7 Ways To Increase User Retention And Create Better Apps

This post will how you how to increase the user retention of your app and create better apps at the same time.

Marketing and App Store Optimization can put your app in front of millions of people and help it get downloaded more times than you ever thought possible. But if people delete your app soon after downloading it, all that effort was wasted. They won't tell their friends about it, they won't spend money on your in-app purchases and they will be less likely to download your next app (that is, if you manage to create enough income from this app to make a next one).

On top of that, now that Apple has also added ratings and retention to the ranking equation, it is more important than ever that you create an app that is well liked and used on a regular basis. But how do you make it more likely that people will stick around and continually use your app? This post will show you seven ways that you can do a better job of holding onto the users you have, so don't have to work so hard on acquiring new ones.

Create A Quality App

The first reaction from any app developer would be to say that in order to increase ratings and retention, you need to create an app that fulfills a need, has an excellent user interface and is fast.

This is certainly true.

But isn't there something more to user retention than just building an awesome app? We all know that the "build it and they will come" strategy is not going to work when you are up against an ever-increasing number of apps.

Luckily, there is a lot more that you can do to retain users. Here are the six other elements that you should consider implementing to keep users happy so they use your app for a long time to come.

Use Strategic Notifications

When push notifications are used correctly, they can politely keep your app in the front of the minds of your users. Use notifications too often, and people will get irritated and delete your app. Too few notifications, and your app is doomed to the same fate.

In a study by Urban Airship, they found that there was an 80% higher retention rate for users receiving push notifications in the first month after download. They also found that the correct use of push messaging more than doubled user retention over a six month period after downloading the app.

First be sure that you have a user's permission to send notifications. Then experiment with different notification periods to find the right balance for your audience.

Build A Community Outside Of Your App

Relying on user interaction within your app creates a single point of failure. Encouraging and even rewarding users for interacting on Twitter and Facebook can create buzz around your app and keep people coming back for more.

One app that does a good job of interacting with their users is Angry Birds. With over 25 million Facebook fans, they are clearly doing something right. Check out their Facebook Page and Twitter account, and see what you can learn from them.

An added bonus is that you can also advertise on these platforms. Check out our post on Facebook Mobile Install Ads to find out more.

Regular Updates

Be sure to update your app regularly and even consider adding season specific content to keep users interested and engaged. Updating your app on a regular schedule also allows you to implement new features and fix bugs faster. The fresher and more up to date your app, the better your reviews will be and it will be more likely that users will keep your app around.

Implement Game Dynamics

If you don't think that game dynamics work, consider how a game like Clash of Clans can make $1 million per day, on iOS alone. Even if you don't have a game, there are elements of game dynamics that can help you keep users coming back, again and again.

A great reference for learning about game dynamics can be found in this post. It is a little old, but it still applies because human psychology never really changes. This post on Gamasutra is also another good explanation of game dynamics and how to create happiness within a game.

In-App Feedback

Using tools like Apptentive can intercept negative feedback and allow you to provide your users with a more responsive customer service experience. Happier customers lead to more word-of-mouth advertising and better ratings on the App Store.

Communicate The Benefits Of Your App

Even if you think that the functions of your app are self explanatory, there still may be some people who do not see it that way. Consider providing a brief tour of your app for first time users and make sure that all the functions of your app are well labeled. Some careful thought can go a long way to creating happy users and helping them understand the true potential of your app.

Allowing people to create user generated content is another way to help new users understand why your app is invaluable. Tools like Kamcord record user gameplay and make it available for sharing within the game and on YouTube.


User acquisition is becoming more competitive and expensive, so you need to keep the users that you do attract. By implementing as many of these tips as you can, you will give your app the best possible chance of not only being downloaded, but staying installed on those mobile devices for a long time to come.

Do you have any tips for retaining users? Let us know in the comments below.

Sensor Tower's platform is an enterprise-level offering. Interested in learning more?

Hugh Kimura

Written by: Hugh Kimura, Head of Content

Date: November 2013

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