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2022 Mobile Customer
Engagement Benchmark Report

Trends that will define the year in mobile—and beyond

If 2020 was the shift to mobile, 2021 was the year we saw it reflected in the numbers.

Industries rebounded, work styles continued to shift, and consumers stuck to their mobile-first habits, spending more time and money in mobile apps than any year prior. Alongside the continued app economy boon, mobile retention, interactions, ratings, and expressed emotion flourished. 

Through collecting data from 1,000 iOS and Android apps with 5,000+ active users across one billion app installs, Apptentive’s seventh-annual Mobile Customer Engagement Benchmark Report shows that mobile teams working on the largest apps in the marketplace capitalized on the increased amount of customer feedback to make meaningful improvements to their digital offerings. The report contains data from various industries, including Finance, Food and Drink, Media and Entertainment, Healthcare, Travel, Shopping, Personal Services, Business Services, Utilities, and Education.

The mobile channel continued to be the most powerful and direct channel to consumers across all industries, with engagement outperforming desktop web and television. Mobile consumer feedback changed product roadmaps, improved ROI, drove revenue, and got companies closer to achieving their overall business goals.  

Ultimately, consumer feedback doesn’t matter without taking action.

There are three feedback-focused product goals winning mobile teams should prioritize in 2022: 

  1. Focus on the first 30 days. Make an early investment in retention and lifetime value by proactively engaging with customers in the first 30 days. 
  2. Segment by customer emotion. Treat people differently based on their expressed emotions—especially if they’ve shifted how they feel. 
  3. Close customer feedback loops. Capturing, analyzing, and acting on feedback are the first steps. Complete the loop by telling your customer their voice was heard—and show them that it drove a specific improvement.

Dive Deeper

Download the 2022 Mobile Customer Engagement Report to see detailed data from your industry and app store category.

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Key Findings

Apptentive’s benchmark for average 30-day retention is 67%—an increase of more than three times the industry average, driven by proactive consumer engagement. 

Apptentive’s benchmark for average 90-day retention is 58%—an increase of double the industry average. If consumers engaged with a Love Dialog in the first 90 days, their average retention rate went up to 79%. 

Brands shifted focus to improve long-term retention. 65% of consumers who were proactively engaged in Q1 were still seen later in the year (Q3-Q4). 

Apptentive’s benchmark for in-app survey response rates is 13%—much higher than the industry average for survey response rates of 1%.

14% of consumers shifted their emotions between Fan and Risk audience segments. Within the shifted emotions, an average of 52% of consumers shifted from Fan to Risk.

The risk of churn to both Fans and Risks was comparable throughout the year. This is particularly notable for consumers categorized as Risks, challenging the assumption that most unhappy people will leave. 

Customer Sentiment

Understanding consumer sentiment starts with gauging consumer emotion. Apptentive’s Love Dialog feature is used to gather the data, which starts with a simple “yes” or “no” question: “Do you love our company?”

In 2021, 93% of all consumers who were prompted by a Love Dialog responded “Yes” or “No” rather than closing out of the prompt. On iOS, the number was even higher at 96%, compared to 87% of consumers on Android. The Love Dialog garners such high response rates primarily because of its simplicity. People are willing to answer short, simple questions and share feedback when they’re proactively asked for it at the right mobile moment. The Love Dialog allows mobile teams to take a quick, regular pulse of consumer health and happiness over time.

Let’s focus on the people who responded “Yes,” which make up our Love Percent. In 2021, 64% of consumers prompted responded that “Yes,” they loved the brand. These quick responses are a great way for brands to quickly understand consumer emotion without asking people to leave the app for feedback, or to take another step away from their intended use of the app. They’re also a much better indicator of consumer happiness and potential lifetime value than lagging metrics like NPS.

Expressed Sentiment

Winning brands have moved away from using passive, lagging indicators (like NPS) to measure consumer satisfaction. Instead, their focus is now on fluid, comprehensive metrics like Love Percent and Expressed Sentiment to holistically understand the voice of the customer. By keeping a constant pulse on emotion through regular check-ins and proactively asking for—and acting on—feedback, brands are able to enhance first-party customer data, better understand customer journeys, and deliver product enhancements that can actually be tied to longer lifetime value, improved consumer happiness, and more revenue.

Measuring customer emotion and sentiment helps brands build first-party data profiles and offer more personalized digital experiences. We capture emotion data through Fan Signals™, which allows mobile teams to measure expressed sentiment across time and touchpoints, identifying Fans, Risks, and when sentiment has shifted—down to individual customer IDs.

To measure emotion data, consumers are grouped into six segments:

  • New Fans: Customers who have expressed positive emotion for the first time
  • Repeat Fans: Customers who have expressed positive emotion at least twice in a row
  • New Risks: Customers who have expressed negative emotion for the first time
  • Repeat Risks: Customers who have expressed negative emotion at least twice in a row
  • Shifted to Fan: Customers whose expressed emotion has shifted from negative to positive, or from Risk to Fan
  • Shifted to Risk: Customers whose expressed emotion has shifted from positive to negative, or from Fan to Risk

In 2021, the mobile channel was used to supplement in-person touchpoints, and brands got better at leveraging it at a regular cadence. Repeat Fans (30%) outpaced New Fans (27%), which means brands are getting better at prompting consumers with the Love Dialog more than once. In return, consumers are regularly responding with their feedback, sticking around long enough to be prompted multiple times. The regular cadence of asking for and receiving consumer feedback allows brands to create continuous feedback loops and offer better in-app experiences over time.

An average of 14% of consumers shifted their emotions in 2021 (Shifted to Fan + Shifted to Risk). Within the shifted emotions, an average of 52% of consumers shifted from Fan to Risk. We know that people will not have positive brand experiences all the time. But most companies are unable to predict churn before it happens, which is why being able to identify shifts in emotions as they happen is so important. By measuring changes in sentiment in real time, brands can get ahead of churn by proactively reaching out to consumers, especially those who have shifted from Fan to Risk. Understanding why people are unhappy and working to fix what went wrong gives brands an advantage over those who can’t quantify consumer experience in the same way.

Retention

While customer acquisition, ratings and reviews, and social proof are externally-visible success indicators of a brand, customer retention plays the biggest role in increased customer lifetime value and improved ROI. In 2021, brands talked to more of their consumers than ever before, while clearly shifting their strategies toward retention. As a result, they produced extreme year-over-year gains.

For the average mobile app, 30-day retention falls between 15-20% (Appsflyer and Statista, 2021). Apptentive’s data shows an average 30-day retention rate of 67%—an increase of more than three times the industry average, driven by proactive consumer engagement.

90-day retention for the average mobile app falls between 20-30% (Appsflyer 2021, MixPanel 2020). Apptentive’s data shows an average 90-day retention rate of 58%—an increase of double the industry average. If consumers engaged with a Love Dialog in the first 90 days, their average retention rate went up to 79%.

Annual retention is generally not reported due to the acceptance of regular, high consumer churn, but many companies who have shifted their strategies from acquisition toward retention have begun benchmarking annually. Across all apps in our dataset, 44% of consumers who used the app in January were seen in December. If the consumers saw an Apptentive interaction in January, 60% were still seen in December—an improvement of 36% just from mobile teams being proactive about gathering consumer feedback.

Comparing churn risk for people who responded “Yes” (Fans) and people who responded “No” (Risks) tells another compelling story. We would expect to see people who say they love the app remain active longer because they are happy, and people who said they do not love the app drop off quicker due to a problem. But in 2021, the risk of churn to both Fans and Risks was comparable throughout the year.

This is particularly notable for consumers categorized as Risks, challenging the assumption that most unhappy people will leave. Brands who gave both happy and unhappy consumers a voice to express their emotions directly within the app saw their retention numbers throughout the year stay about the same—even when consumers had negative experiences with the brand. This insight allows mobile product teams to understand the concern and adjust their product roadmap so the experience can be fixed, ultimately saving relationships they would otherwise lose.

Interaction and Response Rates

Companies continued using their apps to engage regularly with consumers as mobile became a primary way for them to communicate. In response, consumers interacted more with brands through their apps.

At year end, interaction rates remained equal to what they were in 2020 at 26%. The average response rate to in-app interactions was 91%—which means that the overwhelming majority of consumers who were interacted with responded to the brand’s outreach.

While correlation isn’t causation, looking at overlapping data points can help us infer what bets paid off for mobile product teams, along with where they can adjust their roadmaps to improve. In 2021, there was correlation between interaction rates and retention rates. Business Services and Personal Services apps had both high interaction and retention rates, while Healthcare and Education apps had low interaction and retention rates.

There was also correlation between interaction rate and Love Percent. Brands who interacted with a higher number of consumers tended to have a better Love Percent, as seen in Media and Entertainment apps. Education apps fell on the opposite side of the spectrum, with both low interaction rates and Love Percents.

Ratings and Reviews

App store ratings and reviews are an important piece of the puzzle in understanding holistic customer experience and driving long-term customer lifetime value.

When we asked, consumers were clear that the lower the star rating, the less likely they’d be to download the app. The opportunity cost of a star is huge. Moving a three-star app to four stars, for example, can lead to an 89% increase in conversion.

Across the apps included in our study, the average star rating was 4.67. Apps had an average of 85,540 star ratings and an average of 967 app store reviews.

It’s challenging to compare apps across categories due to differences in consumer behavior, particularly when it comes to ratings and reviews. Comparing apps to others in their industry yields a more accurate picture of performance.

Apps across industries saw differences across their average star ratings, on both iOS and Android.

There was also disparity across the total distribution of star ratings in both app stores. Below is the 2021 distribution across both iOS and Android, by app category.

Since the release of iOS 11, we’ve seen a downturn in the number of iOS reviews as the rating process was simplified. Google also released big changes to its Play Store in-app review API in October 2020, which had a sweeping impact on how app publishers prompt for ratings and feedback. Ultimately, the changes to both app stores made the process of rating an app easier, less disruptive, and more in-line with the goal of optimizing for consumer feedback rather than gamifying high ratings.

However, the number of app store reviews have steadily decreased as it’s harder for consumers to leave a review now that ratings prompts are decoupled. ​​Decoupling refers to targeting customers for ratings separate from an audience that sees the Apptentive Love Dialog, or showing the Rating Dialog at another point in your customers app journey that is not immediately after the Love Dialog. Adding a step in the consumer feedback journey means that, by default, it will be harder and less likely that people complete the path.

Below are the average number of ratings both iOS and Android apps saw across the last five years.

Below is the distribution of the average number of app store reviews, by app category, in 2021.

We also saw an interesting correlation between star ratings and Love Percent. Industries like Finance and Healthcare have a high Love Percent and average start rating; industries like Education and Media and Entertainment have a low Love Percent and average star rating. This drives home the point that while high app store ratings aren’t the most important piece of the consumer feedback puzzle, they are a critical part to get right.

Surveys

The best decisions are informed by an abundance of data from a representative cross section of your customer base, and mobile surveys are often the best way to get it. Mobile surveys are powerful in understanding sentiment, but only if they’re shown at the right place and time within the app, to the right consumer segment.

There was a 9% increase in the number of surveys sent in 2021 from 2020. Brands are talking to more consumers and are more comfortable engaging with them over longer periods of time, particularly when around closing feedback loops by telling consumers their voices were heard. Over the past four years, we’ve seen the volume of in-app surveys grow exponentially.

Mobile teams also expanded the number of people they prompted to answer surveys to an average of 28% of consumers—an increase of 12% from 2020. The more consumers you hear from, the more holistic your feedback will be.

On average, most brands only hear from less than 1% of their customers surveyed. Our research shows the average response rate for in-app surveys was 13%. While 2021’s response rates were slightly lower than in 2020 (16%), they’re an off-the-charts comparison to the industry standard of 1%. Many companies broadened their survey audiences this year in response to continued high MAU, and mobile teams have diverse intentions with the surveys they send. While the survey response rate decreased slightly, the number of customers prompted went way up—a tradeoff that still indicates success in connecting with consumers for their feedback.

Not all surveys are delivered in the same way, and when consumers are given the choice to opt in or out, response rates soar. Surveys that are linked to using an Apptentive Note, saw an average response rate of 50%. In other words, half of all end-consumers across both operating systems responded to Note-linked surveys.

The average NPS for Apptentive customers in 2021 was +54 (“good” scores typically fall between +40-50, depending on industry). But NPS is just a surface-level indicator. NPS as it exists today does not help companies understand customer emotion in real time, nor does it give insight into how emotions shift through customer journeys. At Apptentive, we advocate for our customers to run non-biased, open-ended surveys over—or in addition to—NPS in order to truly dig into customer emotion driving sentiment. This means our customers don’t only target their fans in order to get a high result. Instead, they ask for feedback from happy and unhappy customers alike, which allows teams to holistically understand what’s driving their customer experience and how they can have a bigger impact.

How Mobile Teams Should Respond

2021 was the year heavy investment in digital transformation— with mobile as the main channel—clearly paid off.

Consumers continued engaging with the mobile-first offerings many brands expedited in 2020, solidifying product and resourcing decisions made by companies across all industries. Teams had the opportunity to listen to more feedback from mobile consumers than ever before, and those who acted on it made considerable market share gains. 

Ultimately, mobile consumer feedback doesn’t matter without taking action. To summarize the report data, there are three feedback-focused product goals winning mobile teams should prioritize in 2022. 

#1: Focus on the first 30 days

Many mobile product teams gauge success by daily retention, even though it can skew their approach to investments in loyalty and happiness. For some industries, like Food and Drink or Media and Entertainment, daily retention is a good indicator of engagement as the goal is to get consumers in the app as frequently as possible. But for many other industries, like Finance, Travel, and Healthcare, it’s unreasonable to assume consumers will open the app every day. Mobile teams across industries must shift their focus on long-term retention, starting with the first 30 days. 

The first 30 days of a new consumer’s experience with an app are a strong indicator of lifetime value. Make early investments in personalizing their journey, being proactive about asking how they feel, and delivering the right message, to the right person, via the right medium, at the right place and time within the app. 

As you master the first 30 days, expand your reports to track 90–day and annual retention. Brands that take a holistic approach to retention—and typically have high retention rates—focus both on the short and long term. For some teams, taking this approach may require reevaluating their current retention philosophy (e.g. setting higher short-term retention goals, tracking retention over a longer period of time, etc.).

#2: Segment by customer emotion 

How would you act if you could predict when customers were ready to leave?

For product and marketing leaders goaled on retention, growth, and customer experience, knowing how customers feel is as important as knowing what they think. Most large companies rely solely on surveys to solicit customer thoughts about recent transactions, or gauge the likelihood of future loyalty. Yet the best predictor of future behavior really is the emotion that customers feel after interacting with a brand. 

The mobile channel is a way to maintain an always-on, always-present connection with your consumers, and it’s critical to tap into that emotional pulse. Acting on emotions in real-time often makes the difference between achieving brand goals and falling short. 

In order to treat consumers differently based on how they feel, you must start by measuring their emotions—with a focus on people who have shifted their feelings between happy and unhappy. We categorize these customers as Fans and Risks. The more mobile teams can hyper-personalize consumer experiences through in-app behaviors, purchase patterns, usage, and expressed emotion—ideally down to the individual customer ID—the more success they’ll have at delivering customized experiences that aim to please

#3: Close customer feedback loops

Closed-loop feedback is the process of capturing, analyzing, acting on, and following up on customer feedback. While closing the loop certainly benefits companies by informing product roadmaps, driving marketing initiatives, and increasing customer loyalty, it also benefits customers directly to know their voice is being heard and acted upon. Proving to your customers that their voice drove impactful change is a powerful way to build loyalty and reduce churn.

The idea of closing feedback loops is simple, but few companies actually prioritize it due to difficulties in gathering feedback from the right people, being unable to act on insights, or difficulty with scaling hyper-personalized content experiences. Gartner research shows that of the 95% of companies who collect customer feedback, only 10% use the feedback to improve, and only 5% tell customers what they are doing in response to what they heard (Gartner 2021). 

There are four steps to take in closing customer feedback loops: capture feedback, analyze feedback, act on feedback, and follow up with customers who shared the feedback. Simply following two or three of these four steps is not enough to fully understand the customer experience and inform your marketing and product initiatives. Mobile teams who will win in 2022 have figured out a way to incorporate all four into an ongoing practice.

About the Authors

Christy Culp

Chief Customer Officer,
Apptentive

Mel Jones

VP of Engineering,
Apptentive

Surbhi Modi

Data Analyst,
Apptentive

Ashley Sefferman

Head of Content,
Apptentive

Madeleine Doyle

Senior Content Marketing
Manager, Apptentive

The authors would like to thank Ben Kreuter, Ryan Galloway, Robi Ganguly, Ryan Tvenge, and the design team The Medium for their contributions to this report.

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