Design For Retention

kahunaKahuna have a recent article on How Behavioral Analytics Inform Your Engagement Marketing Strategy.

The key message is that “nearly 90% of app users don’t return 30 days after an install”. They recommend you solve this problem via push notifications, in-app messages, email and social messaging… using the Kahuna platform of course.

They further break down the problem into making the app valuable to the user, reminding them it’s valuable and then making use of the app a habit. The associated webinar talks of identifying the key actions you want the user to perform in the app and using analytics to analyse the behaviour of users you do initially retain and then refining the app to concentrate on those actions. But what if the user’s desired actions aren’t a subset of those you have identified?

I believe there’s another side to this in that it’s a similar problem to making mobile payments more popular. Maybe you should think about the actions users want as opposed to those you want. Think about motivation. What made someone download the app? If you can discover that then you can play on the original need and provide rewards and incentives for using the app.

As I previously mentioned, the important thing about many of the motivation and engagement techniques is that they need to be designed into the app. You lose a lot of users and time when you release an app and then later think how to retain users.

There’s some crossover here with Lean and MVP. Surveying potential users before you create the app might uncover some insights as you why (or not) people might download your app and you can then design your MVP app based on these assumptions. Behavioural analysis and funneling might then have some affect.

End User Motivations

pewresearchI recently posted on how you might think about screen orientation support. This led to possible consideration on how devices are held in the hand(s). Following the theme of adapting your app design to how your app might be used, you might like to take a look at the free Pew Research paper (pdf) into mobile etiquette.

The report shows under what situations people think it’s ok to use their smartphones, what they do on their phones when taking part in a social activity and how this varies by age group.


Depending on your app, the results of this research might help you determine whether your app is likely to be used in particular contexts. Alternatively, you might even target a popular context such ‘Look up information about where you are going or how to get there’ or make other contexts more easily achievable, for example to help ‘Avoid interacting with others who are near you’! Tapping into common end-user etiquette and motivations might be used as a way to improve app use and retention.

Adobe Mobile Marketing Insights

adobeAlthough I wouldn’t normally associate Adobe with mobile, they have a great blog on Mobile Marketing. There’s a recent article on Day to Day Operations of Mobile App Store Optimization (ASO), details on From Development to Marketing: An App Roadmap for your Business, tips on Jumping the Hurdles to Effective Mobile Marketing and Mobile Marketing: Covering The Basics.

Marketing tends to be done too little too late. It’s easy to concentrate on the more immedate challenges of creating an app rather than thinking about how to get it into users hands.

However, also think about retention. Another recent article on re/code, as it happens based on Adobe data, shows that Mobile Apps Have a Short Half Life; Use Falls Sharply After First Six Months:


Serving Mobile Addicts

flurryLast week I highlighted how, with in-app purchases, 1.14% of paying customers generate 30% of the sales. This links in well with a recent report by Flurry on Mobile Addicts. These are super users that use apps between 16 and 60 times daily. Flurry has worked out that this class of user has grown by 34% over the last year…


This group of users isn’t necessarily that small. Flurry says…

“If the number of Mobile Addicts there were in 2014 had been the population of a country, such country would have been the 8th largest in the world last year, slightly below Nigeria. In 2015, the growth of the Mobile Addicts population would have propelled that country to the 4th spot, just below the United States”

Here’s what these people are actually doing…

What does this mean for 3rd party developers? First, I think it vindicates the use of ‘Messaging & Social’ if it works within your kind of app. It also shows that there’s plenty of opportunity in ‘Utilities & Productivity’.

As well as thinking about short term retention, think about longer term users. Try to design your app to also help your best and longest users. How? For example, let them save things, let them see what they have done in the past, allow searching when data gets larger, allow old or unwanted data to be purged to save space. Reward your longer term users with things like larger quotas or extra features. Over time, migrate their existing data as the app gets updated. Allow them to backup data so they can use the app when they upgrade their smartphone. Think longer term.

In-App Purchase Characteristics of Top Apps

amazonAmazon has a new informative slideshare presentation ‘What the Top 50 Apps Do with IAP that the Rest of Us Don’t’ with insights into in-app purchasing. While the insights have been obtained from the Amazon app store, they are just as applicable to all stores and all OS platforms.
amazoniapHere are some of the learnings and consequent recommendations…

  • Start cheaper and increase price(s) over time to about 60% of the original price.
  • 48% of purchases happen within 1hr of previous purchase. Hence, make sure you offer an IAP within this time.
  • 37% of users who will purchase, purchase on the first day. Again, engage the customer early.
  • Offer between 1-5 price points for the best conversion. More prices points can confuse the user.
  • Apps with tutorials have a 2.5X higher conversion rate,
  • 1.14% of paying customers generate 30% of the sales. Cater for your best and longest customers by differenting your IAP offering.
  • As with non-IAP apps, retention is the only important metric. Give them a reason to come back, for example use social, leaderboards and achievements.

Focus on Retention

mobileworldliveMobile World Live quotes some Gartner research into app use that says that ‘Developers need to focus on user retention as app market matures‘.

“App providers will need to focus their development, marketing and branding more intensely toward retention strategies”

Meanwhile, Localytics say ‘App User Engagement and Retention on the Rise‘. The average number of app launches per month is up 5% over the quarter. App stickiness improved in Q1 with engagement growing by 13% and retention by 41%.


Read the previous articles below to gain some insights into how to increase app retention.

User Retention

applicationdevelopersalliance.pngA hot topic at the moment is retaining users. The Application Developers Alliance has a very useful pdf on how to motivate and engage users to boost customer retention. It includes tips on using customer feedback, customer research, onboarding, personalised communications, in-app support, real-time performance monitoring and re-engagement of past users.

The important thing about many of the motivation and engagement techniques is that they need to be designed into the app. There’s no point releasing an app and then thinking how to retain users. 

App User Retention iOS vs Android

openxcell.pngOpenxcell has a useful article on mobile app user retention. That is, the number of users who continue to use an app. They describe how gamification, rewarding users and giving them a sense of achievement can make apps more compelling and improve retention.

While retention rates were similar across Android and iOS last year, 2014 has seen Android surpass iOS…


Openxcell doesn’t provide any explanation why retention is so much better on Android. I doubt it’s because Android developers are better at retention. I suspect it’s to do with the difference in the types of apps across iOS and Android.

Openxcell also provides a list of analytics tools that can be used to measure app retention.