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10 Mobile App Retention Hacks: Boost your users’ engagement


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When it comes to creating an established, respected and profitable app – finding and attracting the “right” users is just the beginning. Keeping your users active, engaged and eventually loyal is the real key. Until you put a lot of effort on retention, DON’T even bother to calculate ROI and reflect it to the rest of your team.

Well, I’ve gathered 10 mobile app retention hacks I follow, which will surely help you boost your app marketing retention graphs. But, hey, it is all secondary to having a great product by your side, ha?

1. Request permissions when needed, not before (when it’s an iOS app).

Users hate providing apps with permissions. In fact, it amazes me how sensitive users are to permission requests that they believe are not really needed for the functionality of the app. That said, as a developer you understand what users don’t necessarily get, and that is that some permissions are simply a necessity, right from the first screen. Ask for the permissions that you really need, no more, no less.
Some permission requests, can be delayed and added when a user asks to perform a certain action that can’t be done without granting access of some sort. Now, if you delay those requests to when it’s time, you will increase the “yes” chances, plus your user will have a better understanding of the request purpose.

You see, most developers request all relevant permissions during the installation, thinking ‘why keep bothering the users, let’s just get it over with’. Here’s where they are wrong. A user hitting the app install button is just like a website click or a random meeting between two strangers, if you’d like. No trust, no loyalty at this point… Is now the time for endless list of requests?? Nope.

Loyalty and trust will come later on, when the user is more familiar with your app. Senior users, who know your app, are more likely to feel comfortable with permission requests.

Long story short- delay permission requests if possible, prompt requests when they are relevant to user behavior and explain why you are asking for the permission.


2. Mandatory signup? Why, really?

I get to work with many app developers. When I ask “why are you making your users signup (via email and password or via social networks) during the installation, or right afterwards?” I usually get pitches about why users contact data is important for app marketing. Well, it sure is, but that was not the question.

Think about it, how would you react if you’ve tried to visit a website, and before you could understand what’s really going on, you would have to login in order to continue… a quick press on the ‘back’ button, right? It reminds me of the internet’s early days…

So I know you want to keep in touch with your users, I hear you, I really do. But, I think you will make your users happier and much more engaged, if you would do this when it’s the right time.

Ask for signup when a user is trying to take a specific action (preferably, an action that’s not part of the initial app exploration). For example, when a user is trying to create an alert, personalize a specific feature or book something. Offer your users easy ways to login to your app (e.g. social networks) and always give them a good reason why they should login.

For example: “Logging in allows us to save your preferences, across all of your devices”.

mapmyfitness_app_marketing_login “…but we’ve only just met…”

3.  Analytics… the key lies in the numbers!

Keep looking at a variety of analytics tools, and keep up to date on new related technologies. This area of inbound analytics is hot!! New solutions are popping up every day, and these solutions can help your retention a lot. Facebook is constantly improving its analytics, and additional solutions keep offering new features to track, create unique segments, and test the app.

I have a rule. Every couple of months I take some time to explore what’s new in the inbound analytics / segmentation / marketing automation arena. I find gold.

For example – with the new Facebook analytics, I can now segment my most active users by Gender, age and additional demographics. It allows me to identify who my quality users are and focus on them (e.g. young women who live in metro areas), and by that increase my retention.

Another example is new SDKs allowing in-app chat inside apps (Hipmob, LivePerson or are just a couple of names). So imagine you could support users that are visiting a specific screen (store or pricing) by offering them real live chat, within your app. What would that do to your retention or monetization?

4.  Make it easy, right from the start

Make sure your app is easy to use right from the start, by including an onboarding tutorial and/or walkthrough guide. Don’t forget to measure users’ behavior through the onboarding screens, and conduct qualitative surveys every now and then (what did you think about our onboarding flow?). By the way, even surveys can be done in-app via advanced tools. (e.g., Apptentive)

5.  Don’t just ‘push’. Smartly push the push

I hate (push) notifications that are sent just for the sake of it. You want to send push, just to bring in users back to the app? Still, you need to be smart about it, otherwise you will gain the exact opposite.

Keep the WIIFM rule (what’s in it for me). The push should emphasize why it’s worth clicking and opening your app right now. Either valuable content (don’t forget to offer a content teaser), a promo coupon, or trying out a new feature (be specific). If you can’t say anything smart, just don’t push.

Some examples:

          “Check out the new dialer”

          “Grab your FREE theme”

          “Check out what your friend, XXX, is saying”

…You get the idea…

6.  Be available, friendly and supportive. Be there.

Include a page in your app that’s dedicated to contact details. If a user experiences a problem and has no one to turn to, they’ll simply dump your app and look elsewhere. Listen to comments and posts in social media as well, and respond fast enough to boost happiness and loyalty.

7.   Be Social Media Savvy


Every app should encourage its users to engage with related channels on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn can be used to promote updates for your app, and to make your users smile with fun and festive content.

Here’s how it works: If you invest in your social pages, and you create best in class content, I will be more likely to remember you and your app, to listen to what you have to say, hence to engage in your app. Your visuals are critical. Social covers, banners and so forth. It doesn’t mean that you have to hire a top designer and take an extra mortgage, you can use mobile app marketing templates custom made for app marketers.

8.  Localize your app

Offer high-quality levels of communication by localizing your app menus and taking advantage of localized push emails and messages. Users who are not fluent with the app’s language, will present lower retention. The more you help them “get it” the better your retention gets. Learn more about mobile app localization.

9.  Gamification is on!

Aren’t we all just grown up kids? Gamification elements (such as giving something a bizarre splash of color, using joyful fonts or hiding Easter Eggs inside the app) will help in achieving higher app retention and engagement levels. This can be particularly useful if your app is dealing with a relatively dull subject matter and needs a little jazzing up.

Yes, you can gamify almost everything. Allowing users to accessorize visual elements in the app is gamifying… sending funny stuff to friends through your app, is both gamifying and viral, just using humor in your app text is gamifying.

It’s the art of being fun, light and cool.

10.  Show off Your Updates

Whenever your app is updated, let the user know about the changes you’ve made. After all, it’s your investment, for their benefit. Many users sign up for automatic upgrades and are unaware of any modifications, so make sure you tell them exactly what’s new in order to keep them coming back, and to get them understanding that your app is vivid, and being worked on.

Have tips of your own? Share it here in the comments, I will be happy to consider adding.

Elli is one of Co-Founders, a mobile expert and a mentor. Having years of experience in the mobile and marketing industry promoting popular mobile apps and B2B related services. Presenting specific expertise on users' acquisition strategies, PR, social media, product marketing, BizDev integrations and more
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