Understanding the conversion funnel for mobile user acquisition campaigns

How to deliver the correct ad messages to the right audience.

If you're promoting a mobile app, it's important to understand the funnel model, most mobile growth experts are taking advantage of this model to escalate their user acquisition campaigns.

With so much information out there, it can be tough to know how to correctly use this model to optimize your campaigns. So the idea behind this article is to explain to you specific parts of each funnel stage and how each stage is related to the audience segmentation, so you can deliver the correct ad message to the right audience and bring the most out of each campaign. 

The conversion funnel is a marketing model that illustrates the customer's journey from first contact to a meaningful conversion for your business. This model shows the number of potential customers at each stage of the user acquisition process so that you can measure the percentage of those who move on to the next stage. The funnel illustrates the drop-off rate between each stage for you to identify at which stage the users are not continuing with the intended customer’s journey. 

When you have a user acquisition campaign, you can benefit from these models and to take advantage of different stages of the funnel to improve your target audience strategy. 


UA conversion funnel

To understand how the conversion funnel works, let’s start with the classic structure of the funnel: 

  1. Awareness: people learn about a new app and what it does and might begin to see ads and, if they are interested, will want to learn more about the features and benefits.
  2. Consideration: people decide if they want to download the app or not by evaluating key factors, such as its main use of it or how it will help them to achieve a goal.
  3. Conversion: users take the desired action like downloading the app or closing the deal. 

Don't show the same message to everyone:

Is important to get to know these steps, because at every stage the audience has a different knowledge about your app, and it's relevant to communicate with them aligned with that. When you start a user acquisition campaign for a mobile app, you need to focus on identifying the right earache stage of the audience. Here is the part when it all starts to make sense.

Audience Funnel Phase Main Goal Ad Message
Don’t know your app Branding Attract attention Emotions (Soft CTA)
Saw your brand or app on an ad or content Prospecting To convince App specifics or benefits (Strong CTA)
Very knowledgeable about your app but haven't generated a conversion Retargeting Close the deal Conversion triggers (Promotions)

Awareness = Branding

For User Acquisition campaigns, it is important to feed your upper funnel with new audiences, meaning that you are constantly adding new leads to your funnel process and working to convert them into new users. Otherwise, you'll quickly find your campaign shrinking and your conversions dropping. 

From a targeting perspective, this is the perfect opportunity to test and experiment audiences with interests, demographics, or behaviours that might not be the ones that you usually use as your general target audience. 

You can use this phase as an environment for experimentation by using a cost per impression to reach as many users as possible within your budget and analyse which ones are engaging the most with your ads and create new segments for further funnel phases.

The upper funnel is made up of people who don't know about the app, so the target audience should be able to easily identify your branding and understand what it stands for. For that, be sure to use consistent visuals, slogans, and key messages across all of your marketing materials. And keep in mind that the use of emotional messages and a soft call to action (CTA) like “learn more” or “watch more” is the best approach in this phase.

Awareness Example

Consideration = Prospecting 

The middle funnel is all about identifying potential customers in the market for what your mobile app has to offer, but they may not be ready to download it yet. So there are a few ways to identify potential customers, by including three essential audience groups: broad audiences, lookalike audiences, and audiences that include specific interests or behaviours that we have already validated in the previous upper funnel stage. 

The main goal of prospecting is to convince that audience that your mobile app is a good fit for their needs, highlighting that your mobile app is reliable, easy to use, and a perfect fit for the user. You can do this by showing all the mobile app benefits and including a strong call to action (CTA) like “download” and “install now” or “use the app”, “subscribe” and “sign up” for encouraging the user to take the next step.

Consideration Example

Conversion = Retargeting 

The bottom funnel is all about retargeting: the process of targeting people who have already interacted with your previous campaigns in some way, with the goal of helping you close the deal with potential users. The idea is to show these users ads that remind them of what they were interested in and give them a closing reason for them to make the desired conversion. 

For instance, if in the prospecting phase you have identified that there is a percentage of users that click on the CTA button, but haven’t downloaded the app, it could mean that there is a group of potential users that are pretty much interested in your app, yet for some reason didn’t complete the desired action. 

This type of audience is really valuable because they are at the final stage of deciding on a conversion action and you have a 7 to 14 days window to convince them before they completely forget about you. The right approach for this type of situation is to close the deal with a retargeting campaign that shows them ads that include conversion triggers

If you are thinking about which conversion trigger should be used, I must say that there is no one-size-fits-all answer for that, as this will vary depending on the app and the industry it’s in. However, some general mobile app conversion triggers that could be used as a guide include:

  • Offer a discount code or coupon 
  • Mention if you have a free trial 
  • Promote a contest or sweepstakes 
  • Highlight the new features or if you had an update 
  • Use urgency like a time-limited sale 
  • Showing the redesign of the app 

Conversion Example

Is worth mentioning that, for this stage of the funnel, the idea is not having volume, this audience is usually the smallest of the funnel, which can mean a higher cost to reach them. But since the value of these users is so high, the cost per acquisition is frequently really low as they are more prone to conversion. 

How much should you be spending on each funnel stage? 

This will vary depending on your business, its goals, and the industry you are in. However, a good rule of thumb is to allocate around 20% of your total budget for branding actions (top of the funnel), 50% to prospecting those users within your target (middle of the funnel), and 30% for retargeting those users that had already interacted with your campaigns (bottom of the funnel). 

Since the prospecting stage has 3 different audiences, here is what we call the optimal targeting strategy for prospecting and some key things to keep in mind that will help you to be as effective as possible.

optimal targeting strategy for prospecting

For this strategy, we have two main steps. The first step (A) is an initial budget strategy of having a broader audience and is recommended to have around 60% of the budget to the broad audience for you to have lower costs and set some time for the look-alike audience to form. That is why we only set 10% of the budget to this audience and by the time you have a look-alike audience of 1% or 3% that is ready, you should invert the proportion of the budget between the broad audience and the look-alike. 

The goal of the second step (B) is to take advantage of a look-alike audience that helps find a group of people that share similar characteristics to users that have made a conversion. That is why we set 60% of the budget to these lookalike audiences and only 10% for the board ones. 

The only audience that will keep the same percentage of the budget within the two steps is the one that includes interests or behaviors since this audience is validated with the business marketing insights that might take other things into account that the ads platforms won’t. That’s the reason why we allocate a consistent 30% for this audience. 

To summarise:

I know that we cover a lot of different topics in this article, and some of these things may be new to you, so don't worry if they don't make sense right away: you'll be able to analyse your campaign results and make improvements over time. 

But the general idea is for you to have a starting point for designing user acquisition campaigns and know that the conversion funnel is a useful way to understand the different stages that users go through when they are considering downloading an app. Understanding these different steps can help mobile app marketers design better user acquisition campaigns that generate more conversions.

Just keep in mind that customisation of an ad message is key for you to take advantage of a digital marketing campaign and helps you not to fall into a massive marketing message that is part of a more traditional advertising approach. 

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