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AppsFlyer Q1 2013 Mobile App Discovery Report

Ran Avrahamy May 01, 2013

Mobile App Discovery: Know Your Channels

In the first quarter of 2013, the most common channels to promote and advertise mobile apps were: (1) Ad Networks, (2) App Discovery Platforms, (3) Cross Sell, (4) Incentivized Traffic, (5) Search, and (6) Social (in alphabetical order).


    1. Ad Networks: Ad networks place your ads on other publishers’ mobile and web apps
    2. App Discovery Platforms: Ad Networks which specialize in mobile app discovery
    3. Cross Sell: Placing ads for your app on another, complementary app, usually within the same publisher and segment
    4. Incentivized Ad Networks: Ad networks offering users an incentive (free offering, game credits) to download your app
    5. Search: Users discovering your app via mobile search
    6. Social: Marketing mobile apps on social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter), through user invites and other social app discovery platforms

To help app marketers find the right channels to promote and advertise their apps, AppsFlyer analyzed billions of events across channels, geographies, app categories and user segments during the 1st quarter of 2013 in order to help make sense of the chaos that is mobile app marketing.

We then compared the following metrics:

  • Conversion Rate (CR)(X axis): Clicks/Installs
  • User Quality(Y axis): We calculated User Quality scores by analyzing the number of sessions, in-app events, purchases and retention
  • Volume(Bubble size): New users’ volume

Comparing Apps Marketing Channels: Conversion Rates vs. User Quality vs. Volume
AppsFlyer Q1 2013 Mobile App Discovery Report


After analyzing the data, here’s what we found:

1.   Social is the Q1 winner in mobile app marketing

Social app marketing, which includes app marketing on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, users inviting their friends and app discovery based on social elements, was the top app marketing channel when considering all three criteria – user quality, conversion rates and volume.

In previous quarters, Social delivered high quality users; however, the volume and reach were limited. Facebook Mobile App Install Ads launched late last year definitely helped the Social channel become the winner in Q1 2013.

In fact, Facebook Mobile App Install Ad unit was by far the most effective social driver of high quality users at large volumes.

Mobile app categories best-suited to Social: App marketing campaigns for games, travel, social apps and geo-targeted apps performed particularly well using mobile social marketing channels.

AppsFlyer Insight: We believe that the social channel will continue to grow very fast as initial campaigns delivered high quality users. We expect social campaign costs to increase as more advertisers seek to leverage social channels like Facebook.

2.   With mobile apps, Search leads in quality

Search delivers the highest quality of users for mobile apps. But where mobile search fails is in delivering quantity or a high conversion rate.

It’s not surprising that a channel which delivers the highest quality of users would deliver fewer users. What is surprising, given the success of Search on the web, is the fact that mobile search isn’t as dominant. This is further proof that users aren’t immediately adopting their web habits to the 3rd screen.

(NOTE: Search refers to queries in mobile search engines and does not include direct queries in the App Store or Google Play).

Mobile app categories best-suited to mobile Search: App marketing campaigns for E-commerce, utilities, travel, food and content segments all performed well via paid mobile search.

3.   Ad Networks deliver volume

If you’re looking for volume, you can reach out to the 100+ mobile ad networks out there. Though it seems that ad networks deliver on average lower quality users with lower conversion rates, the variation is very high (i.e. some campaigns performed very well while others didn’t) . Many ad networks can optimize campaigns based on conversions (installation or even on a post install in-app event), so first app marketers need to implement proper conversion tracking and then they need to be patient until the network learns the data and is able to improve campaign results. In addition, we noticed that some manual optimization always helps in determining which campaign/creative/publisher-id/day part/geo works best.

Mobile app categories best-suited to Ad Networks: App marketing campaigns for mass market apps and games performed well via mobile Ad Networks.

AppsFlyer Insight: We believe that Ad Networks will continue to improve performance over time as they improve their targeting and retargeting capabilities. We also identify a growing trend of CPA (Cost per In-App Action) offering that will definitely increase Ad Networks volume.

4.   Is Incentivized traffic effective?

Though Incentivized traffic delivers the best conversion rates, as one would expect, the average user quality is the lowest. We also found that the user quality variation in this channel is the highest, meaning that it works very well for some apps and not for others. Certain games performed well using his channel.

The key to a successful mobile app marketing campaign, especially with incentivized traffic, is understanding campaign ROI. For app marketers who measure all campaign expenditures and their direct return, incentivized traffic can be cost-effective.

Mobile app categories best-suited for buying Incentivized traffic: Mobile app marketing campaigns for games and apps with a high K factor (additional organic users generated indirectly from the campaign) performed well with incentivized traffic.

AppsFlyer Insight: We predict that incentivized networks will move deeper into the conversion funnel to validate ROI for advertisers and enable CPA (Cost Per In-App Action) campaigns by offering advertisers a price per specific action within the application. This method offers a riskless marketing method for advertisers and a great business model for the networks that can actually deliver.

In Summary: After a messy 2012, which was confusing for mobile app advertisers, 2013 will be the demand side year, with better reach, targeting, conversion and measurement. We believe that the measurement of all campaign variables is the key to increasing mobile marketing budgets because accurate measurement enables uncovering the actual value of mobile advertising.

Data source:

AppsFlyer is a mobile apps marketing measurement platform that allows app developers, brands and agencies to measure and optimize their entire mobile customer acquisition funnel from one real-time dashboard.

We compiled aggregated Q1 2013 data into this report in an effort to help educate mobile marketers on mobile app discovery channels and help them master the complexities of this market.


  • The data is aggregated across all app segments: games, utilities, e-commerce, etc. What is right and profitable for a specific mobile game is not necessarily right for an e-commerce app or utility.
  • Data is aggregated across Android and iOS.
  • Right campaign management, optimization, creative and professional media buyers can greatly impact campaign results.
  • Measure everything and know your data!