How to increase app retention: 10 strategies
Retention rate is a critical metric for mobile marketers and a crucial component of user lifetime value (LTV). The best way to keep people in your app is to create a quality user experience, but there are also strategies that can help you increase retention and consequently boost revenue and brand loyalty. In this guide, we share 10 strategies and a few extra tips to help you improve your app’s retention rate.
What is a retention rate?
A retention rate is the percentage of users still using your app after a set period, commonly measured after Day 1, Day 7 and Day 30. The longer a user is retained, the more likely they are to increase revenue. Moreover, a high retention rate for mobile apps is a good sign that users are having a positive experience. A low retention rate can indicate an issue with your app. For example, if you notice an unusually high number of users are leaving your app on Day 1, you may have a problem with your app’s onboarding.
Retention versus user acquisition
Retention and user acquisition are two sides of the same coin: Mobile marketers must acquire users to achieve significant growth but it is also important to retain as many of those users as possible. It is essential to identify which channels are delivering the highest value users so that you can invest in retention strategies to keep them in-app for longer and maximize their LTV.
What is a good retention rate for mobile apps?
An Adjust study compared retention rates across all verticals, finding that Day 1 retention was 26% on Android and iOS. On Day 7, this decreased to 11% on Android and 12% for iOS. By Day 30, retention averaged 6% for both Android and iOS. What’s the lesson here? If your app keeps more than a third of users on the first day, you have great retention rates. However, the average retention rate will depend on the app category and should be determined by testing over time.
Which app category has the highest retention rate?
Retention rates between app categories can fluctuate wildly, thanks to user behavior and the inherent nature of the apps in question. For example, a quality utility — like a weather app — will have high retention because users check the weather on a daily basis. On the other hand, certain travel apps will have low 30 Day retention because people may install an airline’s official app to get a boarding pass and then uninstall it after the trip.
How to increase app retention rate: 10 best practices to consider
1. Track data as early as possible
To accurately measure retention rates and improvements to this metric over time, you need to start tracking data as soon as possible. This will give you everything you need to measure performance and identify which strategies and features have made an impact.
2. Beta test your app
Developers are more likely to launch with a higher retention rate if their mobile app has been beta tested with an invite-only audience. This is a smart way to ensure there aren’t game-changing issues and bugs within your app that will decrease your user retention. When beta testing your app, you should invite users to provide feedback and use this to optimize your user experience. Following this process will ensure your app is in the best shape possible by launch day. An additional benefit to beta testing is that you are giving early access to enthusiastic users and building brand loyalty even before your app is available in the App store.
3. Soft launch your app
If you haven’t already launched your app, you can use soft launches to A/B test and optimize your app’s performance. A soft launch is a release within a smaller region that will give you opportunities to identify ways to optimize your mobile app before launching in a similar, larger region. For example, marketers can soft launch their app in New Zealand to see how it will perform in regions such as the United Kingdom and the U.S. Similar to beta testing, this practice will help you achieve high retention rates when you launch at a larger scale.
4. Ensure that product and marketing are aligned
When developing your marketing strategy for your mobile app, it is crucial for decisions to be aligned with what the product has to offer. No matter how effective your marketing is, your retention rate will suffer if the user experience doesn’t match what is promised. Misleading ads may work momentarily for UA, but they are detrimental in the long run. It is more effective to align product and marketing so that you are attracting high-value users that won’t uninstall after their first session as a result of misrepresentations in your marketing. For example, showcasing your mobile app’s in-game video in an ad is a better representation than paying for graphics that cannot be enjoyed while using your app.
5. Optimize your user onboarding
Onboarding is a critical step in the user journey, and perhaps the most important for achieving a high retention rate. You have already done the work of acquiring the user and they have opened your app, so it is imperative that you guide the user through your app upon their first session. When optimizing your user onboarding, consider the following:
- Keep it simple: It is important to highlight core features during onboarding. However, you should avoid overloading your user with too much information. It is more effective to provide key insights into your experience to ensure that the user can comfortably navigate through your app, with additional options to receive help where needed. For example, you can add question mark icons that users can click on to learn more whenever necessary.
- Be visual: Sometimes an image or animation can be the best way to get a user’s attention or convey how to use your app. Consider using engaging visuals to make onboarding as easy as possible for your users.
- Identify which features have become second nature: If your app shares features with widely popular apps, you may not need to explain how they work. For example, most users will be familiar with likes, shares and comments as a result of using other apps.
- End onboarding with a CTA: You can increase retention by ending your onboarding with a call to action (CTA). For example, you could ask them to join a mailing list or to enable push notifications. Having shown your app’s value throughout your onboarding, this is a prime opportunity to loop users into your retention strategy.
6. App Store Optimization (ASO)
ASO is the practice of making changes to your app store entry in order to get a higher ranking. This can help you boost retention rates by attracting high-value users and giving them a transparent representation of what to expect when installing your mobile app.
You can perform ASO by focusing on your app’s name and description, keywords for iOS, icons, screenshots and videos. Most of the highest-ranking apps use bullet points in their description to make it easier for users to know what to expect. By perfecting ASO you are bringing organic traffic to your app: often the most valuable users who are retained for longer because they have shown interest in your mobile app without being exposed to an ad. Read our complete guide to learn more about ASO and best practices.
Personalization is a powerful tool that can be used by mobile marketers to boost retention rates. In fact, 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that offer personalized offers and recommendations, and 90% of U.S. consumers find personalization appealing while browsing. Personalization is achieved by employing user data to address people by name, make relevant suggestions and any other way you can customize your app’s offering based on a user’s preferences. These personalized changes will improve over time and make users more likely to keep returning to your app.
When implementing personalization methods, it is important to strike the right balance. First and foremost, you should identify whether it improves the user experience. Some personalizations can make users uncomfortable so it’s important to be selective about how and when you are choosing to get personal.
8. Push notifications
Push notifications can be sent directly to the user's device and will appear on a user’s lock screen. Although users need to opt in to receive push notifications from an app, this type of messaging can be an effective way to bring users back to your app and increase your retention rate. Opt-in rates will vary depending on app category: 57% of users want to receive push notifications from social media platforms, followed by news apps (45.94%), e-commerce apps (25.29%), mobile games (19.05%), travel apps (10.08%) and blogging apps (9.24%).
9. Email marketing
Mobile marketers are using email marketing to build brand loyalty, increase engagement and improve retention rates over time. By building a mailing list of valuable subscribers — you can bring users back to your app when sharing exclusive discounts, sales and other promotions. This is an effective strategy regardless of company size and budget: 80% of small to mid-sized businesses use email marketing to retain valuable users. Email marketing is also a smart way to retain users by offering them something of value, such as a discount on your products or in-app purchases. This creates a win-win scenario for you and your audience. Moreover, 49% of consumers would like to receive regular promotional emails from brands they enjoy. You can learn more about email marketing with our complete guide.
10. In-app messaging
Just like with push notifications, in-app messaging can be a great way to keep people engaged. Mobile apps that use in-app messaging to communicate with users see an increase in retention rates of 61%-74% after Day 28 .
However, if you are implementing several retention strategies you should avoid overloading users with the same information. If a user gets a push notification and an in-app message for the same deal every time you have an update, this can frustrate the user and lead them to churn or opt out of push notifications. You should also segment users based on their preferences so that in-app messages are optimized to be as useful as possible to the user. This will improve your retention rate by adding more value to the user.
If you found these retention strategies useful, you may also be interested in how paying higher CPIs can improve LTV and drive profits. We also have resources for user acquisition and re-engagement strategies for subscription apps.