Getting users to install your app and keeping them engaged is easier said than done.
Given the majority churn after just a few days, understanding when and why they uninstall can give you new insights into the user lifecycle while boosting your approach to re-engagement.
We wanted to find out how long it took for users to uninstall an app, and discover how much time marketers have to draw them back in before they hit the delete button. Using timestamps from users across acquisition types, platforms and verticals, we were able to establish the average time between last session and a subsequent uninstall.
We found that users tend to keep an app for just under six days before losing interest, prompting their last session, and then uninstalling it.
Fortunately for marketers, the numbers are remarkably consistent across acquisition types and platforms. iOS users tend to leave a little more time before uninstalling compared to Android users, as do users coming from organic sources compared to paid ones - but they all sit just under the six day mark.
High rates of uninstalls are frustrating enough, so it’s heartening to know that such similarities in the data make retargeting a little easier.
Why do users uninstall in the first place?
Churn is an unavoidable part of app cyclicality - and there’s a whole host of reasons why.
Sometimes, the explanation is quite simple: it could be down to users not having enough storage on their phone, and so having to rotate the apps they keep downloaded. A buggy app could also lead users to uninstall (and potentially leave an unfavorable review, as well).
But there are more complex reasons that lead to uninstalls: poor design or user experience, an unengaging or ineffective app, or one that doesn’t serve its seemingly intended purpose are all sure-fire ways to end up in the trash. That’s why uninstall tracking is helpful if you’re trying to figure out why and when users churn - particularly if it’s combined with event data, which can pinpoint where exactly people drop off.
Vertical-specific data can also help us find out why users might uninstall after a specific amount of time - and it turns out there’s a big difference between them.
At one end of the spectrum, entertainment apps are quickly discarded: the average user sticks around just half a day between their last session and uninstalling. If they’re using an entertainment app on iOS, they’ll stay for even less time: just nine hours.
Lifestyle apps have a similar lifespan, with consumers sticking for just over a day before uninstalling. Lifestyle app users coming from paid sources hang around for only three hours. These very low rates could represent a knee-jerk reaction from consumers, who may be so dissatisfied with the app and its user experience that they haven’t just closed it - they’ve actually gone to the effort of deleting it pretty much straight away.
On the other side of the spectrum, e-commerce apps have a lifespan of about 11 days from a user’s last session. One explanation behind this activity might be due to user habits: if someone's made a purchase, they’re unlikely to delete the app straight after, and risk missing out on post-purchase communication. Keeping the app on their phone means they can easily check back in on their order and its delivery.
The travel vertical has the second longest lifespan, with users hanging around for about 10 days before deleting the app. Given the majority of travel apps serve a single purpose - for example, to rent a car, book a hotel room, or check into a flight - consumers are likely to keep it for the duration of their trip, and then uninstall it once home.
How many users actually come back?
While most users churn, a high percentage of uninstalled users do come back. After analyzing over 8 billion installs across 11 verticals, we found that an average 40% of uninstalled users will go on to download that same app again.
Lifestyle, Social and Games have the highest rate of reinstalls, all above the 40% mark. Dating apps, which often fall under both the lifestyle and social categories, could contribute to these verticals’ high rates of reinstalls: they’re likely to be deleted and then reinstalled if those first few dates end up not working out.
Games, which as we’ve seen before have a particular pulling power, also attract a high amount of reinstalls - in part due to their addictive nature and games publisher’s focus on retargeting. Re-engagement for this category is easily incentivized, as many users will be drawn back in with the promise of extra lives, coins or level ups.
Also high on the list are Travel and E-commerce - which shows that despite a large amount of user churn, a big percentage of consumers do come back eventually.
What’s important to understand, at least for app marketers who want to avoid this cycle of uninstalling and reinstalling, is to make sure that the app is engaging enough to keep users from deleting it in the first place. That might mean investing in diversification, and adding more to the app than its primary purpose.
After all, an e-commerce app might only be used to purchase something every few months. In between those orders, it’s an easy decision to make to delete the app and free up some much-needed memory - particularly if users aren’t notified of new product drops, or incentivized to check back in with discounts. But offering users more content, promotions and interactivity will help inspire loyalty and brand affinity, and make them think twice about deleting.
However, for the many users cursed with limited phone space, you’ll also have to accept that inessential apps are going to be deleted at some point until the next time they need it. That reinstall will only come if they’ve had a good experience with your app - so make sure your app is one that users will want to redownload at some point further down the line.
Making the most of lifecycle tracking
Lifecycle tracking essentially gets rid of the user journey black box.
Without tracking uninstall and reinstalls, app marketers miss out on crucial insights into when users churn, and the quality of users from any source. Knowing the stages at which your users leave means you can make better decisions when optimizing your app, and make the customer journey as seamless as possible - which will give your app as good a chance as possible not to be deleted.
And without lifecycle tracking, reinstalls could be counted as a fresh install - which would affect 10% of your data, provide an inaccurate view of the customer journey, and really hamper retargeting efforts. As we’ve seen, retargeted users generally stick around longer and generate 37% more revenue than new users, so it’s worth getting it right.
If you’d like to know more about lifecycle tracking, you can start with our release post, here. And if you want to learn about churn, and how quickly your users disappear without uninstalling, take a look here.