The competition for users has never been more fierce. To get ahead, marketers invest heavily in advertising, which in its turn drives up the overall cost of user acquisition. For smaller brands with limited budgets, the market is very tough — they simply cannot afford to lose any single user. That is why marketers look for the ways of retaining users and encouraging them to stay in touch with the brand.  One of such ways is to utilize an essential marketing instrument — retargeting.

Why retarget?

Having shown interest in the product or service, users are likely to spend more time in the app and eventually, make a purchase. If done right, retargeting enhances the efficiency of user acquisition, helping to increase the number of active users. But not only that: it is an instrument for upselling, increasing the engagement rates and spurring repeat purchases.

Retargeting, or remarketing, refers to repeated targeting of users that had already come into contact with your brand with advertising messages.

More than 87% of marketers invest into retargeting for user acquisition. Marketers report that while on average CTR for display ads is 0.07%, retargeted ads deliver 0.7% CTR. Visitors are also more likely to convert by 70% as retargeting boosts ad response by 400%.


mobile retaregting

Retargeting is a versatile strategy, adaptable to different purposes and for apps in various categories. E-commerce and travel applications, for example, could focus on returning the customers who left abandoned carts or incomplete orders, while game apps can re-engage players by announcing new levels or rewards. Marketers can also track the users who were about to download the app and remind them to complete the action.

Channels and segmentation

The first step towards effective retargeting is choosing the right channel. Retargeting on mobile can be conducted via mobile websites, third-party mobile apps, mobile search, social networks and other channels. The majority of bounced users will visit Facebook and Google. However, to reach out to customers outside these platforms, marketers should consider advertising networks. Apart from covering user segments unavailable to Facebook and Google, ad network can provide a number of advantages. They give access to premium publishers, exclusive inventory and native advertising for apps — the essentials for a high-quality advertising campaign.

mobile retargeting channels

Another essential is understanding the buying intent and catching the exact moment when users are most likely to convert into customers. Doing user segmentation as precisely as possible, advertisers can target groups of users with specific, tailor-made offers. It helps to serve their needs in the best possible way. Retargeting for users who have different levels of interest requires different approaches: for website visitors, who might want to download your app, the tactic should be different from that of returning a churned user.

For app owners, it is also a good idea to use deep links in order to direct users to the place in the app they churned from: an abandoned cart, a game level or incomplete product choice.


mobile retargeting remarketing

Mobile app retargeting on Google AdWords. Source: Appsflyer

One of the most important aspects of retargeting is timeliness. Advertisers should craft ad messages to fit each stage of buyer’s journey, exclude converted users from retargeting plan and cap ad serving frequencies to avoid annoying users with too much advertising. Finally, advertisers should always be testing creatives and messages for different user segments. No less important is to analyze metrics to get a comprehensive view of the campaign results.

The technology of retargeting

While tracking users on the desktop is enabled by web cookies, on mobile things are a bit more complicated. Advertisers need differentiators to extract data about the users and their activities on mobile devices. For apps, these unique user identifications are device ID or advertiser ID.

As a rule, advertisers integrate SDK into their apps. While the software development kit has a few drawbacks, such as its size, overall it is a highly useful instrument for retargeting. It is possible to install SDK provided by the advertising network, which would extract user IDs, track users and serve them relevant ads. Working without an ad network SDK is also an option. In this case, advertisers can utilize an attribution or analytics solution, which offers its own SDK. It will gather data and pass it forward to the ad network.

Not all analytics services support retargeting. Among the biggest attribution providers, Adjust and Tune offer retargeting services without the need for additional customization, while Appsflyer requires SDK updates to track deep links. Retargeting is also a part of the package for Kochava clients. However, those working with Appmetrica and Branch might find it cumbersome to conduct retargeting. The former service allows establishing event transmission out of the box, while the latter doesn’t support working with partners.

mobile retargeting remarketing


Best practices to start retargeting now

1) Create personalized ads

Match ad content with the user profile to send the right message at the right time.

2) Use compelling creatives

Test and optimize your content to select the most relevant and visually appealing advertising for the users.  

3) Use deep links

Make sure that when users are targeted with personalized ads, the link in the ad will lead them directly to an abandoned cart or game level.

4) Set a frequency cap

Don’t bombard users with retargeting ads to avoid banner blindness and frustration with your app.  

5) Keep track of KPI

Measure and analyze the number of installs, retention rate and lifetime value of the users who converted through a retargeting campaign.


Retargeting is a highly beneficial marketing instrument. Learning how to apply it on mobile helps to increase the number of engaged users and in the end, driving more revenue. With retargeting, marketers can make the most out of user acquisition and get value from every advertising dollar.

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