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Top 7 Mobile App User Retention Tips and Successful Strategies

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Alicia Wells 2 September, 2018
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Creating a good app is only half of the job. The other half involves getting people to use the app and engendering loyalty among your user base. This can sometimes be more difficult than it sounds. Mobile app user retention is one of the things that separates successful apps from all the others. It is just as important as user acquisition because if many people download an app and end up abandoning it, then it is as though they never downloaded it.

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Meanwhile, a 5% increase in user retention can boost profits by 25% to 95%. Studies show that app abandonment has been rampant in recent years. According to Localytics, up to 21% of users abandon an app after using it only once. Meanwhile, information from Quetta shows that most apps lose up to 95% of their daily active users by day 90. Experts have sought to make sense of these statistics by pointing out that users tend to download a lot of apps and try them out before deciding which ones to stick with. Looking at these odds, it is clear that mobile app user retention is especially relevant today.  Thankfully, many proven strategies can improve an app’s retention rate.

Before we look at the ways you can improve your app user retention rate, it is important to highlight that compared to app acquisition and engagement, it usually takes longer for efforts put into retention to start to show results. This is particularly true for apps that are already on the market. As a result, acquisition and engagement were widely used as the benchmark to measure the success of apps. However, it is now clear that both metrics don’t mean much without user retention. Therefore, user retention must be part of the long-term plans to make an app successful. When your user retention strategies are working well, they will boost acquisition and engagement.

7 Ways to Improve Mobile App User Retention

User Experience

As indicated above, nearly a quarter of the users who download an app do not use it more than once. Therefore, the starting point when creating a mobile app user retention strategy must be figuring out how to get first-time users to keep coming back. If you can do that, then the success of your app is almost guaranteed. But this isn’t easy to figure out. Users prefer apps for different reasons. Many apps on the market do the same thing; barring some exceptions, there is not much difference in their functionality. The one thing that differentiates apps is user experience.

User experience is one of the most important things when designing an app. This refers to every aspect of a user’s interaction with a product. User experience does affect not only user retention but also acquisition and engagement. You can create an app with perfect codes and functionality, but if the user experience is not outstanding, you will struggle to win users.  Nicole Hendrick, the CEO at Buildinary, says that “Great design starts with creating an engaging, easy to use interface”. It is critical to keeping up your mobile rate of engagement.

An app that provides a great user experience will also have a good mobile app user retention rate. You must solve all the apparent performance flaws to ensure your app does what it is supposed to without any issues. Some of the things you must consider are how does the design and color theme of your app make users feel? Can users operate the app smoothly and is there a learning curve? Does the app do what users expect? The focus must be on what is best for the users. For example, although mobile advertising pays, too many ads can ruin the experience for users. So, you can keep ads to a minimum while exploring other sources of revenue such as offering a premium service.

Know Your Users

One of the most overlooked aspects of mobile app user retention is the importance of metrics and data. It is vital to keep a record of the number of users of an app, what they are doing as well as what they like, and don’t like. This will guide efforts to create a user retention strategy. Knowing the preference of users allows app developers to focus their efforts, which ultimately increases their chances of success. With the proper metrics, you can even find out why particular users decided to uninstall your app and remedy the issue before it affects others.

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Apart from app analytics, it is also important to open the lines of communication with them. You can gain some valuable feedback from some users. Sometimes, there are glitches in apps that are not apparent during the testing phase. If the channels are open, users can easily report these issues and have them fixed. And if users feel their opinions matter and they are part of the “brains” behind an app, their loyalty grows stronger.

While app developers and marketers need data to improve their services, users are generally wary of giving up their data. Studies show that a majority of users may opt not to install an app if they have to provide a lot of information in order to use it. One way to create a middle ground is to be open to users about the reason you are asking for data from them, the particular data that will be gathered, and what it will be used for. It also pays to offer incentives to users who agree to provide you with information.

Win Over Users From Day One

First impressions matter a lot. Especially in mobile app user retention. If you want more long-term users, the magic must start with the onboarding process. First, your app must be attractive, and its function must be clearly stated with demos and write-ups about it. Use testimonials and ratings to create a good impression of the app.

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Next, the process of creating a profile or logging into the app must be fast and easy. Keep the user interface simple, fun, and interactive. Users must be able to use an app almost intuitively. If there is a steep learning curve, the chances are that many users will uninstall it. First-time users should spend time enjoying your app not grappling with how it functions.

One way to ensure an app is easy to use is to avoid bombarding users with too many features. Instead, the primary function of the app should be the point of focus while the other features can play a supporting role.

There are thousands of apps out there that do the same thing. If a user isn’t sold within the first few minutes of installing an app, rest assured that person will hit the uninstall button. According to Localytics, a great onboarding can improve an app retention rate by as much as 50%.

Use Push Notifications for Mobile App User Retention

Push notifications are the perfect way to interact with users. According to LeanPlum, adding push notifications to your mobile app marketing plan can improve your mobile app user retention rate by as much as 50%. Between our work, personal life, the plethora of entertainment venues, and thousands of apps available, there is a constant struggle for the attention of users. Push notifications provide an avenue to remind users about your app. It could be notifications about updates, messages, or even unfinished processes. The underlying goal of these notifications is to get users to engage with the app.

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While push notifications are recommended, they must be used appropriately. Too many notifications can be annoying, while too few notifications can be ineffective. Push notifications can be personalized to make them more efficient. Also, it is important not to bring up push notifications early with users. Users must have an excellent first experience with the app before they would consider receiving notifications.

Some of the most significant apps today use push notifications. For example, Netflix sends notifications about movies and TV shows based on a user’s browsing history. This is an ideal way to interact with users and get them to know about new content or updated features.

Offer Personalization Options

Another way to make an app more appealing is to increase the options for personalization. This will allow users to tailor their experience on the app to make it more relevant to their needs. Studies show that when a website or app comes with options for personalization, it is viewed as more useful and usable.

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There are many ways to personalize an app. You can customize the content based on a user’s location, and interests. There is also the option of showing the user’s name or addressing the user by name in messages. Users can also be allowed to change the user interface or color scheme of the app. Personalization involves offering dedicated content and allowing users to pick up where they left off each time. You cannot go wrong with personalization. It is highly unlikely that users will complain about too many options for customization.

A study by Localytics in 2015 revealed that next to more functionality, the one thing mobile app users request most is personalized content. Ultimately, the more personalized the user experience of an app is, the higher its chances of getting a lot of daily active users.

Offer Incentives to Build Loyalty

Incentives and reward programs can dramatically affect mobile app user retention rate. Many apps have used this to build a solid base of loyal users. The key with incentives is to offer users something valuable. This could be coupons, special discount deals, and other offers. When you reward users for choosing an app, they will keep doing so. Incentives do not only affect an app retention rate, but also acquisition and retention. You can offer incentives to new users to drive acquisition.

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Although loyalty programs seem like something trivial, research shows that up to 68% of millennials will not patronize a brand that does not offer incentives to loyal users. To add to this, research shows that it costs 5 to 25 times more to get a new customer than to sell to an existing customer. Meanwhile, it has been found that customer loyalty programs have the power to boost the market share of a business by as much as 20 percent.

There are as many types of incentive programs as there are companies who are offering them. Some of the top apps that provide desirable incentives to users include Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb.

Keep Improving

To keep users satisfied, you must never stop improving your app. It is important to be abreast with the trends and be two steps ahead of the competition to maintain a good mobile app retention rate. The moment an app falls behind its competitors in any sense, it starts to lose its place in the market. This is why regularly updating an app is essential. If you look at all the major apps, it is evident that they have gone through significant changes over the years in terms of how they look and perform.

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Updating the appearance and functionality of a site can have positive or negative consequences. To increase the chances of users accepting the latest improvements to an app, developers have to consider user feedback. When updating an app, improve the things that users complain about and leave everything that they like.

This year, two major apps – Snapchat and Instagram – have received severe backlash for updating their user interface design without paying attention to what users love about them. Sometimes, it is not that the changes are wrong, but users are accustomed to the old design and would raise alarm about any changes.

Final Words

With that said, it is not advisable to release major updates for an app too often to allow users to become familiar with the interface and features before it is changed.

No single mobile app user retention strategy works in every instance. The strategies to use depends on your app, your target users, and other factors. Sometimes, you need to use a mix of strategies. For example, Starbucks used a couple of these schemes to improve its retention rate.

The role of user retention in increasing profits cannot be underestimated. It must be at the core of your mobile app marketing plan. As mentioned above, improving an app’s retention rate can have a significant effect on profits.

Tags: mobile ui Mobile Web Design
Author: Alicia Wells
Alicia is a programmer who specializes in mobile app development and design. With her strong coding background and easy demeanor, she thoroughly enjoys blogging about all aspects of software development in her spare time.
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