How to track app installs, reduce churn and optimize the user lifecycle

Anne Verhoeven

Feb 13, 2020

The average user accesses almost 40 apps per month, and app marketers must do everything in their power to keep their slice of the pie. But churn is a critical issue for app marketers, with most apps getting deleted within a week of their last use. Although all apps will lose users over time, 40% of users who uninstall an app will redownload it at a later date. This means you need data that enables you to learn from this behavior, optimize the user journey, and differentiate new installs from reinstalls. In this guide we breakdown the user lifecycle, share ways to improve the stickiness of your product, and show why all marketers need to track app uninstalls..

What is the user lifecycle?

The user lifecycle is a complex journey that should be analyzed to implement the best marketing campaigns possible. By learning why users have churn, app marketers can identify ways to prolong their users’ lifetime value (LTV) and consequently boost return on investment (ROI).

In a webinar on user lifecycle management, Daniel Oh, Product Marketing Manager at Adjust is joined by Kara Dake, VP of Growth and Partnerships at CleverTap. The pair breakdown what needs to be observed at every stage of the user lifecycle, as well as actionable advice on how it can be optimized. Daniel explains that “When you break your users down into specific cohorts, you can find exactly when users give up on your app and identify the cause.” Measuring retention using acquisition cohorts then allows you to learn when users enter your app and when the drop off happens – essential insights you must learn before thinking about other ways to optimize your retention rate.

To learn more about the user lifecycle management from Daniel and Kara, watch the full webinar below.

How to improve the stickiness of your product

Apps with the best user lifecycle have become a part of users’ daily routine. However, what can be defined as a satisfactory session length will depend on your app vertical. While entertainment apps should expect longer sessions for streaming and browsing, fintech apps should expect users to perform a single action, such as a payment transfer. However, apps from every vertical will have ways in which they can become more ‘sticky’. In other words, are you doing everything in your power to bring users back to your app?

Optimizing the stickiness of your mobile app is an essential practice that will help you reach your most ambitious retention goals. App install tracking and app reinstall tracking give you vital insights into the user lifecycle (more on this later) but there are also other ways this can be improved. Here are three critical practices to keep in mind when optimizing your product’s stickiness:

Highlight your app’s value and eliminate friction

One of the best ways to improve stickiness is to simplify your product and highlight your app’s immediate value: Focusing on the simplification of your app and limiting the number of taps required to access your app’s pivotal functions. For example, consider the simplicity of weather apps that display the most essential information once opened. This is a smart way to become a part of users’ routine without unnecessary obstacles.

Use data to increase value over time

Another best practice is to store data in a way that has increasing value to the user over time. A great example of this is Instagram’s Archive of Stories and Posts. This allows users to archive content – rather than deletion – so that it can reappear on a user’s profile as they wish. When a user views their archive, there is also a Memories function that encourages users to share currently archived content. According to The Verge, this feature was implemented because “a significant (though undisclosed) number of users were downloading their stories daily, and other users complained that they had intended to but forgot.” These are two examples of how most apps can optimize stickiness, but the most efficient changes to your app must be learned from data analysis – and for that, you need to know what to track.

Personalization

An overwhelming 96% of marketers believe personalization advances customer relationships, while 89% of U.S. marketers claim that personalization has resulted in an increase in revenue in-app and online. Personalizing the user experience is a tried and tested way to keep users engaged. Not only will personalization boost your ROI, it will do so by building brand loyalty – a considerable long-term investment.

3 reasons you need to track app uninstalls

LTV and ROI are critical metrics for app marketers, and learning when (and why) your users is an important component for their optimization. Tracking app installs gives you access to valuable insights that can help you optimize your app and stay ahead of the competition. Here are a few examples of what you can learn and how it can help you optimize your product:

  1. Troubleshooting

    By tracking app uninstalls, you can identify in-app problems that are ruining the user experience. For example, you may have lost a portion of your users after an update that is draining your users’ battery. In this scenario, tracking uninstalls gives you the essential data to recognize the problem as soon as possible, limiting the number of users who will churn.

  2. Improving your user experience

    Once you have the necessary uninstall data, you can learn the best ways to improve your UX. For example, if you find that users are uninstalling your app after a short amount of time, there may be a problem with your onboarding. To recognize this issue you should have a clear idea of what makes a good retention rate for your app.

    Moreover, if you are tracking app installs you can closely monitor install-to-registration rate. By comparing your install-to-registration rate against industry benchmarks, this can be used to determine the quality of your onboarding.

  3. Stretch your users’ LTV

    Despite being a critical metric for app marketers, only 32% of businesses have a clear view of their customers’ LTV. Learning when a user has uninstalled means you know when a user needs to be retargeted. This gives you the opportunity to bring churned users back to your app, which will prolong users’ LTV and ensure you don’t lose your most valuable users.

    With Adjust, you can also plug uninstall and reinstall data into Audience Builder, which enables you to re-engage users that you know have churned. This also means you can target churned users with messaging based on the last interactions they had with your app.

    In an article for Business of Apps, Adjust’s Global Product Communications Manager, Michael Paxman, provided insight on how to calculate a more accurate LTV. He states that “the standard practice for calculating LTV is fundamentally flawed” because custom values are not included. “Identify the events relevant to your app and set a value, then use a mobile measurement provider (MMP) to gather data for those in-app events.” With this essential data, marketers can calculate a more inclusive LTV: [Custom Value Total] x1/Churn. This is a prime example of why tracking the right events is so critical to successful marketing analysis.

How to track app uninstalls: how silent push notifications work

App uninstalls can be tracked using silent push notifications. These are notifications to the app, rather than the user, that enable apps to receive information without any interference with the user’s in-app experience. Another important difference between push notifications and silent push notifications is that only the former can be disabled by the user. However, the app must support silent push notifications for them to work. At Adjust, push tokens are created by Apple Push Notifications (APNs) and Firebase Cloud Messaging, then assigned to apps at device level.

Uninstall and reinstall tracking with Adjust

Adjust's app uninstall and reinstall tracking provides elevated insights for your app’s retention rates. In addition to churn and the user lifecycle, this enables you to accurately analyze organic installs and the performance of your network partners.

Once set up, you can be notified when an uninstall, reinstall or reattribution occurs via Adjust’s real-time callback system or CSV uploads to cloud storage.

Requirements for uninstall and reinstall tracking prior to set up

Note that reinstalls are considered in-app events within Adjust, so these do not result in reattributions automatically. A reinstall session must meet the set in-app requirements for Adjust to reattribute a user and report the reattribution reinstall.

Track uninstalls and reinstalls on iOS

Apple Push Notification (APN) uses device tokens to signal an inactive app. Once a silent push notification has been received, developers can use the device token to identify an uninstall.

Requirements

Full guidelines for implementing uninstall and reinstall tracking for iOS can be found here.

Track uninstalls and reinstalls on Android

This also relies on silent push notifications to determine whether or not an app is installed. Once your app is configured or Firebase Cloud Messaging, you must find your FCM server key. Note that Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) is not supported for this feature.

Requirements

Full guidelines for implementing uninstall and reinstall tracking for Android can be found here.

Uninstall and reinstall tracking is critical because it closes the user life cycle loop. They give insight into why users leave and help you discover how to bring them back – something app marketers can’t afford to overlook. If you’d like to learn more about the user lifecycle, get up to speed with our ebook, “Closing the loop: Understanding the user lifecycle.” This guide will show you why users churn, how many return or reinstall an app, and how misattribution affects your campaigns. You may also be interested in this breakdown, which shares three data points to consider when tracking uninstalls.

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