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What is CPI? Mobile Terms Defined

The launch of the iPhone and the App Store in 2007 heralded a new era in mobile technology. More specifically, it led to the explosive growth of smartphones and related technologies such as app development.

The expansion of the smartphone space led to the creation of new terminologies and vocabulary specific to the industry.

Here are some of most common terms and acronyms in the mobile app space and mobile marketing:

Cost per install (CPI)

Cost per install (CPI) or cost per acquisition (CPA) is the money an advertiser/marketer pays an advertising network after a consumer downloads and installs a specific app.

This is irrespective of the number of impressions an app generates. It is important to note that some advertisers use the term cost per download (CPD) to refer to cost per install.

However, CPI and CPD are different terms because a consumer may download an application and fail to install it.

Cost per impression (CPI)

Cost per impression is the amount a marketer pays an ad display network whenever an online ad is displayed on a web user’s device.

Every time a consumer sees the ad, the display network counts it as one impression.

Nevertheless, cost per impression is highly controversial for several reasons. For instance, an ad could be displayed on a webpage part that is not easily visible to site visitors such as the footer section. As such, an advertiser could end up paying for ads that consumers never saw.

To resolve this problem, some modern CPI programs exclude actions such as page reloads and failure to scroll by the section where an ad is displayed.

Lifetime value (LTV)

Lifetime value or customer lifetime value (CLV) is a measure of the total worth of a customer to a business over a given period (usually over the entirety of a business relationship).

This is a key metric because it enables business owners to make reliable future operational plans and allocate their financial resources more appropriately.

Moreover, you can also use this metric to determine whether a young and growing business is financially viable over the long term.


Simply put, retention refers to the ability of a brand to attract repeat customers.

Retention is closely tied to the term “retargeting,” which refers to activities aimed at re¬-attracting customers who were loyal to a brand and abandoned it at some point in the past.

Some of the strategies businesses use to improve their retention rates include better service delivery, replying customer queries fast, competitively pricing goods and services and continuous innovation.

Cost per mile (CPM)

Cost per mile is the amount of money marketers pay ad display/delivery networks per 1,000 impressions.

Unfortunately, all impressions under this category are valid irrespective of whether a consumer takes an action or not. As such, most marketers do not consider CPM a reliable and effective marketing method.

In fact, tech savvy entrepreneurs use CPM impressions to keep their brands in front of consumer eyeballs. Nevertheless, you can include a CPM strategy in your marketing plan if prior usage resulted in high click through rates (CTRs).


Cohorts or cohort analysis is a mobile analytics technique that enables entrepreneurs/businesses to identify consumer segments that fit a specific description or fall into industry-specific/different categories.

In most cases, cohort analysis focuses on consumers that took a desirable action within a specific period. For instance, you can use cohort analysis to determine the number of unique mobile device owners who use your brand’s app monthly.

You can also use it to determine the average revenue per new, the number of repeat customers and churn rate. Most of the free and paid mobile analytics solutions have a cohorts feature.

A good example is Google Mobile App Analytics that has an easy to use cohort analysis feature (you can use it to evaluate the behavior of customer groups in relation to a common attribute).

Software development kit (SDK)

A software development kit is a toolkit that programmers and developers use to create mobile apps.

As such, it contains all the tools required to build a fully functioning application including supported programming languages, relevant libraries, coding language documentation, and a few examples.

Although there are platform agnostic SDKs, some are platform-specific, meaning they only support the development of apps unique to a platform or mobile OS ecosystem. Of course, some SDKs support open source or paid software design tools.

In fact, Apple’s mobile SDK supports a programming language called Swift that was designed solely for developing iOS, OS X, tvOS, and watch OS apps.

What’s more, Apple has released the Swift programming language under an open source license, meaning programmers and developers can tweak its source code to suit their app development needs.

Application programming interface (API)

Application programming interface (API) is probably the most widely mobile technology term. In simple words, an API is a set of protocols, rules, and commands that govern the way different software tools/programs should interact with each other.

The aim is to enable one software programs to access and deploy the functions of another program using a universally applicable set of rules/commands.

For instance, social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), B2C platforms (Uber and Airbnb), and business solutions (Salesforce and Slack) have APIs that developers and programmers can use to access specific resources like consumer data.

Some APIs also enable web users to access server-side resources such as login details (usernames and passwords). Moreover, APIs have become popular and essential because you can use them to build a business on top of another established company’s web platform.

For example, Salesforce allows developers to access its API and use it to build business solutions that are hinged on its cloud-computing infrastructure.

Key performance indicator (KPI)

A key performance indicator (KPI) is a metric used to measure the performance of a brand or its ability to achieve pre-defined goals.

KPIs vary widely depending on market/industry segment, target audience, type of goods/services on offer, and business size.

Examples of common mobile KPIs include total app downloads, revenue per user (RPU), monthly active users (MAUs), LTV, session length, cost per lead, traffic-to-lead ratio, and lead-to-customer ratio.


The growth of mobile marketing and mobile app development has led to the creation of industry-specific terms and acronyms.

Examples of popular mobile terms include CPI (cost per install), CPI (cost per impression), LTV (lifetime value), CPM (cost per mile), cohorts, SDK (software development kit), API (application programming interface), and KPI (key performance indicators).

mobile marketing software

Mobile Marketing Software

From marketing your mobile app to reaching your target audience on their smartphones in any app, taking advantage of the breadth of opportunities in mobile requires the right software tools.

Finding the best mobile marketing software tools begins with an understanding of where the mobile opportunities are – which could mean in-app SDKs or software used externally like app store intelligence data.

In-App – Essential Services

No matter the type of mobile app or what the KPIs are, all mobile apps should have services for push notifications, analytics, deep linking and user intelligence.

Push Notifications

Notifications are one of the best tools for increased engagement and retention in part because users prefer them over emails or SMS/text messaging.

Done correctly, notifications are short messages for immediate action or awareness – there is no saving for later like email. Users can quickly decide if a notification is relevant and take action or ignore.

With the shuttering of Parse as a service, many apps who used Parse for push notifications must look elsewhere.  Urban Airship, LeanPlum and One Signal are among several push notification services worth a look.


As time spent in mobile apps continues to grow at the expense of print, TV and the web, the value of a mobile app user increases.

Acquiring users in the increasingly competitive app stores requires a well-built app even in very niche subjects.

Downloads have been considered a vanity metric for some time, and to get the metrics that matter – your app needs a comprehensive analytics service and setup.

Free tools from Google, Apple, Facebook and Flurry/Yahoo are fine for many app publishers.  These tools support creating events, segments and funnels – but lack more valuable information like attribution.

If attribution is not critical (you are not running paid install campaigns), free services implemented correctly can provide insights into how users are interacting with your app.

App optimization for retention, engagement, social sharing, email signups, purchases or any other KPI is impossible without setting up analytics in your app and using the data to drive feature development or other improvements.

Deep Links

Deep linking and app links create the opportunity to add metadata to in-app content that can be indexed by Apple and Google, tag content that is available both on the web and in an app, and route users to specific locations in your app.

While the ability to route users has been adopted by many app publishers for new user onboarding and for ad-specific landing screens, the indexation of in-app content is brand new.

Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter all have their protocols, which makes working with a mediary like Branch.io and DeepLink.me helpful.

Audience Insights

Google and Facebook both have tools to help app publishers and advertisers explore demographic and interest details about their users, or a segment of their users.

Audience Insights enables a publisher to target an audience similar to the highest LTV segment in their app (for example). Being able to track ad spend through to app monetization helps marketers identify which acquisition channels have the best ROI.

Audience Insights helps marketers identify which audiences regardless of channel are the most valuable. Combining attribution with Audience Insights can be an extremely powerful tool.

External Mobile Marketing Services

App Store Intelligence

This is called different things by different services, the key being that app store publishing decisions require actual app store data.  The main solution an app store intelligence partner should provide is the acquisition of high-LTV users organically by developing and executing an ASO strategy based on app store data.

App store intelligence can also provide insights to underserved feature requests, app competitors, behavioral trends and which countries to localize for and support.

App Icons

Tips for Designing Mobile App Icons

Mobile app usage continues to see unprecedented growth, with top app categories such as messaging, shopping, productivity and gaming contributing to the overall increased usage of mobile apps.

The amount of time spent by individuals on digital media is exploding as well. This growth is predominantly being driven by mobile apps.

According to comScore’s 2015 Mobile App Report, total digital media usage over the past two years has grown by 49%, with mobile app usage up 90%.

Companies of all kinds are entering the mobile app space as their customers have made it clear mobile and mobile apps are the preferred medium.

One of the main challenges facing mobile app publishers and marketers is the design considerations given the smaller form factor. These design challenges include both in-app UI/UX and maybe the most important graphical element of the app itself – the app icon.

The app icon is the first image a potential user sees in search results or when browsing the app stores, and is the graphic that resides on their device once installed.

For conversion, for retention and for branding – it is important to get app icon design right!

App Icon Design

Icons play a vital role in the click through rate (CTR), of a mobile app as they give the first impression of the application in the app store.

With the massive amount of mobile applications, digital content and information present in most of our lives, visual elements are more effective at catching users’ attention than written content.

With visual content, the message is literally delivered faster.

That’s why search app store search results, app store listings and the app’s space on the device home screen are all predominantly made of visual elements.

Generally, there are three types of app store discovery use cases:

  • looking for an app in a specific category,
  • searching for a particular app,
  • typing specific keywords as they look for an app but do not have any specific app in mind

When browsing or searching the app stores, the first thing users see is the app icon.

App Icon Design Tips

Reflect on the Core Value of the Application

When it comes to designing a great mobile app icon, start by defining  the core value or message you wish to communicate.

Even the color(s) used will play a role in how your app is perceived and received, and who it is for.

Since the icon and app listing should all focus on the core value of your app, app icon designs should align with the other graphical elements of the app (especially any screenshots used in the app store listing).

Keep it Simple

App icons should be extremely clear and simple to understand. Icons are small when viewed on a device – even smaller than many think when in the design phase.  Smaller than a dime on most devices.

Avoid designing icons with lots of detail or nuance that make it hard for the user to see and understand. Potential users are looking for the easiest way to get what they want.

Creativity is great – but conversion is how you measure a great app icon design.

Do Not Include Text

These are not hard, fast rules – but rather suggestions based on the top performing apps over time.  An app icon is not too far from a brand logo.  And like most logos, app icons are usually better received when there is a lack of or a minimal use of text.

On the device home screen, in the search results and in the app listing, the app icon is always accompanied by the app name – your icon does not need text.

Don’t forget that all of this can be tested with a focus group, or by using multivariate testing in Google Play.

Check out our store specific guides here:

Apple app icon design tips

Icon design for Google Play

Mobile App Retention Metrics

Mobile App Retention Metrics

We have written extensively on this blog about acquiring organic traffic, mobile app visibility and converting app store views to installs and users.

One of the key drivers of the value of these users is how long a user keeps using your app – mobile app retention.

Retention metrics you should be using

Many of the metrics used to track app retention are associated or impacted by changes to engagement – meaning, a measurable improvement in user engagement will often improve retention as well.

If retention measures – at a high level – the longevity of product use, engagement measures the depth of product use.

Retention metrics such as cohort-based Day 1, 3, 7, 14, 30 and 90 can help us determine if efforts to keep users coming back are having a positive effect.

Local and push notifications are the tools of choice for many mobile app marketers, but don’t discount great design and perceived value.

Engagement metrics, therefore, provide the insights for improving retention.

What are users engaging with inside of the app, what are they missing and how can we provide more of what they want, or even encourage use of where we think the value is?

Retention metrics examples

Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) for a mobile app should be tied to business goals.  There is not a mobile app template for all mobile apps as Clash of Clans and the Target app are very different with different goals and different ways of measuring the revenue generated from the mobile app.  They really only share a platform (mobile OS and a mobile device).

Assuming goals are tied to revenue, and by extension lifetime value (LTV), finding the cohort that demonstrates the highest LTV informs the rest of the mobile app’s KPIs including retention.

Because retention metrics don’t provide a detailed view of in-app activity (that usually falls under engagement), more (longer) is almost always associated with a higher LTV.

Overall for both Android and iOS apps across all categories – D30 retention tends to be 25-40% of D0 users, with a mere 1-4% at the end of a year (D365).

Mobile app retention statistics

The most common method for tracking retention is Day N retention. What percent of your users opened the app on Day N?

If you have 100 installs on January 1st, 40 open the app Jan 2nd and 20 open the app Jan 8th – for the Jan 1 cohort, your D1 is 40% and D7 is 20%.

Mobile app marketers can look at aggregate data, but reviewing by cohorts tied to new versions or other retention optimization efforts will provide the insights you need to measure the effectiveness of such efforts.

Attrition metrics

A key SaaS metric is churn.  Churn measures what percent of users stop using (and paying for) an app (or service) for a given month.

Consider a scenario where a business has 100 active users paying monthly, are signing up 10 new customers per month, and have a 10% churn rate.

Even with 10% monthly new customer growth, the business is flat as they are losing 10% of existing customers to churn.

The subscription model in mobile apps has not yet become a prominent monetization model with only a few standouts including Pandora, Spotify, HBO, Kylie Jenner’s app.

Most apps are free to play, with some small percent of total users purchasing in-app items. An even smaller percent of users account for the majority of revenue in most apps with some studies showing 60% of revenues coming from only 10% of users.

What that means for attrition metrics for mobile apps is it is easy to dismiss users that churn as those unlikely to make an in-app purchase.

This may be true – but really depends on the type of mobile app.  Shopping apps specifically should have a much longer goals for retaining users than a mobile game for example.

The trend by cohort analysis on D90 retention for non-gaming apps should be a primary attrition metric.

Target and Lowes both shared that customers with their mobile app installed shopped more frequently and purchased more per visit than non-app users.  Keeping these users on your app for 90 or 365 days can have a big impact on store revenues – where many games are making money on Day 1 and much less per user on D90.

Tracking retention

The most popular free and paid app analytics services all have default retention tracking. Apple’s analytics module tracks retention for iOS apps, but not Android. Flurry provides a good, free solution and then Localytics and Mixpanel have complete app analytics offerings.

Improved retention usually means improved LTV, which makes each new acquired user more valuable and allows for increased investment in both paid and organic user acquisition efforts.