User acquisition costs rise as Apple’s bot crackdown drops downloads, says Fiksu

The cost of acquiring a loyal user on iOS rose to $1.31 in February, but download volumes didn’t keep pace, dropping for the first time in six months — likely a reflection of Apple’s bot crackdown.

According to Fiksu, a Boston-based company that helps developers find new users by mediating between ad networks, user acquisition costs rose 15 percent in February, up $0.17 from January’s eight month low of $1.14.

The company attributed the jump in spending required to acquire a loyal user — defined as one that will open an app at least three times — to advertisers ramping up their campaigns again after a post-holiday freeze. Also note that user acquisition costs increased despite the fact that Tapjoy, AdMob and iAd all reduced their prices in January and February.

While spending rebounded and costs increased, download volumes didn’t keep pace. Total app download volume decreased for the first time in six months. In February, the top 200 free iPhone apps in the U.S. saw an average of 6.35 million daily downloads, a 6 percent dip from the record high of 6.79 million average daily downloads the company reported for January. According to Fiksu, the drop may be an effect of Apple’s crackdown on bots.

Apple issued a warning to developers about using download bots to artificially inflate an app’s chart position on Feb. 6.