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Welcome to the metrics – Everything you need to know about app marketing KPIs

By Einav Mor-Samuels
App Metrics - featured square

Mobile app marketing, much like the world we live in, thrives on data. Simply put, it’s the most efficient way to assess your apps’ performance, understand what needs to be improved, and propel your business forward. 

Mobile app metrics are every marketer’s key indicators of success: whether acquisition or discovery intel, user engagement rates, or lifetime value and return on ad spend, mobile marketers live and breathe measurement. 

That’s why after publishing your app on the Google Play or App Store, the three questions that will occupy the larger chunk of your brain are:

  1. How do I get more users to download my app (i.e. user acquisition)?
  2. How do I get users to spend more time in my app (i.e. stickiness and engagement)?
  3. And how do I improve my app’s monetization (through in-app purchasing or in-app advertising)?

These are the million dollar questions, and no single parameter can give you inch-perfect answers. The reality is that most companies are scrambling to drive more quality users to their app, or keep the ones that do – engaged and active. 

But don’t lose heart. As the app market is expanding exponentially, and competition over users’ hearts and wallets has become fiercer than ever before, even minor optimization tweaks could have a tangible impact on your app’s success. 

So, to get you well equipped for battle, we’re going to cover 19 of the most vital app metrics that will allow you to track and improve your acquisition, engagement, retention, conversion, and app performance.

Let’s get started.

What are app metrics and why are marketers so obsessed with them?

Why are marketers obsessed with app metrics?

App metrics are the window into the performance of your marketing campaigns, keeping you constantly informed on the most pressing trends.

That said, these metrics can’t offer true value on their own, and it’s really their combined forces that will help point you in the right direction, and enable you to continuously optimize your app strategy. 

A great example of the importance of cross-referencing your metrics would be app downloads. While keeping track of your number of installs is a good place to start with, bear in mind that every 1 in 2 apps is uninstalled within the 1st month, with “not in use” being the top reason for hitting the ‘uninstall’ button (40%). This is why you must always connect your install metrics to your post-install metrics.

Another important factor to consider before jumping into the metrics is that not all are necessarily applicable to your business. High abandonment rates on a registration form for an Insurance app – is a major red flag that needs to be addressed ASAP, whereas for a Gaming app – skipping forms wouldn’t interfere much with the user flow. 

To ensure you pursue relevant measurement, it’s paramount to pinpoint which metrics are worth mapping for your business, and which don’t have any real impact on your bottom line .

The most strategic app metrics to measure in 2021-2022

To make it easier for you to navigate the dense woods of app metrics, we’ve segmented the below into buckets – campaign, App Store, install, engagement, revenue, and fraud. Let’s make sense of it all:

Campaign-related app metrics

Each campaign is different, which brings uncertainty to many marketers who are not sure what to measure.

For example, social media requires that marketers pay attention to engagement for the sake of remarketing. PPC lives and breathes on the click. And an SEO strategy revolves around domain authority and rankings.

This is why the campaign metrics you measure should always revolve around the campaign goals you’ve set in advance. 

Here are two campaign-related metrics you really need to make friends with:

1 – Click through Rate (CTR)

Definition: The share of users who clicked an ad, out of the total number of users who viewed it.

Calculation: Number of clicks / Number of ad views

Why does it matter: Although somewhat of a vanity metric, CTR is a good indication that an ad’s creative is performing well based on the clicks received.

2 – Click to Install (CTI)

Definition: The share of users who clicked an ad and went on to install your app.

Calculation: Number of installs / Number of ad clicks

Why does it matter: Measuring the direct conversion between the two strongest touchpoints on a pre-install user journey, CTI is both socially and technically critical, as lower rates might indicate an irrelevant audience, ineffective creatives, poorly optimized App Store page, or slow loading time before an install is complete.

App store related metrics

Tied into App Store Optimization (ASO), these metrics allow you to optimize and improve your app’s visibility, in a similar fashion to SEO. although ASO is a vast world (read more about it here), here’s an important one you need to keep track of:

3 – App Store conversion rate

Definition: The share of users who reached the App Store page and went on to install your app. 

Calculation: Total # of installs / Total # of users on the App Store page

Why does it matter: Gauging your App Store page performance is a key component to maintaining your ASO. If your page is properly optimized, and informs your users of the added value of your app in a clear and attractive way (preferably with video) – will fuel up your App Store conversion rates. 

Install-related app metrics

A key ingredient in every marketer’s cookbook, install-related metrics are your way to ensure your marketing efforts are justifying themselves. Here are a couple of crucial install-related metrics you have to keep a close eye on:

4 – Organic / non-organic split

Definition: The percentage of marketing-driven installs, e.g. non-organic installs (NOI) out of your total installs.

Calculation: Total # of non-organic installs in a defined time frame / Total # of installs during the same time period

Why does it matter: Understanding your install type split and the ratio between paid and organic users will help you determine your app’s organic multiplier and halo effect.

A sub category would be non-organic split by channels, where you can further break down non-organic installs to paid and owned media (e.g. SMS, web-to-app conversions, email, blog) to understand how you can allocate your budget more efficiently by using more of your own, rather than paid media properties.

5 – Share of remarketing conversions 

Definition: What is remarketing, you ask? A marketing method is designed to re-engage existing app users across paid and owned channels.

Share of remarketing conversions, also called the average retargeting share, is the percentage of remarketing conversions out of overall marketing conversions (including NOI).

An app’s remarketing conversion is counted when a user clicks on a promotion and opens an app.

Calculation: Total # of remarketing conversions / Total # of marketing conversions

Why does it matter: Across most verticals, app marketers are using owned and paid media to re-engage with existing users. Remarketing has become a key strategy that improves retention and in turn user LTV and profitability (it’s much cheaper than user acquisition).

Engagement-related app metrics

There are plenty of metrics for analyzing user engagement. However, you don’t really need to track all of them. The ones you should track depend on the specifics of your business and the category of your mobile app. 

For example, the number of items added to a cart or cart abandonment rates are relevant to eCommerce mobile apps. But for social media apps, tracking figures like time per session per user or the number of clicks, comments, shares, and likes – are much more important.

Here are 6 engagement-related metrics that every marketer needs to monitor closely, across most lines of business:

6 – Retention rate

Definition: The number of returning users after a given time period.

Calculation: Total # of active users who were active on a specific period of time since installation / Total # of users who launched the app for the first time during the selected date range.

Why does it matter: A high retention rate is generally a good indicator of a “sticky” or valuable user experience, as it involves frequent or consistent usage by its users. In other words, retention is the source of monetization; it increases the prospects of in-app purchases and drives higher in-app ad revenue. 

Generally speaking, average retention rates tend to be very low across the board, which goes to show how much of a problem it really is, and how important it is to constantly measure and mitigate it.

7 – Average sessions per user

​​Definition: The average amount of time users spend on your app per single visit.

A session begins the moment a visitor arrives at your app and ends when they exit or remain inactive for a predetermined time span. As long as the visitor interacts with your app, the session continues.

Calculation: Total # of sessions / Total # of users

Why does it matter: Measuring session lengths and analyzing them based on segments will help you better plan your campaigns, by identifying high quality vs. less engaged users and targeting them accordingly.

8 – Uninstall rate

Definition: The rate at which users uninstall your app within a predefined window.

Calculation: Total # of uninstalls within a predefined window / Total # of installs during a set time frame

Why does it matter: The rate of uninstalls allows you to compare the quality of the users you acquire from different media sources, campaigns, single ads or countries. 

Across all industries, uninstall rates tend to be extremely high. They’re a strong indication that something might be wrong with your app or onboarding process, or that your promotions didn’t match your users’ expectations.

9 – Funnel conversion rates

Definition: The percentage that identifies at what rate people are progressing in your app’s funnel. 

By mapping key in-app events in your funnel first, the conversion rate can be measured between any two events you define, such as install to purchase, add to cart to purchase, etc.

Calculation: (Total # of desired event conversions / Total # of initial events in the app) x 100

Why does it matter: Funnel conversion rates can quickly illuminate where your marketing and sales processes have fallen out of alignment. Once you establish and measure strong funnel metrics, you can drive holistic calibration with objective insights, such as identifying optimal personas for better campaign positioning, or validating the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

10 – Paid Conversion Rate (PCR) 

Definition: The volume of conversion via paid advertising.

This includes PPC, display ads, social media ads (e.g. promoted Tweets or boosted Facebook posts), sponsored posts or reviews, or any other method of marketing that involves a direct exchange of money for mentions or views.

Calculation: Total # of conversions / Total # of ad interactions that can be tracked to a conversion during the same time period.

For example, if you had 50 conversions from 1,000 interactions, your conversion rate would be 5% (50 ÷ 1,000 = 5%).

Why does it matter: PCR is a key element in your paid search strategy. After all, if you’re not actually turning lookers into buyers at a high rate, what are you advertising for? 

PCR optimization enables you to maximize every cent of your PPC spend by finding that sweet spot that convinces the maximum percentage of your prospects to take action – and ultimately convert.

11 – Organic Conversion Rate (OCR)

Definition: The volume of conversion via unpaid discovery.

This includes organic search, word of mouth mentions on social media, influencer marketing, public relations mentions and buzz, related apps in the app store listings, or any other way of marketing that doesn’t involve direct paid advertising.

Calculations: Total # of conversions – Total # of paid conversions

Why does it matter: OCR is a great benchmark of inbound marketing success. According to Search Engine Journal, users obtained from inbound activities, such as blogs or webinars, have a much higher closing rate than their outbound counterparts, such as email or SMS campaigns. 

Revenue-related app metrics

In business, the single most important factor is the bottom line. Here are 7 ways you can measure your app’s ability to generate revenue and drive profitability:

12 – Cost Per Install (CPI)

Definition: Tracking paid installs rather than organic ones, CPI measures the cost an advertiser pays a publisher for driving an install.

Calculation: Ad spend / Total # of Installs directly tied to ad campaign

Why does it matter: Back in the days when $0.99 apps were the industry standard, CPI was the most frequently used metric for measuring campaign performance. Today, KPIs like cost per action – that better reflect the complexities of free-to-play markets – are gaining ground.

13 – Cost Per Action (CPA)

Definition: The cost per a conversion action. 

This doesn’t necessarily imply the conversion comes from a new user, but from a new behavior such as signing up for a subscription, upgrading to a premium account, in-app purchases, or new permissions.

Calculation: Cost / Total # of actions being measured

Why does it matter: CPA is a pure performance metric that ensures payment is only made when high quality users are acquired. 

It’s generally distinguished from Cost of Acquiring Customer (CAC) by its granular application. Armed with your Average Order Value (AOV) and Lifetime Value (LTV – see below), you can determine your own CPA standards. 

14 – Lifetime Value (LTV)

Definition: The amount of revenue users have generated from the moment they installed your app to date. 

Calculation: Total revenue generated since install date / Total # of users who installed on that date

Why does it matter: Combined with the average revenue per user, LTV is a golden metric to determine the total prospective revenue or value of your users. In the free-to-install app economy, it’s an essential metric to measure business health.

15 – Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) 

Definition: The average amount of cash generated per user via in-app purchases, ad impressions or clicks, subscriptions, paid downloads, or other forms of monetization. 

Calculation: Revenue during a predefined period of time / Total # of users

Why does it matter: ARPU informs you of the quality of your average user in terms of what matters most – generated revenue. 

In our industry, ARPU and LTV are used interchangeably; Day 90 LTV is the same as day 90 ARPU. The difference lies in the fact that LTV has to be based on an install date, whereas ARPU does not. 

If no install date is set in your activity reports, simply look up all revenue generated during time frame X, and divide that number by all active users during the same time frame, regardless of when they installed. 

16 – Share of paying users

Definition: The percentage of installers who ended up making an in-app purchase within a given time frame since the initial install.

Calculation: Total # of users that made a purchase X Time after install / Total # of installs

Why does it matter: A key indication of quality users driven from media sources, as well as a good way to measure the performance of your monetization model. 

Despite the fact that only 5% of users spend money on in-app purchases, the revenue these users generate is 20 times greater than the revenue earned from all other paid users combined.

17 – Purchase Frequency (PF)

Definition: The average number of purchases your users made during a specific period of time. 

By definition, this metric will also allow you to keep track of users who made zero purchases, and who could be enticed to place orders using targeted campaigns.

Calculation: Total # of purchases over a time period / Total # of users during the same time period

Why does it matter: PF is an ideal KPI to measure user loyalty, as well as highlight underperforming products or categories. 

It also gives you the ability to identify these users for smarter look alike marketing and remarketing campaigns. You can reward your highest PF users, or on the flip side – exclude them from your paid remarketing efforts, as they’re already highly engaged as it is.

18 – Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)

Definition: The money spent on marketing divided by the revenue generated by users from the marketing campaign in a given time frame.

For example, a Day 7 ROAS of 50% means that a user generated revenue that counts for 50% of the money spent to acquire that user. In other words, the 100% mark is the breakeven point.

Calculation: User-generated revenue from a specific campaign in given time frame / Total marketing spend

Why does it matter: The metric of profitability, ROAS is the most important metric for UA managers. By constantly comparing income to ROAS, you can better evaluate the performance of your campaigns and the quality of users they acquire.

guide

App engagement & user retention: 2022 guide

Learn more
Fraud-related app metrics

What do we mean by mobile fraud? Mobile fraud encompasses a wide range of schemes that include fake installs, clicks, impressions, or in-app events. 

Fraud detection solutions use a combination of big data, real-time machine learning and AI, to help marketers identify and flag fraudulent activities such as install hijacking and click flooding.

Here are 2 important fraud-related metrics you should always pay attention to:

19 – App install fraud rate

Definition: The share of overall identified or blocked fraudulent installs within a certain cohort of app installs. Also called attribution fraud, as its aim is to try and game attribution companies to assign credit to a fraudulent media source.

Calculation: Fraudulent installs / Total # of NOIs (including NOI fraudulent installs)

Why does it matter: At $1.6 billion in H1 of 2020 alone, potential losses remain extremely high. There’s no getting around it: proactively protecting your app against mobile ad fraud by keeping an eye out for fraudulent activity – is an inevitable reality that is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

20 – In-app fraud rate

Definition: The amount of in-app, post-install measurable events that either followed a fraudulent install or that were detected as fraudulent, regardless of the associated install’s status.

These events can include measurable, optimization-related events such as Cost Per Action (CPA) with associated payment, as well as in-app purchases.

Calculation: Users that made a fraudulent in-app event X Time after install / Total # of non-organic users that made an event X Time after install.

Why does it matter: Fraudsters have recently moved beyond installs to perpetrate fraudulent in-app activity, just as marketers started to move towards CPA. For example, placing bulk orders to a shopping app, then cancelling within the allowed window to cash in on high CPA costs.

In fact, we’ve found a ratio increase of 3x between fraudulent installs and fraudulent in-app events, a rise primarily driven by gaming apps. 

Honorable mentions

App metrics: honorable mentions

1 – Effective Cost Per Mille (eCPM)

The revenue generated per 1,000 impressions, eCPM offers a basic approach to evaluating the value of your traffic and determining your CPM. 

While CPM is the rate a given advertiser is willing to pay for 1,000 impressions, eCPM is the publisher’s earnings per 1,000 impressions.

Calculation: (Total ad revenue / Total impressions) * 1,000

2 – Daily Active Users (DAU) 

The number of unique users that engage with your app within a 24-hour window. DAU is typically used by businesses where users are expected to interact with the app on a daily basis (e.g. gaming apps).

3 – Monthly Active Users (MAU) 

The number of unique users that engage with your app within a 30-day window. MAU is typically used by B2B apps where users are expected to interact a few times a month or less (eg. banking apps).

4 – The DAU/MAU ratio 

This formula allows you to measure the relative volume of monthly active users who engage with your app over multiple 24-hour time periods. 

Using the DAU/MAU metric, you can forecast traction and potential revenue over time, but even more importantly – it helps you determine the value of your product by keeping track of how often users return to your app.

Calculation: Total # of DAU / Total # of MAU

5 – Churn rate

The exact opposite to retention rates, churn rate is defined as the rate at which your users uninstall your app, cancel or downgrade subscriptions. 

While churn rate is bad in itself, it becomes especially problematic when your most valuable or top revenue-generating users churn, which can have a noticeable, multi-faceted impact on your overall business.

Calculation: Total # of churned users / Total # of users

6 – Repeat Purchase Rate (RPR)

This metric gives you the number of customers that return to your app in order to make an additional purchase. It can help you with measuring customer loyalty as well as plan your sales strategies.

Repeat purchases drive higher LTV for each acquired or organic customer. The higher the repeat purchase rate, the higher the ROI.

Calculation: Total # of purchases from existing users / Total # of purchases

7 – Average Order Value (AOV)

Usually more applicable to eCommerce, AOV tells you how much your customers usually spend in a single order. It allows you to identify different segments according to spend, or to see which channels are most effective in terms of revenue.

Calculation: Total revenue / Total # of number of orders

8 – Web-to-app conversion

The share of users who start their buying journey on the web and later convert in your app. 

In a world where users constantly switch between devices, encouraging your web visitors to switch to your app is highly recommended. The native app offers a far better user experience and is much more likely to entice users to purchase than your website. 

Calculation: Total # of conversions in app / Total # of users who started on the web and install the app

9 – Average Revenue Per Paying User (ARPPU)

ARPPU is used to evaluate the efficiency of existing in-app purchase (IAP) events, the success of new IAP events introduced to the user flow, and the effect of other events on IAP revenue (e.g. the option to watch an ad rather than pay).

Calculation: Total revenue / Total # of revenue-generating users

10 – Return on Experience (ROX)

ROX measures the financial impact of experiences on campaigns, making it a more scalable, ongoing derivative of ROI. It’s the effort to leverage campaign-focused activities that have a decisive influence on CX, which will eventually have a positive effect on your bottom line in the not so distant future.

Calculation: ROX = Benefits (e.g. revenue) / Cost of experience (e.g. software, manpower, services) x 100%

Learn more about conversion rate metrics

Key takeaways

  • Mobile apps, like human beings, thrive on feedback. Simply put, it’s the most efficient way to assess your apps’ performance, understand what needs to be improved, and propel your business forward. 
  • Mobile app metrics are every marketer’s key indicators for discovery intel, user engagement, shares or churn, and is why mobile marketers live and breathe measurement. 
  • There are many, many app metrics out there. But don’t overcomplicate things by trying to monitor too many KPIs that don’t necessarily apply to your business. Experiment to find the best ones for your app, and optimize them to their full potential as you go along. 
  • With every action they take on your app, your users are signaling you what to measure. Watch, listen, and learn, as they’ll show you exactly what to keep track of now, and what to keep track of tomorrow.

Einav Mor-Samuels

With extensive experience in digital marketing, Einav is a Content Writer at AppsFlyer. Over the course of the past 15 years, she has gained ample experience in the mobile marketing landscape, researching market trends, and offering tailored solutions to customers' digital problems. Einav fuels her content with data-driven insights, making even the most complex of topics accessible and clear.

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