2018 Holiday User Acquisition Tips

This is the season when people download more apps and spend more money in the app stores!

According to App Annie, people downloaded more apps in Q4 2017 than ever before: 27 billion downloads worldwide across IOS and Google Play, a growth of 7% year-over-year. That same quarter, consumer spend surpassed $17 billion worldwide — 20% year-over-year growth — with iOS accounting for $11.5 billion of the spend (nearly 2x Google Play).  

Sensor Tower data also shows consumers spent $196 million in apps on Christmas 2017 — up 12% from 2016 — with mobile game spending at 5.2% year-over-year growth and non-gaming app spending at 66% YOY growth.

Not surprisingly, this boost in consumer activity creates a lot of competition throughout the app marketplace during holiday seasons.

To stay ahead of the competition, here are 12 app growth marketing tips to make the most of this season!

Tip 1: Spend with the Right Timing! It’s a Marathon with a few Sprints.

In 2017 Q4, shopping/retail category led strongest year-over-year growth share during holidays with m-commerce showing spikes on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Alibaba’s Singles’ Day. The mobile spending momentum continues into early Q1 with significant increases before/on Christmas day and New Year’s.

That said, advertising throughout the entire holiday season may not make sense for your apps if you don’t want to go head-to-head with e-commerce brands. If you’re not in the e-commerce space, you may opt out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and focus on the periods that lead up to Hanukkah or Christmas with holiday-themed content or special offers.

Tip 2: Plan Your Budget Strategically.

As we know, eCPM and cost per install (CPI) tend to be higher throughout the holiday season, particularly leading up to each holiday. In other words, it is important that you make sure:

1) Your holiday advertising is worth it for your app (see tip #3)

2) You’re prepared with extra capital for user acquisition

If you have limited budget, try running campaigns the days after the major holidays when there’s still plenty of action but the CPIs are likely to be lower.

Either way, don’t forget about Q1!  In-app spending typically remains higher than normal through early January as consumers continue to cash in on app store gift cards and explore all their new devices have to offer. Make sure you have access to your previous month’s app store earnings and ad network receivables to reinvest in marketing while you still have momentum (and prices drop).

Tip 3: Start Testing Early.

With higher advertising rates, you want to ensure you’re putting your spend behind the campaigns that are most likely to deliver returns. Testing ahead of time will help you get a read on how your holiday-focused ads resonate with your target audience(s) before you commit to major spend. On that note, but sure to test your holiday ads alongside your regular ones so you have a benchmark for performance.

We suggest you start testing a couple weeks in advance in a few different geos. Try running at least 3-5 new creatives a week — and apply that same testing for audiences.

By testing early, you can also take insights from your top-performing ad creative and apply them to your app store assets and in-app content such as a themed home screen.

Tip 4: Be Creative with Audience Targeting. Try Local or Smaller Geos.

During the holidays, competition is fierce — and well-established brands have deep pockets. As Colette Nataf at Step One Growth points out, brand marketers will be looking to target broad groups in high-income areas. So, try doing the opposite. Avoid (or focus less on) prime geos like New York, LA, and San Francisco and think about smaller, less prominent areas where your app is still likely to thrive.

Try running lots of experiments on smaller audiences and cater your messaging to connect with users at a local level. Are certain regions known for a particular tradition or interest? Try incorporating some of that geographically-relevant info into your ad creative and test how it performs.

Speaking of smaller audiences, with higher eCPM and CPI during the holiday season, you’ll want to be mindful of who you target. For example, you may not want to spend extra budget on users who already know you (or might even have your app already). By creating suppression lists, you can ensure you aren’t wasting spend on people you’ve identified as existing users or unlikely / low-quality users.

Tip 5: Don’t Miss Out on New Devices.

Outside of new releases, the holidays (especially Christmas) bring a noticeable bump in usage of new devices. As soon as people unwrap the latest device, they’ll be rushing to log into their social accounts and load their favorite apps.

With new devices comes new curiosity — and a desire to explore. As such, new device users are often more open to trying out new apps. Be sure to get some compelling ad creative (like video or playables) in front of them.

Tip 6: Make Existing Users Download Your Apps on New Devices.

With heaps of people exploring their new devices, it’s easy to get a caught up in capturing new interest. But it’s critical to retain and engage your current users too. Try creating an email campaign with a holiday promo or serving ads to your Facebook fan page members (who are likely users).

This time of year also provides an opportunity to capture the attention of users who may have uninstalled your app. Promos for in-app purchases and subscriptions appear above your app preview in App Store search results, so use that extra visibility to feature an eye-catching icon and enticing offer text.

Tip 7: Always Use Deep-links.

With more free time and new devices, you’ll likely find users are more open to new app suggestions during the holidays. Take advantage of this by making it very easy for users to experience your app — and the great features it has to offer. Try using deep links to send users directly to content within your app, eliminate mandatory sign up, or remove any onboarding features that aren’t absolutely necessary right away.

If you can hook new users quickly and keep them engaged during those first few days after download, there’s a much greater chance they’ll stick around and continue to generate revenue.

Tip 8: Incorporate Holiday-Themed Content In Your App.

Creating new holiday-themed features, levels, or costumes provides a natural intersection between your brand or app and cultural holiday themes and traditions. Pairing your new festive app content and an updated app store description with the right creative might even score you a feature in the app stores.

If you do invest time in adding new features, make sure your screenshots reflect the holiday updates you’ve created for your users. But keep it tight – a couple of images will do the trick. You don’t want to overload your product page with holiday images unless your entire app is now holiday-related.

Keep in mind, not everyone celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah, so you may want to steer clear of any religious undertones. Instead, you could try creating a winter holiday theme, or experiences tied to the holiday spirit, like traditions or bonding with loved ones. This goes for your ad creative as well.

Make sure to submit new content and features well in advance (at least 2 weeks) to avoid any slow down or temporary shut down in approval.

Tip 9: Optimize App Store Page for the Holidays.  

Creating new content for your app can be a big endeavor. Even if you don’t take this route — or decide to hold off on paid holiday app install campaigns completely — you can still tap into the holiday spirit through your app store listings.

Try sprinkling in a few holiday attributes to your icon and/or product shots — without changing their original concept. They key is to make sure your app icon is still recognizable and stays true to your brand identity.

To launch holiday-themed tests quickly, consider adding 1 or 2 images to the end your uploads as opposed to changing your main product screens entirely. That way you can use the images in search ads along with high-volume keywords related to the holidays and your app features.

Note: If you decide to run holiday-themed search ads, make sure to show relevant holiday keywords on your product pages as well as in your app’s metadata.

Tip 10: Craft a Seasonal In-App Monetization Strategy.

While it’s tempting to focus on acquiring new users during the holidays, this is a prime time to generate more revenue from your existing users as well, particularly those who haven’t been as active lately.

Try promoting your paid features more heavily, setting up dynamic pricing scale for new vs. existing users, launching referral campaigns within your app and/or via email or social platforms, or set up re-engagement campaigns on Facebook.

Even if your app doesn’t show up in top holiday search results or your app itself has nothing to do with the holidays, you can promote holiday offer packs like in-app purchases or subscriptions separately. The key here is to make sure you include an icon, price, and holiday-optimized title and description to boost your reach.

If you decide to offer special deals or limited-time paid features, be sure to create a sense of urgency in your ads and CTAs. Let people know they need to act right away. The fear of missing out can be a strong motivator.

Tip 11: Diversify Your Channels and Risk!

While it’s helpful to prioritize channels that have proven to be successful for you in the past, where paid user acquisition is concerned, it’s a good idea to spread your campaigns out across more than one channel. Doing so will enable you to capture people’s attention in a variety of ways. It will also reduce your risk by diversifying your financial investments and making you less susceptible to large scale fraud.

The holidays are also a great time to experiment with different ad formats such as video, native and sponsored content. The holiday spirit and traditions can make for great storytelling (or comedy) that taps into your audience’s emotions.

Tip 12. Lastly, Higher Retention = More Revenue Opportunities!

You’ve gone the extra mile — and spent the extra dollar — to acquire new users during the holiday season. Don’t let that effort (and budget) go to waste. Users that drop off in the first couple of days aren’t likely to come back. So make sure you motivate users to stick around the first 3-7 days after download. Push notifications, emails, re-targeting campaigns, and deeps links are all great ways to keep your app top of mind for new users.

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