User Acquisition


Definitive User Acquisition Guide: What is User Acquisition?

Author profile image
Team Storyly
May 22, 2023
0 min read

What is User Acquisition?

User acquisition (UA) is the strategies and actions that companies and organizations undertake to attract new users or customers to their products, services, platforms, or applications. 

It's an essential component in the growth strategy of many businesses, especially in the digital ecosystem where the number of users can directly correlate with revenue, influence, and market reach.

Why is User Acquisition Important?

User acquisition is crucial for several reasons:

Business Growth and Scalability

User acquisition is the fuel that propels the growth engine of many businesses. Acquiring new users can lead to increased sales, higher traffic, and, in the case of platforms or apps, greater adoption. For startups and digital platforms, in particular, rapid user acquisition can be critical for demonstrating viability and attracting investment.

Revenue Generation

New users directly contribute to increased revenue. Whether it's through purchasing products, subscribing to services, or generating ad revenue by increasing platform activity, more users typically mean more income. For many business models, especially those that rely on network effects, the value and profitability of the service increase as more users join.

Competitive Advantage

In crowded markets, the ability to effectively and efficiently acquire users can be a significant differentiator. Companies that excel in user acquisition often have a competitive edge, allowing them to secure a larger market share and position themselves as industry leaders.

User Base Diversification

Relying on a small, homogenous group of users can be risky. Broadening the user base can help companies become more resilient against market fluctuations. A diverse user base often leads to more stable revenue streams and reduces the risk associated with the potential departure of any single user segment.

Product Evolution and Improvement

Acquiring new users often means receiving new feedback. This feedback can be instrumental in refining and improving products or services. New users might offer fresh perspectives, uncovering issues or suggesting enhancements that a company hadn't previously considered.

Building Brand Awareness and Reputation

Effective user acquisition not only increases the number of users but also boosts brand visibility and recognition in the market. As more users engage with a brand, discuss it, and share it, brand awareness grows organically, further enhancing acquisition efforts.

Sustained Long-Term Relationships

While the initial focus might be on acquiring users, these efforts often lay the groundwork for long-term relationships. Through effective engagement and retention strategies post-acquisition, companies can turn new users into loyal customers, maximizing the lifetime value of each acquired user.

Channels of User Acquisition

Acquiring new users is essential for the growth of any business or product, especially in the digital domain. Different channels, both organic and paid, offer unique opportunities and challenges. 

Here's a breakdown of the various channels for user acqusition:

Organic Channels

These channels do not involve direct payment to attract users, but they often require time, effort, and strategy.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

By optimizing website content for search engines, businesses can rank higher in search results, leading to increased visibility and organic traffic.

Word of Mouth

Satisfied customers or users naturally recommend products or services to their friends, family, and colleagues.

Content Marketing

Creating and sharing valuable, relevant content (like blogs, videos, and infographics) can attract and engage potential users.

Social Media Presence

Building and nurturing a presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn can draw users to a brand organically.

App Store Optimization (ASO)

For mobile apps, optimizing app store listings can increase visibility and downloads from platforms like Google Play and Apple's App Store.

Paid Channels

Businesses spend money on these channels to directly attract users.

Pay-per-Click (PPC) Advertising

Ads that appear in search engine results and charge advertisers only when the ad is clicked.

Social Media Ads

Paid promotions on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, targeting specific demographics.

Affiliate Marketing

Collaborating with individuals or businesses to promote a product or service in exchange for a commission on each sale or lead.

Display Ads

Visual advertisements that appear on websites, often targeting users based on their browsing history or demographics.

Influencer Partnerships

Collaborating with social media influencers or prominent individuals in a niche to promote a product or service.

Viral Channels

These channels rely on users sharing content, products, or services with their network.

Referral Programs

Incentivizing existing users to refer friends or colleagues, often offering rewards for both the referrer and the referred.

Social Sharing Features

Embedding share buttons or features within a product or content, making it easier for users to spread the word.

Partnerships and Collaborations

Working in tandem with other businesses or platforms can provide mutually beneficial growth opportunities.

B2B Collaborations

Forming alliances with other businesses to co-promote or bundle services.

Integration Partnerships

Allowing products or services to be integrated with larger platforms or services, providing access to a new user base.

Metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for User Acquisition

User Acquisition (UA) is a crucial aspect of growing any online platform, app, or service. Properly tracking and measuring UA effectiveness is essential for optimizing marketing campaigns, budget allocation, and understanding user behavior. 

Here are the critical metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are often used to gauge the success of User Acquisition efforts:

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

This metric represents the average cost to acquire a customer. It's calculated by dividing the total cost of acquisition by the number of new customers acquired. Lowering CPA while maintaining or increasing the value of each user is a common goal.

Lifetime Value (LTV)

LTV measures the predicted net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer. Ideally, the LTV should be significantly higher than the CPA to ensure profitability.

Retention Rate

This KPI measures the percentage of acquired users who continue to use a product or service over time. A high retention rate indicates that users find value in the product or service, leading to sustainable growth.

Churn Rate

The opposite of retention, churn rate indicates the percentage of users who stop using a product or service within a given period. A high churn rate can signal issues with user satisfaction or product-market fit.

Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS)

ROAS calculates the return on investment for advertising campaigns. It's determined by dividing the revenue generated from ads by the cost of the ads. A ROAS greater than 1 indicates a positive return.

Conversion Rate

This metric shows the percentage of users who take a desired action, such as signing up for a service, purchasing a product, or clicking on a link. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a discipline focused on improving this metric.

Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)

ARPU provides insights into the revenue generated per user and helps in understanding user profitability.

Traffic Source Breakdown

Understanding where users are coming from (e.g., organic search, paid ads, social media) can offer insights into which channels are most effective for acquisition.

Engagement Metrics

Metrics like daily active users (DAU), monthly active users (MAU), and average session duration can provide insights into how often and how long users are interacting with a product or service.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS measures customer loyalty and satisfaction. Users are asked how likely they are to recommend a product or service to others, and their responses can provide insights into overall satisfaction and potential for word-of-mouth referrals.

Challenges in User Acquisition

Acquiring new users/customers is no easy feat. 

Here are some of the most common challenges associated with user acquisition:

Rising Acquisition Costs

The digital marketplace has become saturated in many sectors, leading to increased competition for user attention. This often results in higher advertising and marketing costs.

Platform Algorithm Changes

Search engines and social media platforms frequently update their algorithms. These changes can affect visibility and reach, requiring businesses to continually adapt their strategies.

Ad Fraud and Fake Users

Click fraud, bot traffic, and fake user registrations can skew metrics, leading to misallocated resources and inaccurate performance assessments.

User Attention Fragmentation

With a plethora of platforms, apps, and channels vying for user attention, it's becoming increasingly challenging to capture and retain the focus of potential users.

Regulatory and Privacy Concerns

Laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) impose stringent rules on user data collection and usage. Ensuring compliance while effectively targeting users is a balancing act.

Market Saturation

In many industries, especially the tech and app sectors, markets are flooded with similar products and services. Differentiating oneself and attracting users in such environments is challenging.

Ad Blocker Usage

The increasing adoption of ad blockers means that many paid ads never reach their intended audience, reducing the efficacy of paid acquisition channels.

Short-term vs. Long-term Focus

There's a tension between acquiring users quickly (often at a higher cost) and building long-term, organic growth channels (which may take longer to yield results).

Maintaining User Quality

While increasing user numbers is essential, ensuring these users are engaged and valuable is equally crucial. Balancing quantity and quality can be challenging.

Cultural and Regional Differences

As businesses expand globally, understanding and catering to the nuances and preferences of different cultures and regions becomes vital, complicating user acquisition strategies.

Technological Evolution

The rapid pace of technological change means that businesses need to stay updated with the latest trends, platforms, and tools. What worked a year ago might be obsolete today.

Strategies for Effective User Acquisition

Acquiring new users cost-effectively requires a blend of art and science, combining creative strategies with data-driven decisions. 

Here are comprehensive strategies for effective user acquisition:

  1. Understand Your Target Audience
  2. Optimize for Organic Growth
  3. Diversify Acquisition Channels
  4. Leverage Data Analytics
  5. A/B Testing
  6. Offer Incentives
  7. Build Trust with Quality Content
  8. Invest in Retargeting
  9. Collaborate and Partner
  10. Personalize User Experience
  11. Engage in Community Building
  12. Stay Updated with Industry Trends
  13. Prioritize User Feedback
  14. Focus on User Onboarding
  15. Emphasize Value Proposition

Understand Your Target Audience

Deeply understanding the demographics, preferences, and behaviors of your target audience allows for more precise targeting and better customization of messages.

Optimize for Organic Growth

Focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and ASO (App Store Optimization) to ensure your website or app ranks well in search results, driving organic traffic over the long term.

Diversify Acquisition Channels

Don't rely solely on one channel. Use a mix of organic, paid, viral, and partnership channels to diversify the source of your users and reduce risks.

Leverage Data Analytics

Use data analytics tools to monitor and analyze user behaviors, sources of traffic, and conversion rates. This data can guide tweaks and refinements to the acquisition strategy.

A/B Testing

Test different versions of ads, landing pages, or even app interfaces to determine which performs better in terms of user acquisition.

Offer Incentives

Provide special offers, discounts, or exclusive content to entice potential users to try out your product or service.

Build Trust with Quality Content

High-quality, relevant content not only boosts SEO but also establishes your brand as an authority, fostering trust with potential users.

Invest in Retargeting

Users who have already shown interest in your product (by visiting your website, for instance) but haven't converted are prime candidates for retargeting campaigns.

Collaborate and Partner

Partner with complementary businesses or influencers to tap into their user bases, offering mutual benefits.

Personalize User Experience

Tailored experiences based on user preferences or behaviors can increase conversion rates and foster loyalty.

Engage in Community Building

Active participation in forums, social media groups, or other community platforms relevant to your industry can create brand ambassadors who naturally promote your product or service.

Stay Updated with Industry Trends

Digital marketing and user acquisition are rapidly evolving fields. Staying updated ensures you're using the latest and most effective strategies.

Prioritize User Feedback

Actively seek, listen to, and act upon feedback. It can provide insights into potential pain points or areas of improvement, directly influencing retention.

Focus on User Onboarding

A smooth, intuitive onboarding process for new users can significantly reduce churn rates and increase the chances of successful conversion.

Emphasize Value Proposition

Clearly communicate what makes your product or service unique and why users should choose it over competitors.


User acquisition stands at the forefront of a digital business's growth and sustainability strategy. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, so do the challenges associated with acquiring high-quality, engaged users. By understanding these challenges and employing a mix of innovative and data-driven strategies, businesses can effectively attract and retain a loyal user base. Prioritizing the needs and feedback of users, staying adaptable, and continuously refining acquisition approaches are paramount to achieving long-term success. In a saturated digital marketplace, the companies that master the art and science of user acquisition will undoubtedly stand out and thrive.


Team Storyly

Group of experts from Storyly's team who writes about their proficiency.