It's easy to assume that user acquisition is the central metric for determining mobile app success, but without active users, high download rates won't yield any business value. Brands are spending an enormous amount of money acquiring users; however, it only begins here. After acquiring users, the value is in engaging and retaining them.
Mobile app engagement and mobile app retention are two metrics that provide genuine insight into the success of an application. Low app engagement and retention are a recipe for failure, while high engagement and retention equal the opposite.Engagement
– describes how active users are on the application. While this is a somewhat subjective metric, Localytics describes highly engaged users as users that participate in 11 or more app sessions a month.Retention
– while again a somewhat subjective term, the industry benchmark is the percentage of an app's users who return to the app within three months of their first session. Localytics even defines mobile app user retention as a user that returns to the app at least 1x within 30 days. It's important to note that every brand will have an individual definition of engagement as retention, depending on the nature of the app.
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What is engagement and what metrics are used to determine its success?
To get on the same page, let's define what exactly "engagement" means. Engagement is getting your users to come back to your app to perform an action or activity you deem important; say, ordering an item. Engagement entails actions your users perform, the time users spend in your app, and the frequency users return to come back to use your app.
For example, a user who visits your news app every day for 20 minutes is highly engaged. There are many metrics to measure engagement depending on your goals, ranging from views, clicks, likes, comments, subscribers, session length, frequency of visitation, time spent in the app, number of active app users, and lifetime value.
Why is it important?
User acquisition is nothing without engagement because engagement ultimately leads to retention — and engaged users are more likely to come back and convert. There's no point in acquiring users if they will never interact with your app after the first download.
Engaging with your users is critical to keep them both informed and delighted so that they are motivated to interact with your app and perform the activities you want them to, whether that be a purchase, reading content in your app, or simply spending more time in it. Higher engaged users mean they're less likely to churn, more likely to have a higher lifetime value, and leads to increased revenue for your app.
Fewer welcome pages
Users shouldn't have to scroll through 8-10 welcome pages describing how to use the app in great detail. You not only increase the chance of users skipping it altogether but could also overwhelm the users with too much information all at once, further frustrating and confusing users.
Instead, create 3-5 welcome pages with clear and concise copy that briefly explains the app's key features, their benefits, and guide users through to a registration page or directly to their first action. You can also use animated images and icons to keep users engaged on each page.
Create a personalized experience
Another element that improves app engagement is personalization. Try to collect data around users during the signup process to use toward personalizing in-app messaging, including welcome pages. People are far more responsive to messaging that speaks to them as opposed to just anybody.
In addition to addressing new users by name and with personalized text, you may want to integrate personalized in-app referrals. In the process, you can include the name of people's referrers on a customized landing page that speaks directly to them.
Customize the onboarding flow
As you collect user data based on their in-app actions and behaviors throughout the onboarding process, tailor that process to their needs. For example, a completely new user might have different messaging and a different onboarding flow than a user who has checked out your app once but hasn't quite completed the onboarding flow. Or, different user segments might have completely different needs when it comes to using your app.
A virtual learning app might want to ask users to define themselves as either a student or teachers to present the best onboarding experience for that particular user segment. If your app has different functionalities or key features for different users, personalize the experience to guide them towards those features.
Explain key features first
Especially if your app is complex, don't go too much in the weeds of extra, "nice-to-haves" when the user first launches the app. Show the most important, core features first that will help them accomplish their immediate goals. Once a user moves on to a different function of the app, then walk them through those extra features.
Encourage two-way communication
Consumers want to build relationships with brands, more specifically, they want to feel valued and appreciated. This is why opening a line for two-way communication is extremely important. How do you know what your users want if you don't receive their feedback? These messages help apps gather feedback, solve customer problems, and improve product functionality over time.
The added benefit of opening these lines of communication with users is being able to hear about problems before a negative review is posted in an app store. This allows you to get to the bottom of the problem and build a relationship before it affects future downloads.
Showing responsiveness and addressing any questions or concerns will boost your engagement and retention rates, encourage positive reviews, and build long-term brand loyalty.
Use in-app messaging wisely
We've all been there: you're shopping in an app when you get a pop-up message as you attempt to add an item to your cart and enter payment information. Irritated because the pop-up is preventing you from completing the task, you exit out of the app and decide to purchase online.
In-app messaging is a useful tool to show users important messages and promotions and guarantees that the user will see the message. However, this practice needs to be optimized to not disturb the user experience. When sending in-app messages, follow these best practices to see higher levels of engagement:
Don't send messages and promotions right away after the user signs up and barely knows how to use your app — best to wait after onboarding when the user can better navigate.
Present in-app messages when the user is in your app, but not as they're completing a task.
Present messages after successful moments, such as after the user has completed a task, purchase, or another event such as after reading an article, completing a game, or watching a video.
Segment your audience to send different messages. Not every message might be relevant to every user; for example, some users will have the latest version of your app, while others won't. Make sure only the users who don't have the latest version are shown an in-app message calling them to update the app.
Ask for user feedback via in-app messaging from active app users. Again, be sure not to compromise their experience; ask for feedback after a successful interaction or event, not as they're in the middle of completing said event.
Use in-app messaging to connect with disengaged users. Maybe they've stopped coming to your app for a while, or haven't engaged with emails or push notifications. Presenting an in-app message with a perk or to remind the user why they downloaded in the first place can make them more likely to stick around.