App Marketing Costs (2024)

Artem Dogtiev | July 17, 2024

The today’s app store landscape is totally dominated by the famous duopoly – Google’s Play Store marketplace and Apple’s App Store. With the total number of mobile apps recently passing 8.9 million and, at the same time, mobile users using only a handful of apps regularly, competition among apps continues to grow rapidly and with no signs of slowing down.

In this environment, it’s a small wonder that app marketing costs constitute a bulk of a brand’s marketing expenses, and many indie app developers struggle to get their apps discovered on the app stores, let alone get them connected with loyal users.

On the big brands’ side of the app marketing equation, the challenges are both to reach and retain app users on the scale. On top of these challenges, there is a heat competition for people’s attention – multiple studies have shown that on average, on a daily basis, people use just a handful of mobile apps – about 10 daily and 30 monthly –  and to break through to that small circle is a marketing feat on of itself.

As you begin to build your mobile app marketing strategy, you can ask yourself – how much does it cost to market an app? Today mobile app marketing costs consist of many important components that cover the entire lifespan of an app and can be divided into three stages – Pre-Launch, Launch, and Post-Launch. Further on we are covering app marketing campaign constituents that represent these three stages.

If you need a quick glimpse into what app marketing cost components look like, use the following key data points list for reference.

Key Average App Marketing Costs Points

  • Search Ads Cost Per Install – $1.42
  • Google Ads Cost Per Install – $2.65
  • TikTok Ads Cost per install – $2.88
  • Instagram Ads Cost per install – $3,50
  • Facebook Ads CPI – $3.75
  • ironSource CPI – $2.75
  • AppLovin CPI – $3,00
  • Vungle CPI – $3.00
  • Unity Ads CPI – $2.50
  • App market research – $5k…$15k
  • App beta testing – up to $5k
  • App Store Optimization tools – $25 – $1,500 / month
  • App marketing agency pricing – between $1 – 25k
  • App PR outreach – $100…$300 / hour
  • Influencer marketing agency management fees- from $10k – $18k
  • App launch campaigns costs – $5k to $100k
  • In-app messaging & push notifications – $1k -$5k / month
  • App analytics – $500 – $2k / month
  • App personalization and gamification – $2k to $10k
  • User engagement campaigns – $5k to $30k

Let’s look at the trajectory of app marketers’ spending in recent years. Any app marketing campaign budget has several components and the most significant of those is expenses on paid app user acquisition, specifically – the app install ads.

Mobile apps may have a variety of purposes and revenue potentials but before any of it happens, the app needs to be downloaded first. People may discover the app directly via search or learn about the app from ads on social media, paid ad platforms from Apple and Google or advertising networks.

Paid user acquisition platforms

The low-hanging fruits, app install ad platforms wise, are the Search Ads from Apple and Google Ads from Alphabet. Naturally, the pricing for generating app installs on these platforms vary significantly on app category and location. Having said that, a ballpark for Cost Per Install on Apple’s Search Ads is $1.42 and for Google Ads it is $2.65.

The cost of an app install on the Apple’s iOS side is  lower because Search Ads placement is limited to the Apple’s App Store, where people search for apps with a clear intent, which isn’t always the case with some of Google Ads placements.

Social media is another extremely popular and efficient channel for acquiring new users for apps. As of 2024, the social media platforms of choice for app marketers are TikTok, Facebook & Instagram Ads. Using paid advertising tools from these social media platforms, app marketers can connect their apps with users on scale. An average cost per install on TikTok Ads is $2.88, Facebook Ads CPI is $3.75, and the cost of a mobile app install on Instagram is $3.50.

There is a big variety of advertising networks app marketers can use to generate installs for their apps. Today’s leading platforms are ironSource, AppLovin, Vungle and Unity Ads. The average cost per install for ironSource is $2.75, for Applovin – $3.00, Vungle – $3.00 and Unity Ads – $2.50.

If you need to know more about paid app user acquisition, check Cost Per Install and Cost Per Action research pages.

Mobile app marketing plan

Let’s look at the general picture of what kind of app marketing activities marketers need to allocate and spend their budget on.

On the following graph you can see a big picture of what an app marketing plan consists of. As time goes by, new app marketing channels pop up but the overall approach to how market mobile app efficiently remains the same. It starts with the pre-launch phase that involves marketing before the app’s release, once the app is launched, multiple app marketing tools are involved to reach out the app’s audience and ideally reach the top ranks and finally the third stage that is all about sustaining the app’s growth and growing its user base.

On this graph SM Ads (aka Social Media ads) include Apple’s Search Ads, Google Ads, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, Reddit and Pinterest Ads, and more.

Mobile app marketing plan

App Pre-Launch costs

The Pre-Launch components are:

  • Market research – needs to be conducted before any steps are taken to define the market and end user;
  • Beta testing – to make sure a mobile app is ready for launch, and possible bugs that won’t create a blowback, once it’s launched on an app store;
  • App Store Optimization – to make sure an app will be found by its potential users and appeal to them enough to be downloaded and actually used afterward;
  • Media coverage with various publications, being covered by Influencers and various actions to tap into viral marketing are also important at this pre-market stage.

It’s important to create anticipation, and awareness of the app before it hits the market so people know when to go to app stores to download an app right after it was released.

In addition, all marketing assets such as a website, social media accounts, and any graphics associated with it need to be ready to create a cohesive look for an app across all marketing channels app users will be discovering the app.

App market research costs

Because a mobile app is a product like any other that needs to meet certain people’s needs, any app marketing starts with a market research to define the market and if there are needs that the app will meet. Such research on average may cost between $5,000 and $15,000.

App beta testing costs

To ensure that an app is ready to be released on a market and serves its users well, it needs to be tested. According to one research such beta testing, conducted before an app’s release, may cause up to $5,000. There are also a number of beta testing services that offer an online subscription for their services, with a pricing range based on the number of beta testers involved.

App store optimization costs

ASO or App Store Optimization is a process of tuning a mobile app’s marketing copy – keywords, title, description, screenshots, icon to improve its chances to be found on an app store by its potential users. To do ASO for an app, brands and indie developers may either perform it in-house, if a proper expertise is in place, use online tools or hire an app marketing agency to take care of it.

An average price for ASO tool ranges from $25 to $1,500 / month, depending on keywords volume analyzed and specific features. To hire an app marketing agency to carry on an App Store Optimization, brands or app developers would need to pay for ASO service as a part of an app marketing package that may costs north of $1,000 and up to $25,000 per app.

App PR outreach costs

One of the app marketing techniques that is well established is PR outreach and pitching an app to online publications via a press release or direct communication. This technique is time consuming and requires having established relationships with media to increase chances of an app to be actually covered. On average a PR agency would charge an app developer or a brand $100 – $300 / hour for a media outreach.

Influencer marketing costs

Tapping into the power of Influencer Marketing is one of the recent trends for many industries and app industry is one of them. Essentially, influencers are capable of delivering for brands and app developers what previously was available only with celebrities – an endorsement.

An Influencer Marketing platform may cost to a brand $10,000 and up for a campaign to connect an app with its audience. An Influencer marketing agency management fees may reach $10k – $18k a month and so, obviously, this type of app marketing is only an option for app projects with a significant funding.

App marketers should also carefully consider the app’s potential to be shared on social media, how viral it can actually be. Mobile apps with a social component such as instant messaging apps, apps for photo and video sharing are good candidates for influencer marketing campaigns, utilities, reference apps aren’t necessary good fit for influencer marketing.

Moving on to the next stage in the app’s marketing plan – the launch.

App launch costs

The moment a mobile app is released on an app store, it competes for people’s attention with lots of similar apps. Therefore, the part of a mobile app’s marketing budget that is allocated to this stage is dedicated to acquiring users for the app on scale.

A good metaphor for an app’s launch is actually a rocket launch, when the significant amount of fuel is required to lift up the rocket. In case of a mobile app, app launch costs are required to “lift up” the app to make it visible for as many potential users as possible, building this way its initial users base.

The range of marketing budgets that can be spend to support the app’s launch ranges from $5k for small and medium apps to $100k and more for large and highly competitive apps.

Once the app’s initial user base is built and the app is visible to its potential users, it’s time to take care of the app’s retention – making sure people who use the app do not abandon it and use it regularly.

App retention costs

One of the most important app marketing benchmarks marketers use to gauge their campaigns performance is app retention. It measures the percentage of the users who continue using the app after the first day, week or month. The app industry average retention rate various between 25% for the first day, 12% for the first week and 5% for the first month of usage. These rates varies for iOS and Android, as well as app categories.

To mitigate mobile apps’ churn – a jargon used by app marketers to name instances when users abandon the app, a number of tools are available. It starts with such essential techniques as App Onboarding and Community Management to make sure the app’s users having the best experience of using the app.

As well as, further running user acquisition campaigns to partly offset users who have stopped using the app, establishing partnerships with other brands to foster people’s interest in the app, push notifications and in-app messaging, and more.

Because app retention involves many techniques, its costs include multiple components. The cost of in-app messaging and push notifications ranges from $1,000 to $5,000 per month. Analytics and behavior tracking tools, that app marketers need to assess the level of a mobile app users’ churn, cost between $500 and $2,000 per month.

Personalization and gamification (parts of the app onboarding) costs range from $2,000 to $10,000 per month. And finally, app user engagement campaigns, that are meant to re-kindle users’ interest in the app, remind them about the app, cost anywhere between $5,000 and $30,000 per month.

Final Thoughts

Understanding app marketing costs is crucial for any business looking to succeed in the highly competitive app marketplace. The insights provided in this article highlight the significant investment required to effectively market an app across various stages, from acquisition to retention. These costs can vary widely based on the type of app, target audience, and chosen marketing strategies. It’s evident that while initial user acquisition might be expensive, the real challenge and ongoing investment lie in retaining and engaging users to ensure long-term success. Businesses must carefully consider these factors and allocate their budgets wisely to maximize their return on investment.

Moreover, the evolving landscape of app marketing demands continuous adaptation and innovation. As user behaviors and preferences shift, marketers must stay ahead of trends and leverage new technologies and platforms to reach their audience effectively.

This includes embracing data-driven strategies, personalized marketing, and staying updated with industry best practices. By understanding and planning for the complexities and costs of app marketing, businesses can better position themselves to not only launch successful apps but also sustain their growth and profitability in the long run.

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