Unlocking successful app retention: mindset and methods

15 December 2020

Google Play collaborated with The Behavioural Architects to develop a set of best practices around retaining app users. In this report, we share strategies that can help achieve higher rates of app retention.

Historically the focus of the app industry has been user acquisition, which has become more expensive and conversion strategies are already highly optimised. Industry experts across the board agree on the growing importance of shifting focus towards stronger engagement with existing users and retaining them over time.

“People don’t appreciate that they can always buy growth, but you can’t buy engagement, it has to be built into the product. Unless you have a crappy product, it’s much more cost-effective to spend resources on keping existing customers than finding new.”

- Nir Eyal, author of Hooked and Indistractable

Retention strategies focus on increasing the chances of users returning to your app within a given time frame throughout the whole user journey. While it can be more complex to achieve retention goals compared to optimising at the top of the funnel, we investigated three simple methods that can help improve retention rates:

  1. Understanding how habits are formed - understanding why is habitual use important and what the key elements are to habit formation.
  2. Analysing the patterns of behaviour among the retained users - understanding and breaking down what key features long-term user groups have used, and at what frequency to identify drivers of retention.
  3. Setting and tracking the best retention metrics for your app - looking past simple measures and finding the right combination of inputs to understand why users are returning.

The need to understand what keeps users over time has grown, and even accelerated in the context of Covid-19, with new user behaviours, economic slowdown and shrinking budgets.

You can read the report here, but please contact us if you'd like to learn more about the work.




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