App Engagement: 5 Ways to Keep Your Mobile Users Coming Back

By Dennis Mink | July 8, 2015

Imagine you’re the owner of a hot new restaurant. You’ve spent countless hours refining the menu, adjusting the décor, and training your staff. Everything is perfect, so you spend the remainder of your budget on advertising and marketing to get new customers in the door… and it works. Every day, hundreds of new customers walk into your restaurant to  enjoy a meal. You expect full tables and can’t stop thinking of the buzz that will come from your satisfied customers. But there’s a problem: 25% of the people that walk in your door turn around and walk right back out, never to be seen again.

This is the reality of the mobile app space. According to app analytics firm Localytics, one quarter of app users abandon an app after their first use. In fact, on average only 34% of downloads become active users (defined as someone who uses the app more than 11 times).



#1 Debug, Debug, Debug

According to Compuware, only 16% of users will try an app more than twice if they experience a bug. With the huge selection of apps available, even the smallest of errors can cause an app user to abandon your app. Not only do you have to test your app before launch, but you must test continuously, looking for issues that may affect your users. Often times, changes in the OS, the release of new devices, or simply changes in app usage will cause unexpected errors that can taint the user experience. Check your app store reviews frequently –  negative reviews can be the first indication that there is a problem.

#2 Streamline Your On-boarding Process

The on-boarding process – a user’s experience the first time they use an app – can make the difference between a happy and engaged user or  someone who uses your app once and never returns. It’s vital that you onboard new users as efficiently as possible. Users are often wary of filling out forms, so adopt light-weight forms that users can quickly get through. Keep tutorials short and to the point to get users to the heart of the app faster.

Consider breaking up the onboarding process with feature-specific tutorials that only appear the first time a user tries to use that feature. This avoids overloading users when they first open your app. Ask for approvals on only the most vital information and only when you need it. For example, if your app has a feature that needs access to the device camera, but it’s not central to the app experience, don’t ask for permission to use the camera until the user opens that area of your app. Asking for it up front from all users will only reduce the the number of users who successfully adopt your app.

#3 Remind People That They Downloaded Your App

According to Yahoo Aviate, the average Android user has 95 apps installed on their phone, and it’s likely that iOS users are not that far off. With such a deluge of apps, it’s easy to imagine that your users may simply forget that they have your app in the first place. This can be easily combatted with messaging targeted directly to your users. Typically, this is done through push notifications or email, but can also be accomplished through other channels, like Facebook.

There’s a fine line between reminding users about your app and annoying them. Monitor how frequently you message your users and how they reaction. Properly segmenting your messages into different groups based on user behavior or demographics. Mobile marketing automation services like Kahuna or Swrve allow you to set up trigger-based push campaigns that, for example, allow you to send specific messages to people who have not opened your app in a number of days, or to send messages to users who have looked at your in-app-purchase page but did not complete the transaction. This kind of personalization can greatly improve user engagement and conversion rates.

#4 Never Stop Improving

The app space is highly competitive. For every app idea, there are dozens of apps similar to yours. If you’re not updating and improving your app, users may get bored and explore other apps that may have an edge over yours. Frequent updates are a sign of an active app publisher that is constantly trying to improve their product to fit their customer’s needs.

#5 Always Be Remarketing

When a user downloads your app but doesn’t get too far along in using it, retargeting ads give you another opportunity to remind them of your app and get the engaged. Using Advertising IDs, most mobile networks now support serving ads to users who already installed your app on their devices, or to subsegments of your installed user base. This enables you to create ad campaigns targeting specific user segments with customized messaging to get them active.

Demographic or usage-based triggers can also be used in retargeting campaigns. For example, target dormant users who haven’t opened your app in 14 days, or focus on male users of your app for a male-oriented campaign.

You can also use remarketing campaigns to draw attention to specific app features. Using deep-linking, you can create ad campaigns that take users directly to the function in your app that you want them to engage with. This can be particularly useful after a major app update where you want to introduce your customers to a new feature. When a user clicks on the ad, the deep link not only opens the app on the user’s phone, but takes them directly to the section of the app that you want to introduce them to.