look back at those you’ve managed to acquire. If you will not, they will go somewhere else.

This is awesome:

Increasing customer retention by only 5% can increase a company’s profitability by 75%, according to Bain and Co.

And the great thing is that retention spendings don’t have to be huge. Be smart and listen to your customers. Maybe all they need is a little bit more attention and showing them, that they actually matter to you.

Those are great examples of how you can show them some love:

  • Engagement is the key – according to Appboy, consistent engagement can result in 90% audience retention in one month. Form relationship with your users and engage them on the regular basis, and they will come back.
  • Personalization – users want to use apps that they can personalize to their needs, location, and in-app behavior. Let users personalize their experience with your app to increase their retention rate.
  • Push notifications – this is when done right, a great way to retain app’s users. Send personalized push notifications and see how it can increase your app’s engagement even by 800%!
  • Remarketing – although I think that push notifications can be great, still 50% of users opt-out of it. To reach them back, you can use remarketing, e.g. via social media or paid ads. Just remember to use information about users you want to reach, to make ads more compelling and relevant.


How You Can Do Both User Acquisition and Retention

At Whalla Labs we want to show only examples that work, not just a plain theory.

Earlier in this post I’ve mentioned that decision between mobile acquisition and retention doesn’t have to be binary – actually, it is recommended to do both to get the best results.

It is that simple:

You need to acquire new users to assure the constant growth of your app, but you need to retain those you already have acquired, to prevent high abandonment rate.

Below I explained how you can do both acquisition and retention using deep linking.

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Use deep linking to acquire and retain users

Mobile apps haven’t been thought to use web content at the beginning, that’s why web standards HTML links don’t work on them.

But today, when mobile internet usage outpaced desktops, you want users to download and use your app from e.g. social media channels or mails.

To do that, you can implement deep linking in your app. It will allow opening your app to specific section or content with standard, HTTP web links.

One example of this approach may be downloading or opening your app by clicking the link in the Twitter post.

deep linking

Image source

Using deep linking you can create ads that may be used both to acquire and retain users, sending them to the relevant space in your app.


Recommended reading:



In this post I’ve shown you:

  • Why choosing between user acquisition and retention doesn’t have to be binary.
  • What is user acquisition and how to do it in 5 easy steps?
  • What is user retention and what are the 4 ways to do it on mobile?
  • How to do both user acquisition and retention using deep linking.

Implementing deep linking is a broader topic and will be explained in another post, so if you are not sure how to implement this at the moment, the best way would be to get in touch with a mobile development company to help you do that.

When you will have it, use it in your next social media or paid ads and see how you can easily bring in new users and stay in touch with your existing ones.


Would you like to share your experiences with user acquisition and retention with us? Please do! We love to answer your comments!

P.S. Struggling with implementing deep linking in your app? We are mobile developers you are looking for. Check out our amazing portfolio to see what else we can do for you!