“Oh, this 5-minute exercise app looks so cool. I’ll install it and I’ll use it every day. Oh look, another cool note-taking app. I’ll finally organize my thoughts. What? An app with calming sounds for focus boosting? Install!”
A month later, we see the same user deleting apps like a maniac. They’ve installed so many apps that the phone or tablet is getting more challenging to use. They constantly get notifications about updates, but they don’t even care to update the apps they don’t use.
Let’s say you have 30 apps in your phone. How many of them do you really use? You want to try that new note-taking app, but you already have one… that you already don’t use. Can you list the apps you’re truly loyal to? How many do you have? Not as many as you’ve installed on your device, right?
App Users Don’t Give Many Chances
The example above and your own practice are not isolated cases. There’s something that makes us all forget about the apps we have in our tablets and phones. The total number of apps that people use isn’t changing much over the years. We don’t have time for too many new apps, so we are consolidating our choices and stick to the favorites.
A 2015 report from BI Intelligence showed that US app users were downloading an average of 8.8 apps per month. However, the average user spends about 70% of their time with three favorite apps. Based on the data provided by Quettra, an average Android app loses 77% of its daily active users within the first three days after they install it. The statistics get worse: the app loses 90% of the users over 30 days.
Why does this happen? The more important question is: how can app developers retain more of their users? We’ll elaborate on those issues in the article that follows.
The Reasons: Why Do People Forget about the Apps They Install?
People stop using apps simply because they forget about them. That would be the simplest answer to this question. However, this question has many layers we need to explore. Why did they forget? They don’t forget to check their favorite apps. What do these inferior apps lack?
Keith Samuel, a web developer at EssayOnTime, explains what standards an app should meet in order to become a regular part of the user’s life: “You may develop the most usable and technically advanced app, but the retention rate won’t be high if the app is not focused. You want to focus on a very particular audience and offer daily solutions. Plus, your app has to offer better solutions than the competitive apps in the store. Think of Remember the Milk; it’s an app that people use daily. It’s fast, simple and reliable, and you get so used to it that you can’t spend a day without it. Of course, some people will forget about it, but the retention rates are surely higher for an app that’s this effective.”
That’s a good point. Your app has to be great and it has to provide solutions for a very specific audience. Otherwise, people will forget about it. Let’s go through some details to answer the question more thoroughly: why do people forget about the apps they’ve installed?
1. It crashes
If the app seems interesting, many users will download it. If it crashes, you’ll lose them all. No one wants to be part of a testing experience. This is a rule: you test and perfect the app before launching the most stable version of it.
2. Slow performance
Everyone who loves slow apps, raise your hands! What? No one. That’s the point.
3. They find free options for the apps they are paying for
When you’re competing with other app developers from the same industry, you have to offer more value for the money of your users. If the competitors offer the same features for a lower fee or for free, you’ll lose your users.
People are curious by nature. They will want to try another app even if it comes for the same price. If it’s better, they will forget about yours.
4. Too many ads
When you launch a free app, you need the ads to make some money out of it. However, these ads make the user’s experience lousy. They make the app slower, and the users get extremely frustrated when they click on an ad by accident. There’s only one way for them to get revenge: the delete button.
5. Sign-up requirements
For some apps, a sign-up is necessary. For casual apps for daily use, however, the sign-up process causes a lot of frustrations. People don’t want to create profiles for an app that offers 5-minute exercise sessions, and they surely don’t want to connect it with their Facebook account. Therefore, many people delete the apps as soon as they download them, simply because they don’t have enough patience for the sign-up process.
These were only few of the many reasons why people forget about their apps and delete them at one point or another. Is your app guilty of any of these charges? It’s time to do something about it.
Practical Tips: How to Retain Your App Users
You invest a lot of work in a single goal: make your customers download your app. However, you have much more work to do in order to retain and engage them further. You want to turn them into loyal users, who will recommend your app to other people. Let’s see how you can do that.
1. Perfect the performance!
Fix all issues that cause crashing and keep evaluating the loading time. The users won’t ask why your app needs time to start; they will just want to access it in an instant. Taking too long to function will frustrate its users and they will delete it.
Test your app very thoroughly before launching it. Then, keep monitoring its performance and the reactions of your users. Make improvements whenever necessary. Apple has a great tool that gives you the data you need: Instruments.
2. Give them the right dose of notifications
A report provided by Leanplum showed that implementing push notifications into your strategy is a proven retention tactic, which can boost the rates of retention by 20%. The same report gives us another important point to consider: personalized push notifications, which results in 7 times higher retention rates.
However, you don’t want to bug people with too many notifications. You need to give them the option of choice. Let your users choose the notifications they want to get. Remember: not all of them are equal. Some people who have the Bible app want to get updates on the progress of their connections. Others consider such notifications irrelevant.
3. If your app is more expensive, explain why
Many people delete apps because they find free or cheaper alternatives. If you notice that your competitors are offering similar solutions for a lower price, you have two options: drop the price if you want to keep your users and attract new ones, or emphasize the points that make your app worth the money.
Conduct detailed research on the competition. Install their apps on your device and test them very thoroughly. Why would you pay for your app after trying these? If necessary, add more features to your app, so you’ll give greater value for the user’s money.
4. Turn your app into a habit for the users
Facebook, Instagram, Evernote… all these apps have become part of the daily lives of their users. Nir Eyal, the author of the book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, explains why this approach is effective: “Instead of relying on expensive marketing, habit-forming companies link their services to the users’ daily routines and emotions. A habit is at work when users feel a tad bored and instantly open Twitter. They feel a pang of loneliness and before rational thought occurs, they are scrolling through their Facebook feeds. A question comes to mind and before searching their brains, they query Google. The first-to-mind solution wins.”
The Bible App, for example, solves an important issue: reading the Bible takes a huge level of commitment, so the app breaks down the challenge in small daily doses. It gives notifications on the progress and sends proper reminders, so it quickly turns into a habitual app.
Other successful apps, like Evernote and Snapchat, also produce habits. You can do the same thing if you understand the issues your audience is facing on a daily basis, and then nudge them to remind them that your app can help.
5. Be smart with the ads
If you’re offering a free app that has to feature ads, the least you could do is provide an ad-free first experience for your users. When a first-time user gives your app a go and realizes how awesome it is, they won’t mind the ads that much. If they launch the app for the first time and see a screen full of ads, they won’t consider that approach as a warm welcome.
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If you decide to feature ads in your app, make sure they are relevant! If, for example, you’re offering an app that helps people stick to a healthy lifestyle, you don’t want any ads for fashion stores, Viagra pills, the coolest headphones, and other things that don’t matter to your target audience.
6. Make the sign-up as easy as it gets. If it’s not necessary, avoid it!
If you ask your users to sign up, you’re wasting significant moments of their time. If your app calls for such aspect, make it as quick and easy as it gets. You have two major options: email and social login. It would be best to give both options for your users. A social login means they will be able to publish their achievements on social media. Some people love doing that, others will delete the app if that’s the only option you give. Remember: a username and password is all they need. Don’t include security questions, unless your app deals with sensitive data.
If you’re offering an app for healthy meals, daily exercise, reading, or any other casual activity, the sign-up is hardly necessary. You can simply ask for their name, so you’ll personally address them in the notifications.
Cody app, for example, makes the sign-up process rather complicated. It puts you through a whole tutorial before you can sign up to get started. Of course you can skip that part, but some users don’t bother skipping or signing up – they simply give up. They might say “I’ll do it later,” and they will probably forget they downloaded the app.
7. Target them with special offers
So you have an ecommerce website and you want to offer an app for your customers? That’s great. Shopping is going mobile, too, and your app will offer an easier experience for the mobile users. Peter Rojas, co-founder of Engadget and Gizmodo, agrees: “I think the biggest change, and the one we’re already starting to see take shape, is that globally the majority of Internet usage will be done via a mobile device and for most people the mobile web will be their primary – if not their only – way of experiencing the Internet.”
The app will offer an easier shopping experience for mobile users. However, the user may forget your app if you don’t remind them it’s there. You can target them with special discounts, which are only available for the people who use the app.
If you’re not selling anything, you can still retain users with special offers. For example, you can offer a premium feature for free during a limited period of time.
The Bottom Line
If your users are forgetting they have the app installed in their phones, you’re doing something wrong. It doesn’t mean your app is not good enough; it only means you’re not doing enough to get the users engaged. Hopefully, the above-listed tips will help you fix that.
What strategies do you have for retaining your users? Do they work?