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Growth hacking has been one of the buzz words in the marketing world, but it’s much more than just a passing fad.

The innovative techniques and laser-sharp focused of growth hack strategies can help bring big results to businesses quickly.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at what growth hacking is and how it relates to mobile app installations, along with some actionable strategies you can implement to drive mobile app installs for your business.

1. What Is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking is a process that’s focused entirely on achieving a single goal. The end result is all that matters, and it doesn’t really matter how it’s achieved. That end result is growth in some form, such as growth in the number of users who have downloaded your mobile app.

Growth hackers drive mobile app installs by finding the right techniques or “hacks” that allow for rapid growth. These tricks often include innovative, unique new perspectives for how to accomplish a specific goal.

This is especially helpful for early startups who need tools to help them focus on growth.

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2. Growth Hacking to Drive Mobile App Installs

Using growth hacking to drive mobile app purchases through installs can be highly efficient, and with mobile apps accounting for roughly 89% of the average users’ media time, mobile apps matter for your business. To put this into perspective, as of the end of 2015, Facebook had 727 million users that were purely mobile-only monthly active users.

With a ridiculously—and increasingly—large number of apps available (there were 1.5 million apps available for purchase in Apple’s App Store in 2015), it makes sense that utilizing growth hacking methods to quickly increase your user count and drive mobile app installs. This will hopefully help you to account for some of that 89% of a users’ media time.

How is Growth Hacking Different on Mobile?

Growth hacking with mobile apps will be different than growth hacking in other areas, like when you’re trying to expand your email list or social media followers.

Instead of focusing on paid social ads (like Facebook or Twitter Ads) or paid search ads (Google Adwords), you’ll increase awareness and drive mobile app installs with other tools and techniques. Some of these include:

Mobile App Funnel

The mobile app funnel will vary slightly from a traditional digital marketing funnel, where the focus is on selling a product and building a lifelong relationship with that customer. It’s the same basic idea, but it has different funnel levels.

The stages of the mobile app funnel include:

  1. Awareness. The user has just discovered your app, and know very little about it.
  2. Acquisition. The user downloads the app, whether for free or a nominal price.
  3. Activation. The user actually logs in to the app, registers if necessary, and utilizes it.
  4. Revenue. The user will make in-app purchases, or is encouraged by the app to make purchases on the main site. This is the monetization stage.
  5. Retention. The user continues to use the app. Adding continual, reliable value in some form is important to keeping a user’s attention.
  6. Referral. Your customer is now advocating for your brand, and will refer your app to other users.

Having strategies in place to target different users in all stages of the funnel and push them further down it will be essential to reaching your ultimate goal—falling into that 38% of apps discovered by word of mouth marketing when your users start advocating for you.

3. Actionable Strategies & Examples

Selling a product and driving mobile app installs are two completely different focuses, and the benefit of growth hacking is that if finds techniques that hone in on achieving that singular goal. Because of this, it’s important to utilize actionable strategies that were designed specifically for growth hacking mobile app installs.

Some of the best growth hack strategies to drive mobile app installs include:

Use Social Logins for Onboarding & Increasing Social Sharing

Onboarding is the process of getting users to actually activate the app. Once they’ve downloaded it, they need to login, sign up, and start using it.

Plenty of users will download an app and then change their minds, especially if it feels like too much work. By making the process as appealing and simple as possible, you’ll increase the number of users who activate and actually use the app.

Utilizing social logins, or at least giving the users to sign up through their social media profiles, can speed up the process and eliminate some of the friction new users can feel. They just have to click a few buttons instead of filling out all the information.

Even better for you: this will often give you more lead information about a user than most would have the patience to fill out. This works in both your benefit and theirs.

Stage of the funnel this works in: This is essential in the Activation stage. It can also provide opportunities during the Referral stage, if users are encouraged to share on social media.

Real world example: When you first load Candy Crush, you’re encouraged to connect with Facebook to “share your progress with your friends and across different devices.”

This not only makes the login process easier, it also works to act as a referral program later on if you choose to post your success on Facebook. Even if you don’t initially choose to, “Connect” is always listed under “Play” on the home screen.

Tools to implement this strategy: Tools like Gigya and EasyAuth Social Login offer easy integration and allow your users to securely sign into your app through their social media profiles.

Keep Users Active with Push Notifications

Push notifications allow apps to send us messages and notifications, encouraging users to take an action of some sort.

Trello sends push notifications when a card you’re tagged on has changed. It reminds the user to interact with the app, and provides them with a high value message.

Once you’ve got a user to install the app, 52% of people are likely to say yes to push notifications from the app, and you’ll see, on average, an 88% higher engagement rate from users with push notifications enabled than those without them.
You don’t want to bombard users with too many push notifications, or they’ll opt out. Instead, send push notifications that are fewer and hold more value. Users on Facebook, for example, are more likely to care that someone commented on their post than if someone liked it. This is reflected in push notifications.

Push notifications can drive users to purchase, increase engagement, and enable retention, as well as offering use to onboard new users.

Stage of the funnel this works in: Push notifications work in both the Retention stage by reminding users to utilize the app, and in the revenue stage by prompting users to purchase.

Real world example: Adore Me’s app is designed to push users to continually purchase. They’ll alert users to sales and discounts only for app users, and when their monthly showroom is ready. By keeping push notifications minimal but highly relevant to the user while offering value (updates about sales or a reminder to that their monthly charge is coming), users will continue to use the app—and make purchases from it.


Tools to implement this strategy: 3rd party services like Localytics and Urban Airship can help you set up and distribute push notifications to your users.

Finding the right tool will depend on factors like your budget, how many users will be receiving them, and your objective. Push notification tool Kahuna, for example, is designed to drive in-app purchases, while Appboy focuses on continued engagement.

Promote In-App Referrals with Incentives

A lot of companies offer referral programs; Hulu, for example, will give you two weeks free when you refer it to a friend. Asking for users to refer others to you is effective, particularly when the user is offered an incentive. Hulu offers two weeks free, and Adore Me gives members $15 credit if the referral signs up.

Hulu’s referral program offers a monetary incentive.

Make it even easier for your users by making it easy for them to refer other users without ever leaving the app—the less work the better.

The increase both the success of the referrals and the number of referrals being sent out, offer an incentive for both users; both users get two weeks free, or a discount, or store credit.

Stage of the funnel this works in: This strategy is effective for users in the Referral stage.

Real world example: Uber’s in-app referral features a double incentive, making it alluring for both the referrer and the referee. The user who sent the referral would get a $10 credit, and the user who was referred would get $10 off their first ride.

Tools to implement this strategy: To promote in-app referrals, tools like Alau.me will create short, shareable, trackable links. Not only will you be able to see how many people clicked the link, you’ll be able to see how many downloaded and actually use the app.

4. How to Measure Mobile Installation Results from Growth Hacking

When you’re measuring mobile installation results from growth hacking, there are a few things to consider: what metrics are used, how k-factor plays a role in growth hacking, and how viral coefficient plays its role.

Metrics to Measure Growth Hacking

When you’re measuring growth hacking and driving mobile installs, there’s a few things you’ll want to keep an eye on. You’ll want to track:

For engagement, you’ll specifically want to track:

The K-Factor

The K-factor is the industry standard for to measure app virality. It’s found by multiplying three different types of conversions together, keeping time as a constant. The formula is:

(download to activation) x (activation to share) x (share to new viral-driven download)

The K-factor can help you to determine the viral growth rate of an app, and when your calculation above results in a 1 or higher, it’s considered to be viral growth.

Ideally, growth hacking will jump start the number of downloads and engagement within an app. When you’re in the middle of a growth hacking campaign, you’ll know it’s successful if you start seeing your k-factor score increase.

Viral Coefficient

A viral coefficient is another important metric that’s good to watch; it’s the number of customers your current customers are bringing to you each, on average. If your coefficient is 3, then your current customers are, on average, bringing in 3 new users.

To calculate your viral coefficient, follow this formula:

(Number of current customers)x(number of invites they send to other users) = Value 1

(Number of invites) / (number of those who signed up) = Value 2

(Value 1) x (Value 2) = viral coefficient.

This will come into play during the referral stage of the funnel, and can let you know how strong your referral programs and incentives are.

You always want your viral coefficient to be greater than 1, because this will show a continual growth cycle of current users reaching out to new users.

As you increase your current customers and they continue to invite more and more people, you’ll hit massive growth. And that’s the whole point.

5. Tools & Analytics to Measure Growth Hacking

There are several tools and analytics systems we can use to measure growth hacking on mobile installs. My favorites are:

Even if you don’t choose either of these, it’s important to keep an eye on the progress of your app, not only during growth hacking, but in its entire lifespan. Finding an analytics tool that works for you will be worthwhile in the long run.

6. The Takeaway

Because growth hacking for driving mobile app installs will require different strategies than marketing for other types and areas of growth, it’s good to know the difference and have a grasp on what strategies perform well within the mobile funnel.

Utilizing mobile specific growth hacks like push notifications, onboarding, and social logins can push users through the mobile sales funnel, quickly increasing the number of installs of your mobile app.

When combined with your overall marketing strategy (which can include content marketing, Facebook Ads, and email campaigns), these growth hacks can drive mobile app installs fast, which providing you with new inspiration for how expand growth in other areas, too.

Like this post? Learn more about digital marketing strategies, customer acquisition, and social media marketing. Contact Us. 

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