How Much Does it Cost to Get an App Install?

App Install Costs

When it comes to app marketing, one of the important questions that app developers ask is how much will it cost them to get installs for their apps? For an app business of any size, ranging from a small indie developer to a big company, answering this question  results in a number of serious app marketing strategy decisions. The metric they need to measure to answer this question is Cost Per Install (CPI).

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Firstly, before going into a market they need to estimate a CPI value they’ll have for their app and allocate a proper marketing budget. Secondly, they’ll need to measure cost-per-install for an app when it’s realized and they need to invest into its marketing. To estimate CPI in advance app developers can use statistical data, provided by multiple app user acquisition companies. To measure CPI after release they have at their disposal a CPI measuring feature in online dashboard of every major mobile app user acquisition solution provider, such as Facebook App Install Ads, Twitter Ads, Google AdWords App Campaigns, Tapjoy, Appnext, Inmobi and others.

The data that companies like Fiksu, Kenshoo, Geenapp and ChartBoost publish regularly allow us to come up with the list of key values for CPI. This list represents cost per install average values for two major mobile platforms – Android and iOS and for major regions.

Key CPI Statistics:

  • iOS CPI worldwide  – $1.24
  • iOS CPI in US – $1.64
  • iOS Loyal User CPI in US – $2.78
  • Android CPI in US (Google Play) – $1.91
  • Android CPI in US (Amazon) – $1.74
  • iOS CPI in Europe – $1.4
  • Android CPI in Europe (Google Play) – $0.99
  • Android CPI in Europe (Amazon) – $0.41
  • iOS App CPI  in Asia – $0.90
  • Android CPI in Asia (Google Play) – $0.74
  • Android CPI in Asia (Amazon) – $0.26

Further we review multiple factors that influence cost-per-install of a mobile app, such as OS, location and specific app categories.

First up the data on the cost per install fluctuation trend that has emerged from the aggregated actual cost data provided in the Kenshoo report. The data covers an annual time frame, from the last quarter of 2014 to the last quarter of 2015.  The major outcome is that CPI is down 14% from 2014, but if we compare only 2015 quarters, we see a decline during first three quarters and than an increase during the last quarter. This fluctuation can be explained by app developers advertising their apps less during Q1-Q3 with an expectation of a new iPhone model release in September to gain more traction for their apps during media and consumer spike of attention to Apple. The second factor we can attribute this trend was a traditional holiday season advertising spike to take advantage of a customer increase in shopping before and during Christmas.

Cost per install trend, 2014-2015


Source: Kenshoo

The recent data, revealed by Geenapp app promotion platform, reveals that both iPhone and iPad app install cost is equaled to $1.24. An Android app install costs less than a half, only $0.53 per install. Depending on a number of running ad campaigns on any given day, these figures may fluctuate. Because Android platform has more apps than iOS and it sees a higher level of adoption, especially in Asia, the app install cost for these two platforms is significantly different. The analysis of almost 13,000 Geenapp ad campaigns allows to plot the following graph that reveals how iOS and Android CPI fluctuated during February of 2016.

Cost per Install (CPI) March 2016 Globally


Source: Geenapp

According to the data from Fiksu mobile advertising company, in January of 2016 the cost per install in US App Store and Google Play were $1.64 for iOS and $1.91 for Android apps. During the holiday season in December of 2015 we see a significant spike for Android app CPI and than it dropped from almost $3.5 per install to less than $2. This dramatic CPI swing can be attributed to  balance between Android apps supply and demand, with a significant increase before X-mas and New Year period and decrease afterwards. When we look at the iOS CPI, we see a reverse dynamics, to reach higher visibility for their apps during a holiday season, app marketers heavily used an incentive traffic and it actually decreased CPI and than it jumped back up afterwords.

Cost per Install (CPI) January 2016 in US


Source: Fiksu

Another metric, which has been tracked by Fiksu for the last several years, is a cost per loyal iOS app user. The Fiksu definition of a loyal user is the one that opened an app more than 3 times since it’d been downloaded. The reason why this metric is so important is because it helps app marketers to calculate how much money does it cost them to retain their app user base. The 2015 research paper from Nielsen reveals that the majority of the time people spend with mobile apps is spent with only 5 non-native apps. Compared with December of 2015, in January of 2016 cost per loyal iOS app user demonstrated 34% drop and it reached $2.78 / loyal user.

Cost Per Loyal iOS App User January 2016 in US


Source: Fiksu

Another factor that influences cost per install is geo location. The data provided by Chartboost, the company that helps mobile game developers to grow their business, reveals that the highest cost per iOS mobile app install is registered for Australia, $3.23 / app install.

Top 10 Cost Per Install (CPI) by Country


Source: Chartboost

Another factor that influences a mobile app CPI is a specific category of the App Store or Google Play a particular app belongs to. To illustrate this correlation, let’s consider the data for several categories, starting with non-games. Historically Games presented a single biggest and most profitable category, therefore it’s important to assess an average CPI value for other categories and compare it with Games CPI. The Geenapp app promotion company data for March, 2016 reveals that non-games CPI for Android marketplace equal to $0.35 / app install and $0.63 / app install for iOS.

Average CPI March 2016, Non-games Only Globally


Source: Geenapp

Now let’s look at the numbers for the Games category CPI. For Android game apps we see that CPI is higher than non-games, $0.56 / app install against $0.35 / app install, but for iOS it’s the opposite. The iOS non-games versus games app install comparison reveals that it’s $0.63 against $0.58 per app install. It’s also interesting to note that an iPad continues to be the best platform for mobile games and it results in the highest level of competition, as a consequence, the CPI for iPad apps equals to $0.81, which is higher than CPI of both iPhone and Android apps.

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Average CPI March 2016, Games Only Globally


Source: Geenapp

Finally we’d like to provide the data for one specific category, the Kids. On many occasions, apps created for this category are developed and released on a market by non-profit organizations and so knowing CPI for such apps is really important for organizations that have a limited marketing budget but still need to market their apps. Nota that Kids category data set, released by Geenapp app promotion company, is less in scope than the one for games and non-games reviewed earlier, the data set is based on 88 campaigns only, but the Kids category is proportionally smaller in scope as well. As of today, an average CPI for this category equals $0.98 / app install for Android apps, $0.60 / app install for iPhone and $0.59 for iPad apps.

Average CPI March 2016, Apps for Kids Only Globally


Source: Geenapp


Mobile app developers need to estimate how much will it cost them to acquire installs for their apps before releasing them on a market and keep tabs on CPI metric once their apps are published on an app store. A cost per app loyal user is significantly higher than cost per install because it factors in costs app developer has to acquire users who actively use his apps.

For any business that goes mobile, CPI presents a crucial metric that allows to calculate investments it will need to make to include mobile into the mix of channels it uses to reach its customers. Geo location, operating system and specific app category are important factors that influence CPI metric. An inventory of a mobile app affiliate ad network or targeting and reach capabilities of an app install acquisition platform influence CPI value for a particular app.

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