April 24, 2024

10 Strategies to Increase Mobile App Retention Rates

You can't directly improve retention. You need to improve inputs to retention. We break down how you can do that.

Ananya Vairavarajan

Nearly 25% of mobile app users abandon an app after just one use. Retaining users has never been more difficult.

We can’t directly improve retention. And that’s because retention is an output metric. To improve retention, you need to work on the inputs - namely Activation, Engagement, and Resurrection.

If you like math, this is for you. Retention = f(Activation, Engagement, Resurrection)

Improve retention

In this blog, we’ll dive into strategies to improve these input metrics, which will in turn improve your retention. Here's a quick summary of strategies you can use to increase mobile app retention rates:

  1. Personalize user onboarding
  2. Reduce time-to-value
  3. Get users to adopt more features inside your app
  4. Drive deeper engagement with existing features
  5. Use gamification tactics such as leaderboards to drive competition
  6. Trigger push notifications for users who've not returned to the app
  7. Utilize email marketing to send progress reports, and monthly reviews of achievements
  8. Drive top-of-mind recall through social media (works well for D2C brands)
  9. Implement intuitive navigation and build delightful user experiences
  10. Regularly update your app to drive down load times, and maintain quality

Increase retention via activation

Guiding users through your app during their first session is crucial to achieving a high retention rate, making app onboarding a critical step in the user journey. After all, you've already put in the effort to acquire the user and they've opened your app, so it's essential to ensure they have a smooth experience.

If you're looking to improve your own mobile app onboarding experience, some elements to consider are personalization of experience; intuitive UI; low time-to-value; well-placed social proof, and finely timed prompts.

Personalize user onboarding

User onboarding personalization goes beyond simply including a first name in emails. It involves comprehending the unique path each user takes towards accomplishing their objectives, and how your product can assist them in achieving their goals more efficiently and intelligently.

For example, Blinkist collects user intent during onboarding by asking about their goals and preferred genre.

Blinkist's onboarding
Blinkist's onboarding

Based on this information, personalized book recommendations are provided to the user as part of an interactive onboarding process.

Training its recommendation model
Training its recommendation model

Reduce time to value

DoorDash reduces time to value by delaying the signup process until the end of the user journey. The initial signup page offers a guest option in addition to email and Google signup.

DoorDash initial sign-up page

This allows users to browse restaurants and add items to their cart without signing up. Users are only asked to fill in their details when placing an order. By letting more users explore the app before signing up, they deliver value quickly and reduce drop-offs.

Details to fill while placing the order

You can try a similar approach by delaying significant points of friction, like signing up, until after your users have experienced the app's value. For more such examples, take inspiration from some of the best mobile app onboarding examples in 2023.

Increase retention for mobile apps by solving for engagement

Improving engagement rates will lead to more users interacting with your product and has a direct effect on customer loyalty and lifetime value. More engagement will turn the app into a sticky one making the users in turn regularly interact with the application.

Increase the breadth of engagement by driving users to adopt multiple features

You can experiment with increasing long-term retention by getting your users to derive value from multiple features. This can also increase the frequency with which users engage with your app.

For example, Jar, a daily gold savings app, used a spotlight (in-app nudge) to introduce its GoldX feature and saw 80% of the users adopting that feature and completing the action.

Jar's spotlight feature provided by Plotline

Increase depth of engagement by driving users to engage more deeply with their primary use case

Engaging users within the app as they use it is necessary to increase retention. You can deliver hyper-personalized experiences and communication at scale to help your users take the right action at the right time, delivering higher value and improving retention.

Based on each user's preferences and usage history, you can send personalized messages that can include product recommendations, feature recommendations, deals, relevant announcements, and more. For showcasing these, different forms and shapes of in-app nudges can be used.

For example, Jar configured a tooltip on their FAQs screen for the Daily Savings page. Once a user understands how the Daily Savings work, Jar encourages them to spin with a tooltip. Users get rewarded on spinning, which increases their investment in the app, leading to higher future engagement and retention.

Jar's tooltip feature provided by Plotline
Jar's tooltip feature provided by Plotline

Infuse gamification and rewards

Gamification is a surefire way to boost your app's retention rates and keep your users hooked. By incorporating game elements, you can create a more engaging and enjoyable experience for your users.

Consider incorporating mini-games or challenges within the app to keep users engaged. P.S. I’ve seen people using Snapchat every day just to maintain streaks.

For a quick example, here’s a brief on how Duolingo uses gamification to offer a more engaging experience. Through gamification infused in the product, it incentivizes users to continue learning by implementing various elements like

  • Progress bars
  • Daily quests
  • Leaderboards
  • Streak & Streak freeze (4% ⬆️ in 14-day retention)
  • Badges & gems
Duolingo streak

This tactic also witnessed higher stickiness to the product in a fun and rewarding way eventually guiding users to take certain actions and retain them.

Increase retention for mobile apps through resurrection strategies

If your app has a lot of dormant users or those who’ve not opened the app in a long time, you have to reach them via off-app channels, like emails and push notifications, to bring them back to your app.

Trigger push notifications in the right way

Push notifications remain a popular and reliable way to engage users, but only when used correctly. They can be used to bring users back to your app after a period of inactivity or promote new features and campaigns.

To maximize the effectiveness of push notifications, send personalized messages with attention-grabbing headlines at optimal times when users are most active. Avoid excessive or obnoxious notifications, but feel free to use emojis to add a bit of personality.

Take a cue from Netflix's push notification strategy, which focuses on reminding users of the shows and movies they're interested in watching rather than bombarding them with irrelevant messages. This is an effective way to utilize push notifications to enhance user retention.

Netflix notification

Try email marketing

Offering users discounts on products or personalized reviews of their activity through email marketing can create a win-win scenario for both you and your audience. The best example of this strategy is Runtastic. It sends its users a weekly report on their progress, giving them the motivation that they need to continue using the app.

Runtastic sending fitness report through email
Runtastic progress report through email

By collecting a mailing list of valuable subscribers, you can offer exclusive discounts, sales, and other promotions to bring users back to your app.

Drive top-of-mind recall through social media

By consistently appearing on social media platforms where your target audience is active and sharing valuable content, you increase the chances of retaining them as long-term users.

When scrolling through Instagram, you would have seen sponsored posts of D2C brands where you have been a user appearing in your feed nudging you to “Shop Now”. This has a higher chance of getting views and clicks. Mcaffeine is one such example that uses this strategy to bring users back to its app to make a purchase.

Mcaffeine social media marketing

Other ways to boost retention for mobile apps

These are strategies that improve experience throughout the user journey, not just for new users or dormant users.

Implement intuitive navigation and deliver delightful experiences

Intuitive navigation allows users to easily find and access features in your app.

Arranging elements in a way that feels natural and logical can also enhance usability. For example, placing frequently accessed features in a prominent location, such as the home screen, can make them easier to find.

Nykaa has abided by the above strategy to place their offers feature (which is a main feature attraction for any beauty app) in the bottom part of the home screen and appears throughout if we navigate to any other page also.

Nykaa's offer feature placement

Regularly update your app

Regular updates are essential in maintaining a high retention rate.

Keep an eye on user feedback and reviews to identify any bugs, stability issues, or performance problems within your app. Address these issues promptly and efficiently to show users that you're committed to providing a seamless app experience.

In the same way, new features and content should always align with user needs and preferences. Make sure each update adds value and enhances the overall user experience.

If you’re looking to drive retention by improving activation and engagement, try Plotline

Plotline is an in-app engagement platform that lets you create and deploy customizable in-app messages that match your design theme to a targeted user cohort.

For new users, you can improve the onboarding process by creating in-app flows that guide them to the right features. Taking Google Pay’s example, they know that a new user will be activated much faster if they make a payment to their contacts via a search, or by scanning a QR code. They make sure a new user is aware of how to use those 2 features with tooltips.

Tooltips for onboarding new users in Google pay

For regular users, you can drive feature adoption by introducing new features subtly and in a non-intrusive format. Khatabook used Plotline’s Spotlight feature to build awareness and drive usage of Bulk Reminders, which directly improves revenue per user.

Khatabook's spotlight feature provided by Plotline
Khatabook's spotlight feature provided by Plotline

Plotline helps you deploy a variety of in-app messages in a no-code manner, freeing up developer bandwidth. Join us in our journey towards providing users with native app experiences and improving in-app retention metrics like activation and engagement.

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Join companies like ShareChat, Meesho, Jupiter, Jar, Khatabook and others that use Plotline to run in-app engagement and boost activation, retention and monetization.

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