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6 Methods for Boosting User Engagement in Mobile Apps

Engagement is the name of the game when it comes to mobile app usage. This is particularly true if your app monetization model benefits in any way from users spending more time in-app, which most monetization options rely on heavily.

Getting users to spend more time in your app, of course, is often easier said than done even though users spend about 90% of their mobile time within apps (with estimations that users spend around four hours per day on their mobile devices).

If you want to snag a solid percentage of that time, using engagement-boosting strategies can help.

In this post, we’re going to go over six different methods for boosting in-app engagement for mobile users, along with which metrics you should use to track engagement performance and drops.

1. Prioritize Efficient Onboarding

When you’ve spent months or even years developing an app, the interface and UI seem intuitive. If you present the final product to users, however, they’re likely to miss even a few core features that make your app great if you don’t show them how to use it.

Keep onboarding simple and efficient. This should be a priority instead of an afterthought. Make it easy for users to create a username or login if relevant, ideally allowing them to login with email and/or social media verifications.

You also want to put effort into a guided tutorial that will walk users through the app, including highlighting all the features available and how to use them. Without this, users may get frustrated or fail to see the full value that you offer. The app below does an excellent job with this:

You also want to put effort into a guided tutorial that will walk users through the app, including highlighting all the features available and how to use them. Without this, users may get frustrated or fail to see the full value that you offer. The app below does an excellent job with this:

2. Distribute Push Notifications

How many apps do you have installed on your phone right now? If you’re like many users, you probably have no idea and the answer would simply be “a lot.”

Most users have dozens upon dozens of apps on their phone, some of which are buried five screen-swipes over from their home screen. Reminding them that you’re there and capturing their interest so they log in to your app is key.

That’s where push notifications come into play. A well-timed notification can trigger interest and app engagement, bringing users back to your app again and again. Over time, this can actually result in the usage of your app becoming a habit for them.

HBO Max’s mobile app, for example, sends push notifications with personalized recommendations of shows that they think the user may like. This can hook users into new shows and potentially even prolong their subscriptions as a result.

3. Send In-App Messages

Want to keep users interested as they’re using your app?

Using in-app messages and notifications to alert them to new deals, new features, or exciting offers can be incredibly effective. You can guide them to additional content or share a helpful usage tip.

Messages keep users engaged by giving them something to focus on. They’re also a great choice when you’re trying to re-engage users who aren’t getting the most out of your app and who are just scraping the surface with their usage.

Reddit, for example, will send in-app messages in addition to standard push notifications. These pop up once users enter the app, and might include alerts about comments to responses or tips about trending posts in the subreddits that you follow. It increases app engagement significantly.

4. Set Up Loyalty Rewards

Everyone loves loyalty perks, and it’s a great way to show your users that you’re grateful for them.

Loyalty rewards for ongoing usage can keep people interested in using the app more, especially if they’re getting some sort of incentive.

Games may offer exclusive access to rare bonus items, in-app currency, or extra lives every few hours that a user plays.

You can also offer rewards for users who refer others to your app who then download and play. This is easy to implement, and high-engaging users are likely to invite their friends who they know would also enjoy it.

reward app users

5. Encourage Communication & Collaboration Between Players

Almost every app in my phone that doesn’t have a security concern (like banks, my invoicing software, and my business management software) has features designed to bring friends and family into the mix.

With gaming apps, you can send lives or bonuses to friends on the app, or even work with them if you’re on at the same time.

Even the app from Garmin smartwatch allows you to add friends or join groups so you can compare progress with fitness goals, either to compete or urge each other on while adding a layer of accountability.

encourage user communications in apps

This is a great move because if your app becomes part of external relationships as a link between two or more users, it automatically becomes even more valuable. Engagement between both users can increase significantly, as do retention rates.

6. Create an Experience

This taps into the same idea as the tip above: If you can make your app about more than its core function, its value goes up and engagement follows suit.

LoseIt is a great example. It’s a weight loss app that allows you to track what you eat, create meal plans, and determine the calories you need to eat to gain, lose, or maintain weight.

Even though it’s a calorie counter, it’s not “just” a calorie counter.

There’s an abundance of resources, and it’s easy to use with far-reaching features, like automatically having certain branded items like a Yoplait Blackberry Yogurt saved into their system and allowing users to scan items. You can track your water, integrate your calorie counting and meal plans with an activity tracker, and get meal plan ideas while earning badges along the way.

You can also participate in community challenges and add friends on the platform to swap meal plans or keep each other updated on progress.

The app creates an experience that keeps users engaged, even giving them a sort of anonymous community they can engage with to work towards their goals.

The 10 Metrics to Track When Assessing Engagement

When it comes to assessing and monitoring in-app engagement, there are ten essential metrics to track closely. These ten metrics are:

daily active users report in MyTracker
DAU report in MyTracker

You can learn more about why these metrics are important and how to track them accurately here.

How to Spot User Engagement Drops

App engagement is crucial; poor engagement almost always means that you’re not profiting off of your app at the level you should be.

It’s essential, therefore, to be able to quickly spot drops in user engagement so you can identify and resolve the issue before usage drops significantly.

Keep in mind that minor fluctuations are relatively common in-app engagement, as all apps typically have slight rises and falls month-to-month depending on a number of different factors. If, for example, you have a big marketing push and see a big increase in engagement, that’s expected.

Look for drops that are significant and outside of the standard range for your month-over-month engagement. That’s what you want to pay attention to and look for what it could correlate with. If, for example, you suddenly see a drop-off in payments, check to see if your app was recently updated to a new version. If so, it may cause payment tracking libraries to be updated or changed, the payment transfers could have been disabled, or the newer version failed for in-app payment tracking.

A large number of small technical issues can cause app engagement to decrease quickly, so the ability to troubleshoot issues quickly is like trying to put a bandaid on a papercut instead of a bullet hole. 

This PDF explains different causes for decreased user engagement in apps, what metrics to look for, and how to troubleshoot the issues.

Final Thoughts

Getting plenty of downloads is a great start, but app success is directly tied to user engagement, too.

While having a great, glitch-free and unique app is a good first step, the strategies discussed above can go a long way in helping you keep users engaged while also extending their retention rates. These same strategies are a good start to monetizing, as more engaged users could be more inclined to make purchases in-app than those who are more idle browsers.

Remember to watch your analytics closely for any and all changes in engagement, and be ready to respond quickly if you see drops in engagement, which may be caused by technical issues that need resolving fast.

Interested in learning more about how to keep engagement high by troubleshooting potential issues early on? Download our PDF about identifying and resolving causes of declined app engagement here.