While it’s tempting to focus on user acquisition as the primary measure of performance, metrics like user engagement and retention are actually more indicative of success. Yes, driving a lot of downloads is purposeful, but if no one is using the app, the product isn’t yielding business value.
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. This decline in users over time is what’s known as app churn.
What is app churn?
App churn refers to the percentage of users who stop using an app within a particular time period.
Identifying and understanding app churn is essential to your app growth strategy as the number of new users must outweigh the users who leave.
Central metrics for reducing app churn
Before moving ahead, let’s define the two central metrics to focus on when implementing these strategies: engagement and retention rates.
Engagement rates refer to how active users are on a specific app. Highly engaged users participate in 11 or more app sessions a month.
Retention rates refers to the percentage of users who return to an app within three months of their first session.
5 strategies for boosting user retention and engagement
The following five strategies for boosting app engagement and retention can help lower your app’s churn rate: efficient onboarding, interacting and connecting with users, in-app messages, rewards, and two-way communication.
1. Efficient onboarding
It seems obvious, but not all apps initiate an efficient mobile app onboarding process. Onboarding needs to be as simple and intuitive as possible. The more difficult it is to begin using an app, the more likely users are to abandon the product.
Here are some ways to simplify user onboarding:
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).
Offer feature education throughout the onboarding experience to introduce the app’s functionality, but don’t overload users right away.
Teach through action to reveal the primary gestures in the app experience.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
Reducing churn through engagement
Convincing users to download your app is no easy task, and to lose a significant amount of users after a month is not only disheartening but detrimental to the long-term success of your mobile app.
This is why creating an app that not only provides a good user experience but serves a purpose to the user is so important. Maximizing engagement helps to convert one-time users into long-term customers, which helps to increase the average lifetime value of your app and generate more revenue.
Chris is a Marketing Assistant at Clearbridge Mobile, a mobile app development company helping companies build better relationships with customers by delivering best-in-class mobile app experiences. He writes about all things related to mobile app development, UX/UI, strategy, and marketing. In his spare time Chris can be found with a guitar in his hand, jamming along to his favorite tunes.