Hunker down or double down? Recession-proof app marketing success strategies

By Einav Mor-Samuels
app marketing recession proof - featured

From the post-COVID boom to Apple’s privacy changes, the mobile media landscape is no stranger to the cyclical ups and downs of the market. Post-COVID fatigue has already caused a major slowdown of non-organic app installs.

But things are a little bit different this time. 

Economists are grabbing their megaphones and are unequivocally predicting a sustained economic downturn, and mobile marketers are inevitably going to be affected. 

While your most instinctive response might be to slash marketing budgets, your dollars should be reevaluated carefully by analyzing the long term outcomes rather than salvaging short-term gain. 

In the 2008 recession alone, brands that seized the opportunity to double down on their advertising saw 3.5x return in brand visibility. 

So how should app marketers approach the incoming recession?

Should you double down investments, slash budgets, or leverage a crisis? These are the big questions we’ll tackle in this guide to help you plan proactively for what’s to come.

Let’s get planning.

Get checked up and work towards a clean bill of health

reevaluate app marketing success plan

The very first step is to take a deep breath and reevaluate your marketing plan with an audit, which will help you unearth both your app marketing successes and failures. 

A comprehensive audit are broken down into four key areas:

  1. Evaluate the macro app environment: how are you positioned in your category of apps? How is the recession affecting app downloads and purchases as a whole?
  2. Evaluate the organization: who is in charge of what outcomes? How are you keeping each other accountable for hitting your KPIs? What processes can be streamlined, improved, or removed altogether?
  3. Evaluate your KPIs: what data are you measuring to assess performance? Which metrics are vanity metrics and which are actually impacting your bottom line? Read our guide on the most app metrics to measure for more insights on this topic.
  4. Evaluate your data sources and protocols: the data you’re gathering, aggregating, and sourcing has changed tremendously ever since ATT was introduced. How standardized, clean, and reliable is your data? 

Reevaluate your personas

If you haven’t already invested most of your marketing dollars into understanding your core audience, today is the second best time to start. Start by creating or reevaluating your persona that lists your core users’ pains, goals, motivations, demographics, and interests. 

Successful user personas are built on research, not assumptions. And while you may have a good idea of your target audience, your hypothesis needs to be evaluated with real data. 

Luckily for app marketers, the data is within your reach.

User personas can evolve as you gather more data and feedback as your app grows. The ultimate goal is for it to guide your marketing efforts to be focused on building user empathy, and not get distracted by shiny objects. So stick to what matters most.

Prioritize building an exceptional user experience

Prioritize building an exceptional user experience

It’s difficult enough to get users to download your app, but it’s even more difficult to get them to stick around. To get users to love scrolling, clicking, and engaging with your app, you need to prioritize building an incredible user experience.

A top-notch user experience can be broken down into three main parts:

  1. Put the user first. Circle back to your user personas and remember that every user is indeed a human. So don’t get carried away by forcing upfront registrations or asking for data without setting clear intentions in advance. 
  2. Onboard efficiently. Make it easy for users to understand the key functionalities of your app that make you unique. Ensure you lead new users to ‘first value’ as fast as possible by solving their pain point as quickly as possible. Don’t hide the search functionality. Make sure your most important links are the most visible. And lastly, keep it short.
  3. Present clear calls to action. Make it simple to complete simple and rewarding tasks. Provide feedback in real-time that shows users that they’re not only using the app correctly, but are progressing along their journey.

Build a community of superfans

Build a community of superfans

Every successful app, brand, and business today acts like a media company. 

Imagine every opening scene of Stranger Things began with a sponsored scene. People would immediately turn it off and not give the show a second chance. Would your kids want to buy the latest Iron Man toy if the Avengers was a terrible movie? Probably not!

In the same way, there’s no value in creating a TikTok account that focuses on self-promotion. You can turn users into a community by curating, generating, and creating content that adds supplemental value to your audience. 

The self care app, Finch, is a great example of how to invest in your  community. They create motivational posts on Instagram that help remind their users to take care of their mental health, which shows their understanding of their target user as well.

In the same way, you can invest in building an engaged community by creating content that consistently educates, entertains, connects, or delights your audience. 

Over time, you’ll build a community of loyal app evangelists to promote your app through thick and thin.

Upskill your workforce

Technological advancement is accelerating faster than ever before. The world of app marketing is too, which is why it’s integral for app marketers to embrace the changing nature of jobs. 

The World Economic Forum estimates that more than 50% of all employees need to upskill or reskill by 2025 due to automation and technological advancements.

Training staff and implementing cross-training in your organization is an investment that will ultimately improve productivity in the long run. 

Imagine everyone on your team understood how ASO worked or the elements of successful UX design. Meetings would run more smoothly, teams would collaborate better, and communication would improve tenfold.

Whether that’s the form of a course, internal mentorship programs, or informal lunch and learns, empower your staff to learn new skills and reward those who lead the initiatives.


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Optimize your paid advertising

According to the ROI Genome Intelligence Report, more than 60% of brands that increased media investment during the last recession saw improvements in brand performance. 

Increased paid advertising led to a 17% increase in sales, while cuts in spending resulted in a 15% loss in business to competitors who were spending more.

Remarket and capture leads early

Remarketing is a cost effective way to retain your most loyal users. In fact, it costs 5-10x more to acquire a new user than to re-engage one. While IDFA significantly reduces the data available to run remarketing campaigns and lookalike campaigns, remarketing still proves to be an effective way to target opted-in users.

To navigate the challenges around ATT, app marketers supplement remarketing by collecting user information earlier in the funnel to nurture leads and generate sales via lifecycle marketing. 

Improve retention through referrals

Have you ever sent a friend your unique DoorDash link to get a discount on your next meal? Incentivized referrals are an excellent way to improve conversions and acquire new users in a sustainable way. 

This is the perfect opportunity to utilize deep linking, or creating links that live inside your app, so you can track conversions. Deep linking also allows you to reward referred users based on in-app activity rather than just the install.

Referral pro tips:

  1. Make it easy to share referral links within a few clicks
  2. Include dynamic screenshots personalized to each referral link
  3. Consider prompting users to share the app whenever they take screenshots within the app

Key Takeaways

App marketing recession proof key takeaways
  • Audit your marketing by evaluating your macro app environment, organization, KPIs, and data sources. 
  • Reevaluate your user personas to ensure your marketing efforts are focused on building user empathy.
  • Invest in creating exceptional user experiences by putting the user first, onboarding efficiently, and presenting clear CTAs.
  • Build an engaged community by creating content that educates, entertains, connects, or delights your audience. 
  • Upskill your staff through courses, internal mentorship programs, or informal lunch-and-learns — and then reward those who participate.
  • Remarket to improve retention and collect user information early to generate sales via lifecycle marketing.
  • Deploy an incentivized referral initiative to improve conversions.

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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