5 Crucial Components of Every Successful App Marketing Funnel

4 Min Read

Knowing how to market your mobile app is essential in order to stand out from the crowd and build your customer base. In this article, we’ll discuss two of the leading models for mobile app marketing and how you can make them work for your business.

App marketing pipelines: AARRR and RARRA

Their names might sound like you’ve started to speak like a Wookiee, but AARRR and RARRA are actually two of the most popular models for business growth.

The AARRR model is “funnel-shaped”: it proceeds from the time of first contact to the time that users are converted into paying customers. In order, the stages of the AARRR model are:

  • Acquisition: Mobile app users are acquired via a number of different channels, from digital ads to app store optimization techniques that make your apps visible to more people.
  • Activation: Users must have a positive experience with the onboarding process and their initial impressions. Onboarding should be as quick and pain-free as possible while still giving enough information to get started. There should also be an “aha moment” that clearly demonstrates the app’s value.
  • Retention: Once acquired and activated, users should keep returning to the app on a long-term basis. Techniques such as push notifications and gamification can help bring users back.
  • Referral: The best marketing is the kind that you don’t have to pay for. Users who feel positively about your app are more likely to leave positive reviews and talk about it on social media, generating “buzz” and excitement.
  • Revenue: Ultimately, your goal is to increase your business revenue through one of two methods: converting users into paying customers, or monetizing user data and behavior.

Because it’s fairly simple and straightforward, the AARRR model has become very popular in the field of mobile app marketing. While it may be effective for other types of products, however, a growing number of marketers are finding that AARRR is poorly suited for mobile apps.

When the iPhone 3G was first launched in 2008, Apple’s App Store had only 500 mobile apps available. That number has since skyrocketed to roughly 2 million apps in 2018 – more than you could possibly try, or even think about, in a lifetime.

As the mobile app landscape grows increasingly competitive, smartphone users have become spoiled for choice. On average, apps lose 77 percent of their daily active users in just the three days after the app is installed. What’s more, users spend 84 percent of their screen time using just 5 different apps.

In other words, if your app doesn’t immediately grab the right users and demonstrate its value, your business is practically doomed to failure.

To compensate for the shortcomings of AARRR, marketers have created a new model that better fits the realities of mobile app marketing: RARRA. The RARRA model is less of a funnel and more of a pipeline, based on the stages that are actually most important to business growth.

From most to least importance, these stages are:

  1. Retention
  2. Activation
  3. Referral
  4. Revenue
  5. Acquisition

Retention is the most important stage in RARRA because your app needs to keep users coming back again and again. You can dedicate all the time you want to monetization strategies in the revenue stage, but it won’t actually matter if you don’t have a steady, faithful user base.

App marketing stages: techniques and KPIs

Whether you choose AARRR or RARRA to market your mobile app, you need to use the right tactics and messaging at each stage.


Instead of focusing on acquiring as many users as possible, your marketing strategy should focus on acquiring the right users. Examine your different digital marketing channels (Facebook, Google App Campaigns, etc.) and determine where the most loyal paying customers come from. Use traditional metrics such as downloads and installs, but also supplement them with metrics from the retention and revenue stages.


User onboarding is crucial to the activation stage, and so is the user’s first action within your app – whether that’s editing a photo, playing a game, or messaging a friend. Your onboarding process should guide new users through the basics of your app via walkthroughs and visual hints. Use metrics such as 1-day and 3-day retention rates and initial session length to judge the success of your app’s activation stage.


Techniques such as cohort analysis can help segment your user base and understand how your app is used by different groups. Understand how the behavior of long-term users differs from the actions of those who have just installed the app. This will help you identify your app’s most popular features, so that you can effectively highlight them in your ad creatives and acquire high-value users.


77 percent of people are more likely to buy a product when they hear about it from friends or family. Build an effective referral system by incentivizing users to recommend your app. For example, companies such as Airbnb and Uber give users credit when they refer other people who also use the platform. Use strategies such as one-click sharing and social media integrations to make referrals as easy as possible.


Sustainable mobile app business models should focus on increasing customers’ lifetime value (LTV) through user retention. For example, you can send emails and notifications informing users about their recent progress and achievements. Personalizing the user experience can also help people feel more positively about your mobile app.