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8 Strategies To Increase App Retention

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The mobile application industry’s standard is the 30-day retention, mainly, because calculating long-term app retention involves too many variables (in-app actions, consumer emotions, etc.). However, statistics show that you can impact even your annual retention rate if you develop a marketing strategy with that in mind. According to Apptentive, 50% of the consumers that saw an interaction early in the year, were still present in the app in December.

Today, we present to you 8 effective strategies that will help you increase this important metric in the long run. But first, let’s find out why the retention rate is an essential part of your app’s success.

What’s a Retention Rate?

The definition of a retention rate and the main benchmarks to measure your success against can differ from one business to another. When it comes to mobile apps, a retention rate is the percentage of users who are still utilizing the application after the install or a certain period.

To measure your retention, divide the number of users who perform your desired action by the total number of users at the beginning of your chosen period. Across a lot of app categories, the 30-day retention rate is below 10%.

You can benchmark retention against yourself or the competitors. However, it’s the first option that allows you to make the necessary business decisions faster. If the rate is going up, try to find what caused such a change (marketing campaigns, new features) and capitalize on them. The same goes for sudden drops – try to find and fix the root cause as soon as possible. 

Why retain an existing user, if you can acquire a new one instead of the ‘oldie’?

According to Invesp Consulting, it can cost you 5 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one. The probability that an old user will make a purchase is 60-70%, while the success rate with a new customer is 5-20%. Consequently, increasing your retention rate by 5% can lead to up to a 95% increase in your profits.

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How to Increase App Retention?

Now that you know how important the retention rate is, let’s have a look at some of the strategies that will help you boost this important metric.

Soft launching the application

In a nutshell, a soft launch is a rehearsal of the global launch of your application.
When it comes to the retention rate, a soft launch is a perfect opportunity to…

  • A/B test and collect and track data
  • Find out when exactly users lose interest in your application – and you’ll have a chance to adjust that before the global launch
  • Segment the target audience. You will be able to divide the users into groups by value to figure out which group should be targeted first as they have higher chances of becoming a loyal audience.
  • Understand whether or not your app is even ready to be released
  • Start collecting user feedback about their favorite features or any bugs
  • Ensure that the app store page is on point.
Check out our interview with a marketing expert where we get into more detail about all the steps that need to be taken before and during the app launch.

Bonus: PocketGamer shares lists of games in soft launch and case studies that you might want to check out.

Development of an effective user onboarding strategy

A quarter of applications are used only once after being downloaded. Onboarding is a process that helps the users learn how to use your app and get engaged enough to keep utilizing it. There are different types of user onboarding. The features approach, for example, focuses on the functionality of the application, while the benefits approach shows the audience why they need to use the app. An action-oriented approach makes people start using the app straight away.

Slack immediately introduces its features.
This Google Trips onboarding flow focuses on the problems that it will help the users solve.
Instagram makes you set up a profile to start using the app.

User onboarding has to be easy. Lengthy forms can scare the user away, as well as instructions that are overloaded with icons and buttons. Gamification is an effective strategy that will turn user onboarding into a fun experience and, ultimately, increase your retention rate.

Implementation of personalization on all stages

For this strategy, gathering the right user data is crucial. Some of the data points that you should take into consideration include such basic information as location, device type, and demographics, and in-app behaviors. A lot of these data points can be gathered during the onboarding flow with the help of mobile app analytics tools such as Firebase, Mixpanel, Flurry, and Localytics.

The rest of the personalization will depend on the type of your application. Addressing people by name and making appropriate suggestions are effective tools that would make the users want to come back – 91% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase with companies that remember their in-app experience and provide relevant recommendations.

Adjustment of push notifications

Such notifications can boost the retention rate by 3-10 times. Moreover, sending a single onboarding-related push message to a user during the first week can increase app retention by over 70%. Notifications have to be enabled by a user, but it’s not necessarily a disadvantage – the people that have agreed to receive such messages are generally more interested in the app and what you have to offer.

There are at least three types of push notifications – welcome messages, offers, and personalized notifications. Notifications with personal touches have 8% higher open rates.

Usage of in-app messages

Unlike push notifications, in-app messages are sent while people are actually using the application. According to Airship’s Mobile Engagement Benchmark Survey, such messages are usually 8 times more engaging than push notifications. Segment the audience to make sure they receive valuable information and personalized messages that will guide the user through the app or share the most recent news.

Bonus: highlighting the users’ milestones or accomplishments through in-app messages is a great idea. For example “Congratulations! You’ve edited your 100th photo 🥳”

Development and implementation of loyalty programs

Nearly 80% of consumers state that loyalty programs make them more likely to continue doing business with the company. Bonuses that are offered to loyal users make the customers feel more significant and valued. Over half of such programs employ game mechanics that make the users work towards the reward.

Establishment of two-way communication with users

PwC studied the answers of 15.000 consumers and found out that every third customer will leave a brand after one bad experience, even if they loved the company before. 92% of consumers would choose to completely abandon the company after 2-3 negative incidents. Invest in great customer support to solve the users’ problems as fast as possible.

Two-way communication is also about encouraging feedback. The reviews and ratings will not only affect your app store optimization but also help the user feel valued and appreciated.

Constant development and optimization to boost engagement

Ultimately, you want to take feedback into consideration and track user behavior to offer a better version of the application. The app should be constantly evolving and presenting the audience something new – this will help boost user engagement and the retention rate. According to Sensor Tower, the top iOS apps release an update every 3-45 days.

Bonus: don’t forget to monitor your competitors to find out what they’re up to when it comes to app optimization.


Wow, it looks like your app’s retention rate can sometimes be even more important than user acquisition. A loyal audience brings your business more profit and contributes to the development of your application. Thankfully, there are plenty of strategies that will help boost the retention rate. A lot of them are connected to personalization – push notifications and in-app messages, for example, are more effective, if they have a personal touch to them.

Making the user feel valued is also one of the pillars of high retention rates. Create a bomb loyalty program, invest in customer support, optimize the app more frequently, or all the above. No wonder users would want to return to your app again and again 😉


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