Every app wants more downloads, but user engagement is just as important as user acquisition. This makes user retention— which is all about keeping users engaged and using your app for as long as possible— a crucial part of most apps' long-term strategies.
The ability to keep users engaging with your app more frequently while extending their full lifecycle with the app will often mean more profit potential, whether that’s coming from an ad network or app monetization.
Improving in-app user retention, however, is sometimes easier said than done, so let’s take a look at 7 strategies that can reliably help increase retention for different types of apps.
Push notifications are easy ways to bring users back to the app again and again, even if it wasn’t something they were thinking about before hearing that Ping! From their phones.
Whether you’re alerting users of big sales, letting them know the next level of the game is open, or reminding them to log their dinner’s calories, push notifications draw users back in frequently enough to keep them engaged (or get them re-engaged) with the app until usage becomes more of a habit.
It effectively prevents users from forgetting about the app until one day they see it on their phone and think “I never use that” and delete it completely.
You can use these push notification tips to help:
If your app offers practical useful features to your audience, you could run out of trouble when your app outlives its usefulness to a user base. This is often when user retention drops fast.
Let’s look at an example. Noom is an app that takes users through an educational course to help them lose weight or maintain a healthy weight long-term. The education is not endless, though it takes most users a few months to get through.
Once the coursework was done, it was possible that users would unsubscribe and never come back.
So Noom also has a database of recipes, exercise tracking, and calorie calculators, which offer continual and ongoing value even after the courses are done. There’s also access to help from a coach, a weight tracker, and an online support community involved with ongoing membership.
Plenty of apps run into this problem. Games sometimes run out of levels, or information-based tools share set information without much interactivity. And once it’s done, that’s it.
Finding useful, needed-on-an-ongoing-basis features is going to be crucial to maintaining both engagement and user retention rates. There are plenty of options to consider for this depending on the type of app that you have and what your audience needs.
Users won’t stick around long if there’s an annoying glitch that happens every time they try to use the app.
Imagine tracking to track a route in a mile-tracking software only to have it glitch every third time you use it? You needed that information to track the miles you drove for a tax refund, and now the data is just gone.
Or picture this: After struggling for an hour to win a difficult round of a game, the app crashed and required you to start over.
You’d be done, right?
This makes app maintenance from a technical perspective a crucial concern for improving user retention. Keep the following in mind:
Use app tracking data tools like MyTracker to detect potential issues, and then identify and resolve them quickly.
Who doesn’t love bonus freebies?
Regularly (or at least semi-regularly) offering spontaneous rewards for app users is an easy way to keep users using your tool longer, particularly for eCommerce-based apps that may use the tool to grant customers access to exclusive sales or discounts.
If you want to keep your app downloaded on those phones, send out unpredictable rewards, bonuses, and sales to app users first. This could be a free item or a coupon code for a discount, whether that’s five extra lives, a gift for a friend, a chance to win gift card for yourself, or 15% off all purchases.
Nobody wants to delete and reinstall an app later, and no one wants to miss out on great sales that they may want to get in on.
You can use in-app notifications, text messages, and push notifications to promote these rewards, whichever you prefer. This can also increase user engagement at the same time, which is a nice bonus.
You’ll notice in some of the in-app user retention tips we’ve discussed so far that we mention user engagement a lot, too. The two really go hand in hand, because when consistent engagement is on an upwards trend, retention often joins.
Keeping a close eye on your in-app user engagement is going to be essential here because it directly correlates with long-term retention.
If your engagement is high, it means people are enjoying and using the app regularly. If you see engagement drop off at a set point and retention falls shortly after, however, that’s a good place to troubleshoot to see if you can find ways to keep people on board.
Paying close attention to how users are interacting with your app at different stages of their lifecycle and at different places in the app will be crucial. You can learn more about this here.
While some users strongly prefer to keep their app usage to themselves, some are going to retain significantly longer if they can interact with their friends in some way.
Some users, for example, might love fitness apps that let them show their progress with (or compete against!) their friends.
Gaming apps that let users share gifts, send lives, or compete against each other can become a shared pastime that they do together instead of when they’re bored with nothing else going on.
Real estate apps should allow users to send house listings to each other, or to share them to saved lists for their partner or realtor to browse.
Some eCommerce apps even allow you to share wishlists or favorited items with friends on the platform, which is a great feature to have for user birthdays or holidays.
When it becomes a shared experience instead of an isolated tool, your app retention can increase dramatically, and it can often result in more downloads, too.
We mentioned this above in the section discussing technical issues, but taking user feedback seriously does go beyond technical issues, too.
While technical issues will always be the most urgent to solve, users will often be happy to share plenty of other feedback about their experience with the app when you ask for it. This may include:
You can use all of this feedback to directly improve the user experience, and it could potentially even give you new ideas for how to stand out from the competition. When your target audience is offering suggestions, listen, and your user retention rates will surely increase because of it.
There are only a very small number of apps where in-app retention isn’t going to be a major long-term goal. You need ongoing retention and engagement in order to profit off of the apps for almost all monetization options, and you want your app to stay useful and relevant.
All seven tips discussed above will help you to consistently increase in-app user retention rates, no matter what type of app you have and who your audience is. Pick a few and get started to see what works best for you!
Interested to know how well your app can retain users? See our Retention 101: you'll learn how to calculate retention in your app and will be able to compare it to app retention rates across various app genres.