May 2 2016

Mobile App Retention Strategies to Build Loyal Customers

For most people, a mobile device is within an arms reach at any given time. Smart phones, tablets and other connected devices have become personal assistants help to guide us through the day. If you’re an application developer, this is good news, but it’s only the beginning. Keeping your app on users devices, is the challenge.

There’s a lot of competition in the world of mobile applications. Between iOS, Android, and Windows platforms there are several hundred thousand applications for users to choose from. Installing an app takes a few minutes at best. So does deleting it. With limited storage space and short attention spans, mobile users are quick to press the uninstall button, especially if something better comes along.

According to a study by Localytics, 25% of users abandon an app (and never return) after just a single session.  Now more than ever, developers not only have to convince mobile users to download an application; but ensure users will keep it and use it. Here are a few strategies you can use to increase your mobile app retention:

Start With a Quality Application

Quality applications not only solve a problem, they have few, if any glitches. It’s vital that the experience is great for every consumer, every time they use your application, starting with the very first time.  If the application repeatedly freezes and forces people to restart their phones, it is going to be uninstalled pretty quickly. Test everything your users can do, from pinching and swiping to double-tapping and scrolling. Find performance problems and fix them immediately.

Engage Users

An app that is used frequently will be a priority for users and ultimately bring in revenue, even if the application was initially free. When you’re looking at revenue, be sure to attribute the full value your mobile app is driving. Revenue numbers increase when the user interacts or engages with the application, frequently.

Many companies use mobile coupons and rewards programs to engage users and keep them coming back. For example, if you’re app is for a restaurant consider giving users a chance to earn points by checking-in, inviting friends to download the app or take photos of your food and drinks.

If you have a segment of users that don’t use your app regularly, it could be a sign that they aren’t feeling ‘mobile exclusivity.’ Re-engage them by creating an mobile exclusive offer or access to information that can only be found in your app. Your app’s core function should be something that people do again and again so they see it as worthwhile.

Use Game Psychology

Games are some of the most popular applications. Advertising brings in some of the revenue for these apps, but in-app purchases play a big role. Games invite a competitiveness to our lives and a sense of drive. If spending a short amount of time watching a video can help a user progress faster through a game, they will be more engaged. They will even spend money on items related to the app, like game tokens.

You can apply the same game psychology to non-game apps and carry similar elements and special features that can be unlocked when the application is used regularly.

Make Sign-Up Easy

Those critical first moments of opening an app set the tone for the relationship between users and the app. Sadly, some applications never get used and are eventually deleted because the setup process was too complicated or lengthy. The username/password login process on mobile is by far one of the biggest annoyances. For users, it can be incredibly difficult to type in complicated passwords using small keyboards. Think about giving users the ability to sign in with other applications they already use, like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. This will make the sign up process much easier.

Remember, personal information is just that: personal. While collecting information about customers can be helpful, it is best not to ask for too much information out of the gate. Asking for a wealth of information on sign-up can send users searching for an alternative.

Use Notifications Wisely

Push notifications have the power to bring users back to your mobile application, but if done incorrectly they can push users away. Think of the push notifications as a communication channel between you and the user. Use them to talk about a new product launch with a “Reserve Your Copy” link or add the option to “Notify” users when there is something new. For best results, personalize the content and keep notifications to a minimum.

For brick and mortar locations consider using beacons to send shoppers push notifications about products and promotions while in a store. Push notifications can be powerful as long as they provide relevant, timely content.


Too many mobile app developers focus solely on acquiring new users, unintentionally neglecting the need for retention. When you’re trying to improve your app, start with the basics. When a user stops using your mobile application, it’s important to understand why and take the necessary steps to improve engagement. By using these mobile app retention strategies, you’ll be on your way to building loyal customers.


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