Mobile App Retention – Everything You Need to Know in 2017

So, your app’s finished and in the app store. Now you need to focus on mobile app retention.

So, how can you make sure that people not only install your app, but more importantly keep it installed?

Avoiding the dreaded deletion is one of the biggest challenges for any app maker. Here, we’re going to go through our tips on how to improve app retention.

mobile app retention

First things first, we need to look at any app maker’s main priority: ensuring the app doesn’t get deleted! Once it does, the chances of it being re-installed are minimal.

Here are some of the major reasons users delete apps:

Technical issues

The important thing to remember is that the app market is huge. Users nearly always have another option, and it won’t take a lot for them to get rid of your app and find a competitor.

Perhaps the biggest sin in the world of apps is a technical issue. If your app suffers any problems in terms of how well it runs, you’re in trouble, whether that be:

  • Images or videos not loading
  • The app itself accidentally shutting down
  • The app being too slow to load
  • Forms or user inputs not being accepted

And so on. First things first, your app has to work as perfectly as possible. It doesn’t matter if the rest of it is perfect; if it’s unstable, people will get rid of it.

This is why testing is so vital: the more thorough you can be in testing your app, the less likely technical issues are and the more likely your app is to achieve success.

mobile app retention

Users not convinced by value

Note the following: we didn’t say ‘no value’, we said ‘user not convinced by value’.

Those are two different things.

It’s all very well having a brilliant app, but if you don’t blow your own trumpet a bit and show the user why your app will make their life better – and more to the point, show them quickly – it’s entirely possible your app will end up in the virtual bin.

Every bit of your app’s promotional material and the app’s user interface should demonstrate as clearly as possible what your app does, how it works and how it can benefit the users.

How do you end up with an app that makes user’s lives better? Simple: UX research. Too many businesses don’t invest in UX, and release a product that simply doesn’t give users what they want.

Don’t be one of those businesses.

Overdoing the features

Were you under the impression that ‘creating value’ meant ‘adding as many features as possible’?

Hopefully not, because that’s another key mistake made every single day by app builders eager to show off their skills.

Remember, modern users are seriously impatient. If they log onto an app for the first time, get overloaded with options and can’t even work out where to start, they do one thing. (And no, it’s not ‘consult the help menu’!)

It’s: delete the app and go find one that’s easier to use.

KISS applies to almost any business product, and that’s just as much the case here. Do a few brilliant things, not a lot of mediocre ones.

Asking for too much data upfront

You’ll never catch us under-estimating the importance of getting information about your customers.

Heck, we’ve already criticized businesses that don’t do this!

Unfortunately, there’s a time and a place to ask your users to provide more information, and it’s not when they first load up your app.

Many developers go overboard in an attempt to try and build a detailed customer list, and end up asking for names, telephone numbers, email addresses, postal addresses, ages, occupation and so within seconds of the installation finishing.

Virtually no-one is comfortable providing that much information up front, and most people react by closing down the app immediately and getting rid of it.

Let’s face it, imagine your local coffee shop was giving out free samples. Then, just as you’re about to take a sip, they turn around and ask you for your name, address, telephone number and what your job is.

What would you do? That’s right: you’d throw the coffee at them and run the other way.

To us, the best way to avoid overdoing this is to simply ask for an e-mail address. Then, when your users are happy with your app and still using it, you can ask for a bit more information if you need it.

Over-promoting in-app purchases

This is especially relevant to games and ‘feature-based’ apps.

The simple fact is that no-one wants to feel like they’re being sold to, and having pop-ups constantly appearing asking if you want to upgrade is a major cause of annoyance.

You should focus on providing great value as a free app FIRST, and then – if your customers like what you’ve already given them – you can let them know that there are additional paid options available if they’d like to upgrade.

In old-school terms, app builds are a soft-sell, not a hard sell.

Too many makers are so desperate to make money that they never stop promoting paid options or upgrades.

mobile app retention

So, once you’ve weathered the initial deletion storm, how can you go about ensuring less users delete your app in the long-run?

We’d recommend all of the following tactics.

Try to make the experience personal

What? You tell us you can’t ask for personal information but you want us to make our apps more personal?

Don’t worry, we’ll explain.

To provide a more personal experience, the only data you need is how the customer is already using your app.

Are they only relying on one or two features? Is there a way for you – or them – to adjust what they see when they load up so they can have those features front and center?

If your app provides content of any kind, can you tailor user experience so they see content in keeping with the ones they’ve already chosen to read or watch? (YouTube is the obvious master of this.)

The more information of this kind you can get, the better.

Track your uninstalls and try to get more data on why they happened

By far the most effective way of lowering your uninstall rate is to take a look at WHY people are unsubscribing. This can provide you with invaluable information that you can use immediately.

  • You can see at what time of year people unsubscribe (seasonal uninstalls do happen)
  • You can see how long it takes before they remove your app (demonstrating at which point you need to work harder to retain them)
  • You can see which features the users who delete the apps like, and which they don’t (so you can delete any unneeded ones).

And so on. Any information on how and why your apps are being deleted can help you to create a better experience and improve retention in future. (App analytics tools can help you do this.)

The key is to look for consistency. Uninstalls are often down to completely individual circumstances. However, when you DO see a pattern, take it seriously. It’s highly unlikely to be a co-incidence.

mobile app retention

Offer exclusives

It’s not enough to say ‘hey, my app works well’. Users want to believe they’re actively benefitting from having your app on their phone.

  • Can you offer money off any sales if users make their purchase through the app?
  • Can you send discount coupons through to their e-mail if they sign up to your list through the app?
  • Can you provide exclusive content, or offer free products or information only to app users?

The key here is simply to make app users feel special. If they’re able to justify having the app to themselves by saying ‘well, if I didn’t have the app I wouldn’t get (x)’ then you’re on the right path.

Another way to look at this is to think of your app as a type of reward card: people get them because they know they’ll benefit as a result, rather than just for the sake of having one. They get in-store rewards, discounts and so on.

Use push notifications, but carefully!

Now, there’s a line to be walked here. Push notifications can be incredibly effective in helping to keep users sticking around.

BUT if you overdo them – as some app builders do – you run the risk of making users feel hassled, and that’ll have the opposite effect – deletion.

How can you strike a balance? Unfortunately, a certain amount of it is just trial and error, however you should keep the following question in mind:

Is your push notification going to benefit the user?

As in, how will they be better off? Is the push a special offer? To let them know of an upgrade? To tell them a product they like is on sale?

Essentially, would you send an e-mail will the same message?

If the answer is yes, then you’re probably OK to send the push notification. If not, you might be better off waiting until you’ve got something more valuable to offer.

If in doubt, err on the side of sending less messages, rather than more.

Take criticisms in the right way

If someone takes the time and effort to respond to your app by offering a review, or even by getting in touch directly, then you should accept any criticism they offer with grace.

Unfortunately, this being the internet, there will be some people who criticize for the sake of it and for trolling reasons.

So, how can you tell the difference between valuable advice and trolling?

This isn’t the first time we’ve said it, and it won’t be the last: look for patterns. If a problem is referred to by multiple people in multiple reviews or messages, you need to take it seriously. It could form a key part of your mobile app retention strategy.

It could be anything from users getting annoyed at the same technical problem to multiple requests for a new feature to a wish to get rid of an existing feature that no-one uses.

Whatever the issue is, if more than two people use it as a reason to knock a star off their review or get in touch with you, you need to sort it.

Does this mean users will go and correct their old reviews? Not necessarily. However, if an issue bugs current customers, it is going to bug future ones.

By fixing the problem now, you can be sure that those future users are more likely to stick around.

mobile app retention

If you’re interested in building an app for your business, pick up the phone and give Iconic Solutions a call today. We’re specialists in bespoke app development, and have helped multiple clients achieve superb results.