It's getting easier and cheaper to acquire new customers to your mobile subscription-based apps, according to a new study by Liftoff and Leanplum.

How much cheaper?

Think half price. And it's not even a Black Friday sale.

Last year the average cost of acquiring a new paying subscriber for your mobile-app-driven service was $162.22. Now it's just $86.99, according to the study, which looked at 257 billion ad impressions, 58.4 million app installs, and 47.4 million post-install events.

"The year-over-year data showcases major momentum for subscriptions," says Mark Ellis, Liftoff co-founder and CEO. "Now pair that with Apple's recent report that revenue from subscription-monetized apps is up 95 percent since 2017 ... there's no question that the long-term benefits of the subscription model, in the form of loyal users and stable cash flow, are worth the investment in service quality and marketing spend."

The biggest opportunity? 

Marketing to women.

While female customers cost 10 percent more to acquire in categories like bookings and reservations, they convert 40 percent more often than men. In apps that offer in-app purchases, women are even harder to attract, but they offer twice the conversion rate of men: 3.8 percent to 1.8 percent.

Bad news for gaming; good news for mobile
There is one caveat to this report: gaming customers who make in-app purchases are actually getting more expensive: they're up 56% compared to last year. Adding to the bad news: in-app purchase rates dropped by nearly half as only 2.9 percent of gamers bought something.

That's actually a sign of mobile maturity, however. 

The "real" economy of actual goods and services is becoming mobile-enabled and mobile-driven. The virtual economy may slow as a percentage of overall activity, but is likely to keep growing as well.

In both, the same is true: Customer relationships matter more than acquisition.

"To be successful on mobile, you need to understand that mobile user acquisition and retention go hand-in-hand," says Joyce Solano, SVP of Global Marketing at Leanplum. "The best way to protect your acquisition investment and retain customers throughout their lifecycle is by forming a relationship."

Relationships, of course, are built on communication.

Leanplus, which offers mobile engagement services, says that contextual mobile messaging can increase customer retention by 62 percent.

One challenge: scammers
Scammers have noticed the massive opportunities in the subscription app market as well, and they haven't missed them. The result is that sneaky subscription apps are stealing up to $4,700/year from unsuspecting consumers. 

Apple and Google are fighting back, of course, kicking scammy apps off the App Store and Google Play.

Still, reading the fine print is a good idea.