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10 Smart Tactics to Help You Increase App Engagement and User Retention

Read our ultimate guide to boosting your app’s engagement and user retention rates, in ten simple ways.

How many times have you downloaded an app on your smartphone, only to delete it after a few days (if not earlier)? The chances are that this has happened quite a few times, and if you think about the reason behind it, it’s likely that it was a lack of use.

This, in turn, can be due to lots of different factors, including poor app performance, slow loading times, non-intuitive interface, low customer engagement, and more. Is this what you think that some, or many, of your app users are experiencing?

If so, you’re in the right place. In this article, we will be exploring app use, user engagement, and user retention. But there’s more: we will be providing you with easy and clever ways to make sure that your app users don’t churn, and that they keep coming back to your app for more, instead of downloading from your competitors.

What Is User Retention, and How Do You Measure It?
Let’s start by defining the concept of “user retention”. This is a metric that represents the percentage of users that keep coming back to your app on a regular basis. The interesting thing about user retention is that it also reveals how many users are leaving.

To calculate your user retention rate you need to first establish a specific time period. This could be, for example, the past month or week, and you might want to compare that period to the same time in previous years.

Depending on what type of app you run, it might make more sense for you to work out your user retention based on logins as opposed to app usage, or vice versa. Generally speaking, this is the calculation to identify your app’s user retention rate:

The number of users that log in or use your app within a specified timeframe


 The number of users within the same category that logged in or used your app previously

Now that you know what user retention rate is, and how to calculate it, let’s look at ten ways you can ensure that your rates are always high.

1. Keep Onboarding Simple and to the Point
Most of us download apps because we want to simplify parts of our life. Whether it be our fitness routine, our food habits, or even a simple game to pass the time, we like things that work fast, well, and easily. When you’re opening an app for the first time but are also just about to finalize your legal signature on another app, the last thing you want (or need) is for the apps to take ages to load.

To work well and engage users in the long term, apps should keep things nice and easy right from the onset. This means limiting your welcome pages and the number of details you provide to ensure that your users know what your app is all about and how to make the most of it.

Leave the rest to them, and retention rates will soar.

2. Make It Hyper-Personalised
Personalisation of the customer experience is one of the most crucial concepts when it comes to increasing your app’s user retention rates. In our digital age, we are so used to customized services that we have come to expect them from pretty much everything that we use – including a simple mobile app.

Therefore, customizing your app is a no-brainer for user retention. To achieve this, you’ll need to first collect data on your users, and keep engaging with them regularly via in-app messages, chatbots, and email. Communicating with your users frequently allows you to explore their wants and needs in detail and keep your offers fresh and relevant to them.

Similarly, with this type of personalized and continuous communication, you’ll also be able to learn about potential bugs or issues with your app and fix them swiftly. This is essential, as low ratings and negative reviews can hugely harm your app and its user retention rate.

3. Entice Users with an App Preview
We all like to get a sneak peek of the things we are going to buy, so why not apply this concept to your app, too? Offering a visual tour of your app is a fantastic way to increase user engagement and retention.

Before they sign up, make sure that you show them around (for free), so that they can see how great, beautifully designed, and user-friendly your app is.

4. Incorporate Hotspots and Tooltips
Have you recently added a new key feature to your app? Let your users know about it by taking advantage of interactive content devices such as hotspots and tooltips. These simple additions are excellent at upping your engagement and retention rates, as they make your users feel more valued and involved with the inner workings of your app.

Hotspots are little circles that appear on the screen to signal a clue or provide a tip about a feature of your app. To reveal the hint, new app users need to click on the hotspot, which will then disappear from the screen.

Tooltips, on the other hand, are brief bits of advice and descriptions that get displayed once a user hovers over an app icon with their cursors. Unlike hotspots, tooltips do not always invite users to do something specific, as they are more descriptive than action-led.

5. Make Tutorials and App Tours Optional (and Easy to Skip)
So far, we have talked about how important it is to provide your users – especially the new ones – with a lot of tips and support to help them make the most of your app. However, it’s just as important to remember that not everyone likes this approach.

Sometimes, users are coming back to an old app that they have already used, or they open a new user account. In other cases, a user simply can’t be bothered with waiting for a virtual tour to finish and they just want to start using the app right away.

Whatever the reason, remember to always make your app tours and tutorials optional, and provide your users with the option to skip them in one click.
6. Go the Extra Mile with in-App Customer Support
High user retention rates rely on offering stellar customer support. However, nobody wants to call an international phone number when they’re having trouble with a mobile app. Effective and efficient support should be provided within the app itself, such as swift and guided support on how to create a digital signature. This is to make the entire experience smooth, seamless, and pleasant.

Create a way to enable your customers to speak to support whenever they need, either via an in-app chat link, a chatbot, or a link that directs them to your help center and troubleshooting service.

7. Leverage Email to Communicate Off-App
Just because you are running a mobile app, and communicating mostly within the app itself, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should discard other means of communication completely. Take email, for example.

Using emails to interact with your users is a winning choice when it comes to boosting your retention rates. There are many ways in which you can leverage emails, including

  • Sending welcome emails to new users: This can work in two different ways. Firstly, you might want to send a welcome email to all new users in order to tell them a bit about your brand, and your app, and provide them with guidance on how to use it. In this email, you might also want to prompt them to take action and get in touch with your team if they have any questions, comments, or doubts, or if they experience any issues with the app.

Separately, you can send another email that contains a little gift for your new users in the form of either a freebie or a discounted product or service. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be anything too pricey – just a token of appreciation for downloading your app and showing them that their support means a lot to you.

  • Sending emails to users based on their behavior within the app: This approach can be particularly useful if you have noticed that some of your users are not leveraging one of your app’s features. In these emails, try to encourage them to explore your app further and discover all the different things that they can do with it.
  • Sending emails to users at risk of churning: Collect information on your users who are more likely to leave, and target them with special and appealing content such as discounts, offers, and freebies.
  • Sending emails to all users when you launch a new feature or version of the app: This is one of the very few cases in which you can send out the same email to your entire user base. Whenever you release a new feature, or whenever you upgrade your app, let your users know by sending out an email to alert them of the changes – and invite them to check them out.
  • Creating email drip campaigns for business users: This works mostly if you run a business-oriented app, and it needs to take into consideration the user’s role. You’ll want to send relevant content to the right people, instead of sending out generic emails to the entire company.

8. Make the Most of Push Notifications
Do you want to share tips, advice, and resources with your users without bombarding them with emails? Then, push notifications are a great alternative. With these, you can prompt users to perform specific actions within your app in a much subtler and more effective way.

Not only will this invite them to engage more with your app, but it will also show them that, by offering tips and advice in a much more respectful way, you value their privacy and personal time like signing a business associate agreement.

Remember, though, that you need to give your users the option of choosing to “opt-in” to your push notifications, otherwise they won’t be able to receive them.

9. Incorporate In-App Messages
Whether or not your app features a team chat, enabling in-app messages can be a strong choice to boost user engagement and retention. As we mentioned earlier, you should already be providing customer support within the app to enhance the user experience and boost retention as a result.

But there’s more. You can also run in-app marketing campaigns, advertise deals, offers and promotions, and send freebies to your loyal users. In-app messages can also come in handy if you want to alert your users to new app versions, payment failures, or other potential app issues.

10. Provide Value and Continue to Improve
This may sound obvious, but it’s a strong point to consider for app user retention rates to skyrocket – and remain high. The core of good, stable app retention rates is, after all, a good, solid, well-performing app.

Your app needs to provide a ton of value to your specific users, and you need to constantly assess its performance and act quickly if you think any improvements are needed. Keep checking your app’s ratings, reading (and responding to) your app’s reviews, and addressing anything that might sound potentially harmful to your user engagement rates.

Once you have a product in place that is of good quality, performs as it should, and provides the right type of value to its users, your user retention rates will automatically increase.

Start Lifting Your App’s User Retention Rates Today

Boosting your app’s user retention rates is not an easy task, but the ten tactics outlined in our article should provide you with a solid base from which to start. Remember that hyper-personalization, relevance, and strong performance are all key aspects to consider.

Similarly, you’ll want to bear in mind that communicating with your users – both in-app and off-app – is paramount, as it helps to drive engagement, loyalty, and ultimately retention.

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Yauhen Zaremba, Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc
Yauhen is the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc, offering proposal, document, and project quoting software among others. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, proposal, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year.

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