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Rakuten: Cash Back & Deals app icon

Rakuten: Cash Back & Deals

Shoppers earn cash back.
Rakuten boosts downloads.

Rakuten: Cash Back & Deals ad on the App Store

Rakuten customers can find deals and earn cash back on everyday purchases at their favorite stores. The app expanded reach to new audiences with multiple Apple Search Ads placements, optimizing ad relevance while scaling first-time buyer conversions and
organic growth.

The Results

669% increase in first-time buyers after running Search tab ads.
36% lower cost-per-install year over year after running Today tab ads.1
200% increase in impressions during Cyber 5.
16% increase in first-time buyers year over year during Cyber 5.

The Challenge

To boost new user acquisition on the App Store, the Rakuten team needed to increase brand visibility among more shoppers. They wanted to attract the right audience at the right moment with the right message to drive quality installs and first-time buyers. Leading up to Cyber 5 – their most important seasonal peak – it was crucial to stay top of mind and competitive, ensuring that they captured increased category interest and strong shopping intent on the App Store.

Insights from running Apple Search Ads placements across the App Store created a bridge of understanding and collaboration across our branding, search, organic, and design teams. A multi-placement Apple Search Ads strategy helped unite our goals internally, creating
valuable synergy between brand awareness and
conversion-driven marketing.

The Solution

Drive efficiency with optimized search
results campaigns.

To expand reach to as many relevant audiences as possible, the Rakuten team separated search results campaigns by keyword theme (brand, category, competitive, and discovery). They adjusted bids weekly to optimize performance down to the keyword level for cost-per-install and cost per first-time buyer. Quarterly performance analysis helped identify consumer trends and keyword insights year over year.


"Search results campaigns help us understand how to strike the optimal balance between the impression share we are getting for a bid and the cost-per-install,” says Rakuten Search Director Yulia Briman. “Our ongoing bid optimization for nonbrand terms and testing different bid limits as well as flexible budgeting have led to consistent double-digit growth in installs year over year with Apple Search Ads.”

Scale reach with ads on the Today tab, Search tab, and product pages.

To maximize visibility at every step of the customer journey, the Rakuten team created an Apple Search Ads strategy with multiple placements across the App Store, increasing brand awareness and tripling impressions during Cyber 5. Ads on the Today tab helped boost app discovery with broader audiences interested in deals and savings. With Search tab campaigns, the Rakuten team was able to influence consideration with more shoppers.


“By investing in both exploratory (Today and Search tabs) and intent-based (search results) placements, we can engage people at different stages of the funnel, especially with increased investment during tentpole events,” says Rakuten SEM Manager Mohan Sha. “Early-stage shoppers get acquainted with our app through the Today and Search tab ads, while those with clear intent find our app through the search results campaigns, driving more installs with higher conversion rates.”


Ads on the Search tab increased impressions by 620 percent, downloads by 446 percent, and first-time buyers by 669 percent. Today tab ads boosted impressions by 177 percent while cost-per-install improved by 36 percent. The Rakuten team also turned to ads on product pages to stay competitive and boost market share during key sales events. “An always-on multi-placement Apple Search Ads strategy helped build Rakuten’s brand awareness and drive conversions year-round, engaging users at each stage of the discovery and download process,” says Sha. “The integrated use of search results campaigns with Today tab, Search tab, and product page placements created a powerful synergy, enhancing overall campaign performance and efficiency across our marketing funnel.”

Optimize ad relevancy to
boost performance.

The Rakuten team invested significant time and effort in ongoing optimization of creative for Apple Search Ads campaigns. They started with multiple visual and messaging variables – lists of merchants, value propositions, and screenshots of the app in action – then collected insights from Apple Search Ads performance on what elements best engaged key audiences and iterated to improve results. “The key with creative is to continuously change. Creative should be treated as ever evolving,” says Rakuten Senior Marketing Manager of Owned and Organic Growth Sophia Gilbertsen. “We view Apple Search Ads as a tool to test hypotheses about our audiences, gain insights on our branding decisions such as color palettes, and elevate our brand identity to become a household name.”
With ad variations based on custom product pages set up in Apple Connect, the Rakuten team further customized creative, aligning different keyword groups with different customer needs and intent. They highlighted merchant partner logos for audiences searching specifically for those brands, creating more relevant experiences for potential customers. “Tailored custom product pages were also effective during Cyber 5, when users are on the lookout for special offers and engaging content,” says Gilbertsen. “Specifically, Today tab ads offer the ideal placement for brand storytelling and engaging users with compelling visuals and narratives.”

Gain insights to drive organic growth
and marketing integration.

Insights from Apple Search Ads also helped teams across Rakuten create better alignment and invaluable collaboration. Search, branding, organic, and design teams partnered to incorporate keyword and creative learnings from Apple Search Ads campaigns into their overall marketing and branding strategy. They also used what they learned from paid campaigns in their App Store product page optimization, driving incremental download growth.
“For Rakuten, Apple Search Ads has become a central tool to help us test strategies across departments based on what the market is telling us,” says Sha. “The increase in download volume from our multi-placement Apple Search Ads strategy and subsequent boost in App Store ranking – especially reaching the top 10 in the shopping category during the holidays – highlights how paid advertising can enhance visibility and complement organic growth.”

Company Snapshot

  • Rakuten
  • Shopping category
  • Launched in 1999
  • Based in Tokyo, Japan
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