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Do Paid App Install Ads Pay Off?

Research finds correlation between paid app installs and organic downloads

December 8, 2014 | Mobile

As pretty much any smartphone user has noticed by now, mobile ads with calls to action involving app installs have gained significant traction among brands and app developers. Whether your app exists as an end unto itself—for example, as a game with in-app purchases—or as a means for branding and extra touchpoint with customers, getting it into the app store is not enough. You also have to get it onto people’s phones.

Correlation Between Organic and Paid Mobile App Installs Worldwide, by OS and App Category, Aug 2014

There are organic means to do so, but paid ads have become popular as a way to get the word out about apps and help distribute them across more handsets. And according to research from Tune, paid installs do more than just get one conversion. In most app categories, there is a correlation between paid app installs and organic distribution of the same apps.

On Android handsets, for example, for each paid install of an app in the transportation category, an average of 16.6 additional organic installs were recorded for the same app. Not all categories did as well—for shopping apps, one paid install translated to just a single additional organic install, and personalization apps were only installed organically at 20% of the rate of paid conversions.

On iOS, the categories studied were different, and Tune found that games and lifestyle apps got the biggest boost organically from paid ads that called on users to install apps. In both categories, five times more people installed the apps organically than via a paid ad.

The effect studied was correlative, so the research does not prove that paid ads actually lead to organic installs, though this is possible as people who download apps based on paid ads spread the word to friends and family—thereby spreading the app via organic means. But for now, marketers and app developers know at least that, in most categories, paying for an app install ad means you’ll probably get more than what you paid for.

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