17 Ways To Increase App Engagement and User Retention
Launch Strategies
Marketing Experiments

17 Ways To Increase App Engagement and User Retention

Malaika NicholasMalaika Nicholas

July 19, 2021

How can you increase app engagement and user retention? Well, first, you have to know why people leave. Want to know the Number 1 reason why a majority of smartphone owners say they’ll delete an app?

“I rarely used it.”

With billions of available desktop and mobile apps and a higher expectation for a user-friendly interface and experience, app engagement and user retention are key in order to convert a curious, first-time user into a long-term active user.

A major key to an app’s success is to engage new users early and often. In fact, Braze (formerly Appboy), found that 55 percent of individuals who engage with an app a week after downloading it will stick around and 90 percent of users who engage with an app on a weekly basis for the first month after installing it will also stick around. So how do you increase rentention rate? By making them stick around and them wanting to use your app. But, it's not as easy as it sounds. Thankfully, we did the heavy lifting for you.

In this post, we’ll outline 17 retention strategies intended to increase user retention and engagement.

1. Use Fewer Welcome Pages

If you're looking at increasing app engagement and user retention, getting rid of welcome pages is a good start. 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.

Use Fewer Welcome Screens During App Onboarding
Photo Credit: Apptimize

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2. Use a CTA Button on the First Welcome Page to Drive an Action

After signing up, take new users through the steps of performing their first essential action. For instance, Buffer encourages new users to add their first social media account, which is required in order to use the app. Buffer also includes a progress bar at the bottom of the page, which will motivate new users to finish the process.

Use a CTA Button on the First Welcome Page to Drive an Action
Photo Credit: Appcues

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3. Personalize Welcome Pages, Landing Pages, and In-App Messages

To improve user engagement, use the data you’ve collected during the signup process or public/private APIs to customize your in-app messaging to new users. According to Braze, personalized messages sent to app users result in a 27 percent increase in conversions compared to generic messaging.

Personalize Welcome Pages and In-App Messages
Photo Credit: Kin HR

In addition, consider using in-app referrals to customize your messaging. Incentivize users to sign up for your app by including the name of their referrer in a dedicated landing page.

 consider using in-app referrals to customize your messaging
Photo Credit: App Virality

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4. Give Users a Preview of the App’s UI

Increasing app retention can be as easy as giving users previews. Visually display just how user-friendly your app’s design is by giving users a preview before signing up. A perfect example is Slack’s welcome screens on iOS. On the very first welcome screen, Slack displays how their UI looks on iOS, desktop, and mobile–communicating how easy it is to communicate on a single platform on multiple devices.

Give Users a Preview of the App’s UI
Photo Credit: UXStudio

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5. Use Tooltips and Hotspots to Introduce New Users to Key Features within the Desktop App

Introduce new users to key features of the app using tooltips and hotspots. Tools tips are short hints, tips, and descriptions that are displayed after you’ve used your cursor to hover over an item within the web or desktop app. Some tooltips are also used to offer a tour of an app’s features, but doesn’t necessarily prompt a user to take an action.

Similarly, hotspots often appear in the form of strobing circles that also reveal a hint or tip about a specific in-app feature. Unlike tooltips, however, new users must click on a hotspot in order to reveal its content. Many hotspots are programmed to disappear after a user takes an action.

Tooltips and hotspots are a great way to cut down unnecessary in-app text, encourage users to take specific actions, highlight new or unactivated features and integrations, and give new users additional guidance and information about how the app works.

Use Tooltips and Hotspots to Introduce New Users to Key Features within the Desktop App
Photo Credit: Appcues

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6. Display Progress Bar or Onboarding Checklist

Any percentage above 6% can be considered a good retention rate for an app. Motivate new users to scroll through your welcome screens, complete an in-app tutorial, or complete their first actions by displaying a progress bar or checklist. This will ensure that new users are educated on how to use features within your app and give new users a boost of positivity after completing all of their tasks.

Display Progress Bar or Onboarding Checklist
Photo Credit: Process Street

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7. Enable App Gamification

Foster engagement with your users by making your app fun and enjoyable to use. Have users compete with themselves, their friends, or a global network of users using app gamification. Gamification encourages users to complete ordinarily repetitive or mundane tasks, like exercising, completing a task on your to-do list, or changing passwords.

App Gamification for App Engagement
Photo Credit: Dashlane Blog

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8. Give Users The Option to Skip Tutorials

Perhaps a user had to delete their account and decided to make a new one, or a user already has another account under another email address–whatever the case may be, you should always give new users the option to opt-out of any portion of your onboarding flow.

Pro Tip: For new users who may be wary of going through a long onboarding tutorial, give an estimate on just how long your tutorial will list. For instance, Bipsync encourages users to finish their tutorial by saying it’ll only take about 2 minutes to complete.

Give users the option to opt out of in-app tutorials
Photo Caption: Bipsync

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9. Customize Required App Permissions

It’s not uncommon for mobile apps to require access to contacts or location settings for full functionality or accuracy. However, make sure your app is not requiring more access to a user’s personal information than is necessary.

This could cause new users to question how secure and private their data will be within your app. In fact, 60 percent of app users decide against downloading apps after realizing the amount of personal information they would have to share and 43 percent of smartphone owners uninstall apps because of permissions requiring them to share personal details.

Customize Mobile App Permissions
Photo Credit: Surveillance Self-Defense

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10. Offer Customer Support In-App

The customer experience is key for improving app engagement and app retention. Even if a new user goes through an informational onboarding process, they may have specific questions or experience an issue that requires troubleshooting. Instead of having a user exit your app to find help, offer a direct line to your Customer Support team via in-app chat or link to your help center database with detailed articles.

Offer In-App Customer Support to New Users
Photo Credit: UX Magazine

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11. Send New Users a Welcome Email

Send new users a welcome email explaining the first action they should take, whether its add an account or create their first note. Welcome emails are also the perfect opportunity to build a genuine relationship with a new user.

Start by briefly introducing the company’s founder or CEO, explain the company’s mission, encourage the user to contact your company with any questions, comments, or concerns, encourage them to take their first action, and explain the value of their first action.

Send a Welcome Email to New Users
Photo Credit: Appcues

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12. Send Email Encouraging New Users to Use an Unused Feature

If you haven't had luck improving app retention, try retargeting your users. Based on their in-app behavior, try sending an email to a group of new users who haven’t used a particular feature. Chances are new users probably aren’t even aware you have that feature, so showcasing it in an email will encourage them to continue using your app.

Send Email Encouraging New Users to Use an Unused Feature

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13. Send Email to New Users Likely to Churn

Start with data analysis on what leads to churn on your platform. Once done, automatically tag users ‘at risk’ of churning and target them with things like increased customer support and exclusive discounts. This will increase the likelihood of retaining new users and alleviate their issues with your app.

Send Email to New Users Likely to Churn
Photo Credit: IMPACT

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14. Send Email to New Users about a New Feature or Product Update

When you launch a new feature or launch a new version of your app, send out an email to your all users to inform them of the news. Highlight user-requested features to show responsiveness to development and re-engage inactive users that may have dropped off due to a missing or broken feature.

Send Email to New Users about a New Feature or Product Update
Photo Credit: Email Newsletter Examples

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15. Send Emails Based on the User’s Role

For business-facing apps, create separate email drip campaigns based on the user’s role. In other words, don’t send a company’s employees a series of emails on how to use an app’s administrative console or how to set up billing information. This will ensure that you’re engaging the right users with the right content.

Send Emails Based on the User’s Role
Photo Credit: Cisco

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16. Email New Users with a Freebie

One way to help improve app retention is to give new users a free gift or an exclusive promotion unexpectedly. It doesn’t have to be anything too costly–-an industry report, discount on complementary products or the chance to win a t-shirt. This will encourage engagement and can turn new users into appreciative fans.

Email New Users with a Freebie or Special Discount
Photo Caption: GetVero

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17. Utilize Push Notifications

Aside from email, push notifications are an extremely effective way to share useful tips, announce new features, and encourage users to perform actions within an app, although users will need to opt-in to receive them. They’re so effective that Brazefound sending just one onboarding-related push notification to new users a week after they’ve installed your app can increase retention by 71 percent over two months.

Similarly, you can engage your audience while they browse the web by implementing push notifications on your blog or website. If they “Allow” the notifications they will be added to your subscriber list – which gives you the ability to send them push notifications.

Push notifications on desktop and mobile
Photo Credit: Kissmetrics Blog

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The average retention rate for an app is 6%. The goal is to be ahead of that. But, it's not always easy. Thankfully, with these actionable strategies for improving app retention, you're bound to see an increase.

These tactics are just some of the hundreds of marketing tactics we use to improve user engagement and retention. Want to read about more tactics? Here are more than 200 growth marketing strategies you can use to grow your business.

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