Skip to content

Re-engagement strategies to get users hooked on your app

We teamed up with our MMP partner Adjust to bring you some top retargeting strategies that will meet all of your re-engagement goals.


App re-engagement has become the standard for marketers looking to retain their audience. But not all strategies are created equal. At Adikteev, we’ve found that many of our clients don’t know where to start with re-engagement. They often move ahead with a strategy that doesn’t meet their needs, or spend the majority of their budget on user acquisition when re-engagement would bring in more revenue. A mismatched re-engagement strategy can lead to unfulfilled goals and lost revenue. To help marketers avoid these pitfalls, we’ve compiled a list of use cases to determine when and how to implement a campaign. We also reached out to our MMP partner, Adjust to give us some insights on how we leverage their user data to help make re-engagement success stories possible.


When to implement app re-engagement 

App re-engagement is used most often for the following 3 scenarios:

  • Get users to engage with your app more frequently (Activate)
  • Get app users to make in-app purchases (Upsell)
  • To get lapsed users to re-engage with your app (Retain)
Re-engagement use cases
Re-engagement use cases

To make this happen, Adikteev works with MMPs such as Adjust to gather, process and optimize user data. Let’s take a look at how it works.

What’s your re-engagement goal?

In order to choose the right approach for your app, it’s essential to determine your goals. 

  • Do you want to inform your lapsed or dormant users about a new level in your game? 
  • Do you want to remind users of items they left in their cart? 
  • Are you trying to drive your active users to make in-app purchases?

Re-engagement can be complex and technically demanding to manage. And as a mobile marketer managing multiple channels, spending significant time on your re-engagement strategy isn't always the priority. This can prevent you from realizing its full potential.

Rely on re-engagement experts

To achieve the results you’re after with re-engagement, your goals, strategy, and KPIs must be aligned. For example, let’s say your goal is to increase engagement. In this case, setting up a campaign to target users who open the app three times a day will produce little incremental value. Your time and budget would be better spent targeting less active users.

If you’re not sure where to start, consult with your re-engagement partner. They’ll be able to advise you on the strategies that have worked for apps that are similar to yours, or who monetize in the same way. They can help you figure out which events you should track with your attribution partner, and ensure you have the optimal setup to track your results.

Don’t rush into app re-engagement until you know what you want to accomplish. It’s a hot topic with proven success, but each one of these scenarios requires a different approach. Your partner should be conscious of each use case in order to optimize towards your goals.

Choosing an MMP: what you need to know 

Gone are the days when digital marketers were content with knowing the demographics of their audience and whether they were downloading apps via Android or iOS. Today, the best mobile attribution tool will provide you with a digital trail of breadcrumbs that tells the story of how you got your users, where they came from, how and when they interacted with your app and— most importantly— the best way to build relationships with more users. 

To maximize revenue, minimize costs and reduce risk, today’s mobile marketers need attribution providers that can provide breadth and depth in a safe, fraud-free environment. Mobile advertising fraud is a widespread issue that affects all verticals, with reports estimating losses between $6.5 to $19 billion every year. If left unchecked, ad fraud can skew your data, hamper your strategy and hinder your long-term growth. Therefore, it is critical to choose an attribution provider that not only detects but also prevents fraudsters from taking a cut of your ad spend

If a provider can only detect fraud, then you’re a step behind the fraudsters. You’ll pay for fraudulent traffic and then the onus will be on you to build a case for a refund from your ad network. Ultimately, without active prevention, your data will be both meaningless and misleading.  

Additionally, make sure you have ready and frequent access to data and that you can compare past and current campaigns. Data should be stored over time; long enough that you’re able to access it to help you make decisions. The ability to go back to your data also ensures that you’re able to track user journeys and behavior over time.

Re-engagement use case #1: Activate

The goal of an activate campaign is to get users to engage with your app more frequently. Increasing app usage is a common challenge for marketers across all verticals. All of the highest-grossing apps in the app stores boast high engagement rates. If you’re not focusing some of your marketing budget on increasing app usage and engagement, you might be missing out. Increasing app usage involves re-engaging users who once enjoyed your app but haven’t opened it in a couple of days. The goal is to get them to return to the app, whether that’s finishing a puzzle, or completing a purchase. Your metrics for what re-engagement means will differ depending upon the vertical.

Segmentation & Deep Links

Just like our lapsed users who haven’t been active in the app for a while, the users you re-engage to increase their app usage should be handled with care. There are a number of reasons why a new user who just downloaded your app will stop opening it. Audience segmentation ensures that your messaging is relevant to the appropriate users. Using data as a guide, you can understand the points of churn to develop a re-engagement campaign that addresses their pain points and brings them back to continue where they left off. 

Armed with audience insights, start by setting up tracking for all relevant events— any action taken within your app that you want to track— from sign-ups, to logins, to placing an order or making an in-app purchase. It’s also possible to set up custom tracking for events so you can follow users through different phases of the user life cycle and learn how valuable users from a certain campaign were. Data on user activity provides invaluable insights into what users do after install and when they might churn.

An example:

Take gaming apps for instance. They can track things like tutorial completion, level-ups, lives lost, coins earned or any other gaming-specific event. If the analytics show that lots of users are uninstalling after reaching level 3, maybe that level needs to be modified to provide a more fun experience for the users. Similarly, a food delivery app might track sign-ups and first orders, making sure to offer a perfectly timed discount code or push notification to ensure users keep coming back.

By creating highly targeted audiences based on a user’s place in the funnel, the abandonment rate and the impact of mobile app retargeting on conversion rates become easy to analyze. With this rich array of data, marketers have a much clearer idea of how their users interact in-app and where potential drop-off points may be. From there, they can focus on the best-performing campaigns -- and experiment, iterate and improve their ad performance— and user experience— over time. Ultimately, they can use smart retargeting or build targeted user acquisition campaigns that gain the kind of users brands want.

Equally as important as segmentation are deep links. App marketers know that if you’re not utilizing deep links— simply put, these are just links that open in a native app instead of a web browser— you’re missing out on a big opportunity to re-engage app users. Providing users with an offer, and then redirecting them to the correct app page in a single click is a simple yet effective means of keeping them longer, and they can actually be used for any of these three use cases. Best of all, when tied to an email or push notification the cost to “re-acquire” is paltry. Make sure every click on a deep link drives users to content and special offers to keep them engaged once they are back.

How deeplinks work
How deeplinks work

Re-engagement use case #2: Upsell

Perhaps the most common scenario we encounter at Adikteev, and by far the most effective use case, is marketers who run retargeting campaigns to drive more revenue. Here, the goal is to convert users who have already engaged with your app, or upsell them.

The number of app users that spend money on in-app purchases is extremely low. However, many app marketers find that encouraging this small number to purchase more is a better use of their budgets than running a retention campaign for users that may never convert.


The best way to segment your app audience for an upsell campaign is to segment your users based on their likelihood to convert. Namely, cart abandoners, previous purchasers, or users who play your mobile game regularly to name a few.

Audience segmentation
Audience segmentation

It may seem counterintuitive to focus on users who are already engaging and spending in your app, but this approach has been proven to increase user LTV and revenue.

According to Adjust’s findings, retargeting campaign users make 37% more revenue events in the first 30 days vs. new user acquisition. But you need to make use of the data you already have in order to turn the noise into conversions-- and bring your most valuable customers back to the app after they’ve bounced. 

Mobile retargeting success varies wildly depending on the vertical. At the top of the scale is shopping. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of attributions for e-commerce apps come from retargeting, according to Adjust’s latest global app trends data

Percent share of reattributions vs. attributions
Percent share of reattributions vs. attributions

This is probably because a user’s experience is tied directly to the purchase of an item. Once they’ve bought it they leave, and they come back when they find something else they want to buy. So, based on abandoned items in a user’s  online shopping cart or what they’ve purchased in the past, marketers can send users highly targeted ads at just the right time.  

In contrast, gaming and content streaming apps thrive on new users, and there the challenge is to keep those users engaged and never let them become inactive in the first place.

Re-engagement use case #3: Retain

A re-engagement campaign with a retain focus attempts to bring lapsed users back to the app. The goal is to create top-of-mind awareness and maximize retention. With so many apps competing for users’ attention, it’s easy to understand why a user might use your app once or twice post-install before forgetting about it entirely. In the past, marketers would just up the spend on their user acquisition campaigns to ensure a steady flow of new users. The idea was to make up for the lack of engagement from existing users with new ones. But as cost per installs (CPIs) continue to rise, this approach just won’t cut it anymore.

With this in mind, there are a couple of things to consider when running a retain campaign. Namely, how you segment your audience and the creatives you use.


When retaining lapsed users, segmentation is the name of the game. Lapsed users are a particularly sensitive segment, and they require extra attention when it comes to re-engagement. To prevent annoying lapsed users to the point they churn, you should utilize your app’s data to create custom segments based on the in-app events users have already completed. This will ensure your messaging is relevant, timely, and effective.

Implementing successful retargeting campaigns can be a challenging process, but the best attribution providers will help simplify this and eliminate the time it takes to perform. You should choose a provider that offers an audience segmentation tool that can help you define audiences using your data— and act immediately upon them.

The importance of vertical

Think particularly about the vertical that you are operating in. For instance, an app that sells designer socks and shoes can create an audience of users who purchased items belonging to a particular brand. Paying to target this list with advertisements encouraging users to check out that brand’s other offerings from your catalog is a strategy to entice users who might have churned to come back.

An example of this in practice is how Wallapop, a free virtual flea market, used segmentation to divide up users and target them with different creatives. By creating segments for unregistered users, 'low' active users, dormant users (and many more) they saw CPX costs decline significantly in just 8 weeks.

Once you’re up and running with an MMP, the options for growth are limitless. Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure that you are tracking the right events. Brands can use this data to map the user journey and identify what drives frequent use and lasting loyalty.

To start, there are a couple of definitions you need to know.

Session & Reattribution

session is every time that a user opens the application. Session data can be used to determine the average length of time users spend on an app, as well as the time of day users are most likely to engage with a particular app.

Data from Adjust’s App Trends 2020 report reveals that  e-commerce apps, for example, see peak sessions at lunchtime, between noon and 2 p.m., and again in the evening between 7 and 10 p.m. — accounting for a quarter of their daily total. Similarly, Food & Drink apps see a spike in use between 5 and 8 p.m., accounting for 31% of their total daily sessions. While this makes logical sense — people like to shop during their downtime and turn to Food & Drink apps during the dinner hours — there is now data to support it.

How app usage changes throughout the day
How app usage changes throughout the day

By combining analysis of session metadata (e.g., session length) with usage data (e.g., tracking certain in-app events) and then analyzing behavior across a user base, brands can identify opportunities or problems within their apps that can be optimized for improved performance down the line. They can also use it for re-engagement.

Imagine this scenario: Brandon looks at the clock at 6 p.m. and realizes it’s time to cook dinner. Only he’s exhausted from a long day of work calls and has no meal plan. So he grabs his phone and gets a push notification for GrubHub for a free salad with his pizza from the restaurant just down the street. With just a few swipes, dinner is taken care of.

Reattribution enables app marketers to see what campaign or creative caused a user to return to the app. This can be used to optimize re-engagement campaigns and bring more users back to the advertiser’s app after a period of inactivity.

Reattribution is also important for marketers because it evaluates the performance of their retargeting campaigns. When users are not as active as they should be (based on industry benchmarks and the ideal user journey for that app) marketers run retargeting campaigns.

Measuring your re-engagement campaign success

How you measure the success of your campaign depends on the issue you’re trying to solve. Usually marketers who run activate campaigns want users to continue engaging with the app to then perform a specific action, like completing a level, registration, purchase, or booking. In this case, the main KPI will be cost per first action (CPA). When you’re looking to upsell your users, you want to measure incremental sales. Finally, when it comes to retention, you must compare cost per reacquisition to the lifetime value (LTV) of these users post-reacquisition.

Incrementality for upsell campaigns

When retargeting active users and previous purchasers for an upsell campaign, you run the risk of giving your re-engagement partner credit for actions that would have happened organically. To adequately evaluate the campaign, you need to measure incremental sales. By running an incrementality test, you can split your app audience randomly and show ads to a portion of users while keeping another portion as a control group. Comparing the control groups’ purchase revenue values to the target groups’ purchase revenue will give you the net value of the campaign. Learn more about evaluating incrementality testing results here.

Measuring cost per reacquisition and LTV to retain users 

As we mentioned earlier, comparing the cost per reacquisition to users’ LTV after a retention campaign will determine the campaign’s impact. If you don’t have a benchmark for performance, you can start with your user acquisition data points.

For example, churned users who were originally valuable will typically have a higher LTV once re-engaged than an average new user. The formula should look like this:

KPI = Cost Per Reacquisition < LTV of re-acquired user

After a user first installs your app, the clock starts ticking on their engagement lifespan. This lifespan is important to analyze because it gives key insights that can be used to improve your app or to look backward at campaign performance. However, if you’re running lots of different campaigns, or making lots of changes to your app, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. Cohort analysis allows you to bunch users so you can see all the users that installed at the same time, lined up so the data can be compared apples to apples. It also shows you which improvements (and when) made an impact.

After you’ve analyzed user behavior, the focus needs to be on directing the users towards key actions. Timing is the key to any successful messaging -- and that’s especially true in the COVID-19 era.

Remember, the user life cycle is unique to your app, and both your data analysis and monetization funnel need to reflect that. When you’re considering cohorting, it’s important to choose a solution that has maximum flexibility for retention and monetization windows as they expand or contract.

To Wrap Up

These are just a few examples of the challenges marketers must address with app re-engagement. However, these strategies are not mutually exclusive. At Adikteev, we work with a number of clients who run different campaigns with different goals all at the same time. Re-engagement is not new, but it’s often not used to its full potential. We hope these use cases and measurement tips will help you derive more value from your re-engagement campaigns in the future.

As the fall-out from COVID-19 continues, detecting the signs of major shifts and moving fast enough to take advantage of them will be incredibly important for mobile marketers going forward. By seizing opportunities, constantly updating your data and assumptions, and rethinking the customer journey, mobile marketers can lay the groundwork for what comes next.

Getting the right message to the right customers at the right time will be the key to maintaining any gains you might have made during the last period of organic mobile growth, or catching up to competitors who kept advertising.

Additionally, mobile marketing automation can assist you with everything from segmentation and personalization to analytics and messaging. For example, it can be used to segment large audiences into cohorts, giving marketers more time to analyze how those segmented audiences should be targeted. Strategic actions used to engage those users, such as push notifications or in-app messaging, can also be performed autonomously.

Take gaming apps. Maybe you have observed that users who have lost three times in a row are more likely to churn. App marketers empowered with automation would determine the best pre-emptive action to take to keep users interested (e.g., offer in-game rewards). The outcome will be a better experience for the players, and marketers will benefit from increased conversion and retention rates.

Want some more examples? Here are some case studies from some top apps, detailing how they used app re-engagement to achieve their goals:



Game Hive

Orange Games