17 things I learned about web-to-app user acquisition in our recent webinar with LinkedIn, DraftKings, Tinuiti, Liftoff

By John Koetsier November 29, 2022

Why are mobile marketers swiping right on web-to-app and app-to-web marketing now more than ever? 

Lots of reasons.

Maybe you’re looking for data you can’t get in a mobile app. Maybe you’re picking up new mobile app users on the cheap via the web. Or maybe there are just different and incremental audiences in each of the app and web channels. For whatever reason, the vast majority of mobile-first marketers are now looking at, doing, and optimizing multi-channel ways for people to access their services and experiences. 

Singular recently hosted a webinar with some of the top experts on web-to-app and app-to-web marketing to get their insights on strategy, optimization, data collection, and tactics for doing web-to-app (and app-to-web) successfully:

  • LinkedIn: Kristin Kado, Sr. Manager, Paid Social Lead, Labs 
  • DraftKings: Josh Nadler, Product Manager II, Ads & Attribution | SEO
  • Liftoff: Brian Hedrick, Product Manager, Brands
  • Tinuiti: Liz Emery, VP, Mobile + Adtech
  • Singular: Victor Savath, VP Solutions Consulting

Here are 17 things I learned while hosting the webinar:

1. Most mobile marketers are multi-platform

30% of the marketers on the webinar offer only a mobile app. 1% offer only a web app. But 58% offer both mobile and web, making web-to-app and app-to-web solutions critical. And, interestingly, 12% of the marketers we surveyed had web, app, and other platforms on which they serve clients, deliver games, or sell products. 

That could be a console game, a desktop app, a connected TV app, or something on a VR platform.

Whatever it is, 69% of the marketers who showed up offer their services on more platforms than just mobile apps, which means understanding how their customers, users, or players engage on all 3 is critical.

2. Web-to-app sounds simple. It’s not.

Web to app sounds very simple. Pass users along via a deep link or deferred deep link, encode a variable that allows you to measure how many people follow that path, and you’re off to the races.

But marketers and product leaders have a lot of decisions to make: optimal user flows, methodologies, CTAs (calls to action), measuring cross-channel and cross-device journeys, combining data from a website with data from an app, and more.

There’s a lot to engage with here to make a web-to-app customer journey seamless and effective … and to be able to measure and optimize against it in the future.

3. People are omnichannel

People don’t confine themselves to just one device or just one channel.

“Consumers are omnichannel,” says Liz Emery. “So, if you’re an app marketer and you are not using omnichannel tactics and things like web inventory, hitting people at every stage of the funnel, you’re kind of already behind the curve.”

If you’re in a retail vertical, people might like shopping on the web while, perhaps, purchasing via app. Or the other way around, and a thousand other combinations. Any which way they come, marketers need to be ready.

4. We often have cross-screen context

Watching streaming media on a big screen on the wall? Chances are a small screen isn’t far from your hand, and chances are that might be used for a quick search regarding an ad.

“80% of us experience TV and experience our mobile devices in a cross-screen context,” says Brian Hedrick. “I’m watching something on our Apple TV and I see an ad: I’m researching something, I’m looking at Twitter, we’re all in this cross-screen environment.”

Designing user flows without that context might result in non-optimal conversion rates.

“Cross-device action is virtually inevitable in today’s fragmented world,” says LinkedIn’s Kristin Kado. “We’re all so busy and we’re constantly pushing from one screen or device to another rather seamlessly.”

5. Design for you

Understanding your audience is massive. And guess what: in some ways, they might just be a lot like you.

“We as marketers just can’t forget that we’re customers too and we need to enact our strategies not just based on what we know works from the data we have on hand, but from our own personal experiences too,” says Kado.

That means eating your own dogfood, noticing when you get annoyed by inconveniences or extra steps or lack of awareness of user context in your own designed flows, and fixing them.

“We need to be more strategic in how we think about our experiences as consumers and apply that to our consumers themselves,” Kado says.

6. Adopt new forms of measurement, including MMM, for web to app journeys

Web to app can be measured, and there are solutions for cross-device measurement and cross-platform journeys. But it’s not always as perfect as you’d like it to be. And there are some cases where no tracking-based technology will work, like the connected TV ad that someone sees while streaming Peacock that stimulates a Google search that culminates in an app install.

There’s an air gap there which blocks tracking.

Enter media mix modeling.

“One of the models that we’re really leaning in heavily now on is MMM or media mix modeling,” says Kado. “It’s really powerful because, at the end of the day, it’s going to help paint that picture of proper attribution from channel to platform and from web to app.”

Because MMM measures based on the correlation of costs and inputs and efforts to outputs and effects and conversions, it’s not dependent on a direct tracking technology. 

“There’s nothing … that’s going to beautifully connect the dots from web to app in a way that there are no challenges to overcome between web and app measurement,” says DraftKings’ Josh Nadler.

(See how Singular is supporting MMM.)

7. Develop and test hypotheses to reduce drop-off

There’s a lot of complexity in web-to-app, and even more when you add app-to-web, or connected TV to app, or other platforms as well. Simplify the insanity by developing a plan to check your assumptions and test your data connections.

One key goal: minimizing drop-off from platform A to platform B.

“If you do have a web flow setup, you have these goals that you want to accomplish, and you have hypotheses around what is impacting your conversion rate, my recommendation to your teams would be to be testing those hypotheses, iterate over time, with the goal of lowering that drop-off, minimizing that drop off as you go,” says Singular’s Victor Savath.

Whenever you add stages in a marketing funnel, you’re going to have leakage. Minimizing it by designing, testing, and optimizing it is critical.

8. Cost is a huge reason why marketers do web-to-app user acquisition

You simply get cheaper ads on the web, in many cases, than in-app. And that’s a huge reason to do web to app acquisition.

Almost half of the marketers on the webinar said that one of the key reasons they do web to app is cost of acquisition. It’s the single most important reason, and I’ve typically heard mobile marketing experts say that web ads in their verticals are 50% cheaper than in-app ads.

That’s a powerful incentive … if they convert into highly engaged players, customers, or users.

9. Incremental audiences: the second-biggest reason to do web to app

Adding 1 more mobile ad network to your existing stable of 25 might just be like putting 1 more fishing pole into a stream that already has 200 in it: it may not generate incremental interest.

(Note: it very well might, if it’s a niche network with access to niche audiences. But chances are slim.)

But web inventory might just hit different audiences, and that’s why 37% of mobile marketers said that accessing incremental audiences was a key reason they ran web to app ads.

10. The web can offer better onboarding than the App Store or Google Play

Your app listing is probably amazing. And you’ve probably invested significantly in app store optimization to continually make it better and better at converting views into app installs.

But you simply can’t do some things in your app listing, which is why 33% of marketers told us that providing a better onboarding experience was a key reason for them to do web to app.

One example:

I personally recently converted on a marketing campaign that included a web-based component with a long-form video. I’m talking something like 15 minutes of a personal story from a satisfied customer that walked me through the entire brand promise (and execution of that promise).

Good luck doing that in Google Play or the App Store.

Sometimes, you might be able to do better onboarding on a web landing page.

11. You can ask for data on the web

In a typical app-to-app scenario, you show an in-app ad to a prospective customer or user. If they tap on it and hit the App Store or Google Play, then install your app, you’ve achieved your goal. But you’ve also done it entirely in the context of the mobile operating system that your customer chose, which means you’re subject to the rules of the road on that particular platform.

If that doesn’t work for you, the web allows you to set your own rules — within the bounds of local law and regulation — and ask your potential user, player, or customer for data that they are willing to share with you.

And, in fact, 19% of marketers said that asking for customer data was a key reason to go web to app. Another 14% said “side-stepping platform rules” was another key reason.

12. Web and app teams need to play nice with each other

If you want to make web-to-app mobile user acquisition work, your web team and your app team have to sync up on both the product side (to get measurement technology set up) and the marketing side (to align on costs, revenues, ROI, and ROAS) and the data side (to connect all the dots).

“The domains are different, the systems that they own might be different, the coding language to build these systems are often different,” Nadler says. “But what needs to persist is uniformity and lockstep of those web and native teams working together so that your customers, whether they’re coming in through web or they’re coming in through app, they expect and see the same experience.”

The customer experience is paramount.

Also important: connecting the data so that marketers on both sides have the visibility they need to know if they’re succeeding and/or improving.

13. Web or app … start with people first

The technology matters. The platform matters. The UX and UI matter.

But ultimately, it’s about understanding your audience.

“It always starts with audience targeting and audience comprehension,” says Kado. “The more you understand the audience, not just who they are statistically or where they are, but what their mindset is right now, a year from now, five years from now, whatever best fits with your product, the better you’re going to be at setting up those full-funnel strategies and meeting your acquisition goals.”

Once you’ve built that and have a good understanding of awareness, consideration, intent, acquisition, and conversion, you can really build the funnel experience and refine both your strategies and your creative, she adds.

Technology is important. But mobile marketers need to be marketers first.

14. Cheap is good, but …

Just because web-to-app acquisition might be cheaper than app-to-app acquisition doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk win all the time. 

“You might see cheaper CPMs on web inventory but if it’s not equal or higher quality or incremental placement, it’s still going to get back down to what your CPA goals are and that’s going to be your go/no-go 10 times out of 10 when it’s direct response marketing,” DraftKings’ Nadler says. “No matter what you’re doing or where you’re buying media, if it’s not backing out to your CPA goals, you’re not going to spend.”

Cheap is good, but your web traffic also has to convert.

15. Get first-party data on the web

We touched on it above: 19% of marketers said that asking for customer data was a key reason to go web to app. Since you can, get critical first-party data when appropriate.

“Consent is the keyword here,” Nadler says. “[Web to app] provides you another opportunity to get the data that you need in a consent-based way.”

That could be an email address for a coupon code. That could be a mobile number to SMS when appropriate. Or it could be creating a full account and a link to log into it in-app.

The key is to do what you can to ensure you have first-party relationships with your users, players, or customers as much as possible, with no intermediaries in between.

16. Multiplatform users have higher retention rates

Everyone needs higher engagement and retention

While it’s correlation not causation, LinkedIn’s Kristin Kado says that multiplatform users have higher retention rates than web only or app only users.

“We’re a multi-screen society and our marketing campaign should reflect that,” Kado says. “Statistically, we know that users who have an app and a web presence have a higher retention rate. So that’s a really important nugget to hold on to.”

It makes sense: more engagement on more platforms indicates both more usage and more commitment. Whatever you can do to enhance this is only going to be beneficial long term.

17. SKAN 4 will help with web to app

SKAN 4 will bring its own challenges, no doubt. But it will help on iOS with web to app marketing campaigns.

“With iOS 16, there’s still a lot to be unpacked, a lot of understanding and adoption from the larger landscape,” says Singular’s Savath. “But with SKAN 4, there’s support for web ads to mobile app install measurement. And that’s compelling because you have web ads that have more streamlined conversion rates.”

Streamlining is critical, because each step in a marketing process or funnel runs the risk of losing people and reducing conversion rates. SKAN 4 will offer more granular insights into web to app measurement without that risk.

So much more in the full webinar

Yes, there is actually more in the full webinar, and yes, it’s still worth watching and enjoying. Panelists Liz Emery from Tinuity, Kristin Kado from LinkedIn, Josh Nadler from DraftKings, Brian Hedrick from Liftoff, and Victor Savath from Singular offer many more insights into how to drive web-to-app and app-to-web marketing strategies.

They also answer audience questions live, driving more insight. And finally, each sums up their own best takeaways on web to app user acquisition.
Check it out right here.

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