5 Methods For Increasing App Engagement

Mobile app engagement and mobile app retention are two metrics that provide genuine insight into the success of an application. Low app engagement and retention are a recipe for failure, while high engagement and retention equal the opposite.


Engagement – describes how active users are on the application. While this is a somewhat subjective metric, Localytics describes highly engaged users as users that participate in 11 or more app sessions a month.

Retention – while again a somewhat subjective term, the industry benchmark is the percentage of an app’s users who return to the app within three months of their first session. Localytics even defines mobile app user retention as a user that returns to the app at least 1x within 30 days. It’s important to note that every brand will have an individual definition of engagement as retention, depending on the nature of the app.

Combined, these metrics determine an app’s “stickiness” – how engaged and loyal users are for a particular app. For enterprises primarily concerned with user conversions and/or monetization, the most important objective is to keep users engaged and ensure repeat usage.

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5 Methods For Increasing App Engagement & User Retention

1. Efficient Onboarding

It seems simple enough, yet not all apps initiate an efficient onboarding process. Make your onboarding process as simple and intuitive as possible. The more difficult it is to begin using an app, the more likely users are to abandon it.

Here are some ways to simplify user onboarding:

  1. 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).
  2. Offer feature education throughout the onboarding experience to introduce the app’s functionality, but don’t overload users right away.
  3. Teach through action to reveal the primary gestures in the app experience.

2. Use Push Notifications (The Right Way)

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.

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.

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 4. Offer And Incentivization Program

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.

5. Encourage Two-Way Communication

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.

Closing Thoughts: Shifting Focus To In-App Behaviors

Today, the goal is not simply an app download but retaining users to build brand loyalty. App engagement and user retention are equally, if not more important than user acquisition. Converting users to loyal, long-term customers will help increase average lifetime value (LTV) and generate more revenue for your app. The above methods can significantly improve user engagement and retention to ensure that your application has an impact in the highly competitive app landscape.

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