April 24, 2024

How to Pair Apple Search Ads and In-App Engagement to Maximize your User LTV?

Pair up Apple Search Ads and in-app engagement goals to achieve high LTV iOS user acquisition for incremental app growth.

Karnika Roy

An estimated 85% of the global population owns a smartphone creating an avenue for app marketers to reach their prospective users directly on their devices. As competition in the app ecosystem continues to intensify, a renewed focus on maximizing the user’s LTV has been on top of the industry’s mind.

That’s where mobile marketing comes into play to balance scale and LTV. And one of the strategies, marketers are rapidly adopting to achieve this goal is pairing up Apple Search Ads and in-app engagement. 

Why does Apple Search Ads feature as a strategic mobile marketing platform?

Apple Search Ads is an app advertising platform that helps to target iOS users, right when they are about to start their app download journey in the App Store. With the release of App Tracking Transparency (ATT), iPhone and iPad users can now choose to opt out of data tracking by third-party apps. During its release, the ATT had caused quite the turmoil among marketers who feared losing out on premium iOS users.

With 650 million weekly visitors, the App Store is a lucrative platform to host your apps for maximum exposure. With Apple Search Ads, app marketers have recorded over 60% conversion rate on paid ads. The platform uses the principle of search engine marketing, wherein iOS app marketers target popular search queries within the App Store, to discover, target, and convert their audience segments. 

At the onset, the Apple Search Ads platform looks like it caters to only top-funnel campaign goals. However, with the right integrations, Apple Search Ads and in-app engagement can together form a symbiotic pairing to overall improve mobile marketing efficiency. 

Role of in-app engagement in enhancing user’s Lifetime Value (LTV)

The minimum average in-app session duration is just about 5 minutes for simple productivity and utility apps, but for gaming, entertainment, shopping, or social media categories of apps, the average session duration can range from anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour. 

To make that experience better, in-app engagement becomes an important factor for all app marketers to consider. Here are a few popular in-app engagement strategies that category leaders utilize to delight their users when they are busy on the app. 

Interactive interface, gamification

Ease of use; discoverability of commonly used features;  response time to clicks, taps, swipes; gamification of the in-app user journey; vibrant colors, and images are a few things that immediately attract the user to spend more time on the app.

An interesting example of this would be the Food & Dine app, Swiggy - the app has a vibrant color palette with interesting caricatures and easy to navigate card style menu - there are interactive animation elements for live updates that are often customized in line with popular current affairs like the Cricket World Cup or any viral social media trend.

The app also offers gamified coupon redemptions during peak seasons like festivals, cricket season, etc, to amplify engagement and purchases.   

Personalized content

Apps are a gateway to the vast library of content online. If users don’t find what they want fast enough, they will simply uninstall and contribute to app churn.

Understanding the user’s inclinations and creating personalized content, makes it that much more enticing for the user to keep engaging and re-engaging. Social media app, Instagram does this quite nicely, wherein it understands the categories of content a particular user likes and refers them to similar reels that provide more valuable information on topics of their choice. 

Splash cards on opening the app

Splash cards are a great way to renew your user’s interest in the app offerings. There are multiple objectives of splash cards - they can be utilized for special announcements, new launches, offers, or coupons that your user might be interested in.

For example, a fitness app can utilize a splash card when the user opens the app, with a message like - 'You have earned the Cardio Tornado badge for your 7-day HIIT streak'. This keeps the user motivated toward their goals and also keeps bringing them back to the app.   

Strategies to synergize Apple Search Ads and in-app engagement

Let’s clarify the platform limitations at the very beginning - there’s no way to track post-install activities on the Apple Search Ads platform as such. However, with the help of analytics and mobile measurement partners (MMPs), platforms like Newton, have been able to bring the pre-install and post-install journey together to give a complete picture of the complete user acquisition, engagement, and retention synergy. 

Focus on user intent with Apple Search Ads multiple ad placements

The level of in-app engagement is directly related to the funnel stage at which the brand interacts with the user for the first time. If we look at it from the App Store perspective, there are three stages at which the brand gets an opportunity to interact with the user.

Stage 1: Awareness or discovery

Today Tab ads on the App Store's first page showcase app details, such as icon, title, subtitle, and Custom Product Page assets. Ideal for announcements, launches, or event updates, this placement aims to attract new and returning users and generate category interest. It leverages user search and download history. After conversions, brands should guide users to the app's key feature for enhanced in-app engagement.

Stage 2: Desire

Search Tab ads target educated users aware of the vertical with specific expectations. Similar to Today Tab ads, this placement relies on search and download history to secure in-app engagement. It's ideal for retargeting new and returning users. Apple Search Ads offer a curated list of apps, nudging users to choose a specific one. Post-conversion, it's crucial to showcase the app's variety and convince users it matches market standards.

Stage 3: Interest

The Search Results Page ad is crucial for converting users on the fence, featuring a preview of the Custom Product Page. It's the most impactful ad placement in Apple Search Ads, targeting audiences seeking specific items like holiday deals on gaming laptops, last-minute party ideas, sustainable fashion for plus-sized individuals, etc. To maximize in-app engagement, conversions from these ads should meet users' key requirements promptly, as this segment prefers a direct approach over navigating through in-app content.

Apple Search Ads and In-App Engagement

App Store CPP or Custom Product Pages to bridge the expectation-reality gap

The user did not find what they were looking for - the primary reason to not engage with an app and eventually uninstall it. In most cases, this reason can be eliminated by reducing the gap between expectation and reality.

Custom Product Pages or CPPs provide a streamlined media space within the App Store to talk a little more about the ad in detail. CPP assets are taken from the app preview video and app screenshots in App Store Connect. About 35 CPPs can be generated from this asset combination. 

CPPs can be utilized to: 

  • Advertise each sub-segment of your user persona: Make your ideal and champion users feel represented and connected to the brand, encouraging them to spend more time exploring the app’s offerings. 
  • Special announcements: The CPP media space can be valuable to give more details about a new product, feature, service, collection, or seasonal event which piques the targeted user’s interest to discover within the app, what is the hype all about.
  • Regional marketing: Localized CPPs with native language content and culturally aligned imageries can help supercharge global campaigns, and encourage high-quality regional users to download and engage with the various in-app activities. 

Integrate Apple Search Ads and in-app metrics to maximize full-funnel conversions

Apple Search Ads provide analysis of the pre-install phase - impressions, tap-through rates, and installs. If the ad is linked to a CPP, the CPP can also help understand retention and revenue rates.

However, a lot of key in-app engagement metrics are missed out - app open, average session length, tracking signifier metrics for end-funnel conversions like Wishlist Making, registrations, saving items for later perusal, etc.

At platforms like Newton, the Apple Search Ads campaigns are integrated with MMP data to track full-funnel pre-install and post-install metrics. 

This helps in two ways: 

  • App advertisers can identify the exact keywords that keep driving high LTV consumers
  • Discovery of untapped keywords that have resulted in incrementing in-app engagement events like signups, app opens, average session durations, purchase decision-making, making the purchase, and coming back for repeat purchases. 

With full-funnel integration, there’s a ready 360-degree view of the campaign available - you get to see the keywords or campaigns that have driven higher champion users, and also what exactly is getting more champion users to download and keep using the app.

Full Funnel of Apple Search Ads and In-App Engagement Performance

Correlating first-party data to Apple Search Ads campaign performance

Scenario 1: Apple Search Ads campaigns are going great

In this case, you are possibly looking at retaining the good quality in-app engagement and high LTV rate and are possibly considering optimizing for Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) and ROAS. With full-funnel analysis, securing the data on which campaign objectives and keywords have driven the highest champion users is easy. Armed with this first-party data, app advertisers can now look at adjusting their Apple Search Ads keywords bid budgets to retain quality, with increased cost efficiency. 

Scenario 2: Apple Search Ads is not delivering as expected

In this regard, the in-app engagement metrics can help to lay down the foundation of a great Apple Search Ads campaign workflow. The first-party data will help to understand the brand’s messaging, offerings, and in-app features that users love the most. This information can then be translated into the marketing communications of Apple Search Ads campaigns to find more lookalikes of the app’s champion users, thereby contributing to sustainable and incremental scale. 

Apple Search Ads and in-app engagement business case study

A leading FinTech brand specializing in insurance aggregation wanted more users to download the app and purchase insurance from the platform online. Insurance purchase is complicated and users often want to discuss terms and conditions before making final purchases. Therefore, the brand’s focus was on generating qualified leads who showed a high likelihood to make the insurance purchase. 

The brand followed the following strategies to curate an appealing iOS-specific campaign, where acquired users would convert better down the funnel post-install: 

  • Targeting across multiple regions and audiences interested in various types of insurances like car, home, life, etc.
  • AI-powered keyword recommendations to build a list of high-intent brand and competitor keywords.
  • Integration with AppsFlyer MMP to track how many qualified leads are being delivered by the campaigns.
  • A unified dashboard view of complete pre-install and post-install campaigns helped understand in-app engagement rates and optimize a list of over 2000 keywords for lower Cost Per Install (CPI)
Apple Search Ads and In-App Engagement

If you are looking for more information on how to synergize your Apple Search Ads and in-app engagement goals, connect with Team Newton for a conversation on amplifying your iOS LTV.

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