The Ultimate Guide to Marketing E-Commerce Apps

M-Commerce (mobile e-commerce) is predicted to scale at a 25.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2019-2024. If those predictions are correct, m-commerce would hit $488 billion in four years and account for 44% of all e-commerce. In the US, 42% of sales are already made through smartphones and 59% of adults prefer shopping on mobile. The driving force behind the growth of m-commerce is e-commerce apps – they account for 71% of mobile sales.

Source: Business Insider Intelligence

For retailers of all kinds, there are clearly huge advantages of building an e-commerce app now rather than relying on website sales alone. Below, we share our top tips for organically acquiring users, provide a guide for paid marketing, and explore the importance of UA and retargeting with a performance-based model.

Our Top Tips for a Successful E-Commerce App

1) Optimize the App Store Listing of your E-Commerce App

Amongst increased competition of e-commerce apps on Android and iOS, app store optimization and localization is essential for achieving high-rankings and getting noticed. Any worthwhile attempt at ASO will include analysis of keyword trends, conversion trends, and search volume. Creative elements should be of excellent quality and constantly updated for best results. 

2) Ask for Reviews for your E-Commerce App

As well as receiving positive reviews for your e-commerce app itself, displaying past customers’ reviews for your products builds the trust required to convert first-time customers. The strategic placement of these reviews should not be undervalued; positive reviews can be used to improve the efficacy of paid ads, landing pages, and more. If you do not have many customer reviews yet, ask for them.

3) Deploy Tactical Push-Notifications

We should not need to say this in 2020, but we will anyway: the overzealous usage of push notifications kills apps! Push notifications can still be used effectively without frustrating users to the point of uninstallation. They have a higher rate of opening than nearly any other marketing channel; for e-commerce apps, a limited number of personalized push notifications (such as cart abandonment warnings or wish-list item sales) can result in fantastic sales figures with minimal effort from the retailer.

4) Make the Most of Seasonality

App store pages are easy to alter. Beyond localizing them for different regions, they can be transformed based on seasons, festivals, events and more. Just as traditional shopfronts would be transformed for the Christmas period with sales and decorations, so should app store pages (albeit with digital tinsel). Changes like this help to foster app usage as a habit while increasing engagement and retention rates.

User Acquisition and Retargeting

While techniques such as App Indexing and Social Media Conversions can be great for driving users from web/mobile-web to app, one of the best ways to achieve a full-funnel strategy for an e-commerce app is via performance marketing campaigns. Using a performance-based model such as Cost-per-Action (CPA) goes above and beyond standard impression and install campaigns and ensures that brands only ever pay for results.

These CPA campaigns allow retailers to choose their own KPIs (first order, registration, etc.) so that strategies can be tailored to brand needs. As well as granting greater control over the types of users acquired, CPA is ideal for retargeting campaigns.

Unlike on web, in-app retargeting operates via the following data sources:

  • Mobile device IDs
  • First-party data
  • In-app inventory from ad networks

After selecting the most appropriate data points, it is important that these campaigns are run prudently. That involves accurately identifying the crucial post-install events, ensuring up-to-date audience segmentation, and maintaining the right amount of product diversification, cross-selling and upselling.

Retargeting campaigns are particularly effective for e-commerce apps whose most common challenge is abandoned carts. Through the use of flash sales or ‘abandoned cart warnings’, brands can re-engage high-value users on the brink of conversion. Retargeting encourages direct action, which for m-commerce translates to increased purchases and revenue.

As of Q1 2020, shopping apps had a 50-72% adoption rate and a 25-60% increase in retargeting conversions (depending on region). Studies reveal that retargeting leads to a sizable uplift in the share of paying users (Italy +43%; France +70%; USA +90%). Conversion rates of reengaged shoppers are four times higher in-app than on web.

Additional Paid Marketing Strategies to Supercharge E-Commerce Apps

Traditional pay-per-click models (PPC) with search and display ads allows digital retailers to target users via their browser search results as well as through ad space on other apps. These campaigns allow for the targeting of ideal demographics, locations, times, and operating systems. These mass campaigns can have huge reach that results in crucial installs.

Advertising on other app’s inventory grants numerous opportunities to show-off the best of your product with a direct link to your app store page. The usage of pre-roll videos can lead to 27 times more clicks than standard banner ads.

Source: Promodo

Any app launch should be running an integrated social media campaign that encourages the sharing of the app. Paying for promotion on social media and messenger services is an efficient way to get your app noticed while reaching a vast yet identifier-targeted audience. Just as with push notifications, ads on messenger services should be deployed tactically and not on such a scale that they become off-putting.

Similarly, affiliate and influencer marketing provide further paid opportunities that not only increase brand awareness but brand reputability too. Again, these promotions can be highly tailored to your audience; there are partners and influencers with niche audiences in every sector imaginable. If your shopping app sells gaming gear, find Twitch streamers to recommend your gear to their audience – all while circumventing ad blockers.


What does this mean for retailers running e-commerce apps? It means that retargeting is an unmissable opportunity to acquire always sought-after high-LTV users. Get in touch with us today to start promoting your e-commerce app. 

Mario Meijide is based in Applift's HQ in Berlin and heads the Client Success teams in EMEA, US and APAC.