Deep dive into UA: from acquisition to optimization

August 18, 2020

Tags: Industry Perspectives, Marketers, Publishers

So, you feel confident you understand user acquisition (UA) basics, but want to improve your expertise? MoPub is here to walk you through: 

  • Key campaign and conversion metrics

  • A deeper dive on campaign optimization 

  • How and when user acquisition managers are involved in the journey of app growth by looking at the full game life cycle

  • Understanding UA strategy based on each stage of a programmatic campaign 

Key terms and conversion metrics

First, let’s refresh our memories on key campaign metrics. In the past, we’ve discussed CPI (cost per install), CPM (cost per one thousand impressions), CPE (cost per engagement), CPA (cost per action), ARPDAU (average revenue per daily active user), ARPU (average revenue per user), ARPPU (average revenue per paying user), ROAS (return on ad spend) and LTV (lifetime value.) These will remain important to understand, but for today’s deep dive, we’re going to look more closely at campaign and conversion metrics that can further impact a UA manager’s programmatic budget, including: 

RR: Retention rate 

Your retention rate will tell you the percentage of users who continue to use your app after installing it. It’s calculated by dividing daily active users (DAU) by the total number of app installs. This metric is important for understanding how well the app performs over time, per each user. Retention rate is one of the most important KPIs game studios use.

IPM: Install rate per one thousand impressions

Install rate per one thousand impressions is a metric that helps paint a clearer picture of the full user journey on the path to installs. IPM is calculated by taking the total number of installs and dividing that by one thousand impressions. This metric includes the conversion from an impression of a creative to a click, followed by store visit to an install, so it shows  the overall conversion rate of the full marketing funnel. 

IR: Install rate  

Similar to IPM, the install rate refers to the rate of installs from impressions (e.g. If IR is 5%, it means 5 installs are generated out of 100 impressions). By nature, this metric is closely linked to CPI (cost per install.) 

PU CR: Paying user conversion rate 

The paying user conversion rate (PU CR) is calculated by dividing the number of users that have converted to paying users by the number of total users you’ve acquired. 

CTR: Click-through rate

CTR is another way of denoting “clickthrough rate.” In our industry, clickthrough rate refers to the number of clicks your ad gets divided by the number of times your ad is shown. This metric can be helpful for UA managers looking to determine how well their ads are performing. For example, if you understand that certain phrases, words, or creatives receive a higher clickthrough rate, then you can understand how to optimize those elements of your campaign. 

The game life cycle: what do UA managers need to do in each stage?

An important part of a UA manager’s role is to evaluate and understand the game life cycle in order to determine how and when to acquire and ultimately retain more users. The typical stages of a game’s life cycle are as follows:


During the beta phase, UA managers focus on setting up a foundation for the campaign. That might include selecting and integrating mobile measurement partner (MMP) SDKs, designing app events that can be utilized in targeting for campaigns in the later stages, and using store A/B tests to try and iterate on various concepts. Things you may want to consider having in place for your game by the end of the beta phase include: a winning concept, technical stability, MMP integrations, and well-designed app events.

Soft launch

During the soft launch stage of the game life cycle, user acquisition managers focus on testing. That could include launching campaigns in 2-3 countries, testing major channels, setting up multiple creative tests (depending on the channel), testing audience targeting, and setting up ongoing app store optimization (ASO) tests (including keyword optimization). By the end of the soft launch phase, your game should have: major UA channels, top performing creatives, a seed audience and top performing targeting options, and game metrics above KPIs. However, if a game doesn’t meet the KPIs, it can be updated multiple times to improve the performance; if not, the project can be killed anytime during this stage if you determine it’s not worth further investment of resources.

Global launch

During the global launch phase, user acquisition managers focus on scaling campaigns and optimization, which may include launching campaigns in core markets and the rest of the world, expanding UA channels, campaign optimization and iteration, and frequent creative updates (such as a weekly creative refresh). By the end of the global launch phase, your game should have: a geographically diverse user base and visibility in the market, audience segmentations, multiple campaigns with KPIs met, and a clear idea of user lifetime value (LTV) and the breakeven point. 


In the final phase of the game life cycle, sustainment, user acquisition managers focus on monetization maximization and user retention. The goals of this phase include re-engagement, re-targeting, and promotional seasonal campaigns. The objective here is to prevent user churn and re-engage lapsed players, as well as to convert non-paying players to paying users. One way to help remind your players of your game is to launch brand campaigns, which can also extend reach to the audience that you wouldn't normally be able to via performance marketing. Once you’ve achieved this final stage of sustainment, your game should have: stable daily active users (DAU), its highest average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU), and user lifetime value (LTV), seasonal events and promotions in your campaign cycle, and room to look into new business models, such as in-app advertising (IAA).


Mobile marketers looking to sharpen their user acquisition skills can continue to build their expertise by putting these insights into practice. First, make sure you’re up to speed on user acquisition 101. From there, use this guide as a reference to better understand the stages of the game lifecycle and the key conversion metrics that matter most at each stage. Still have questions about the programmatic landscape, how to evaluate partners, and practical tips on activating and optimizing campaigns? Be sure to check out insights from MoPub’s Programmatic Academy series for mobile marketers, or get in touch with us today to learn how our Marketer Program can help maximize your programmatic investment. 


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