In today’s highly competitive mobile app market, it’s essential for app developers and marketers to find ways to improve Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) and boost your retention rate. One effective strategy is to focus on targeting returning users who have downloaded the app in the past but are no longer using it. In this article, we’ll take you over best practice advice for running performance marketing campaigns with this goal in mind.  

Retargeting or remarketing?

The terms retargeting and remarketing are often used interchangeably in performance marketing, and in essence pertain to the same thing: the attempt to win back an old customer. Strictly speaking, retargeting primarily refers to paid ads being used to re-engage audiences who have previously performed a particular action, such as downloading an app. On the other hand, remarketing is often used in reference to the email channel to re-engage past customers. 

The advantages of retargeting

We will refer to this as retargeting throughout this article, and the strategy has several advantages for the performance marketer. Firstly, the targeted users are already familiar with the app, saving you having to educate the user on the value proposition, and making them more likely to continue using your product. Additionally, targeting these returning users can help to reduce acquisition costs as they have a higher intent and likelihood of downloading your app. According to Business of Apps, acquiring new users is five to ten times more costly than retargeting them. Typically retargeting app campaigns target: 

  • Users who previously had the app in the past but have since deleted it.
  • Users who have downloaded the app on another device
  • Users who may still have the app, but have been inactive for a while.

This gives marketers an opportunity to remind these users  of the value and benefits of the app, and encourage them to return and continue using it. Done well, this can lead to increased reactivation and drive more downloads, potentially leading to a higher ROAS. 

Additionally, targeting returning users can also help increase the lifetime value (LTV) of users.  This is due to their familiarity with the app and brand, as they are more likely to make repeat purchases and generate more revenue over time.

Retargeting Campaigns Best Practice 

When running retargeting campaigns, it’s important to personalize the message and offer relevant incentives to the user. You might want to point out any app updates or new features that might be especially interesting for a user that already knows your brand. Keep in mind that they have used the app before, so they are already familiar with the brand. This gives you the opportunity to go beyond your simple value proposition in your messaging and creatives. Use A/B testing to optimize your campaigns, and track your performance by setting clear goals and measuring the results.

When running remarketing campaigns, it is important to track metrics such as click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate, as they can give you an idea of how well your campaigns are performing in terms of driving users to take action. That said, keep in mind that these metrics alone don’t give the complete picture, and should be viewed in conjunction with metrics such as retention and revenue.

In addition to these metrics, keep an eye on the low funnel events such as retention and revenue. These metrics can give you a clearer understanding of how well your campaigns are performing. Additionally, it’s important to track the lifetime value of your users as it can indicate how much revenue they generate over time and help you direct ad spend to profitable media and set targets. 

It’s important to keep in mind that users might have previously completed actions like making a subscription or first purchase. If you base your KPI targets on unique events like these, they might not be triggered for a returning user, this means that the performance of the KPI, for example cost per signup, will look worse for returning users. However, when you look at revenue as a key growth metric, it will paint a more positive picture. Therefore, it is essential to track their behavior after re-engaging with the app and see if the campaigns were successful in retaining them and generating revenue.

Other re-engagement initiatives 

Outside of running paid retargeting campaigns. There are other approaches that app developers and marketers can take to encourageusers to re-engage with their app. These include:

  • Sending targeted push notifications that offer personalized incentives or discounts
  • Using email marketing to reach out to returning users with personalized content and offers
  • Using social media to reach out to returning users by creating engaging content
  • Running referral programs that encourage returning users to invite their friends to download the app
  • Build brand loyalty by showcasing new products to your customers.
  • Improving the overall user experience by regularly updating the app with new features and fixing bugs


In conclusion, targeting returning users can be a valuable strategy for improving ROAS and retention for your mobile app. Remarketing campaigns can help to reach out to these users and remind them of the value and benefits of the app, leading to increased reactivation and revenue. It’s important to personalize the message and offer relevant incentives, and track metrics such as retention and revenue in addition to click-through and conversion rates. Additionally, there are other approaches such as targeted push notifications, email marketing, social media, referral programs and building brand loyalty that can be taken to re-engage returning users. With the right strategies in place, app developers and marketers can effectively retain and monetize returning users, leading to long-term success for your app!

Before You Go 

  • Phiture can help your app or game execute remarketing campaigns that deliver the results you care about. Want to find out more? Reach out to us here. 
  • The execution of performance marketing campaigns has changed significantly in recent years due to new policies that protect user privacy. For a concise overview of the current state of play, and the factors to watch out for, check out Salah Mustafa’s guide here. 
  • Phiture’s Subscription Stack is designed to help growth marketers conceptualize their subscription optimization strategy and understand the essential components of running a mobile subscription business.