5 Methods For Increasing App Engagement & User Retention
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It’s easy to assume that user acquisition is the central metric for determining mobile app success, but without active users, high download rates won’t yield any business value. Brands are spending an enormous amount of money acquiring users; however, it only begins here. After acquiring users, the value is in engaging and retaining them. 

Mobile app engagement and mobile app retention are two metrics that provide genuine insight into the success of an application. Low app engagement and retention are a recipe for failure, while high engagement and retention equal the opposite.

Engagement – describes how active users are on the application. While this is a somewhat subjective metric, Localytics describes highly engaged users as users that participate in 11 or more app sessions a month.

Retention – while again a somewhat subjective term, the industry benchmark is the percentage of an app’s users who return to the app within three months of their first session. Localytics even defines mobile app user retention as a user that returns to the app at least 1x within 30 days. It’s important to note that every brand will have an individual definition of engagement as retention, depending on the nature of the app.

Combined, these metrics determine an app’s “stickiness” – how engaged and loyal users are for a particular app. For enterprises primarily concerned with user conversions and/or monetization, the most important objective is to keep users engaged and ensure repeat usage.

 

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The Engagement & User Retention Problem

 

Achieving sufficient mobile app engagement and user retention rates is a difficult task. Statista reports that only 32 percent of users will return to an app 11 times or more after downloading it. What’s even more eye-opening is that 25 percent of users abandon an app just after one use. The reality is, mobile app developers are up against a competitive market in which users have a lot of choices. 

Increasing engagement and retention will lead to more active and loyal app users. The following five strategies for boosting app engagement and retention can help lower an app’s churn rate, and help enterprises see the desired results and ROI they expect from their investment in mobile app development.

 

5 Methods For Increasing App Engagement & User Retention

 

1. Efficient Onboarding

It seems simple enough, yet not all apps initiate an efficient onboarding process. Make your onboarding process as simple and intuitive as possible. The more difficult it is to begin using an app, the more likely users are to abandon it. 

Here are some ways to simplify user onboarding: 

  1. Reduce the number of steps necessary to create an account or sign up and include multiple registration options (login with Facebook or Google, for example).
  2. Offer feature education throughout the onboarding experience to introduce the app’s functionality, but don’t overload users right away.
  3. Teach through action to reveal the primary gestures in the app experience.

 

2. Use Push Notifications (The Right Way)

 

Localytics reports that users who experience some degree of personalized brand interaction are more likely to return to an app for 11 or more sessions. To put it in perspective, if you enter a physical store and aren’t acknowledged, you’d probably be disappointed with the customer service. Consider app interaction in the same light. 

An interaction can be as simple as sending a push notification welcoming users or providing useful information as users progress through the app. Successful apps use this type of interaction to shape the customer journey, by being thoughtful and strategic in how they reach out to users. For example, providing relevant retailer deals based on location and usage patterns is an effective tactic for prompting app sessions. Interacting with users is also a great way to re-engage users who have dropped out of the conversion funnel. The same report further supports this by stating that app abandonment after one use drops to 19 percent from 25 percent when this type of interaction is implemented.

 

3. In-App Messages

 

The more aligned your app experience is with a user’s needs and preferences, the more likely a user is to continue using the product. Brands using in-app messages to communicate with users will see user retention within 28 days of receiving a message range from 61 percent to 74 percent.

In-app messages are notifications that don’t require immediate action but are nonetheless, important notifications to receive. These can include warnings about app issues, payment failures, or version upgrades. Keep in mind that not every message you send will be relevant to every single user. Segmenting your audience gives you the ability to ensure the information they receive is valuable to them. 

To achieve this, some apps leverage device capabilities such as location to target specific users with tailored messages including real-time updates and links to personalized content. 

 

 4. Offer and Incentivization Program

 

If your business model allows you to offer users a reward or loyalty program, it’s important to capitalize on the opportunity. Not only do these programs incentivize users to use the product, but loyalty programs also make users feel significant and important to a brand. 

Apps that use in-app purchasing as a monetization model, particularly QSR apps, will benefit from time-sensitive discounts, whereas freemium apps can incentivize users with usage-based rewards instead of monetary discounts. 

 

5. Encourage Two-Way Communication

 

Consumers want to build relationships with brands, more specifically, they want to feel valued and appreciated. This is why opening a line for two-way communication is extremely important. How do you know what your users want if you don’t receive their feedback? These messages help apps gather feedback, solve customer problems, and improve product functionality over time. 

The added benefit of opening these lines of communication with users is being able to hear about problems before a negative review is posted in an app store. This allows you to get to the bottom of the problem and build a relationship before it affects future downloads. Showing responsiveness and addressing any questions or concerns will boost your engagement and retention rates, encourage positive reviews, and build long-term brand loyalty. 

 

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Setting Your App Up For Better Engagement & Retention Rates

 

Aside from implementing the above-mentioned strategies, there are critical steps that should be taken before launching an app that can increase the probability of receiving higher engagement and retention rates from the very beginning. Businesses need to begin thinking about their app engagement and retention strategy long before they launch a product. 

 

Ensure a High-Quality App With Proper Functionality

 

The first and arguably most important step in boosting engagement and retention rates is to build a quality mobile product. An app will rarely be without minor bugs upon launch; however, it is important to test a product correctly before shipping to ensure there aren’t any significant issues. A diligent quality assurance process will help product teams deliver a better product to the market. Keep in mind, if an app lacks proper functionality, users will abandon the app without hesitation. 

Every time an app crashes, lags or has slow load times, all other mobile app metrics will be affected as a result. For this reason, it’s important to track both front-end and back-end functionality to get a thorough understanding of how well the app is performing. 

 

Demonstrate The Benefit in Your App Store Listing

 

An app’s app store listing plays a significant role in engaging users before they decide to download an app. Businesses need to demonstrate how their app is addressing the pain point or struggle the user is experiencing regularly, as users are looking for the benefit the app provides. To do this, businesses need to include persuasive messaging that demonstrates the long-term value of your app. For businesses that do this effectively, and follow up by delivering value, they will see an increase in the number of users that remain engaged over time.

 

Top Considerations to Keep in Mind

Find the Right Opportunity in the Market

 

All successful apps have one thing in common: they can develop habit-forming behaviors by building their app around the daily routine and emotions of users. If you think of brands like Spotify, Uber, or Instagram, they understand the pain point of their target audience and build out their features to link to their everyday routine, which encourages them to use it frequently. Addressing the needs of your users will play a huge role in how frequently they use your app. 

 

Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

 

Apps are iterative, whether they are minimum viable products or mature, polished, and fully functional. Regularly updating the app experience with new features and personalized content will help keep users interested and engaged. It’s important to monitor analytics, track user behavior and listen to feedback to establish what features of the app drive usage. This information is essential to product road mapping and helps determine what updates are the most compelling and valuable to users. 

 Frequently updating and improving your app will help you retain users. You want to be continuously providing value or else you’ll lose them to your competitors as they’ll search for the best option on the market. If they find something better, that offers more value, they’ll delete your app, which will, in turn, skyrocket your uninstall rates.

 

Don’t Undervalue The User Experience

 

There is no generic equation for boosting user engagement and retention rates, but you do need to maintain the right balance between various tactics and the overall user experience. Just because push notifications are effective for one brand, doesn’t mean it’s the right approach for yours. Before you adopt any of these tactics, you need to assess if it’s the right choice for your app in particular. Will it add value for users or will it frustrate them? The minute you aggravate users, you’re sacrificing your retention rates. Weigh your options and determine the best approach with the user in mind.

 

Closing Thoughts: Shifting Focus to In-App Behaviors

 

Today, the goal is not simply an app download but retaining users to build brand loyalty. App engagement and user retention are equally, if not more important than user acquisition. Converting users to loyal, long-term customers will help increase average lifetime value (LTV) and generate more revenue for your app. The above methods can significantly improve user engagement and retention to ensure that your application has an impact in the highly competitive app landscape.

 

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