9 new channels for mobile user acquisition I’m seeing in 2024

By John Koetsier February 14, 2024

One of the benefits of diving into gigabytes of data representing billions of installs and trillions of impressions is that you see some unexpected things. I was recently doing that when prepping the 2024 Singular ROI Index (coming soon!), and one of those things that I found while not looking for it is 9 new channels for mobile user acquisition.

New? Well, let’s say “new.”

Some of them were new to me. Some of them will most likely be new to you too. Perhaps the best word is non-traditional.

Traditional channels for mobile user acquisition

The traditional channels for mobile user acquisition are well known. And the biggest, right now, are the best known:

  • Google
  • Meta
  • TikTok
  • Apple Search Ads

No one who runs an indie network or a smaller adtech company probably wants to hear this, but these aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’re getting bigger and better, having (mostly) weathered the storm from ATT and SKAdNetwork. And while 1 very obviously benefited more or less directly from ATT, the others actually have as well, after some initial setbacks and panic.

It turns out, after all, that having huge amounts of first-party data is helpful when data is no longer getting shipped around the mobile ecosystem like Dom Perignon at a high-end Vegas club. 

Who knew?

But what about new channels for mobile user acquisition?

9 new channels for mobile user acquisition

But there are also some new, different, and (in some cases) frankly odd channels that I’m seeing mobile app publishers try. Not all of them are at huge scale, and your ability to use any individual one of them deeply depends on the resources at your disposal, but some of them might work well for you.

1. Custom SMS

Remember about 10-15 years ago when SMS marketing was kind of a thing? Something that was a category, with startups popping up with SMS marketing management systems. 

Turns out that while mobile ads took all the hype, SMS marketing never went anywhere. In fact, Captera has a ridiculous 650 products in its SMS Marketing Software category. And it turns out that a phone number is a pretty bloody good unique identifier for cross platform identity verification and marketing measurement. 

It’s also something that most of us see: we notice text messages. Even respond to them sometimes.

Now while they’re clearly not really a marketing channel like mobile advertising, there are use cases here:

  1. Capture leads with cheap web ads, follow up on SMS
  2. Partner with a complementary company that has a lot of phone numbers to sponsor a message
  3. Terrestrial radio marketing call to action: “message XYZ to 123 to get a free ABC”
  4. Out of home campaigns with similar calls to action

Pair any of these, or insert-your-unique-idea-here with a deep link, and you’re in business. 

2. Mobile web

OK. Not new. I get it.

But, many aren’t using it. Most app marketers are doing in-app app ads, and not much else. What I saw in the data is that the use of mobile web campaigns to kick off a customer/player/user journey is increasing.

Nuff said.

3. CTV (connected TV)

Ditto to above: not super-new. But also ditto to #2: most aren’t using it. 

I’ll save the actual percentage for the launch of the ROI Index, but what I can tell you now is that we’re seeing double-digit year-over-year increases in mobile app advertising on streaming CTV channels. VOD (video on demand) is becoming AVOD (ad-supported video on demand) as all the SVOD (streaming video on demand) channels are turning to ad-supported tiers of service in hopes of expanding their addressable market.

All that alphabet soup acronym list means is more ad inventory for mobile app marketers.

Learn more about it here: Planting trees versus picking fruit: CTV and user acquisition.

4. Email

Email? Yes, email. The grandaddy OG of digital marketing channels is now a growth channel for marketers seeking new channels for mobile user acquisition.

Whoda thunk it?

(Not me.)

Shockingly, email marketing still works. Shockingly, decades after the reputed death of email, people are still sending commercial messages via one of the oldest internet protocols and generating results. Granted, this is probably often used in conjunction with other methods (you may have to get the email list in the first place, or get an email address in a marketing context somehow).

But you can also do deals with companies that have big healthy email lists and are looking for sponsors who get to add paid links.

5. Newsletter

Newsletter? Yes, newsletter. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Email is old. Newsletters are also old, but they (perhaps like email) are seeing a resurgence thanks to Substack and other free or paid newsletter platforms.

Find a complementary one. Sponsor it.

Or start your own, with relevant info that your target player/user/customer would want, and invest over time in building your own owned marketing resources. Everyone starts from zero, which sucks, but with time and investment, it can grow.

6. Referral

Word of mouth goes mobile? Yup.

One of the niche but growing new mobile user acquisition channels I saw in the data was referrals. It’s not high-volume, but (and this is an educated guess) it’s likely to be higher value and more likely to convert, given it’s based on a personal recommendation from a friend or family member.

First prerequisite: an amazing app experience.

Second prerequisite: a better-together amazing app experience that makes existing users/customers/players want to invite people.

Third prerequisite: a great onboarding experience tied to the person who referred the app in the first place.

(Again, perhaps not new to you. But perhaps worth revisiting.)

7. No-store direct install

Obviously it’s Android-only at the moment. Perhaps after some new litigation and legislation it’ll also be possible on iOS in the European Union. But no-store direct installs are an interesting new user acquisition channel that I’m seeing grow.

One partner who does it: SingleTap by Digital Turbine, and Digital Turbine says there’s less friction (sure, I buy that) and better engagement. It’s certainly an easy way to cross-promote your apps, and worth a look for bigger app publishers.

It might even be an interesting monetization strategy for already big apps.

8. Lockscreen ads

If you’re in an Android-heavy geo, you’re probably already doing this. If you’re in an iOS stronghold, you might wonder what the heck this is.

But experiences on the lockscreen by partners like Glance by InMobi are interesting ways that I’m seeing mobile app marketers use to grow.

9. Affiliate marketing and affiliate networks

It’s possible this is limited to high-value apps like fintechs, but there’s a clear upswing in marketers using affiliate marketing mechanics as a new mobile user acquisition channel.

The rub is you have to be able to afford a bounty is attractive to affiliate networks, but since there are markets in everything and arbitrage opportunities all over the adtech ecosystem, this might be less of a barrier than I’m thinking.

One thing I’d want to watch out for: brand risk if affiliate marketers go hog-wild in ways that negatively impact your app or company.

More new channels for mobile user acquisition?

Seeing (or using) other new channels for mobile user acquisition? 

Ping us and share.

I’d love to interview you on Growth Masterminds about pockets of opportunity for growth that you’re seeing.

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