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Mobile Marketing

How to Boost Mobile App Retention

Ashley Sefferman  //  September 13, 2016  //  5 min read

As app publishers, we all know how difficult it can be to drive new customers to download and use our apps. But when it comes to app retention, keeping customers loyal and satisfied over time is still a hurdle across all industries.

Based on our research, only 40% of customers continue to use an app they downloaded a month ago. Six months later, that number drops to 10%, and after a year, only 4% of customers will still be using the app.

App retention over time

With the sheer number of apps available, it’s important to continually focus on what brings people back to your app over and over again. In other words, if you truly want a successful app, your focus should be on retention above all other metrics.

In this post, we go through why app retention matters to long-term success, along with actionable tips you can use to improve your in-app feedback strategy.

In-app feedback = the key to app retention

The best way to truly know how your customers feel about your app at scale is with feedback, which is best asked for in-app in order to not disrupt your customer’s experience. Understanding why current customers continue to use your app will allow you to focus on what brings customers back, and shifting your focus toward what customers want will improve your app, and in turn, increase app retention.

But don’t just take my word for it! Apptentive research shows that people who are interacted with in-app are four times as likely to continue using the app three months later.

In-app engagement boost app retention

Asking for feedback in-app allows you to find out what can be improved in the app before learning about the issue via a review left in the app stores, or worse, learning about it by watching customers leave. But asking for feedback in-app isn’t always easy, and many brands miss out on a huge opportunity by not asking for it.

In a recent study we conducted across our customer base on 28-day retention, we learned many apps across all categories still struggle when it comes to building strong app store retention. We also noticed stark differences between apps that perform well or poorly. Let’s take a look at the results, broken down by app category.

Based on our research, the highest retaining categories are:

Highest retaining app categories

  • News (82.78%)
  • Finance (82.16%)
  • Shopping (78.66%)
  • Medical (77.45%)
  • Music (75.89%)
  • Health & Fitness (74.89%)

These categories come in with return retentions in the mid 70 to low 80 percent range. These categories form habits that keep customers coming back consistently. For example, news apps become people’s “I’ve got 10 minutes to burn” apps. Also similar are finance apps, which people check habitually to ensure their financial well being.

On the other side of the retention spectrum, we have the poor performers. These categories have trouble making habitual customers, with less than 60% of users coming back to the app in four weeks:

Lowest retaining app categories

  • Casual (35.18%)
  • Tools (42.51%)
  • Simulation (44.73%)
  • Photo & Video (51.73%)
  • Adventure (52.16%)
  • Family (55.66%)
  • Food & Drink (59.75%)

Based on the above, it’s clear that apps across all categories and stages see room for improvement when it comes to app retention, and the best place to start is by improving your in-app feedback strategy.

Here are three tips to help get you started:

3 tips for better in-app feedback

1. Give your customers a voice.

We all want our customers to talk to us, but rarely provide them with the tools to do so. That needs to change. Having a place where customers can send feedback in-app will open a door to understanding what is great about your app and what needs improvement.

For customers, giving feedback should be simple and easy to do. The more intuitive and integrated into the app your feedback channel is, the more likely customers will reach out to you. Don’t ask customers to write an email, post to a social network, or leave the app in any way to get help or be heard. You wouldn’t ask a customer in a retail store to call support instead of asking someone in the store; the concept holds true in your app’s experience, and you shouldn’t ask people inside your app to contact you via another method. Meet your customers where they already are (e.g. in your app) by giving them an opportunity to reach your brand without disruption.

2. Encourage feedback at the right mobile moment.

Providing a place to receive feedback in-app is a great start, but you also need to make a proactive effort to show how important feedback is to you. Let customers know you are listening and want their feedback by proactively engaging with them at smart times throughout the app. Most customers aren’t used to being asked for feedback and need encouragement, so simply having a “Give Feedback” button in the menu, or a well-timed prompt asking for feedback can show customers you care.

Encouraging feedback is about starting a conversation with a customer, and it’s important to ask for feedback at the right mobile moment in order to give conversations the best opportunity to begin. Mobile devices are personal, and people use them in unique ways, depending on the app. It’s crucial to understand your customer journey and to pick out the best communication points within your app’s experiences (e.g. after a customer has completed a purchase, if they view a certain page, when they complete a level, etc.) to find the right time to ask for feedback.

Remember, be conservative on how often you ask for feedback and give the customer time to use the app before you ask the first time. Nobody likes to be bombarded with prompts or questions, especially when they’re being asked to give feedback.

3. Validate feedback and let customers know they’ve been heard.

Customers who leave feedback drive your business forward, and every piece of feedback whether it is praise or criticism should be valued, and then validated. It’s important to let customers know they have been heard and that the suggestion (especially the time it took to give it!) was appreciated.

There are a few rules to follow when validating customer feedback:

  • Say thank you: Always respond with a “thank you,” even if the feedback was incredibly rude or it was something you have heard a million times.
  • Follow up: Always be sure to follow up with your customers after they leave feedback with another thank you, the status of their request, etc. For customers who may have had a larger issue, consider giving them something for free for their time.
  • Be honest: Sometimes it’s not possible to solve a problem on the spot. If a customer leaves feedback around an issue that can’t be fixed or is a low priority, be honest and tell them why.
  • Give credit: When there are updates or changes made to the app, give credit where credit is due by thanking your customers who drew your attention to the issue in the update notes. You can even take this one step further by personally reaching out to those who gave feedback and thanking them privately. Customers who get their problems solved become some of your biggest fans!

Conclusion

And there you have it! Retaining customers can be tricky, but the in-app feedback tips above can help turn your one-time users into loyal, happy customers.

Have you had success with additional app retention techniques? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

About Ashley Sefferman

Ashley Sefferman is Head of Content at Apptentive. A digital communication and content strategy enthusiast, she writes about multichannel engagement strategies, customer communication, and making the digital world a better place for people. Follow Ashley on Twitter at @ashseff.
View all posts by Ashley Sefferman >

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