Users are the lifeblood of mobile apps. There is no way an app can be successful without users.
And it is not just about attracting users. The real task is to have them engage with your app and keep using it. The market for mobile apps is very competitive. There are millions of mobile apps available to users. But the good news is that the global app market is huge - estimated to be worth more than $100 billion currently with up to 4.57 billion users. With the right user retention strategies, you can snatch a portion of it.
The importance of apps
Mobile apps play a crucial role in our lives today. From the moment you wake up until you go back to bed, you will have used a handful of mobile apps.
According to data released by Nielsen, users spend an average of 2 hours daily and 30 hours monthly on mobile apps. The global research company revealed in 2014 that up to 89% of consumer media time is spent on mobile apps, compared to 11% on websites. This means the potential to reach users through a mobile app is high.
One of the biggest mistakes we make is to assume that if you have a good app or if it is integrated into your company's service, then users will want it. Unfortunately, that is not enough. Studies show that about 1 in 4 persons uninstall an app after first use. In a Google survey conducted in 2014, up to 34% of the respondents admitted that they would download an app if it is necessary to make a purchase, but they will uninstall it once the transaction is complete.
With that said, let us look at some time-tested and practical ways to improve the user engagement and retention of your app.
How to Improve User Engagement and Retention
Provide the best user experience
Providing a seamless user experience (UX) is central to improving your app retention rate. An app can be useful, but if the user experience it provides is not outstanding, it will struggle to attract users. UX covers every aspect of a user's interaction with a mobile app including its design, responsiveness, overall functionality, and more.
Studies show that minor improvements in UX can have a significant impact on a company's profits. As much as 40% of the people who download and install an app never open it more than once. Also, 52% of users are unlikely to continue to patronize a company if they have a bad mobile experience. Meanwhile, a great UX can boost conversion rates by up to 400%, according to Forrester Research.
It is all too easy to assume that we know what users want. Many developers have found out the hard way that the things which interest them about an app are different from the things which ordinary users love about it. To get your UX right, you must look at things from the perspective of the users. And the magic must start from your landing page. Remember, you have only a few seconds to captivate users.
The following are some tips for improving UX:
- a. Identify your app's target users. This will allow you to take their demographics into consideration and increases the chances that your app's UX will appeal to them.
- b. Ensure your app can be controlled intuitively and the onboarding process is smooth. In other words, avoid using a complicated user interface.
- c. Test and re-test your app several times so identify all performance glitches and fix them before it is launched.
- d. Create a system to receive feedback from users. Also, carefully consider the complaints or suggestions of users, and implement them when it is possible.
- e. Use in-app behavior analysis to identify what aspects of your app appeals to users and what drives them away.
If you are unsure about what is wrong with your app's UX and how to go about fixing it, there are companies like Buildinary that provide UX/UI analysis. These experts will identify the problems with your UX and provide you with some suggestions to improve it.
2. Reward users with incentives
Incentives are a great way to reward loyal users and increase user engagement on your mobile app. There are different types of reward programs including coupon codes, discounts, and exclusive offers. A bulk of a company's profits come from repeat customers rather than new ones. It is well-known that it costs ten to 25 times more to sell to a new customer than to an existing one. Therefore, it makes sense to offer incentives to users.
There are many examples of how companies have improved their app retention rate and profitability through incentives. For instance, Airbnb doubled its value in about one year through its referrals program. The company offered travel credits to both referrers and referees. One of the reasons why Airbnb's reward program is successful is that the company recoups the money it spends on incentives from each new user.
Elements of a successful loyalty program
- a. Personalization: Use in-app behavior analytics to deliver relevant offers to users. For example, an e-commerce app can be programmed to send discount offers to users on items they have searched for recently. Also, use personalized messages to communicate with users.
- b. Offer something valuable. You must leverage your resources to give your customers something they will appreciate. There is nothing worse than a loyalty program which users pass up. But this does not mean that you should stretch your resources. Instead, provide thoughtful rewards. The best rewards programs leave both sides of the table - the company and the users - satisfied.
- c. Spread the word about the incentives you are offering using more than one channel. This increases the likelihood that the message will reach your users.
Reach out to your users
Communication is the key to every successful relationship, and the relationship with the users of your mobile app is no different. This is vital to keeping them engaged on your app. There are many ways to communicate with users.
- a. Push notifications: Push notifications and pop-up messages are becoming an increasingly popular way to reach out to users. The main advantage of push notifications is that they can pop up even when the user is not on the app. Therefore, they can serve to remind the user about activities or offers on the app. It is important not to send users too many notifications, or it can quickly get annoying. Send out timely notifications with personalized messages. There are many examples to show that push notifications can improve profitability and user retention rate. In 2016, a study by Google revealed that Saudi Arabia's leading electronics retailer eXtra increased its sales by 100% and quadrupled its sales by implementing push notifications.
- b. Targeted ads: According to Google, one in four users discover apps through search results. The top three categories where users are likely to search online to find apps are technology, travel, and local services. Using ads, you can cut through the competition at apps stores to reach users. HotelsCombined increased its app download rate by 150% by incorporating online advertising into its marketing strategy.
- c. Social media: One of the most overlooked ways to reach users - especially if your audience is millennials - is through social media platforms. According to Global Web Index, one in three internet users visit social media when they are seeking information about a product or brand. Being active on social media does not only strengthen your brand, but you can leverage it to drive users to your app and boost loyalty by giving a human voice to your company.
Make the purpose of your app clear
Too often, we suppose that users can tell the purpose of an app, so we do not take the time to explain its value. Highlighting the significance of your app to users is essential. Many potentially exciting apps have failed because users did not understand their purpose.
One example is Google Wave. This web-based platform, which would doubtless have become a standalone app, was designed to merge different communication tools including email, instant messaging, social networking, into one platform for business users. Wave has been described as a corporate productivity app with Facebook-style communication. Sounds exciting right? The problem is that people couldn't quite figure out the purpose of this platform. Google officially shut down development of Wave in April 2012.
Emphasizing the importance of an app is especially crucial when you have a site and an app like Facebook. The app must be differentiated from the site. Right from the download page, you have to spell out the advantages of your app in clear, everyday language. Also, provide in-app tips to show users hidden features and other aspects of the app. Don't overwhelm users with different features. Instead, let the primary function of your app be the main focus.
The strategies above do not represent an exhaustive list of the ways to improve user retention. However, these are some of the most effective methods. Some other equally remarkable ways to boost user engagement and retention include incorporating gamification into your app as well as social media features and customizing your app content to suit different users.