What makes mobile retention so difficult

In my last post, I aimed to draw attention to the fact that while consumers and the press like having a simple number they can understand, mobile metrics are not one size fits all. For some mobile companies, the internal focus may be on daily or even hourly active users. For others, monthly active users may make the most sense.

There are numerous tools available that help developers understand mobile retention and analytics, such as FlurryMixPanel or Apsalar. Yet, understanding mobile retention is still difficult because of reasons far out of any developer’s control:

1. Mobile developers don’t know where their downloads come from

 What makes mobile retention so difficult

Web developers have the luxury of being able to easily view traffic sources and understand how users get to their sites (search keywords, queries, direct, referrals etc.). With mobile, you’re flying blind, as the App Store and Google Play give you almost no information about how users learned of your product. If you’re not sure how you acquired that user, you certainly can’t optimize that acquisition process.

2. Mobile developers don’t know when their apps are deleted

One data point I’ve longed for on mobile is knowing which users delete your application. There are several mobile apps that still send me email notifications or product updates, not knowing that I’ve already deleted their apps from my device. While I can imagine this metric isn’t given out because it may upset some developers (similar to getting an email every time a person removes you as a friend on Facebook, perhaps), I think it’s important to understand if you plan on building a sustainable app on another platform.

3. Mobile developers don’t know why users drop off 

unsubscribe1 What makes mobile retention so difficult

When I unsubscribe from an email newsletter, downgrade a subscription service or delete an account on the web, I often get an email asking why I’m leaving. Because most users on mobile seem to just fade away (put an app on their 6th page or delete it without notification), the developer doesn’t know if or why their users drop off.

These are issues the average mobile developer faces when attempting to combat mobile retention problems. Unfortunately, much of the data that would allow developers to make more informed decisions to improve retention is locked up by the mobile platforms. It’s not that running a sustainable audience or business on mobile is impossible, you’re just starting a few steps behind.

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