Best Practices for Mobile App User Engagement and Retention

/ February 25, 2019 | 5 Mins Read

Best Practices for Mobile App User Engagement and Retention

To get your users engaged with your Mobile app you have to make efforts to make them feel an attachment with your app

There are millions of apps on the market today. And if you consider that new apps are being released every day, then you'll begin to understand why user engagement and retention can be an arduous task. Thankfully, there are time-tested strategies that every app publisher can implement to attract and keep users. And these strategies are equally effective across all industries from retail to media and productivity apps.

Data from Localytics shows that app user engagement and retention has been on the rise since 2017. According to the app data analytics and marketing company, in the early part of this year, the number of users who returned to an app in the second month of downloading it stood at 41%. Meanwhile, 32% returned in the third month, and 28% in the fourth month. This clearly shows that app publishers are doing something right. These figures are particularly impressive when you consider that analysis from Localytics showed that 71% of apps lost their users within the first 90 days in 2016.

Experts like Nicole Hendrick from Buildinary will tell you that a low app user engagement rate highlights a disparity in the expectations of users and what you provide them. This is to be expected since the mobile app market continues to grow at a rapid rate. The only way to bridge the gap is for marketers to continually update their strategies according to the changes in user behavior. With that said, let us look at some of the best ways to guarantee user engagement and retention on your app.

Best Practices for App User Engagement and Retention

1. Push Notifications and In-App Messaging

The adage that communication is the key to building relationships is also true in the world or mobile apps. In-app messages and push notifications are an effective way to reach out to users.

In-app messages can be useful for boosting user engagement. You can use in-app messages to explain the features of your app to users and make the onboarding process easier. These messages are also an excellent way to inform users about promotional offers and the latest developments on your app. Push notifications, on the other hand, can be used to remind users of your app and improve its retention rate. You can use these notifications to draw users back to pick up from where they left at their last session. This is also a great way to inform users about promotional offers. Essentially, push notifications must give users a reason to want to return to your app.

Data from Localytics shows that engagement with push notifications increased by 31.34% for Android and 23.55% for iOS in the first half of this year compared to 2017. But while in-app messages and push notifications can improve user engagement and retention, they can have the opposite effect if they aren't used properly. Here are a few tips to improve the success rate of in-app messages and push notifications:
a) Take advantage of user data to send relevant messages.

b) Do not bombard your users with notifications. Ideally, push notifications should not be sent daily.

c) Also, give users the option of choosing not to receive them. This can seem counterproductive, but push notifications, and in-app messages can be annoying for users who are highly engaged with an app. What's more, you can use email to reach users who opt out of push notifications and in-app messages.

2. Make the Onboarding Process Smooth

Have you ever downloaded an app and found yourself wondering how it functions? It was a big put-off, wasn't it? You must avoid making the same mistake with your app. Very few things can make users fall in love with an app like being able to operate it intuitively. Usually, developers are engrossed with the intricacies of their app and fail to consider how it looks to first-time users. This is why it is recommended that you work with mobile app development companies or developers. These experts can conduct an analysis of your user experience (UX) with "fresh eyes." Among other things, they would highlight the issues with your UX and suggest ways to remedy them.

A smooth onboarding can boost user retention rate by up to 50%. Nicole Hendrick from Budilinary points out some ways to make the onboarding process of your app smooth.

a) Test your app extensively to identify and correct any performance issues.

b) Don't overload users with information. Keep the design of your app simple so that everyone can use it easily. Also, provide concise information about how to operate particular features when necessary. If you find that you have to provide a lot of information about how to use your app, then you need to go back to the drawing board and work on the design of your user interface to make it intuitive.

c) Keep the signup process short, and give users access to your app. Leave an option for users to update their profile later.

d) If your app is not free, make a demo version available.

3. Personalization

Another strategy that never fails to boost user engagement and retention is personalization. Everyone wants an experience that is suited to their preferences and location. Therefore, if you give users an experience that is tailored to them, they are likely to spend more time on your app. Take advantage of user data to increase the personalization options on your app.

The positive effects of personalization do not only hold true for mobile apps, but for other businesses. According to Gartner, personalization would enable digital businesses to boost their profit by up to 15% by 2020. Data from Everage shows that currently, just 18% of marketers include personalization as part of their strategy to reach users on mobile apps. This indicates that this strategy is still highly underutilized in the mobile app sector. It also means that personalization is likely to work wonders for the few apps which use it.

There are many ways to increase personalization in an app:
a) Display relevant content based on each user's preference.

b) Deliver personalized greetings to each user. This may seem to be a minor thing, but it can go a long way to endear users to your app.

4. Offers Users Incentives

Very few things can beat incentives when it comes to boosting user engagement and retention. Giving users rewards does not only increase their engagement with your app but also builds loyalty. The particular incentives to offer users depends on your app. Some attractive offers include discounts as well as coupons, free products, and other prizes. The underlying rule is to provide users with something valuable. Some of the most successful apps in the world like Starbucks, Airbnb, and Amazon have successfully used incentivization to strengthen their brand. Airbnb was able to increase signups and bookings by more than 300% through incentives. Offering users incentives makes a lot of sense when you consider that it costs considerably more to reach an existing customer than a new one. But rewards do not only work for existing customers, but also for new customers.


These are some of the best practices to attract and keep users on your app. There are many equally good strategies such as adding gamification to your app, learning more about your users, integrating social media, and providing a valuable product/service.

The particular user engagement and retention strategies to use depends on the type of app you have and the demographics of your users. Ultimately, your strategies must evolve as your app grows and as the market changes. What worked five years ago may no longer be effective at this point of time.

Alicia is a programmer at Buildinary who specializes in mobile app development and design. With her strong coding background and easy demeanor, she thoroughly enjoys blogging about all aspects of software development in her spare time.