The Programmatic Way to Boost Earnings for Your Utility App

2020 has been the year of transformations in many ways. There is hardly a social norm that has remained untouched by the impact of COVID-19. People are spending more time in their homes and avoiding social gatherings. Professionals are working remotely and education is happening online with students learning from their homes. Mobile devices and apps have been a vital supporting part of this transformation.

Some app categories (such as - health, gaming, and OTT) have emerged as big winners in this situation and made a huge buzz for their skyrocketing userbase and earnings. Another category that has grown lately in userbase is utilities (also known as tools for some platforms). However, the revenue in the same app category has not experienced the same story.

Appsflyer’s COVID-19 updates suggest that weekly sessions have grown from 7.62% in week 5-11 May to 10.30% in week 12-18 May. During the same period, the revenue has dropped from 8.79% to 8%[1]. While users are using different utility apps for various needs like VPN, device security apps, speed test, file manager, and other necessities, they are not opting for the paid services. Apparently, there is something missing in the conversion funnel.

The utility category is among the most diverse ones, including the solutions they sell, audiences they target, how they get installs, drive profit, or go about their marketing. Unlike other categories such as gaming or ecommerce, utility apps can cover different functions, including VPN, reminders, TV/AC remote controllers, file sharing, data/app locker, device security, device performance, and the list can go on and on.

As a marketer for utility apps, this diversity of utilizations gives you a wide range of users to acquire. However, the driving paying customer or profitability, even with that broad audience, may not be a straightforward process. It is one of the reasons why utility apps may regularly feature among the top downloads, but rarely in the most grossing apps.

In this blog, we are discussing how programmatic media can help you acquire the relevant users as well as drive more conversions.

Programmatic Media

Programmatic ads, or the automated way of buying and selling ads, empowers the advertisers with a series of benefits. While lesser efforts and lower costs of advertising are among its top advantages, another crucial benefit is higher Returns on Ad Spend (RoAS).

How To Use Programmatic Media For Your Utility App

Programmatic media ads, when coupled with the right technology and strategy, can give a boost to your mobile marketing results at different stages of the funnel. Here are some of the key steps that to leverage programmatic ads to drive optimum results:

1. Reach The Right Target With Audience Intelligence

Utility apps don't follow a specific revenue model. However, the freemium option with different offerings for the free user and the paying user remains one of the most common. As a marketer, you need to look for ways to guide more users from free membership to paid plans. To drive more conversion, it is crucial that you target the right set of audiences, i.e., the users with the higher propensity of conversion.

It goes without saying that generic demographics are not the right asset for targeting for utility applications as age, gender, and such data points have very low significance. To build a programmatic media strategy that builds and target audience based on more specific points, you can leverage the aiCube engine of RevX.

Along with first-party data and DMP integration, RevX’s aiCube engine works on multiple layers of technology, including audience intelligence, app intelligence. and artificial intelligence. It relies on finer data points to help understand user behavior, needs, and intent. It enables you to build a better audience for campaigns and improves ad timing and platform choice that can improve campaign performance.

2. Place Ads On Higher-quality Inventory With App Intelligence

According to Think with Google, 47% in-app ads prompted app downloads (among the downloads influenced by smartphone ads)[2]. It is third in the list closely following search ads and social ads. Apparently, in an intensely-engaged app environment, advertising on in-app inventory can be an excellent boost for your utility app. App Intelligence is a feature of programmatic media to improve the performance of the in-app advertisement.

It lets you maintain the quality of inventory on which your ads appear. Some of the essential filters that it enables are the choice of running ads only on the app listed on leading app stores, category of the app, and the app's rating. Quality inventory means a quality audience and better chances of driving ad conversions. To help you maintain a stringent watch on your ad quality, revX offers transparency at media, creative, and audience levels.

3. Leverage Different Ad Formats And Platforms

In the ever-distracting age of mobile, users are drifting from one app to another, and you need to grab their attention at the key moments. Programmatic media gives you a holistic approach to make use of different platforms (social media, in-app, etc.) and formats (native, rich media, video, etc.) to pitch your product to the right audience at the right time in the proper manner.

As visuals play a critical role in engaging the audience, try to utilize app screenshots in the creative strategy to impact familiarity and adaptation, which later might impact retention during the free trial period.

4. Think Lifecycle - Think Full Funnel Purchase

Though every user has a different user journey, we can try to generalize it as a sales funnel. For a utility app, a generic flow includes installing, registering, starting the free trial, and converting to the paid account. If your app goal is to drive paid accounts, make sure that you are focusing on that right at the top of the funnel while attracting installs.

Ensure that your marketing campaigns at different funnel stages are pitching the benefits of the premium account. Plan your user acquisition, retention, and conversion campaigns in sync to enable consistent guidance for users towards the next step.

While driving revenue and increasing paying users is the marketer’s ultimate goal, you can't ignore the free users. Free users have a significant role to play in your app growth by increasing the number of installs, active users, and reviews on app stores. Metrics, such as Daily Active Users (DAUs) and Monthly Active Users (MAUs), impact your app store ranking. So, keep your retargeting campaigns to keep bringing them back to your app.

5. Customize Payout Metrics With Ad Partners For Your App Model

Utility apps have drastic differences between their functionality and usage model as compared to any other app. Therefore, there are different ways in which you rate their performance. For example, a high session duration for a VPN is a good sign as users are using it to remain connected to a network. However, a high session duration for device security app (or antivirus app) could be a dubious sign as such apps are supposed to work silently in the background. So, you will rate your app performance accordingly.

Similarly, when it comes to campaign performance, different apps have different goals. Pick an ad partner and Demand Side Platform that allows customized payout KPI metrics for your app. Opt for the KPIs, such as Cost per Install (CPI) and Cost per Acquisition (CPA), that are closer to your campaign goals. In other words, pay on metrics that are directly related to your app profitability should be the ideal measurement of your ad performance.

Final Note: Programmatic Media

It's a fact that users are growing dependent on utility apps. Be it finding the shortest path to a coffee shop or tracking expenses of coffee that month. Another fact is that users are downloading new apps every other day, and most of them are not using them for long. Some downloaded apps end up being never even used.

To stand out in the crowded market and to keep your balance sheet in the pink of health needs a robust marketing strategy. Programmatic media is undoubtedly one way to help with that.

Got a utility app that needs help with its marketing strategy to drive more paying customers? Get in touch with our platform consultant now. You can write to us at


[1] The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact on App Installs and Marketing Budgets- Appsflyer
[2] Mobile app marketing insights: How consumers really find and use your apps - Think with Google

Nishant kadian

Nishant Kadian takes care of content marketing for Affle. With RevX, he likes sharing his learning on the programmatic ad technologies that enable advertisers with branding, user acquisition and retargeting.