Take a More Strategic Approach to Mobile App Remarketing


Mobile app retargeting and remarketing are the fastest growing arenas of mobile app marketing today. On our platform, for example, the volume of retargeting/remarketing activity has increased more than 900% in the past year. As a percentage of the total paid events we track, remarketing has grown its share 3-fold since q2 of last year.


While that growth comes off of a small base, the figure demonstrates the growing appeal of this marketing strategy and the tactics that underlie it.

This post is designed to:

  1. Define mobile app remarketing and retargeting for those with minimal familiarity
  2. Identify the underlying forces contributing to this important trend
  3. Outline the mobile app retargeting and remarketing opportunity for mobile app marketers
  4. Present a framework for strategic retargeting and remarketing planning and execution

We hope you find it a valuable tool to help you craft the right mobile app retargeting strategy for your brand.

Defining Remarketing and Retargeting
Remarketing and retargeting help you reach, engage and convert people who have or used your app. With retargeting ads, users are individually targeted to see your ads as they browse websites and apps.

With iOS and Android mobile retargeting, execution is usually managed through networks and DSPs, and executed programmatically. Remarketing encompasses retargeting but also includes other forms of segmented communications like push notifications. Both tactics usually drives conversion rates and response metrics well in excess of standard mobile app ad or messaging norms. In fact, retargeting and remarketing for apps tend to be the most ROI-positive marketing programs.

Strategic Forces Driving Retargeting and Remarketing Growth
Strategically as an industry, we are moving from a singular focus on one type of in-app event – mobile app installs – to a perspective in which the iOS or Android smartphone user is at the center of everything we do. These days, mobile app marketers are concerned about the totality of the customer relationship, from awareness and install through engagement and in-app purchases.

Even marketers whose KPIs still focus on UA now spend a great deal of energy thinking about the complete customer relationship over time. They work hard to ensure that they are garnering installs from quality users that will drive the business in the weeks and months that follow the initial download. Mobile devices counts have taken a back seat to richer customer metrics.

Now, this may sound elementary, but it’s a critical distinction. Our world has been transformed – and rightly so – to one in which a user’s relationship with a brand is central.

As marketers, we certainly still care about installs, but we’re also increasingly focused on the app launches and the actions people take. On the purchases that they make via the app stores and mcommerce platforms, and on how they continue to use and transact with an app over time. The most vivid way that we see this trend at Apsalar is in how people use our platform to understand their businesses.

We measure interest via:

  1. What mobile app marketing metrics they study.
  2. How much time they spend studying them.

And all that has changed a lot. Now most marketers have mcommerce app store revenue or return on ad spend KPIs first and foremost. And we’ve learned that great install figures and don’t necessarily mean great revenue.

What matters to today’s marketer is user quality and controlling user decay. And it’s changing the face of app marketing.

There’s lots of evidence that our interest in the whole customer is increasing. We see it in the massive number of job openings for marketing data analysts, especially app marketing data analysts. We see it in the big increase in time that our clients are spending doing analysis. And in how many more in-app event types they are trying to measure. Average time spent in our platform by a user has increased by about 42 percent in the past year. This despite a variety of improvements that have actually made it easier and faster to use. Another measure of greater user involvement is that our clients are, on average measuring 30% more different types of in-app actions. This speaks to a deeper commitment to understanding the specifics of what actions users are taking in apps.

remarketing infographic2

In toto, we are seeing a sea change in how users are thinking about this industry – from one centered on a particular action to one where the whole customer is the focus.

The Remarketing Opportunity for Mobile App Marketers
Remarketing is growing because of a convergence of factors that have created a “perfect storm.”

First, the dynamics of the app industry are such that the profitability of app businesses can be significantly enhanced if users can be persuaded to take more in-app actions. We all know that large numbers of installers fail to become regular app users. A big part of the reason for this is the massive number of available apps. Here are a few use cases to underscore the overall observation here.

  1. Many one-time app users never launch again.
  2. Others may use an app multiple times but fail to make a purchase.
  3. One time buyers may, for a variety of reasons, never make another purchase.

Often, the reasons for lack of deeper or more enduring engagement relate specifically to failure to stay top of mind. People forget apps, or may exit an app with the intention of returning but forget to. Or they may need a little incentive to pull the trigger on a purchase. Whatever the reason, mobile banner advertising and other forms of mobile display retargeting have been demonstrated to be an effective reminder and motivator. In short, in-app advertising really works well.

More advertising options also contribute to the perfect storm. Need ad formats and venues are a factor, as is the ability to define targeting parameters for more segmented and customized marketing.

Increased app marketing spend is also a factor. Brands have more resources to invest in tactics other than US – specifically mobile ad retargeting.

The ability to measure is also a factor here. Apsalar was one of the first movers in true re-engagement tracking that could specifically associate a user action to the media that drove it. Our approaches have now been adopted broadly. In addition, Apsalar launched an advanced mobile app retargeting and remarketing audiences product in 2015, Apsalar Audiences. We worked to develop and launch Apsalar Audiences quickly because clients were looking for ways to easily segment users and deliver dynamic retargeting messages to users.

Apsalar Audiences enables you to create high-performing audiences and deliver customized creative to them through your choice of media partners. You can analyze your audience OR actually deliver and audience of device advertising IDs to whichever retargeter you prefer. For example, identifying all the people who had registered, or put an item in a shopping cart.

All of these factors have contributed to rapid growth for remarketing. Across our clients we are seeing very fast growth, and remarketing’s share of total paid events has grown 300% in 3 quarters.

A Framework for Strategic Remarketing Planning and Execution
Let’s take a minute to talk about their retargeting objectives. What are they trying to DO with their retargeting? What is the business issue they are trying to solve? Well, to answer that, we divided user behavior into five buckets.

Think of users as falling into one of five states.

5 Stages of App User Engagement

  1. Going from left to right, we start with purchasers or payers. These are people that have transacted in the app.
  2. Next over is users, people who engage with the app on some sort of ongoing basis but don’t buy.
  3. Group three is lapsed users, who engaged with the app several times in the past, but haven’t used it in N number of days.
  4. Group four is triers, people in the early stages of their brand relationship that have launched at least once.
  5. And finally, there are uninstallers, people who have tried and then uninstalled.

The edges on these broad mobile app user archetypes are blurry, but you get the basic idea, and using this model will help us with the following.

If we translate those 5 sets of user behaviors to a buying funnel, we get the following:

buying funnel

Further, at different stages of the buying funnel, there are different use cases – different ones are appropriate for different stages of user engagement. To determine the stages that are most appropriate for your business, you need to look at the business and engagement metrics for your brand.

The following grid outlines six of the most common strategic use cases for app marketers. Use this as a foundation to create the custom strategy suited to the specific needs of your business.

Opportunity Symptom Remarketing Strategy
1) Need for greater trial, more new users Need more users App cross marketing. (if you have another app). Target existing users of your other app
2) Convert one-time or occasional users to regular users. Lots of one-time users or low user retention rate Create a segment of one-time or non-retained users that have not uninstalled. Target these users with ads designed to get them to relaunch
3) Holding onto more of your triers and users High uninstall rates Create an audience of uninstallers and message product improvements or other reasons to return to the app. Or create an audience of uninstallers for a market research partner
4) Drive more engagements from regular users Want to get more regular users to use the app more often. For example, to increase ad views Create a segment of retained users. Target these users with ads designed to get them to incrementally relaunch the app
5) Convert more users into buyers Not enough users are transacting or high cart abandon rates Create a segment of retained users. Target these users with ads designed to get them to incrementally relaunch the app. Or create a segment of cart abandoners and remind them to finish transacting
6) Drive more purchases from one-time or infrequent buyers Low LTV or low purchase frequency or need to drive incremental revenue Create a segment of one-time or infrequent buyers and advertise to them with customized messaging.

Use Cases for Mobiel App Retargeting

All of these tactics involve segmenting users and delivering customized messages. We are also seeing interest in companies trying to improve their lookalike modeling by profiling high value users – like registered users and payers, for those models. It’s early days for this, but intuitively it seems like a great way to use data to improve UA in addition to retention.

Companies with big mobile app user install bases are most likely to be “early movers” on mobile app retargeting. After all, such app publishers have the most potential revenue to gain. Further, when you have a big install base, your media partner can actually find lots of your users when they are connected, so you can get program scale.


From a category perspective, gaming, retail and travel are the verticals showing the most interest. And when a company has big ticket items for sale, or items with really big profit margins, like IAPs, then retargeting is much easier to pay out.

Mobile app retargeting and remarketing can be important boons for most app businesses. The key to success is to measure the potential business impact of the various remarketing objectives available, so that you can choose that tactics that best reflect the most promising business opportunities for your brand.

Like any marketing plan, your retargeting plan is best served by providing a robust strategic foundation. We hope that this post helps provide a core framework on which you can built your strategic program.


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