Cost per Install App Marketing

by Brook Lenox on February 12, 2011

I’ve talked a lot about the various ways to market iPhone apps. Every day there seems to be more.

In this post, let’s look at Cost per Install (CPI) marketing, so you can see if it could help you.

What is Cost per Install (CPI)?

It’s what it sounds like. You only pay when someone installs (and often times runs) your application.

You pay per install to drive downloads. Downloads drive ranking. Ranking drives organic downloads. This is especially important in the iPhone app store because it is so hard to gain visibility without being ranked highly.

So how do these companies actually drive downloads? Let’s use Tapjoy, a company offering cost per install programs, as an example.

Here is how it works:

  • Let’s say you make a Snow Skiing app (my favorite sport) and need downloads
  • You get set up an account with Tapjoy
  • You install their SDK in your app (the most common way to track installs)
  • You fund your account and you are ready to go
  • Tapjoy has many many app developers that offer  virtual currency in their apps
  • For example, if a user plays a poker app and runs out of chips, they could be encouraged to download apps to earn more chips
  • The user can look at a listing of apps (often called an offer wall) showing how many poker chips they can earn per download
  • If they download your Snow Skiing app, maybe they get 100 poker chips
  • Once the user downloads and installs your app, the SDK in your app notifies Tapjoy of an install
  • You pay Tapjoy per install
  • Tapjoy pays the poker app company a piece of the money you paid them
  • Ideally you, Tapjoy, the poker app company, and the user are all happy

Hope that makes sense. Let me by answering some questions you may still have.

Cost per Install Q&A

What are the pros and cons of cost per install marketing?

Here are what I see as the pros:

  • You can drive downloads, which drives ranking, which drives organic downloads
  • You can drive downloads quickly…some of these companies can drive huge volumes in a few hours, driving you quickly up the iTunes app store ranking
  • You can be both an advertiser and a publisher, so not only do you spend money, but make money

Here are what I see as the cons:

  • It costs money :)
  • You aren’t actually driving “real” users, so you have to be sure your overall cost/download is better than if you went without CPI
  • It could potentially drive lower rankings if these incentivized downloads give you a 1 star ranking when deleting your app

What questions should I ask of a potential CPI partner?

Here are some questions I would ask:

  • How many downloads can you drive per day?
  • What is the cost/download?
  • How does your program drive downloads?
  • Is it incentivized or non-incentivized?
  • Can you send me the integration documentation so we can see how difficult it is?

How much does it cost?

I’ve seen CPI programs that range from $.25 to $1 per download and higher.

I don’t get virtual currency…what is it?

Think of virtual currency as play money. In a poker app, you need chips to play poker. So how do you get this “play money”? You can get it by paying real money or doing something for the company with the poker app. So if you download an app for a poker app, in order to get 100 poker chips, you make money for the poker chip app company.

What is the difference between incentivized and non-incentivized CPI programs?

There is a big difference and it’s mainly in the quality of the user you’ll be getting. An incentivized CPI program gives the user some reason to download the app they are promoting. As in the Tapjoy example above, the user will get poker chips ONLY IF they download the skiing app. So the user is less likely to be truly interested in the skiing app.  A non-incentivized CPI program just shows users apps, but DOES NOT give them anything for downloading those apps. That being said, some users will like the apps they are downloading even if the download is incentivized. Also I’m still a firm believer in incentivized downloads because of how they improve your ranking and organic downloads.

In Summary

If you have a marketing budget you should look into marketing with these cost per install companies.

Other questions? Comments?

Important Note!

In May 2011, Apple starting rejecting apps that had CPI offer walls in them.

So this means two things:

1) If you are an app developer with a Tapjoy, Flurry, etc offer wall in your app, your app may get rejected until you remove the offer wall.

2) If you are developer looking to drive downloads using one of these companies, you may need to start looking for other ways to drive downloads.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelley February 15, 2011 at 9:47 am

How would something like this work with a free iPhone app? Is it possible to pay per install just to the CPI company?

Brook Lenox February 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm

@ Kelley – if I understand your question correctly, yes, you would pay the CPI company per install, even for a free iPhone app.

Pavel Mamaev February 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Thanks for the very insightful article, Brook!

I’ve never heard of CPI before – there is so much to learn about IPhone business.

Thank god I stumbled upon your site when I did – I believe I was searching Google with “best iphone ad platforms”, and your article was in the top 5.

Best of luck and thanks for all the great articles!

Brook Lenox March 4, 2011 at 2:10 pm

@ Pavel – your welcome. Good luck!

Vlad May 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Very good post as others have mentioned.

I review iPhone games so check out some of my reviews of the top iphone games and make sure to leave feedback

Brook Lenox May 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm

@ Vlad – ever reviewed Stickwars 2? Check it out.

rajee June 1, 2011 at 11:01 pm

what is the different between Advertiser and Publisher?

Brook Lenox June 3, 2011 at 8:19 pm

@ Rajee – an advertiser is a company that pays to promote a product or service. A publisher is a company that produces something (content or some service). A company can be both an advertiser and publisher.

Angelina November 16, 2011 at 12:49 am

Does admob provides CPI service? Suppose i have an app and i am not getting enough downloads. My app price is $0.99. Is it possible that i run a CPI campaign in which i pay $0.25 for each download to the company promoting my app? In this scenario, will i be an advertiser or a publisher?

Brook Lenox November 20, 2011 at 9:44 pm

@Angelina – Admob does not currently offer a CPI service.

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