What Is the Retention Rate of Your App? Shifting Focus Beyond App Downloads

May 7, 2014

You probably have already heard that 22% of apps are used only once before being deleted. It’s a huge number considering that there is more than 1 million apps just in the App Store. It’s an average mark but it helps to identify the problem and find possible solutions.

Shifting focus on downloads is a good start for app developers, when they only launch an application and want to grow user base. Different growth hacking tips and tactics will be useful in this case but the main trick is not to get customers but to save them. So such terms like user engagement and retention enter our arena of goals and start to play a vital role in our future success or failure.

If you look on the App User Retention chart below you can see a positive trend in increasing number of applications that used 11 times more before deletion. We can say that the average quality of apps is growing with every year and mobile developers find new ways to engage customers. So below we’ll observe some tips that any developer should know to make his product live longer.

Market Benchmarks

Let’s look at retention rates in different app categories to identify their user engagement and loyalty characteristics and to understand if your app behaves well.

As we can see from the Flurry matrix below, News and Communication apps are the two categories that appear to be intensively used and to which consumers are loyal over time. These are kind of everyday apps, which don’t bring much value but help to stay in touch with others and be aware of what is happening around. They are best positioned to generate advertising revenue or charge a subscription.

Streaming Music, Dating and Social Games are highly used by users but for finite periods of time. Why?

For example, we use Dating app extensively while looking for a relationship and when a suitable partner has been found usage stops until the next time. And the better the app, the faster the customer finds a partner and stops using it. In this vicious cycle, the developer must constantly maintain users’ interest with growing audience and adding new functions and possibilities.

Apps from Quadrant III  are used infrequently and have high churn. They contain the most “one-and-dones.” So the best way to engage users is to use pricing programs, add premium levels and so on.

Quadrant IV is made up of apps that are used infrequently but deliver very high value when used. Restaurant, hotel-booking, airline-searching apps and others. Work must be done fast and well, especially in this category when users expect some level of service. Good plus is to give special offers or propositions or to send reminders about upcoming actions (tickets sale, new menu, etc.) so users will stay on the hook.

How to increase user retention?

This question always appears in app development logical chain after “How to launch an app” & “How to engage users.” So we’ll try to give you some basic hints you can use on your way to perfection and success in this question.

  1. All good mobile stories start with a good product. So I won’t change a tradition and say that the first thing you must do is create an awesome app. No more no less. From the first minute user must fall in love with your product, otherwise you lost.
  2. Don’t forget about regular updates and bug fixing. Customers must see you are still working for them and trying something new all the time to make their user experience better.
  3. Gamification. There is a great buzz around this term. Some think it’s a bad option, others think it’s a key to future apps. Never know till you try it. A good example of the right gamification is the Starbucks app. The more coffee you buy, the more rewards you get and the more you fill up your cup. Motivates doesn’t it?
  4. Push notifications. According to Urban Airship research push messaging can more than double app user retention and dramatically boosts engagement. But use notifications wisely, don’t spam users and try to make it more personal.
  5. “Your mobile customers are treating their phones like extensions of themselves, they have invited us into a more personal and immersive aspect of their lives,” says Robi Ganguly on Moz blog. So we, developers, must appreciate this fact and try to build strong relationships with our customers so they can be sure of our support and willingness to help them in any moment. Learn not only to listen but hear each Person that is using your application.

This is it.

P.S. If you know more ways to make apps “stick” to users, we will be glad to hear them.