9 Helpful Strategies to Maintain a Good Mobile App Retention Rate

Today’s mobile devices benefit from more apps than ever. More than 5 million apps can be downloaded through iOS and Android devices around the world. 

Developing a mobile app is a key consideration for many of today’s businesses. But this means competition is fierce, and app retention is a significant problem. 

A typical app doesn’t hang around on our phones for very long. On average, apps are deleted 5.8 days after their last usage. A number of factors including excessive advertising, technical issues, and a general lack of usefulness are to blame.

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While you can’t address every reason people get rid of apps, there are some key strategies for any app developer. This guide will share some solid strategies for keeping your app on a user’s phone.

1. Track User Data

In order to maintain app retention rates, you need to start with an in-depth understanding of how people use it. This means having systems to gather data and interpreting it in ways that yield results. Just as call center performance metrics help identify areas for improvement, user data refines app design.

Cohort analysis takes the user data you’ve collected and divides it into smaller groups based on common experience. This allows you to better understand user engagement, and how metrics develop over different timespans.

Your cohort analysis might show that many of our users aren’t returning to the app a few days after installing it. This could mean that your app isn’t making a great first impression on its users because of performance issues or unclear messaging.

A deep dive into user activity allows you to make informed choices on how to improve your app – and keep people using it. Indeed, data-driven choices can allow you to make many different improvements, such as upscaling customer service

2. Create a Simple Onboarding Process

That aforementioned first impression is part of the onboarding process. A user opening an app for the first time should encounter no obstacles to using it.  If you or a colleague has ever had to systemize your business, you know good onboarding has positive outcomes. Apps are no different and involve two tasks. 

The first task is succinctly explaining how your app actually works. Introduce features of the app gradually, use simple language, and keep this introductory session short. The other task is offering a very simple sign-up, preferably with a social account. 

3. Think About Functionality

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Today’s app users have a very low threshold for malfunction. Apps are supposed to just work; if your app is slow to load, crashes frequently, or exhibits sluggish response times it’s not going to retain users for long. 

App malfunctions don’t just lose you current users – they can impact your acquisition of future users. Apps that crash frequently receive lower rankings and organic traffic in app stores. This decreases visibility for your apps and makes it more likely that users will take their business elsewhere.

While you should test and troubleshoot your app before launch, today’s app stores can provide data on app crashes and other problems; depending on the store, you can even filter issues based on a specific platform or app version. This allows you to resolve problems quickly and maintain your positive reputation. Updating your Android apps offers multiple benefits, including improved security and engagement.

Think of app development as an ongoing process. Besides fixing bugs, it’s worth introducing or refining an app’s features to stay competitive. However, don’t just introduce features carelessly. Customer feedback and competitor activity can provide insight into what your app really needs.

4. Establish Strong Lines of Communication

Customer service might seem like a non-issue for something that’s supposed to be frictionless. But problems are bound to crop up – if not with the app itself, then with the services, it’s meant to facilitate. 

You’ve probably had to think about choosing the right CRM for your business, which often helps improve customer service. There are similar considerations for apps. Allowing customers to convey these complaints to you (via a live chat feature, for example) keeps them invested in your app, and prevents bad reviews from reaching the wider internet. Soliciting feedback through these kinds of channels can also help you identify areas of improvement.

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Another avenue for communication between you and your users is user-generated content. While this might not be suited for every kind of app (based on functionality and target audience) it can be used to drive user investment, raise your profile and create extra content for social channels. Encourage people to share photos or testimonials of people using your app, or the products and services it facilitates access to.

5. Use Messaging Effectively

Communication within apps doesn’t have to be two-way. A particularly useful feature of apps is in-app messaging. While this has obvious utility during the onboarding process, it’s also useful after it. 

Punchy headlines draw attention to new (or overlooked) features in an app, while calls to action can encourage desirable activity. You can even draw attention to other channels or products. If users have a few FAQs, take inspiration from an interactive voice response solution and consider a chatbot that delivers answers, or connects to staff members

Another messaging avenue to consider is push notifications – messages that users receive outside of the app. You might want to remind users to complete the account creation process, highlight special offers, or draw attention to important events – like the arrival of a taxi, for example.

Push notifications are a little trickier to implement. This is because some users have to explicitly opt in to receiving them. iOS users have the choice, and generally receive fewer notifications than their Android counterparts as a result. 

There’s also a low tolerance for being bombarded with push notifications; the main reason users reject them is because the volume is too high. Other major factors include irrelevance or clickbait-style messaging.

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Push notifications must always be relevant to your users. It’s also a good strategy to reserve push notifications for truly essential messaging, at least to begin with. 

6. Make It Personal

Besides your communication strategy, another way to encourage engagement is adding a personal touch to your app. This helps them feel more invested in what you offer.

On a basic level, personalizing an app involves attaching a user’s name to features like notifications. You can also link features or promotions to other aspects of a user’s personality, like offering a reward on their birthday.

We’ve already established the importance of data collection, but you should only track data users have explicitly consented to you tracking. If your app attempts to use data it shouldn’t be (even in the name of improvement) it could lose you the trust of the very users you’re trying to attract.

An auto attendant phone system is another way you can lean into personalization. Deploying these systems helps you direct customer queries to the right person as quickly as possible. 

7. Offer In-App Rewards

Beyond light-touch personalization, apps are a great avenue to introduce rewards for your users. These include special discounts and promotions that are only available in the app itself, but it also covers rewards that users accumulate over time. 

For instance, when users make purchases within the app they accumulate points, which can be put towards rewards. You might also want to reward users with points for other actions, such as completing surveys, referring new users, or accessing the app on consecutive days. 

You can further refine the rewards system by personalizing rewards to each user. This requires some technical investment; you need to track each user’s activity and then predict a suitable reward using AI. However, it’s another excellent way to keep users invested in your app.

8. Add a Gamification Element

If you don’t think a conventional rewards system is suitable, consider “gamifying” the app, which involves rewarding users for meeting a personal goal. Fitness apps are a great place to use these because the point of these apps is to facilitate lifestyle changes. As such, allowing users to create milestones they can work towards gives the app a reason to exist.

Even if your app isn’t explicitly a video game, it’s worth looking to these kinds of apps for inspiration. In places like North America, the mobile gaming sector has been steadily growing in value for the last decade. This rise indicates that mobile games are resonating with a significant chunk of today’s mobile users, and offers lessons for app creators more generally.

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9. Deploy App-Exclusive Features

Since mobile devices are largely ubiquitous (just take a look at mobile point of sale solutions) app-exclusive features are an excellent strategy. For example, if consumer choice is a significant factor this can help attract people to the app. Apps can also be used to keep track of user information. Besides payment details, apps are ideal for offers, coupons, and gift cards.

As ever, a solid strategy is to put yourself in the shoes of your customer. What features (within reason) do you think your app would benefit from? These kinds of brainstorming activities can help better differentiate your app from the in-browser experience, and a business VoIP can facilitate these kinds of discussions.


App retention depends on taking a dynamic approach to app development. In addition to adding new features or refining the design, you need to ask if you’re meeting your user’s needs – or subjecting them to needless irritation. By carefully considering your app’s basic utility, you’re well placed to maintain app retention rates going forward. 

Author bio:

Jessica Day – Senior Director, Marketing Strategy, Dialpad

Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications and cloud based phone service platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn.

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