Let’s say, you came across a real-world pain point that you felt compelled to address.  You researched and identified that developing and publishing an app is the way to solve the problem for a clearly-defined target user.   You read blogs, did some market research, talked to a bunch of potential users, and figured out a strategy to build an app that the users would make a difference in the lives of your users.

You built an app and showed it to the users you talked to and they loved it.

You published the app but you were met with the proverbial sound of crickets – No downloads!

The days of – if you publish an app, they will come – are long over.

Both the Google Play and Apple app stores have well over 2 million apps each and the app market is hyper competitive and has matured considerably.  There are a fewer bad apps.  The fads, clones and reskinned apps are disappearing.  Apple is even removing apps that have not been updated for a while and all 32 bit apps won’t work in future versions of iOS.

The difference between poor and good apps continues to diminish, while the divide between good and great apps grows.

App Marketing Lifecycle

Developers must have a user acquisition strategy, and market to acquire new users.  Marketing, however does not stop after acquiring users.  A fourth of users never launch an app for a second time.  App marketers must market to existing users in an effort to keep bringing them back to the app and to retain them.

When your downloads convert to active users, Marketers must keep users engaged with personalized content and updates. We refer to this as Engagement Marketing.

Dormant users who have not used an app but have not uninstalled the app should be resurrected, with personalized calls to action.   We refer to this as Resurrection Marketing.

Users who have or may have uninstalled the app, or stop using an app for extended period may need to be re-acquired when new capabilities or enhancements are added. We refer the act of reacquiring users as Reacquisition Marketing.

Personalization Strategies

Personalization is not merely replacing {first-name} with “John” in a message.  Personalization includes personalized messages but is a lot more than just that.  It is individualization at scale.  It is the ability to offer a tailored experience to ever user at mobile and web app scale.  Marketers can personalize user interfaces, content feeds, user experiences, all communication messages, feature and product promotions, and In-App purchase promotions, uniquely to each user based on their behavior, usage, preferences and social graph.  Marketers rely on intelligence to be able to personalize content, interactions, engagement and experiences.

Let’s take a look at Acquisition marketing versus Retention, Engagement, Resurrection and Reactivation Marketing.

Acquisition Marketing

Acquiring new users for your app or service is a hard problem.  Finding the “right users” is harder.  Acquisition Marketing entails creating awareness of your product to the right markets, identifying the right users, making it easy for them to try the product and most importantly onboarding the users with a personalized experience so they become repeat users.

There are a number of channels and venues that are available to an app marketer for creating awareness of your product and to advertise to the right audience.

Organic Search

Optimizing for higher visibility of your product’s web page and app store description page in search engine results pages, for Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and Yahoo. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is applicable to both mobile and web apps.  Writing blogs and articles helps you create awareness for your product or company and develops authority in the industry.  It can help educate the market and indirectly helps your product.  Blogs and articles help the entire industry.  For a wider reach, you can write on Medium, DZone or Quora.  You can always publish your content first on your own site and repost on Medium after 24-48 hours for the additional distribution benefits provided by each.

Paid Search Engine Advertising

Promoting your product via Search Engines by paying for visibility in the search engine results pages.  Search Engine Marketing (SEM) traditionally refers to paying for placement in the results.  Search Ads use the same meta data app publishers use for describing the app to display ads.  The thing to keep in mind is that app stores are more and more relying on usage and engagement metrics for discovery and these are also key factors in Search Ads.  In other words, if your app is engaging for your existing users, your app will be more discoverable to new users.

App Store Optimization (ASO)

Optimizing your content on app stores vastly improves discoverability of your app and helps apps more discoverable to the right users.  See White-Hat and Black Hat App Store Optimization techniques.


Getting media coverage about your product as opposed to you paying for an advertisement. For instance, VentureBeat writing about your product is much more value than placing a paid advertisement on VentureBeat that appears next to an article. Public Relations companies help you reach media willing to tell your story.  You hire a PR agency to connect you with media who are looking to write about products like yours.

Social Channels

Sharing on social channels creates awareness of your product.  Advertising on social media helps you reach audiences that are on social media based on interests and likes.


Advertising on web sites, on TV, via telephone and print may be relevant options for your app. Building a list of potential users and sending them content and promotions via emails, or SMS in some countries are also options.  Creating awareness via contests, campaigns and affiliations and sponsorships are also available as options to bypass blocked ads.  If you already have an app with many users, you can advertise directly to your user base about a new app or product.

A|B testing

Finally, showing A|B tested content works best when you do not know enough about your users, as in the case with acquisition marketing.

Retention Marketing

As foresaid, we know simply acquiring users is never enough.  Only 75% of users launch an app for a second time or visit your site a second time.  First experiences clearly matter and unfortunately even the best A|B tested on-boarding experience does not work for every user.  App marketers must market to existing users in an effort to retain them and keep bringing them back to the app or service.

Ensuring users keep coming back to your mobile or web app is retention marketing.  Depending on your app or service, and what permissions you have from your users, various channels are available to reach to your users.  Further, different channels are effective for different users for bringing them back to the app or service.


Push notifications – If you have enabled Push, you can reach out to users with status updates, actionable content, marketing services via Apple Notification Services, Firebase cloud messaging and Web Push Notifications

SMS, MMS – If you collect and have permissions to reach a user using their phone number you can send simple and multimedia notifications to your users

Social Media – You can post direct messages to users if you have permissions, with status updates and opt-in content.

Transactional email – Email continues to be an effective way to reach users for promotions and updates to users who have opted in.

A|B testing vs Personalization

An exceptional A|B tested message favored by 80% still has 20% users who favored another multi-variate test.  Since you have already acquired the users you know a thing or two about the users, like device technographics, demographics, usage behavior, geography etc.  Use the data you have about your users to your advantage by personalizing every interaction with your users.

Engagement Marketing

When users come back and use your mobile or web app, Marketers must engage them directly with unique individualized experiences, personalized content and relevant updates.

Engagement marketing is interacting with users at a personal level, based on both what you already know about them and their behavior within an app or website. Engagement marketing is continuous and happens throughout the usage of an app or service.  Engagement marketing both adds value for each user and attempts to influence actions to achieve desired outcomes.


Local Notifications – Local notifications to users that are informative and of value to an individual user and are not pushed by the server. “You have items worth $47 in your cart. Orders over $50 ship for free!”

In-App Messages – In app messages are sent by marketers to individual users based on criteria.  “John, here is 20% off coupon for items in your cart.”

Personalized Feed Content – Similar to in-app messages, personalized content can be shown in the feed in your product.

Again, marketers should use the data they have about users to personalize every engagement and experience.

Resurrection Marketing

Users who have stopped using your app but have not uninstalled the app for a specific period of time may be invited back with personalized messages.

Channels for Resurrection Marketing include: SMS, MMS, email, push notifications, Web notifications and direct messages on social media, depending on what users have opted in for.


Reacquisition Marketing

Users who have or may have uninstalled the app, or stop using an app for extended period may need to be re-acquired when new features or enhancements are available.  We refer the act of reacquiring users as Reacquisition Marketing.

Channels that work best for reacquisition marketing are the same as acquisition marketing but can be personalized based on what you know about the user.  Push notifications, SMS, MMS, email, social media etc. work equally well but you have to capture this information for users to be able to use it later.

Reacquisition marketing vs. acquisition marketing

Since you had acquired the users you may know a thing or two about the users, like device technographics, usage behavior, opinions, values, lifestyle, geography etc.  You may also know prior purchase history, preferences and past searches.  Use the data to personalize interactions with your users you are trying to reactivate.


In Conclusion, the Marketing Strategy depends on the stage of the user with your app.  Marketing to users before they are acquired differs from marketing to them after they become users.  The personalization strategy, is depends on what you know about the user.  App users are most receptive when they see relevant promotions and interactions.

Marketers should personalize every customer experience, interaction and communication.  For instance, showing relevant items in a feed; showing simpler UI to novice or new users and switching to a suitable UI for expert app users; and using purchase history for making promotions relevant.  We are seeing wider use of personalization techniques in retention, engagement, resurrection and reactivation marketing.  Further, any messaging or interaction that is individualized has magnitude better chance of success.


Posted by Dickey Singh

Dickey Singh is the CEO and co-founder at Pyze and has over two decades of experience in mobile, Big Data and SaaS. He started Pyze to help app publishers engage, retain and grow their mobile users using automation. https://twitter.com/DickeySingh Get Pyze: https://pyze.com

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