A KPIs Guide for Google Play Apps and Games: Acquiring and Keeping New Users

Part 2 of 4

Alyssa Perez
Nov 5 · 9 min read

Posted by Alyssa Perez

This piece is part of a larger series of articles and business growth webinars about understanding Google Play app performance based on key metrics. We recommend reading Part 1, “Introduction to Metrics” or watching the on-demand webinar.

Our Google Play business growth experts frequently receive questions about the best ways to get new users and to keep them coming back. The purpose of this series of articles is to help you analyze your app’s performance by offering some tips and things to consider when making business decisions⁠ — or even creating a product roadmap⁠ — based on the user behavior you are (or aren’t) seeing. In this post, we’ll focus specifically on acquisition and new user retention.

The below guide will help you answer questions like the following:

  • “What does the early engagement activity of my new users tell me about their likelihood to return?”
  • “What can I test in order to increase conversion on my store page?”
  • “What is the core action that I want my new users to perform to drive strong retention?”
  • “What are some tips for reactivating lapsed users?”

Let’s dive in.

Metrics Tree

As mentioned in our previous post in this series, this is a visualization of how the Google Play Growth Consulting team views the KPIs that drive Daily Revenue. This is illustrative of just one way to set up a tree: each metric is the result of either multiplying the child metrics beneath it, or, in the case of the metrics with blue dotted lines, adding them. We’ve covered the top three rows of metrics and their definitions and equations in our Introduction; now we will dive into the fourth row (represented in red).

KPI Metrics Tree for Google Play Apps and Games
KPI Metrics Tree for Google Play Apps and Games
A metrics tree, built around Daily Revenue. (Dotted lines signify child metrics that are added to equal the parent metric. All others are multiplied.)

Getting users to open your app

KPI Metrics Tree New Installs Impressions Conversion
KPI Metrics Tree New Installs Impressions Conversion
The branch of the metrics tree for New Installs, updated with Impressions and Conversion child metrics.

If we go down the left side of the tree, we see that New Installs is calculated by adding the number of people who discovered your app through organic methods (i.e. discovered your app independently) and the people who came to discover your app through other methods such as an ad (paid), or what we list here as Deep Link.

Each of these is calculated by multiplying the number of store impressions (people who saw your app’s Google Play Store page) by conversion rate (the percentage of people who installed your app after seeing your app’s Google Play Store listing).

Now let’s put this into practice. If you want to increase your acquisition, you have two levers you can pull: driving more users to you Google Play Store listing and driving a higher percentage of those visitors to install. The first thing to do is to calculate these KPIs for your own app and see where you are hitting or not hitting your internal targets. Then you can identify next steps based on which metric deserves your immediate focus.

To increase impressions, or the number of people coming to your store page, you have a few options as well:

  • If you want to improve your organic traffic, consider the virality of your app or game; is there any natural social activation? Are users getting excited about the brand name or franchise on their own and telling their friends about the app? If not, you can try implementing a feature that helps, such as one that incentivizes users to invite others to install the app or game.
  • If you want to improve your deep link traffic, remember that one of the most important aspects of product marketing is identifying your target audience and ensuring your app is offering a strong value proposition for them. You may spend a lot of time and money increasing traffic to your page, but if that traffic is not comprised of the right type of people, it won’t move the needle in the ways that you want. All your paid campaigns should be well thought-through and measured to make sure the dollars you’re spending are bringing in not just volume, but qualified traffic.
  • Also, make sure your social channels, videos, and other marketing content is directing people where you want them to go with as few steps as possible, and as easily as possible (nothing confusing in the way). You can also keep an eye on opportunities for App Store Optimization (ASO) by using the right keywords in your content.

To increase conversion, it’s crucial to make sure you are taking advantage of the Google Play Store features that could help drive acquisition:

  • Google Play Instant allows users to try an app without having to download it first, using a simple button on the store page.
  • Google Play Store Listing experiments on the store will help you find the right mix of images, copy, and price points that are the most effective.
  • Android App Bundles can reduce the size of your app dramatically, which means some users who want to download your app may not be prevented from doing so just because they have limited space left on their phone.
  • Other store listing best practices, tips, and ideas can be found here.

Engaging new users

It may not surprise you, but there is a strong positive correlation between a new user’s time spent in an app on their first day and their likelihood of returning. However, not all engagement is of equal value. Here are some things to consider:

  • What is your core action? Understand what type of engagement is most important for your audience to get the value you promise them; this is the key experience, or core action, within the core loop you design.
  • This will be highly dependent on the genre of your app or game.
  • For example, the core action of a dating app might be swiping through new potential matches or sending a message.
  • For a puzzle game it may be to complete a short level. A user logging in to collect a daily reward, but not playing the actual puzzle, is an example of a user action that may appear to be evidence of a successful retention mechanic, but because those users who do so don’t perceive value in the app itself or its core action, it is likely a sign that long-term retention may not occur.
  • This is why identifying core actions can help you understand the value of the type of engagement you are seeing from new users, especially on their first day. Learn more in my “Bridging the Gap” webinar.
  • Look at the participation rate (%) for new users to identify how well your core action is being communicated. Are your users finding the core action easy and enticing — or even finding it at all? Engagement is a key driver to retention in any mobile product, so ensure that your First-Time User Experience (FTUE) and other onboarding features are showing your users the value of your mobile product and driving continued engagement with the core loop. You can read more about why the first ten minutes in your app is crucial to driving retention.

Understanding returning users

Let’s take a look at our Returning Users branch of the metrics tree. The simplest way to think about this cohort is those that are not new to your app (DAU minus New Users). We can reflect this metric by splitting the audience into Reactivated Users (lapsed users coming back) and Retained Users (users that are continually coming back).

It’s important to remember that it’s not always about getting brand-new users into your app; especially if your app has been around for a while, there may be a large bucket of users who did perceive enough value to download your app before, and perhaps they have either not signed in for a duration of time or deleted the app entirely. A specific strategy for these cohorts can bring high-impact results to your overall user base.

What does ‘lapsed’ actually mean? Again, this depends highly on the type of app. For a game, Google Play business growth experts tend to recommend that users who have not engaged 30 or more days is a good timeframe to consider a user ‘lapsed.’ However, a travel app may expect seasonal activity based on common travel trends, which lead to windows of decreased engagement longer than that of mobile games

KPI Metrics Tree Returning Users Retained Reactivated
KPI Metrics Tree Returning Users Retained Reactivated
The branch of the metrics tree for Returning Users, updated with Retained and Reactivated segments.

Both of these buckets of users can be calculated by taking the number of people in the cohort (Install Cohort Size, above) that you want to evaluate and multiplying it by the retention rate of users that had a session on those days (Dx Retention). Mobile developers commonly monitor these retention calculations from D2 to D30 on a daily basis — and further out to understand their LTV curves.

In conjunction with new user retention, especially within the new users’ first month in your app, it may be worthwhile to monitor trends and changes in their engagement patterns along the same retention days. You would expect that engagement of a new user that returns on D2 and then on D7 would be the same or higher (preferably higher) on these retained days, with a continued upwards trend throughout the users time in the app. This would imply the user sees value in spending a consistent or regularly increasing amount of time in your app. If you happen to see a declining trend in engagement within a user’s first month, it may be a sign that the value proposition is not clear after a certain point. This type of trend can be driven by things like lack of content, or (in the case of games) difficulty level; so ensure you are monitoring your new user engagement, as it can be an indicator for churn.

Strategically, if your app has been around for a while, it may serve your business well to focus on reactivating users. Using a metrics tree like this can be useful when executing a targeted strategy such as a paid campaign to target lapsed users. After running this campaign, you can look at the Reactivated User branch and see which parts of the campaign were effective (and when).

One potential tactic to improve the retention of returning lapsed users is to introduce (or re-introduce) new features specifically to them. Whether because you have rolled out new updates in recent releases that lapsed users missed entirely, or because they’ve simply been gone for a while and are less familiar with changes to your app’s user interface, it is a good idea to optimize the reactivated user experience as much as possible. For example, it’s not uncommon for users of dating apps to lapse (e.g. if they found success in the core action of matching and messaging with a potential date, then start dating them). If and when that relationship ends, they may return to your app after being lapsed — but depending on how much time has passed, many of the features will seem new and potentially confusing or overwhelming to them. Handling this cohort delicately will increase your chances of retaining them.

KPI Metrics Tree Updated Acquisition Retention New Users
KPI Metrics Tree Updated Acquisition Retention New Users
The full metrics tree, updated with new additions introduced in this article. (Dotted lines signify child metrics that are added to equal the parent metric; all others are multiplied.)

I hope this article has given you insight into not only why it’s important to have a steady flow of new users coming into your app, but also to look at how you are retaining them. Having a strong marketing strategy is only part of the Daily Active User goal, as you also need to ensure any new users that enter your app see value and continue coming back. Remember that new user and returning user metrics interact⁠ — slice your retention and new user engagement by the organic and deep link channels from which you bring them to better understand the value of each channel and ultimately help optimize your marketing strategy.

What next?

Now that we’ve stepped our way down the Daily Active User branch of the metrics tree, our next article in the series will focus on monetization metrics and driving buyer behavior. We’ll look at versions of this tree tailored for both subscription-based businesses and IAP-based businesses.

If you’re interested in seeing what data trends should look like for each of these KPIs and additional practical examples, or if you want to ask our Google Play business growth experts questions related to this tree, be sure to sign up for one of our upcoming webinar dedidated to this topic and follow us on here to catch future articles in this series. Happy analyzing!

What do you think?

What metrics are you most or least familiar with when analyzing app performance? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet using #AskPlayDev and we’ll reply from @GooglePlayDev, where we regularly share news and tips on how to be successful on Google Play.

Alyssa Perez

Written by

Google Play Apps & Games

Tips, trends, and industry thoughts for app and game developers building businesses on Google Play.

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