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Both the App Store and Google Play ranking algorithm take into account download velocity and retention rate when ranking your app. Consequently, having a high retention rate is not only good for your overall revenues but also your app store visibility. This lesson focuses on how to increase your app retention rate and keep users coming back time and time again.


Table of Content

What is App Retention Rate?

First, let’s define app retention rate. Retention rate is how many people are still using your app after a certain period of time. A high app retention rate shows you that people enjoy using your app and benefit in some way from its features.

Identifying Causes of Low App Retention Rate

Low retention rate is never good. When you notice it dropping, you need to quickly figure out why people are uninstalling or abandoning. You can do this by tracking user behavior and pinpointing the exact in-app moments that prompted an uninstall or abandonment. You’ve identified a high priority fix when a pattern appears. This could be, for example, people uninstalling right after a crash or abandoning when they hit a login prompt.

Calculating App Retention Rate

App retention rate should be measured for weekly, monthly and quarterly periods to identify both short term and long term retention issues.

It’s calculated by dividing the number of installs in a given time period by the number of active users in the same time period.

Churn Rate: The Inverse of App Retention Rate

The inverse of retention rate is your churn rate, the percentage of users who stop using your app within a certain time period.

Strategies for Increasing App Retention Rate.

According to Localytics, 71% of app users churn within 90 days. Adjusting factors such as, app on-boarding, in-app and push notifications, intro tutorials, email marketing, and social media marketing can keep churn rate low and retention rate high.

Improving App Onboarding for Higher Retention

The onboarding process is extremely important. This is the first step that every user will take in your app. Onboardings will differ from app to app depending on what information you need from the user and what information you need to tell them.

We’ll go over 2 of the most common onboarding styles:

  • Engaging Tutorial
  • Create Account and Login

Engaging Tutorial Style Onboarding

Take these few screens to teach the user a little more about your app. Lake, a coloring app, does a great job with this. They don’t  ask users to create an account, already reducing some friction here. Instead, Lake guides its new members through a tutorial style onboarding flow. The tutorial teaches users how to use Lake’s available functions and features.

Notice how the entire tutorial engages the user. They have to perform the action that is being taught in order to move onto the next screen. This type of onboarding gets users to enter their app in a smooth way while teaching them the basic functions.

An onboarding flow, like the on Lake uses, increases retention because users know what to do once they’re in the app. They won’t be confused about what the next steps are and can immediately jump into using the app.

Seamless Create Account and Login

The second most used onboarding flow is to create an account or login for returning users. You want this process to be as smooth as possible for the user. Many people drop off during this step because they don’t want to deal with the hassle of creating an account. However, there are various integrations now that you can use to make it easier for your users.

Evernote is a web and mobile app that enables people to organize their tasks and to-do lists. They require users to create an account but the entire whole process takes just 5 seconds.

All users need to do is enter their email and password and off they go.

Additionally, Evernote allows their users to create an account or sign in with Google. Giving your users the option to create an account with any sort of social sign-in (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google, etc.) turns the multi-step process into 1 click.

By allowing users to enter your app and experience its benefits as fast as possible, you’ll decrease the number of people who will abandon it during the create an account page.

Get Users to Engage More with Push Notifications

Push notifications is another great way to increase user engagement and retention. But, we all know that constant notifications can become annoying. Every app and every audience is different when it comes to this threshold. Basically, how often can you send your users messages before they become frustrated?

Frequency of Push Notifications

If you have a social media app like Instagram or TikTok, users rely on notifications to let them know that their posts received some sort of engagement from their audience. Then you can go a bit crazy with the push notifications because knowing a post got a like or a comment is a main benefit of the app. Just make sure that users have the option of turning them off. 

For utility apps, such as alarm clocks or grocery lists, notifications should only be used when they are set by the user. Again, that’s because the purpose of the app is to help the user complete the task at hand. Notifications sent at random will confuse users and cause frustration, which could lead to an uninstall or abandonment.

Always ask yourself if the notifications provide value to your users. When the answer is no, skip it. Useless notifications will teach people to ignore your messages and they’ll ultimately uninstall your app. Valuable messages get people to appreciate the benefits your app provides. They may even look forward to receiving the notification.

You’re starting to get the gist of it. Now, let’s talk about the actual content of the notifications.

Staying On Brand with Push Notifications

The tone of voice you use throughout the app store listing and app website, is the brand voice. You have to keep this consistent in the notifications too. Does your brand often use emojis and casual language? Then go ahead and implement this in the messages. Users will start to notice the sound of your brand.

The notifications should also be informative, creating a need for the user to open up your app. Rather than releasing all of the information, give a teaser of what is waiting for them. That way they’ll want to open your app and re-engage.

In addition, you can make the notifications more personal. Use the person’s name or send them targeted messages. People will be more interested when they know the message was meant specifically for them.

Using App Store Optimization to Attract the Right Users

The last point we’ll discuss is how to attract the right users. Targeting the right people is vital to app growth. That’s because when people unintentionally download your app or they do so thinking your app does something different, they’ll quickly uninstall it. Then your app retention rate drops and it harms your overall app store ranking. The solution is to tailor your app store listing to your target audience. That way people who need your app can always find it.

Optimizing Keywords for Higher App Retention Rates

We’ve been here many times before. Keywords are how people find your app. I can’t stress enough the importance of understanding your target audience’s search behavior. You have to speak the language that they speak and use the words they use.

The keywords you choose to implement should reflect the terms that people use to search for apps like yours. When this is aligned, you’ll attract the right users who are likely to become loyal users.

Optimizing App Store Visuals for Higher App Retention Rates

Don’t forget about your app icon, screenshots, and preview video. Visuals matter a lot. It’s good practice to A/B test your app store visuals before deciding on which ones to publish. If you don’t have the resources for a true A/B test, you can form a focus group or even ask friends and family who fit into your target audience.

By attracting the right people from the get go, you’ll secure a better retention rate overtime.