One area of interest or concern for mobile app developers and publishers is getting new subscribers to download – and continue to use -- their apps. Keeping track of all the variables that help drive loyal monthly active users can be complex. We’ve engineered a way to help: Sensor Tower’s Churn Analysis for Consumer Intelligence.
No churn is permanent in the app world -- even if a user deletes an app, the barriers to re-entry are minimal. However, an accelerating churn rate is a cause for concern for all apps in all categories.
Changes in churn rate can shine light on how many users leave a streaming video service after the conclusion of a hit show, the impact of sales and promotions on retail app users, and how live-ops and other gameplay modes keep gamers coming back for more.
With Sensor Tower insights through churn analysis, we can deliver deep insights that help you understand the loyalty and stickiness of app users.
In this product spotlight, we highlight several examples of Churn Analysis data that can help drive business decisions and provide more color on consumer engagement.
Churn rates are typically lower in app categories where usage is more of a regular consumer habit or behavior. For example, Instagram has a very high retained user penetration rate and a low churn rate in the single digits -- the lowest rate of its social media peers.
On the flip side, apps in discretionary or “fad-driven” sectors, such as retail, often have a higher churn rate. An average retailer cohort churn rate is between 20% - 40%. Etsy is an example from this category. The number of churned users for the Etsy app increased an average of 27% per month from February 2022 to Feb 2023 -- the highest of the cohort.
Closely tied to retail and overall spending is another category of apps called “buy now, pay later.” BNPL apps have elevated churn rates of between the high-20s and mid-30s. Two examples from in this category of apps from last year are Affirm and Klarna. The number of churned users increased by 200% at Affirm, and 43% at Klarna, according to Sensor Tower estimates. The situation for BNPL appears to be getting worse, with the percentage of new users falling. This means the apps in this category will need to see a surge in resurrected users, in order to make up for the higher churn rates and get back to maintaining top line growth.
Sensor Tower Churn Analysis is the first module in its space to help you quantify app churn. In addition to providing subscribers with a first-of-its-kind look at month-to-month churn rates, our Churn Analysis also breaks up an app’s active users into three distinct components:
New users - first-time installs within the past month.
Retained users - users that qualified as a monthly active user in the prior month.
Resurrected users - users that did not qualify as a monthly active user in the prior month, but who have previously installed the app and were a former monthly active user.
Each metric is critical to providing a full picture of how an app and, in many cases, a company are performing, as the penetration of mobile apps across all business sectors continues to rise rapidly.
The first component, new users, is driven by first-time installs during the past month. A high percentage of new installs could signal accelerated growth in total active users. Or, if MAU growth is slower or declining, the increased percentage could signal issues with existing user retention (a churn signal).
To put this into a real-world scenario, let’s consider the continued growth in the online dating app market.
The Hinge app, owned by Match Group, increased by 1.9 million MAUs in Feb ’23. This represented a growth of 68% YoY (surpassing Bumble for the first time since May’20). Since Jun’22, Hinge’s new users have grown an average of 37% per month YoY, compared to 32% for Bumble, 10% for Grindr, and 5% for Tinder.
The next component is retained users. While new user growth is a strong signal of demand, retaining users is essential for the health of an app.
Sensor Tower’s Retained Users metric measures the percent of an app’s MAUs that come from users in the prior month.
A higher number of retained users allows new installs to contribute to positive MAU growth, rather than just a backfill for churn. It is also likely that retained users offer better, and more frequent opportunities, for app revenue.
While the benchmark for retained users varies by app category, changes within this metric may signal positive or negative changes for a given app. For example, social media apps, such as Instagram and Facebook, have a significantly higher penetration of retained users versus some of the new social media apps and even other sectors, like dating or retail.
If a social media app is able to continue to grow its number of retained users, it makes the platform more valuable for advertisers, which is a major source of revenue for these apps.
In the case of Twitter, which has seen a sequential decline in the MoM growth of its retained users since Oct’22, the penetration of retained users has been relatively stable at 90% per month. This suggests that the decline is due to a slowdown in growth of total MAUs.
Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and BeReal have been the only platforms in the social media cohort with positive MoM retained user growth from Oct’22 to Feb’23. What is particularly impressive, however, is the sheer magnitude of Facebook and Instagram’s retained users - with more than a 94% monthly active user rate. That percentage equates to 2 billion people on Facebook and 1.3 billion people on Insta sticking with the apps. The next closest apps in the cohort were 390 million users on Pinterest, followed 45 million for BeReal.
The last component to analyze churn is Resurrected Users.
Resurrected Users measures those who did not use the app the prior month but have used the app in the past.
Getting consumers to re-engage with an app after a period of inactivity is critical to overall health and monetization. For example, spikes in resurrected users can help measure how the return of a hit TV series brings users back to a subscription video on demand (SVOD) platform or which retailer is winning the holiday shopping season.
For resurrected user metrics, of the apps we analyzed, grocery delivery apps had the highest percentage. This is likely driven by two factors: 1) people initially overloaded on CPG delivery apps out of necessity during COVID lockdowns and are only now revisiting the category organically, and 2) for many people, grocery delivery is an infrequent complement to in-store shopping.
The three largest grocery apps: Instacart, Getir, Gorillas, all had positive YoY growth in resurrected users in Jan’23 and Feb’23. The recent surge could be due to new promotions or other incentives to entice former customers to retry the apps.
Of the grocery delivery apps examined, Gorillas had the highest rate of resurrected users, but also the highest rate of new and churned users, suggesting that consumers’ engagement with the app is generally volatile. Conversely, Getir and Instacart have a higher penetration of retained users – which could signal higher loyalty to those who use the Gorillas app.
For more information on how we develop deep insights like these - or how you can get access to great capabilities like Churn Analysis for Consumer Intelligence, please request a demo - linked from the button below.