Getting people to download your app is important. Without that first action, where would you be? But for better lifetime value, it’s more important to put resources into keeping those users well beyond the initial download. User retention means keeping users engaged with and active in your product.
Low retention rates mean that you are spending too much time and attention-getting people to notice and download your app and not enough keeping them. The sad truth is that low retention rates are typical. An average app loses nearly 80 percent of users just three days after they download. This can be improved, though, and here are five ways to make sure your retention rate is much better.
1. Make Onboarding Easy
Once a new user has decided to download your app, you have them hooked. But you have a long ways to go to turn that new user into a regular, long-term user. First impressions are crucial in apps as in life, so put some effort into providing users with a great onboarding experience as they get started.
You need a user onboarding experience that is both useful and easy. If the process is too long, too boring, or too difficult, you’ll lose people right away. A good, simple onboarding should be:
- Personalized, guiding users to the unique value they’ll find in your app
- Value-driven so that users see clearly why they will benefit from the app
- Informational without being too detailed, with personalized hotspots, for instance
- Simple, and not too long
WhatsApp, a popular messaging app, has a very simple onboarding experience that gets users quickly through the process so they can get started immediately. They make it easy with features like detecting verification codes, so users don’t have to search for it in their messages. These kinds of things keep users engaged and moving along to actually using the app.
2. Create Engaging App Graphics
Don’t let the visual design of your app fall by the wayside during development. We are visual animals, and people want pleasing graphics that are easy to read and understand. Better graphics, those that engage users, are more likely to keep them using the app.
When designing the graphics, start with the overall tone and message of your app. The design should follow it. Consider your target audience and the types of designs that will appeal to them. Then, include practical elements of design, like fonts and colors that are readable.
Take a look at the simple, bright, and appealing graphics on Duolingo, an app for learning foreign languages. The message is clear from the design, and the colors and fonts are easy to follow. They are just begging to be clicked.
3. Improve All-Around Product Experience
Informal studies and surveys of app users prove that product and user experience are essential for retention and engagement. The best product experiences clearly lead to engagement and product adoption, loyalty to a brand, and user retention. To improve product experience for better retention, focus on these important factors:
- Clear and easy guidance, including a simple and value-driven onboarding experience
- Quick guidance to the value of the app for individual users
- Continued guidance to advanced and more useful features that help solve user problems
- Directions, graphics, and explanations that are clear and easy to understand
How do you build a great customer experience and know that it’s impacting retention? Design with the above factors in mind and then collect and analyze data. Without data, you are designing blind. Track things like user activity, how and when they found new features, where users stop using your app, and how long it takes for users to find the value in your product. Feedback is another great way to improve product experience over time. Survey users, both regular and lapsed, to find out what they like and don’t like.
4. Create an Incentive Program
Everyone likes to be rewarded. Enticing users to come back again and again by offering rewards is a great way to improve retention. Also known as customer loyalty programs, these provide some tangible reward for using a product or app. An online survey found that more than half of people who shop online would go back to spend at a site that offered incentives. People are driven by rewards.
An entry incentive is simple and easy to do, and can also be effective. McDonald’s is a great example of this. The fast-food chain offered a free sandwich for downloading their app, and as a result, they gained 7 million downloads.
Of course, user retention is a little more involved. To keep all those new users requires a more long-term incentive program. Try creating a loyalty reward system and consider gamification, a popular way to keep users engaged. In this system, a user earns points or badges for hitting certain milestones, using functions, or for time spent in the app. They can cash in those points for rewards. The gamification is a psychological push that keeps people coming back to play.
5. Give Users a Push with Push Notifications
Sometimes a little reminder is all someone needs to remember why they downloaded an app in the first place. Instead of going after new users, push your current ones. Those who already downloaded your app had a reason to do so; they saw value in your product. Push notifications can be highly effective in keeping these users engaged.
It’s important to do this right, though. Send too many notifications, and users will be irritated with all the popups and interruptions. Here are some guidelines for setting up and implementing app push notifications:
- Make a list of events you hope will draw user engagement. Plan a notification for each one.
- Keep a record of notifications sent and how many are acted upon by users. This will help you determine the right balance between too many and not enough.
- Personalize notifications because regular users you want to retain need different messages than lapsed users you’re trying to get back.
- Make sure the push notifications work with all platforms and carriers, so you don’t miss any users.
Here are several great examples of apps that use personalization to target push notifications to individual users.
An app with lots of downloads but almost no regular users is a failed app. Focus serious attention and resources on user retention for a more successful product.