How to Increase User Retention in Your Mobile App
App developers are finding it to be more competitive and complex than ever before to attract users. User acquisition is getting increasingly expensive, and Apple recently changed it App Store ranking algorithm to incorporate ratings and retention. As a result, not only is it harder to find new users, it’s even more important for app developers (of all sizes) to retain them.
Here are a few ways for app developers to increase their user retention:
- Release regular updates with new content. Customers might download your app based on an ad, a recommendation, or a search of an app marketplace – but once you’ve got customers to download your app, you need to find ways to hold their interest by releasing regular updates with new levels, new features or other compelling content that makes people want to keep using your app. It’s important to strike the right balance with the timing of your updates. If you release content too often (every month) people will devalue it and stop paying attention. But on the other hand, if you wait too long to release content (such as every 6 months) people will get bored and delete your app.
- Use notifications wisely. Again, it’s important to strike the right balance with the timing and frequency of your notifications to customers. First of all, don’t spam people. Always give your customers the opportunity to opt in to notifications, rather than assuming that everyone wants to hear from you. Then think about an appropriate schedule to remind customers to come back and play your game if they stay away for too long. Test a few different options for frequency of communication with a few groups of loyal customers and friends – see what people think. Is every 2 weeks too much? What about once a month? Also experiment with different style and messages of your notifications – keep them brief, catchy and easy to read, with a clear call to action, such as: “Download our new level,” or “We miss you – check out our new features.” Don’t forget to build personality into your app. If you do this, you will be well on your way to building a brand and not just a product.
- Build a strong community on Facebook and Twitter. Relationships are the foundation of increasing user retention for your app. Technology and notifications and automatic reminders can help, but ultimately you’re more likely to keep your customers if you build relationships with your customers that go beyond the app itself. As discussed in this article on how to use social media to promote your app, the Angry Birds Facebook page is an ideal example of how to use social media to build the brand and reward the audience for participation in social media conversations. Some of the most successful apps take on a life of their own by creating memorable characters and experiences that customers can enjoy again and again. Don’t just build an app – think about how to build a brand that becomes a broader community.
- Use game dynamics to make your apps more addictive. If you want to keep your apps from getting ignored, abandoned and deleted, you need to give people a reason to keep coming back. Instead of making a game that is fun and novel only for a short time, you can use game dynamics to continually challenge and reward your customers with new levels of interaction based on psychological principles that stimulate and reward the brain. This classic article on TechCrunch has a great overview of some different game dynamics and specific examples of how they can be used in games. One of the widely recognized types of game dynamics is the use of badges in Foursquare and other apps, where people earn a reward for completing an action or behavior. Other game dynamics include building in a feature that makes customers have to take action or make a decision by a certain time limit, or have to take action to avoid receiving a penalty or punishment.
Promoting your mobile app isn’t always a matter of buying mobile ads or finding new customers. Sometimes the best way to increase your app revenue is to hold on to more of the customers that you already have with well planned user retention techniques. There are a variety of services designed to help app developer retain their users, our friends at Apptentive are a great place for you to start.
What’s your take on this? How do you strike the right balance in releasing new content for your apps and notifying users about your latest features and levels? What’s a particularly effective game dynamic that you’ve added to your apps or experienced on another app that you use?