Appszoom for Developers

Advanced app user retention 101

Posted by on 10/11/2016

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Two very distinct yet related measures of application success are mobile app retention and engagement. A recipe for failure consists of low app engagement, while you know you’re onto a winner if you have growing engagement and retention.

Here’s what you need to know.


The activity of users on a particular app is described as engagement. Despite it being slightly subjective, highly engaged users are described by Localytics as those accessing the app for more than 10 individual sessions each month.

Another somewhat subjective term is retention, which refers to the number of users who return to your app within a 3 month window. This percentage is considered vital, and is an industry benchmark in assessing the success ratio of any app.

App loyalty, or “stickiness” as some experts describe it, is the combined average of engagement and retention values. This provides insight on the actual number of engaged and loyal users who are using the particular app. If user conversions and/or monetization is a matter of concern for you, keeping users engaged with your app and ensuring repeated usage should be considered the highest of your priorities and top of your list of objectives.

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The difficulties of engagement & retention

Achieving the highest possible mobile app engagement rates, alongside retention, is quite a challenge and a problematic task. This year we have been witnessing a 25% increase in user abandonment (apps forgotten after only one use). This is a significant rise from 2014 when such rates hovered at around 20%. When an app is referred to once every week, a study shows it is doomed to a 60% possibility of never being opened again. Harsh facts reveal app developers facing a market of high competition where users enjoy a wide variety of choices.

However, there is news to be hopeful about. A series of methods that have been tested to a major extent have come back with results showing that such practices elevate engagement and retention. This renders app users that are more active and loyal. What else would you want?

Onboarding made easy

One method to reduce abandonment rates significantly is to provide an experience based on seamless onboarding. Users are more likely to abandon your app if you make usage more perplexing, such as a high number steps just to sign in, an unnecessary amount of information fields, mindboggling features and functions, and so on.

Like in many industries, the customer’s first impression is vitally important. Therefore, a positive experience for a first-time user is imperative. Aside from the fact that it ensures users don’t decide to abandon your app, user lifetime value (LTV) has increased by up to 500% through effective onboarding, studies show. The guidelines mentioned below could be helpful in creating an onboarding process for your app that is painless and intuitive.

  • Provide easy login and account setup processes (a small amount of signup steps, variety of registration options, and the like).
  • Avoid overloading users with information at the very beginning. They just hate it. Consider providing info on your app’s features and functionalities as the user actually begins taking advantage of such features.
  • Offer lessons through a variety of means to show gestures and actions necessary in app experiences.

Correct usage of push notifications

User retention has witnessed a major boost through the use of push notifications. The numbers show that it’s possible to increase retention by 56%180%. Additionally, users choosing to receive push notifications have shown a 88% increase in app engagement in comparison to those who opt out.

Push messages play a vital role. For instance, users are reminded of their decision to download your app. This is a very important feature considering the fact that you are competing for real estate of considerable value on a user’s device. If done in an effective way, this can also assist in encouraging usage through targeted messaging according to behavioral information and preferences. For those applications that carry out specific functions and are less likely to see daily usage, this can provide users with a convincing reason to use your app again (including, for example, a price discount or promotion for a product and/or service).

Personalizing your mobile app

Smartphones are personal devices, and users expect personalized experiences. You can provide a more relevant and unique experience through the art of personalization. The more you spend time on aligning the app experience with a user’s specific needs and desires, the higher the possibility they will to your app time and time again.

When thinking about personalizing user experience, use known information wherever possible to show relevant content and data in the app. An easy way to personalize is to display the user’s name in messaging and on different screens. However, always keep in mind that personalization thrives when push notifications are made extremely relevant to a certain user. The truth is push messages tailored to the interests of the user render a conversion rate of 54%. This is in comparison to the 15% seen in broadcast messages.

It’s important to take into account these issues before making key decisions. If push notifications are implemented in an ineffective way through, for example, sending users messages or notifications that are irrelevant and annoying, they will have an impact opposite to the intended aim. This must be completely avoided.

Encouraging through incentives

Providing incentives to your users can have a positive impact if you seek to push forward your engagement and retention. Conversions are driven and engagement encouraged through coupons, mobile specific rewards, access to specialized content, exceptional promotions, and other similar measures.

Of course, the nature of your app dictates the methods you can use to encourage and provide incentives. For instance, apps that take advantage of in-app purchasing methods as a model of monetization will profit from discounts that are time-sensitive. In the meantime, freemium apps are able to encourage users by presenting various rewards based on the amount of usage.

Product Reiteration

Apps are reiterative products; they could be ‘mature’ (following years of development), or the exact opposite in being viable only on a minimum basis. Guaranteeing regular updates for the app experience and regularly adding new features alongside personalized content will together maintain the interest of your users and ensure their continued engagement. Through the use of analytics, tracking user behavior, and keeping an eye on your user feedback, you can effectively form a definition of what your users are asking for and what app features are increasing in usage. This data can be used to establish product road-mapping, and guarantee that the updates made are to your user’s value and expectations.

User retention and app engagement are two concepts that are as important as user acquisition. Encouraging your users to be loyal, thereby turning them into customers with long-term relationships, boosts average LTV and creates even more revenue for your app. The methods mentioned above can drastically increase user engagement and retention for your app in the increasingly hostile mobile landscape.

Topics: App marketing