Categories: Business / Developers / Mobile Apps


Mobile app developers are all too aware that if you build it, they may come…but they might not stick around. While acquisition stats might keep marketers happy, the real story is in the retention stats.

On average, 24% of users use an app once before abandoning it. That means basically a quarter of all app users “bounce”. But things get scarier from there. After 90 days, the average retention rate across all mobile apps is just 20%. Who does the best? Media and entertainment, which sit at 24% after 90 days. And while iOS apps fare better than Android, it’s only by 1-3%.

Okay, so those figures may be scary. But they also represent a huge opportunity for mobile app developers. There’s clearly room to improve. But how?

Mobile app developers know the first 72 hours are crucial

Build loyalty in the first 72 hours.

Build loyalty in the first 72 hours.

Users need to build a relationship with your app in the first three days. Onboard them, get them started, and draw them back in with tips, notifications and tasks. Creating a habit around your app is crucial to building long-term engagement.

But to get there, you need to make things as seamless as possible. Simplify your onboarding and deliver in-app value that users can’t live without – and that keeps them coming back. Building in social connections, handy use cases and incentives can all help.

Consider also leveraging the “sunk costs” approach. By serving up achievements or accomplishments as users complete new tasks or actions in your app, you encourage them to dig deeper and explore the value of your app. Duolingo and Snapchat both do this.

Push and in-app notifications matter

No matter how good your app is, a user won’t know unless they’re using it. Fortunately mobile app developers have push notifications and email alerts on their side. Stats show that users are receptive to these, with notification engagement growing in the past year.

Get friendly with push notifications.

Get friendly with push notifications.

Use push notifications to deliver personalized, timely bursts of information that draw users back into the app and provide real value. A trading app may alert when a stock has hit a certain price or a dividend has been paid. A language learning app may remind a user to review recently learned words. A health app may offer a reminder to take a prescribed medication.

Real-time in-app notifications, such as Instagram’s “live video” alert, also increase engagement while highlighting app features to users. And to lure users back in, consider a remarketing ad or a well-timed email reminder. Just make sure it adds value – such as reminding users about a to-do task or an upcoming trip. No one likes those desperate “we miss you!” messages.

Mobile apps need a clear business case

The most gorgeous, seamless app won’t get traction if it doesn’t have purpose. Your app needs to have a clear business case. It needs to be something that users need and want. Mobile apps aren’t just products, but solutions.

At Touchtap, we firmly believe that the best way to guarantee retention is to build an app that aligns with the needs of its target audience. So when working with a new client, we begin by exploring their vision for the app – and building a business case for it. Who is it for, and why does it need to exist? What matters to these users, and what are their expectations from an app?

By validating a concept and designing for real users and their needs, we can drastically increase retention. Retention isn’t something that we hope for when we launch an app. It’s something we build into our apps from the get-go.



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Touchtap is a digital agency specializing in mobile-first development.We can build your mobile app for you.

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