5 Things That Can Increase Retention In Mobile Apps

Mobile Applications come in two business models. The first depends on the sale of applications, and actual retention is only a minor concern so far as it can drive additional downloads. The second model depends on user engagement, and the application is generally free, and it relies on user retention to drive ad or sales revenue.

According to Flurry Analytics, which monitors data for over 20,000 Android and iPhone applications and over 2 billion user sessions each month, user retention across all apps drops an average of 85 percent by the first month. This means that 85 out of every 100 people who download an app will have deleted it from their phone within the first 30 days. After six months, retention is only 5 percent.

For apps that depend on user engagement and constant use over time, these numbers are troubling. However, there are many solutions that can increase retention and make applications successful over time.

We’ve taken a quick survey of the software development and marketing teams here at Amadeus Consulting, and come up with the top 5 things that affect mobile app retention.

Usability
Updates
Marketing  & Acquisition
Design
Integration

Usability

So you have a great idea, and you’ve created an app, but it has a really low retention rate. What’s wrong?  Well, the most likely problem is its usability. If users cannot figure out how to use it and get it running in 10 seconds or less, they will delete you and potentially find a competitor’s app that is easier to use, even if it does not provide the same depth of services.

Some things that affect usability include a mandatory or lengthy registration, difficult or unusual controls, a very clunky interface, or slow sync time between the app and your servers. In order to increase the value of your app, you need to optimize the user experience.

For example, let’s say that you are a local pizza restaurant and you have an application that is designed to increase sales of pizzas by letting users place orders through the application. For you to be successful, your application needs make ordering pizzas as simple of a process as possible. Evaluating good UI design is difficult to describe in words, but basically the user should not have to think about how to use the app, and it should be intuitive with as few steps as possible.

An extension of this idea is creating a positive user experience. Some apps claim to provide certain functionalities, but they require a lengthy setup process, or have a clunky interface, or are not intuitive, or have any number of other usability problems. Good development requires more than just great coding. It requires an understanding of how people will use the application, and a development process focused on the end user.

Great interface design is a very valuable skill and it can make-or-break an application in the eyes of your users. Even if you have excellent in-house programming to back up the UI design, it may be worth your time to look at getting help with the interface.

Updates

The problem with software is that it changes so often. Your app may work perfectly today, but tomorrow Apple may provide an update to the iPhone operating system and your app suddenly develops bugs. Can your developer anticipate the changes and provide an update to your application to prevent downtimes?

Developers need to offer troubleshooting and “IT” service to the application once it is developed. If you are hiring a third party to develop your app, you should at the very least expect a warranty period, but also carefully consider the option for extended service and upgrades, which usually cost extra. In most cases, you or your developer will be able to anticipate changes or upcoming issues and provide an update to your app that will limit downtimes.

Also, some operating systems are used across different phones. What will happen to your app over the next few months if Apple releases a new version of the iPhone, or if Android OS comes out on a different model?  You need to consistently provide compatibility updates; otherwise people will drop your application in droves.

Additionally, frequent content updates are an excellent way to keep people engaged. If people know that there is an update coming soon, or that you provide frequent content additions to a paid app, then they are more likely to download it and hang onto it. Updates are also a great way to remind users that your app is still there, and remind them to use it.

These recommendations are all things we take into consideration when we develop mobile applications for our customers. They are the best way to keep users engaged with your app; let us help you in the process.

Marketing

There are two sides to retention: The usability side, which encompasses most of what we’re talked about so far, and the acquisition side, which means getting people to download the app initially.

Acquisition includes more than just a measure of the number of downloads; it also describes how well people are able to find the app, and how likely they are to download it. Just remember, on the Apple App store, there are over 180,000 applications. You need to make yours stand out.

How do you do that?  First, you need to make sure that it meets basic search engine optimization (SEO) requirements, which includes making sure that it is appropriately labeled and categorized during that submission process. You wouldn’t want your new banking app to end up in the games section, because people that wanted a banking app would never find it. The description and information needs to be targeted and exact using appropriate keywords, but also inviting. Pictures almost always help, especially if you have a great UI, but you also need to make sure that everything else is correct.

Second, you need market your application. You need to tell people about it, and provide some incentive to download it. If you are building an application for a current business, then you can piggy back on a few of your other marketing efforts so that you include your app as well. Additionally, there are also many websites that specialize in app reviewing and rating and you can work with these sites to provide a bit more visibility to your application.

Also, a word about rankings: while it may be tempting to pad your own rankings, doing so is extremely dangerous and has gotten more than a few apps banned from the store, and is fairly easy for users to spot. Instead of padding your own rankings, use your time to build legitimate user reviews by being very transparent and providing frequent updates and quality feedback to users. There are thousands of new app startups, and if you are planning on being in the app business (or offering apps) for awhile then you definitely want to brand yourself as reputable.

I know many third-party developers, including Amadeus Consulting, provide specialized SEO and marketing for apps, which are definitely worth looking into. Whether you do it, or if you hire someone else to help you do it, marketing will give your app an extra ‘oomph’ that it needs for a successful launch, and give you the momentum to succeed down the road.

In Conclusion

Creating an application is not a pass/fail process. Like almost everything else, quality matters. To make a comparison, it is like creating a personal Facebook account but never logging in, accepting friends, or responding to friendly inquiries. Are you on Facebook?  Yes, technically. But it is not doing anything for you, and may even be hurting since you seem to ignore everyone who would be interested. App development works the same way:  having a bad app is much worse than having no app at all.

What this means is that you need to understand that creating an app is an investment and a commitment. It also means that if you are looking to get into the app business, you may be much better off investing in an experienced third party developer that can guide you through the process and manage it with you until you are ready to take over.

Stay tuned for our second part of this post, where we will discuss Design and Integration best practices for mobile application development and retention.

As the Search Visibility Manager at Amadeus Consulting, Monica’s knowledge is extensive in search engine marketing and conversion optimization strategies. Monica is dedicated to helping both Amadeus Consulting and our clients succeed online and is passionate about all things search. The Search Visibility Insights blog offers knowledge and market-related information for readers interested in the ever-changing world of online marketing trends.

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