With millions of mobile options in app stores, competition for attention is higher than ever. That's why it's so critical for marketers to engage key audiences to ensure the longevity and visibility of their apps.

Mobile has moved in leaps and bounds over the past year to make an attempt to catch up with other online marketing techniques.

Mobile app marketing success used to be measured by the number of clicks on an advertising source. Then the focus moved to how many people installed the app. Now the industry is starting to realize that engagement and retaining valuable users is key to marketing success.

Mobile marketers are looking beyond the install to get the best value out of their user base.

Retargeting Techniques

So how do we deal with this changing landscape? The two key approaches are retargeting and reengagement, which entice a user who has shown interest back into an app.

Retargeting is when specific, individual users are targeted online or through mobile. In the mobile world, a list of device identifiers is provided to the network, and the network then serves the ad once the device is identified. It's a good way to trigger a one-to-one interaction between a consumer and a brand that is highly personalized and specific.

When users install an app and use it for the first time, they become active users. If they stop using the app for a period of time, they can be retargeted with a marketing campaign.

An advertising network can target a particular set or segment of users based on their device IDs. Through analytics, the device IDs for the user segment can be provided: for example, retargeting "all users who haven’t triggered a session in the past three weeks."

The network is then able to display the ad to the list of devices, enticing the user back into the app. The user then needs to be reattributed to the new advertising source for driving the user back to the app.

Reengagement Options

Reengagement is identifying someone who has downloaded an app, and then enticing them to return to the app, or use it more frequently. Reengagement uses various tools to reengage users who are inactive, and the best tools for driving reengagement are typically deep-linking, push notifications and in-app and online ads.

Things work differently in the world of apps in a few crucial ways. For starters, there are no cookies -- no easy way for apps to follow a user into other apps or even out onto the Internet with personalized offers. Instead there is a more binary distinction. In order to do retargeting on mobile, a device and identifier is needed, whereas reengagement does not need any unique identifier as it principally targets a group of users rather than a specific one.

Evidence suggests that reengagement can draw huge benefits with minimal investment. Trademob, which developed the first mobile retargeting platform focused entirely on apps late last year, has already demonstrated up to 300 percent higher in-app conversions, and up to 95 percent lower costs for acquiring quality users through their retargeting campaigns.

Deep-Linking

Deep-linking in the app world is when a user is taken to a specific app or place within an app. Crucially, deep-linking is only possible if it is specifically supported by the app, making it a function that must be planned before coding.

Many publishers and ad platforms have not executed deep-linking well. When a mobile device encounters a deep-link triggered by a user click, it asks the already-installed apps if they recognize the deep-link.

Non-recognition would result in the customer receiving a white page error and consequently leaving the site. Therefore, a fallback where the user would be redirected to the App Store and invited to install the app is needed. There is no common accepted way to do this so companies like adjust or deeplink.me have come up with sophisticated workarounds.

Push Notifications

Push-notifications are simple, text-based messages that pop up on the device and have to be opted-in for by users. The message can ask users why they have been inactive, suggest they come back, prompt them to make a purchase or make offers such as discounts on new items. The goal of push notifications is to attract attention without annoying the user.

From Attribution to Reattribution

Attribution, which is the art of connecting an install to its source, is a critical component of determining the return-on-investment of any marketing campaign. If you cannot attribute user actions to a specific campaign or creative, you cannot track their behavior to understand whether a marketing campaign reengaged any existing users.

In the web world, assigning proper attribution is simple. A user clicks on an advertisement at CNET for a new MacBook laptop, for example. The ad sends the user to BestBuy. The user buys the MacBook. BestBuy knows that user came via a CNET ad and not via an ad on Gizmodo. Attribution is generally achieved in the web world through construction of unique page URLs that reflect the origin of the visitor, or through cookies.

For mobile, the attribution is assigned when an app is installed. This has been the standard metric to measure conversion. This worked when installs was the primary measurement of success. But, now that we are moving away from the install as the conversion point to events as the conversion points, it is crucial to attribute users to the source that persuaded them to reengage with an app. In the case of reengagement campaigns, since the app has already been installed and each user attributed to a particular source at install, they need to be reattributed to see what campaign or creative the user came from this time around.

In the app world, attribution is not as developed or granular as on the Internet. This is particularly important for certain verticals such as e-commerce where users are far more likely to shop and make purchases with tablets than with smartphones. Tablets, as a percentage of total transactions in the mobile arena, are growing fast. Advertisements or affiliate campaigns through the web or other native apps will need reattribution so that e-commerce storeowners pay the proper commission.

For this reason, app analytics and business intelligence companies need to offer publishers very reliable reengagement attribution or reattribution capabilities as it is a task that few app publishers should or could take on themselves.

Doing this well means that every session must be monitored and each click tracked to ensure third-party attribution or confirm the success of reengagement methods. This can present a technical nightmare as the magnitude of sessions and clicks will be in the hundreds of millions for a standard app.

Beyond Clicks and Installs

In the past six months, app marketing has moved beyond counting clicks and installs, and technological advances now allow more advanced mobile marketing techniques to be possible.

Every sharp app marketer should be looking at ‘The Three Rs’ of marketing (retargeting, reengagement and reattribution) for the business case that these practices provide a return on investment much higher than previous, traditional methods.

By taking on these strategies, marketers can ensure that they’ll be part of the ad tech’s future growth and innovation.