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What Is Lifetime Value?

App lifetime value (LTV) is a metric used to calculate the total revenue app developers expect to generate from users throughout the lifespan of their app. User lifetime value is the amount of revenue an average user is expected to generate.

To determine LTV, app developers look at the historic purchase data of their users and create a model to predict what a user’s LTV should be.
Key Takeaways
  • User LTV is the total financial value of an individual user 
  • LTV crucially takes three components into account: virality, monetization, and retention
  • A high LTV is an indication of growth and a loyal user base

How Do You Calculate LTV?

There isn’t only one way to calculate LTV. Depending on an app’s business model and which data is available, you may need to use different variables to calculate LTV. 

Some formulas include the average revenue per user (ARPU) or average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU), number of users, and average user lifespan. 

We recommend using this formula to calculate the average lifetime value of a user: Divide the total lifetime revenue of an app by the total number of users.

user ltv formula

Why Is LTV Important?

Knowing an app or user’s LTV helps its teams collect insights into and carry out the following:

  • spend its marketing and user acquisition budget while remaining profitable
  • estimate how much each user is worth to an app
  • determine whether specific players are likely to churn or spend – and segment these users or optimize your strategy based on this behavior
  • optimize revenue streams, such as in-app purchases, in-app advertising, and subscriptions

The lifetime value metric is thus useful when forecasting an app’s revenue and performance as well as setting business goals. Besides that, measuring app lifetime value can help identify an app’s most valuable users and how to monetize them more effectively.

Which Factors Affect App Lifetime Value?

There are factors to consider when it comes to an app’s LTV metric. These include the following:

1. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

This is calculated by taking total ad costs and dividing it by how many new customers were acquired through those ads. App marketing teams need to be aware of the cost of acquiring new users in relation to how much those users generate over the course of their user lifespan. CAC should never surpass the LTV metric of an app. 

2. Gaming Vertical

Some gaming verticals, such as MMORPGs, naturally have higher LTVs than, for example, hypercasual games. You should note that such verticals with longer LTV metrics also have to pay a much higher price to acquire their users. 

line graph showing the retention trend and app lifetime value trend for various gaming verticals

3. An App’s Monetization Strategy

Lifetime value can be affected by an app’s monetization strategy and how users interact with an app. For example, the LTV of users who make in-app purchases will vary from the LTV of users who consume more in-app ads. For IAP-heavy mobile gaming apps, the lifetime value of these users are higher.

With ad monetization, the revenue generated by the user depends on the amount the publisher receives for showing the ad and is usually much smaller than the minimum IAP amount. 

How Can I Improve My LTV?

Boosting an app’s retention rate will likely lead to an uplift in the revenue it is able to generate, leading to a higher LTV. But how can app developers do this? 

  1. Make the onboarding process easier for new users: Ensure users quickly become engaged through a positive and uncomplicated onboarding experience
  2. Have a progressive game difficulty: Make your game easy to learn and hard to master to drive gamers further and further into your game
  3. Segment users for personalization: You can segment your users, for example, into nonpaying and paying users. For users who are unlikely to make a purchase, you can show them more ads or more rewarded videos.
  4. Track and boost your retention metrics: Monitor your engagement and churn rate, and reward your users for their loyalty, driving them to return to your app. Choose acquisition channels that boost retention
  5. Create new, fun, and relevant content: Regularly update your app with new levels, challenges, designs, and rewards. This will drive users further into your app and increase their engagement.
line graph showing how boosting retention boosts lifetime value for apps


You should note that LTV is strictly a forecasting metric – meaning, it can change depending on user behavior.

That being said, lifetime value is still a crucial metric to track for any mobile app or game. The goal is for an app to attract high-LTV users, which equates to higher retention rates and a more loyal user base. This, in turn, will lead to higher ad revenue and more in-app purchases.


What Is Lifetime Value?

App lifetime value is the metric you use to calculate the revenue you expect to generate from each person using your app throughout their lifespan as a user.

What Does LTV Mean for Mobile Games?

Lifetime value is the estimated total revenue a player will generate over the lifetime of playing your game.

How Do You Predict LTV in Apps?

There is no fixed formula for predicting the lifetime value of an app user. Instead, it’s best to use benchmarks and insights from similar apps in your vertical, as well as user data such as past purchases or behaviors that can be tracked over time with analytics tools.

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