updated icon December 14 2017

More than half the games and apps out there, lose 80% of their users by the third month from acquisition. Let’s face it, that’s a whole lot of resources going down the drain with an added cost of having to acquire as many users. In this post, we’re discussing what is possibly a good user retention rate that developers and app marketers should be focusing on.

Your users won’t wait for you

The average rate of user retention hasn’t improved much from 2016 to 2017. The reason being that with thousands of apps and games being launched into the market every day, developers and app marketers think it is important to first ‘acquire more users’. All their strategies are targeted towards only one goal and that’s getting another user onboard every day.

Average retention

The 20% who do stick to your app or game, are people who spent time exploring it on their own, think it is interesting and don’t mind being not interacted with. But the majority cohort of your users are actually people who want it easy – right from understanding your app to giving feedback or starting a conversation; they want you to reach out to them.

While they might wait a day or two post acquisition, chances are that they’ll abandon your app/ game for a competitor – if not engaged with, at the right time!

So is user retention the real growth hack to app growth

Moving from acquisition to retention

Almost 25% of users open an app for only one session, post download. This could be because they didn’t find in-app experience engaging enough or they simply got distracted by their environment and forgot coming back to it.

That’s exactly why every developer and marketer needs to shift their focus from just measuring how many installs their app has got, to promoting active engagement on a day-to-day basis and keeping them from churning. Simply put, user retention.

Especially with features like ‘Offload Unused Apps’ getting launched on iOS, it is time to shift your focus from acquisition to turning one-time users into loyal users.

But, what’s a good retention rate?

Having worked with apps and games across different industries, we have realised that 80% of the users you acquire are forever at the risk of being lost. Even as you go from industry to industry, the 90 days retention rate varies only slightly.

average retention by industry
So, a good retention rate would be where you see your users coming back to your app as frequently as possible in the first 30 days at least. The higher the number of sessions, the lower is the risk of them getting churned.

user churn by industry
source

The only hack we see here, is to become a part of the user’s break time.

And how do you improve your user retention rate?

There is no one-size-fits all when it comes to keeping your users engaged. Every app serves a different purpose and that’s exactly why you need to understand your user cohort’s journey in the app to device their retention strategy.

But here are a few user retention tactics that always work:

1. Focus on a great onboarding

Your ad or the app store search might get them to download the app for being interesting. But your work begins from there – how do you hook these ‘interested’ users instantly? A great onboarding plays an integral part of how your users will use your app or interact with your game. It is important to focus on showing them every important aspect of your app before letting thing them explore on their own.

For instance, Jira knows its endless possibilities might overwhelm the user. So it created an interactive onboarding, that walks them through the key features before asking them to sign in or sign up for a new account.

resized jira onboarding

2. Create an in-app social network

Most smartphone users are switching between apps to stay in touch with their friends and family. This could be a social media app or a chatting app that everyone is present on. Now depending on what conversation they are having, it is highly possible that they either leave an app session in between or get distracted completely and not come back to your app at all.

That’s why top grossing games like Castle Cats use an Activity Feed. Resembling any social media feed, this is where their players can see what the others are doing or what they have achieved so far in the game. This creates an active community of players that are nudged into competing, without being pushed by you.

castle cats activity feed good user retention rate

What do the results look like?

  • D1 retention is 90% higher
  • D7 retention is 229% higher  
  • D30 retention is 584% higher

(Read case study here)

3. Make inviting friends super easy

An Activity Feed is interesting to a user only if he sees updates from his friend circle on it. That’s why you need to ensure that it is easier for them to send out invites to those they think that the app could be interesting to. Simply put, your referral program should be incorporated into the natural flow of your game.

Nibbler uses Smart Invites to do exactly that. The players are able to invite their friends using all popular social channels and chat apps. This got the game almost 25% conversions on referrals and D30 retention that was 153% higher!

nibblers smart invites

4. Don’t forget the push notifications

Activity Feeds can keep the user engaged while he is still using the app, increasing his session length. But if you really want to retain him, focus on pulling him back to the app when he is off the app. That’s where push notifications come in!

Send out a push notification to your users, every time a significant activity happens on their feed. It could be a quick message to notify how their friend’s score just crossed theirs or something that lets them know of any upcoming challenge in the game. Our suggestion is to keep it as interesting as possible and to target gamification with your message!

5. Remarket always

Not all your users are going to opt for push notifications. So do you let them go without any kind of interaction for days and risk them not coming back to your app? Absolutely not!

That’s why you need to remarket to them on channels that don’t just rely on your app. Social media, email and search advertisements are very effective at getting your users back to the app. You can personalize your campaigns in order to re-engage them with from where they were last seen in your app or game. Focusing on the context of your messaging boosts the conversions on your remarketing campaigns.

With Smart Links, you can closely track the conversions of these campaigns to optimize them further.

retargeting remarketing apps

While these tactics are being used by the top grossing apps and games in the industry, there is one little detail that you shouldn’t miss – focusing on data.

Create data driven user retention strategies

The only way to ensure your user retention rate doesn’t dip, is to focus on optimizing all your efforts to keep them engaged. Right from onboarding to sending them the first push notification and remarketing, all your campaigns should be highly data driven to understand how different cohorts interact with you.

Analyse the performance of the referral invites, invite channels and their impact on your app’s growth. See where your users are dropping off to understand your app’s cycle time and viral coefficient.

Gaining insights into the retention rates of every acquisition channel you use, is the hack to optimizing your resources and driving the growth.

So, how good is your user retention rate?