Optimizing paid user acquisition to win big in emerging markets

alltrails success story - Square


Increase in installs


Increase in engagement


Increase in retention


AllTrails connects people to the outdoors who may otherwise have been hesitant to strap on trail shoes and venture into the fresh air of the paths less traveled.

What began in 2010 as a website for avid outdoor enthusiasts, specifically Search and Rescue members, climbers, and long distance hikers, has grown into one of the top Health & Fitness apps in the world.

Today, AllTrails caters to everyone – from those tackling the Pacific Coast Trail to those looking for the perfect afternoon stroll through a municipal park.

Although the primary power of AllTrails comes from its breadth of content, geographic reach, and network of connected hikers, their mission to make the outdoors accessible to everyone is what makes it a favorite of so many users who are eager to share the gift of nature and promote its preservation.

In 2014, AllTrails invested in native mobile apps for both iOS and Android, and by 2016 mobile became their most popular platform.

As a subscription-based service meant for users on the go, AllTrails was meant for mobile. What started as a powerful planning and review tool evolved into a reliable navigation platform that users take everywhere they go. By this time their SEO engine was humming, and it did the heavy lifting for their mature markets – US, UK, Canada, and Australia. But to compete in emerging markets such as France, Germany, and Portugal, AllTrails needed to leverage paid user acquisition.

This required the data to carefully segment out campaigns by channel and country to optimize for the maximum number of installs while also promoting the highest possible customer engagement.


A primary driver of AllTrail’s growth was user generated content (UGC) – users posting pictures, rating trails, sharing tips on social media, etc. A UGC-driven flywheel model required a high volume of users entering the top of their acquisition funnel to then go on to be content contributors and eventually premium subscribers.

However, AllTrails faced a unique problem: Some of AllTrails’ core functionality was powered by satellite and didn’t require a data connection, meaning users were sometimes unable to share content they captured right away.

AllTrails needed to re-engage these users to post pictures and write reviews days or even weeks after an adventure occurred, making measuring the success of their lifecycle campaigns a top priority.

Power users may be free users for many years before converting to a premium subscription, so understanding long-term performance and tying revenue back to the most valuable customer touchpoints were key to their success. Usage of an outdoors app is heavily influenced by (literal) seasonality, so applying a uniform user journey may lead to incorrect LTV predictions. In other words, building cohorts based on sign-up date was a poor indicator of whether – and when – a user will convert.

AllTrails needed a data-driven solution to understand what channels and campaigns inspired the highest number of users to get engaged and out on the trails, then shift their strategy accordingly with UA campaigns optimized to be as cost effective as possible.


Detailed attribution data from AppsFlyer revealed campaign performance across channels and geographies, helping AllTrails acquire users at the scale necessary to win in emerging markets.

The team could maximize user engagement and content generation while also optimizing towards a premium subscription purchase.

Custom event reporting revealed key success metrics such as cost-per-recording or cost-per-review, in addition to their baseline cost-per-install metric. Optimizing for these metrics was their north star towards running the most efficient campaigns possible.

Ron Schneidermann of AllTrails had a few words to say about their choice of AppsFlyer, noting:

AppsFlyer provided us the data insights needed to quantify the opportunities along the customer journey across both channel and geography, helping us acquire valuable users while remaining as cost efficient as possible.


Year over year, AllTrails saw a 113% increase in overall installs, a 75% increase in user engagement, and a 38% increase in retention.

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