iOS User Acquisition and Retargeting in The Privacy-First Era

The tightening privacy regulations combined with global economic uncertainty and high-competitive business landscape are forcing app marketers to revisit their user acquisition strategies, upgrade ad tech stack, and rethink business processes for 2023. We gathered forward-thinking industry leaders and practitioners for an App Growth Point and asked them to share cost-effective strategies and practical insights for iOS UA and retargeting in the privacy-first era. Watch a recording of the live webinar and read on to get a slide deck. 


Hilit Mioduser-Ames, SVP of Growth at YouAppi. Hilit is a global growth strategist and a retargeting DSP expert, with a laser focus on performance. At YouAppi, she brings her 15+ years of experience in leadership, sales, and client services to lead global brands to ultimate success. She uses her expertise to drive revenue by developing new strategies in order to grow, retain, and scale businesses through highly engaging personalized mobile experiences.

Hanna Kachalka, Head of Sales at SplitMetrics. Hanna is a revenue leader, seasoned sales professional, and Apple Search Ads automation expert with 9+ years of experience in the SaaS industry. At SplitMetrics, she helps top world app publishers and developers grow and scale their businesses through intelligent automation and full-funnel analytics.

Host: David Martin, VP of Sales at SplitMetrics. David is a people-focused leader with a proven record of success in building multi-million-dollar revenue teams for high growth tech companies. He has profound experience in sales, engineering, and fitness. At SplitMetrics, he helps leading mobile app publishers scale their businesses with SplitMetrics’ intelligent software solutions.

Topics we covered 

  • The state of iOS UA 2023: top-performing channels, key trends and challenges;
  • Apple Search Ads as one of the fastest growing ad networks for iOS: recent App Store ecosystem updates, key trends, campaign performance benchmarks, and case studies of SplitMetrics’ customers that are successfully scaling their businesses using this channel;
  • AI-powered software solutions for iOS UA: approaches to building a perfect ad tech stack, intelligent tools to boost productivity and revenue, and how SplitMetrics Acquire helps app marketers seamlessly manage and scale Apple Search Ads campaigns;
  • iOS retargeting framework: key ATT prompts opt-in flows, data signals collection process, and infrastructure behind top-performing campaigns;
  • Audience segmentation and effective targeting approaches to boosting reach and conversions on iOS; 
  • Ways YouAppi helps mobile app developers and publishers activate all user segments through high-ROAS retargeting campaigns on iOS. 

You asked we answer

Question: How to improve Google Ads for iOS non-gaming apps? My MMP cannot measure in-app revenue events correctly. 

Answer: Considering privacy regulations are tightening every year and this is hardly to be changed in the foreseeable future, we see more and more MMP vendors are releasing media mix modeling capabilities. The main goal of this measurement approach is to help app marketers understand the incremental performance of each marketing channel so they can allocate budget between them. This is how marketers were measuring their campaigns before the digital era. To learn more about this approach, read the following articles by AppsFlyer, Singular and get a template for MMM in Google Spreadsheets from Growth FullStack

Question: Are there any platforms where we can find lookalike audiences?

Answer: There are a wide variety of ad networks that offer lookalike audience targeting services for iOS app retargeting campaigns. We recommend checking ROI Performance Index reports by AppsFlyer and Singular to choose the right one for your business and market you operate on. 

Question: Do custom product pages benefit Apple Search Ads only or organic traffic as well?

Answer: Yes, custom product pages can help boost organic reach and app search rankings. The effect might not be an obvious one since the functionality was originally developed to help app marketers align user acquisition journeys via Apple Search Ads – from ad creative to messages and visual assets on the product page. When users search for keywords related to your app, the App Store algorithm considers factors such as the relevance and engagement of your app. By creating a custom product page that is optimized for specific keywords, you can improve these two contributing factors. Eventually this boosts app’s search rankings and leads to more organic traffic, downloads, and improved visibility. 

Question: Do you have any stats about the change in user opinion on how they perceive the ATT consent?

Answer: According to Statista, as of March 2022, the overall ATT opt-in rate by App Store users worldwide was 46%. This is far higher than experts initially predicted. For certain app categories, the opt-in rate is even higher. For example, for finance and utilities apps, 53% of users consent to sharing their IDFA on average. Read more about it in YouAppi’s blog post

Question: How much budget should be dedicated to retargeting vs. UA?

Answer: As a rule of thumb, most mobile UA experts recommend allocating about 20-30% of the overall marketing budget to retargeting campaigns, while the remaining 70-80% can be allocated to user acquisition campaigns. At the same time, more and more practitioners are talking about increasing investments in retargeting campaigns in 2023. The main reason is quite simple: reengaging a user costs a lot less than acquiring a new one. Studies show that app remarketing is at least 5X more cost-effective than UA. Read more about mastering app remarketing during times of a recession here

Question: What is the smallest group of users I can have to have a successful retargeting campaign?

Answer: The smallest group of users that you can retarget effectively will depend on several factors, such as ad network, app category, target audience, and the retargeting strategy you plan to use. Generally speaking, the more users you have in your retargeting audience, the more opportunities you have to reach and engage them and hence the better performance. For example, if you are using a social media ad network such as Facebook or Instagram, you may be able to effectively retarget a smaller group of users, since there is no minimum audience size for retargeting. 

Question: Can you share any success stories on running Apple Search Ads for pre-order apps?

Answer: Apple Search Ads is a great channel to grow your app. It suits developers of all sizes and can help them grow apps at every stage of their lifecycle. Since mobile app development is an expensive venture, having a loud release might help to ensure its success from day one. Read a case study of Livintis, a prominent mobile app developer in the photo and video category, and learn how SplitMetrics Agency experts were able to boost installs on the new app’s release day using pre-order campaigns.

Question: Do you recommend running Apple Search Ads for brand keywords?

Answer: Running Apple Search Ads for brand keywords can be a cost-effective way to increase visibility, protect your brand, and drive more app installs. There are debates around traffic cannibalization that occur when you already rank high in organic search results for a specific keyword and the volume of organic traffic decreases after you’ve started running a paid search campaign. To learn approaches to calculating incrementality and organic cannibalization, read this article

Question: What campaign structure do you recommend for testing Apple Search Ads with custom product pages?

Answer: Basically, there are two approaches you can use to test your custom product pages. You can create one campaign containing one ad group and run several ad variations based on different custom product pages. In this scenario, you should run one ad variation at a time, for example for a week, and after that swap it to another one. Important note, the testing period for each ad variation should be the same. Another approach to structuring the campaigns is to create separate campaigns for each ad variation and launch them simultaneously. In this case, keywords, bids and daily budgets for each campaign should be the same, and there is no guarantee the ad delivery will be even across campaigns. Download the Custom Product Pages Playbook by SplitMetrics here. 

Question: My TTR is below industry benchmarks. Any recommendations?

Answer: There are a range of factors that can affect the TTR of your Apple Search Ads campaigns – from messy account structure to ad copies and app’s product page performance metrics. Get the Apple Search Ads Performance Checklist to conduct a thorough account audit and detect and fix all abnormalities. The standard range of actions includes optimizing ad copies and visuals, adjusting targeting settings such as excluding low-performance keywords, Utilize smart bidding strategies, etc. On top of that, consider exploiting custom product page functionality to personalize your user acquisition flows: one size doesn’t fit all and aligning your ads with product page content can significantly increase conversion rates and, hence, ad relevance. Benchmark your campaign results against the competition with Apple Search Ads Search Results Benchmarks Report by SplitMetrics. 

Question: My company has several games, and we try to bring users back into our games through our other titles. Does retargeting interfere with my cross-promotion?

Answer: If not managed carefully, retargeting could potentially interfere with your cross-promotion efforts. Retargeting involves serving ads to users who have already interacted with your games or visited your website. This can be a powerful way to remind users about your games and encourage them to return. However, if your retargeting ads are promoting a specific game within your portfolio, this could potentially interfere with your cross-promotion efforts for other games. To avoid interference between retargeting and cross-promotion, you may want to consider segmenting your audience and tailoring your messaging accordingly. Smart software solutions like YouAppi can help you carefully plan and execute your retargeting campaigns to ensure that they work properly with cross-promotion campaigns and achieve your goals without interfering with each other.

Sources we used

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Lidiia Mylenka
Lidiia Mylenka
Marketing and Channel Leader
Lidiia is Marketing and Channel Leader at SplitMetrics. She is a digital marketer with 6+ years of experience building paid and organic marketing funnels for SaaS companies.
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