The mobile app marketing industry is powered by several business models. From one-off payments to costs-per-metric, there is a number of models for mobile app marketers to choose from upon launching an app’s advertising campaign. CPI, or Cost Per Install, is one of them, and while on the surface the name makes it sound deceptively simple (pay-per-install means you pay when someone installs your app, right?), there is actually plenty of nuance to it. App marketers are in a tough ever-increasing competition and so to meet their marketing goals, they may utilize all these models.
This guide will help you understand the ins and outs of the CPI payout model in particular, what CPI advertising and CPI marketing is and how they compare to other metrics.
Table of Contents
- Cost Per Install or CPI – a definition and formula
- What is a CPI campaign and why is it important?
- Why is CPI a valid metric?
- Mobile App Acquisition Costs
- Average CPI for iOS and Android apps worldwide
- Top 10 CPI for iOS apps by category and country
- Top 10 CPI for Android apps by category and country
- Cost Per Install statistics: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Search Ads
- How to choose a CPI campaign provider
First things first, let’s start with providing the set of stats that draw the picture for apps Cost Per Install in various countries and mobile platforms.
Key Average Cost Per Install Statistics:
- iOS app CPI Globally – $0.86
- Android app CPI Globally (Google Play market) – $0.44
- iOS app CPI in US – $2.07
- Android app CPI in US (Google Play market) – $1.72
- Cost Per Install on Facebook Ads – $1.8
- Cost Per Install on Twitter Ads – $2.53
- Cost Per Install on Instagram Ads – $2.23
- Cost Per Install on Search Ads – $1.00
Before diving into the specifics, it will certainly make sense to give a definition to what is Cost Per Install and how to calculate it.
Cost per install (aka CPI) – a definition and formula
Tubemogul has about the best and most concise definition we could find, so here it is:
CPI (Cost Per Install) campaigns are specific to mobile applications. In a Cost Per Install campaign, publishers place digital ads across a range of media in an effort to drive installation of the advertised application. The brand is charged a fixed or bid rate only when the application is installed.
The formula for calculating Cost Per Install is quite simple, in fact it’s implied in the name: Your total ad spend divided by number of installs.
Now we’ve set our terms, let’s have a look at what a Cost Per Install campaign is and why it is important.
What is a CPI campaign and why is it important?
Cost Per Install is one of the many metrics by which people measure their advertising budget. The advertiser only pays the ad network once the app is installed instead of just the advert being viewed (known as the CPM, or cost-per-mille, model). This puts the onus on ad networks to place the advert in places where conversion rates are high and to target the ad appropriately to the correct audience.
Given the higher value behind an install over a simple viewing of the advert, costs per install are also significantly higher – in some places around $3, whereas CPM can vary wildly from $0.78 to $7.00 depending on the platform (iOS/Android) and the type of advert (interstitials, banners etc).
Why is CPI a valid metric?
In May 2016 Fiksu, a major mobile marketing company stopped featuring CPI statistics in their core set of indexes. According to the company, “although it still has a role, CPI should no longer be the central metric to measure app marketing success.” The reasoning behind this is the increasing reports that the “app craze” is waning. People download fewer apps than before, and open even fewer; as such, a “mere” app install is no longer a good metric of whether your app is successful. This, coupled with the fact that the most successful apps are free to download and monetise via in-app transactions or eCommerce, also puts paid to this theory.
That being said, CPI is still more important then CPM if what you’re advertising is the app itself, and not an eCommerce product. It’s still a great metric for games, especially if you set the pay-out to trigger upon a certain achievement in the game which is far more indicative of user engagement than just downloading.
CPI providers have wisened up to the “end of the app craze” and there are plenty of ways of making the metric significant and of making CPI campaigns successful. Other metrics which you should consider alongside CPI are Cost Per Loyal User/Cost Per Engagement (the line between the definition of these two is becoming increasingly blurred) and Cost Per Sale (only triggers when a sale is made).
Mobile App Acquisition Costs
When we take a broader look at what costs are associated with a mobile app marketing campaign, we see that in fact Cost per install is only one cost among others, such as Cost Per Registration, Cost Per Reservation, Cost Per Purchase, Cost Per in-app Purchase and finally Cost Per Subscription. In a nutshell all these costs are associated with specific actions people take with apps, an app install is the initial one. Because on this stage mobile users don’t have to make any financial commitment, it’s the least expensive action app marketers want them to take.
Mobile App Acquisition Costs in USD
Average CPI for iOS and Android apps worldwide
According to the data from the mobile app marketing company Geenapp, an average cost per install for iOS apps is $0.44 and $0.86 for Android apps. Several years ago Google and Apple’s mobile app platforms formed a duopoly that ever since dictates a room temperature for any costs associated with mobile apps marketing and advertising. This close to 200% average CPI difference speaks to the fact that, thanks to being Open Source, Android has managed to conquer a much bigger mobile devices market share and hence there is less competition for mobile users on the Android side. Also people who use iOS devices tend to spend more on apps and therefore app marketers are more inclined to fight for these people attention and so they rise iOS apps cost to install.
Average Cost Per Install for iOS and Android apps worldwide in USD
Top 10 CPI for iOS apps by category and country
Different countries have a unique set of parameters that define their economy, mobile devices penetration and ultimately how much does it cost to acquire a mobile app user. So let’s take a look at how CPI varies geographically. According to the data provided by Charthoost, the company that helps game developers to monetize their apps, among multiple countries it tracks CPI value for, the highest cost per iOS app install is registered for Japan and it hovers around $3.59 per an app install. The other countries, that collectively present the Top 10 of countries with the highest CPI, are Northern Mariana Islands ($2.64 / install), Canada ($2.2o / install), Saint Vincent and The Grenadines ($2.19 / install), Germany ($2.09 / install), US ($2.07 / install), Switzerland ($1.99 / install), American Samoa ($1.90 / install), Austria ($1.90 / install) and finally South Korea, with $1.9 / install as well.
Top 10 Cost Per Install (CPI) for iOS in USD, by Country and Category
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Top 10 CPI for Android apps by category and country
On the Android side of the mobile OS duopoly we see the following picture. The top 10 is being lead by Macau, with an average cost per an app install equals to $2.28, Turkmenistan sits on the second place of the chart, with $2.16 / install, Japanese Android app developers manage to acquire users for $1.65 / install, Australia has $1.54 per app install, Norway – $1.53 / install, in Switzerland it takes $1.51 to acquire an Android app install, in Iceland – $1.44, in Denmark – $1.37, in Singapore – $1.37, in New Zealand – $1.36, in Polynesian sovereign state Tonga – $1.33 and in the United Kingdom it takes only $1.29 to acquire a single Android app install.
Top 10 Cost Per Install (CPI) for Android in USD, by Country and Category
Cost Per Install statistics: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Search Ads
Among many advertising platforms there are several that stand out, these are Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Twitter Ads and Search Ads by Apple. The companies that power these ad platforms have a number of unique competitive advantages against their competitors. Facebook is the biggest social network in the world with more than 1,4 monthly active users and multiple data points for each user profile that allows it to target mobile app install ads like no other platform is capable and therefore achieve a cost per install on Facebook as low as $1.80. Of course, as we all know, such immense data collection requires great care and responsibility and Facebook has been going through a very harsh period because of the apparent lacking of these two. Twitter Ads platform average cost per app install is $2.53, Instagram Ads (owned by Facebook) is capable to acquire mobile app users for $2.23 per each and finally Apple’s Search Ads offer advertisers the lowest CPI rate – only $1.00 per an app install.
Cost Per Install by advertising platform in USD
How to choose a CPI network
There is a number of things you should look at when choosing your CPI campaign provider. A well-targeted CPI campaign will often be successful, but the devil is in the detail, so these are the things to look out for.
Do they work with ad networks, or have a set pool apps that they can advertise in? The first has wider scope but the second – may bring a better targeting on the table, if those apps all belong to a particular category. Which brings us to niche.
Does the campaign provider specialise in generic mobile apps, or games? Specific verticals? Once again this is about making a choice between the reach of your advertising and its precision, and the answer should be given by the characteristics of your mobile app.
If you have a free-to-download app which relies on in-app transactions to monetise, then a simple download by itself is no guarantee of return-on-investment. You want to ensure you pay advertisers only when the user they brought you actually provides value. Is it when they make their first purchase, when they’ve spent a certain amount of money, or when they’ve reached a particular level in your game? The platform you choose should be able to offer different metrics to track payouts.
Naturally you want to pay the right price for where and to who you are advertising. Most platforms have technology to track market averages and bid at levels set by you, but there may well be a commission on top of that for the platform, the ad network or the process. It’s not something you can avoid, but you should at least know what you’ll be expected to pay in order to budget effectively.
As of today CPI metric has definitely lost its initial appeal to mobile app marketers but it is still a part of the app marketing efforts equation. With CPI campaigns app marketers may achieve several goals. Such as growing the number of users their apps have, boosting an app’s ranking on the App Store / Google Play market to secure it a higher visibility, increase the number of users for their apps while App Store Optimization they’ve been applying haven’t impacted their native user acquisition yet and more. The most popular social networks provide highly effective advertising platforms for mobile app marketers to leverage their extensive user profile data sets. As a metric Cost Per Install should always be measured and optimized in conjunction with the Cost Per Action model that measures app marketers expenses to achieve specific actions for their apps – in-app purchase, registration, subscription and more.