How to Increase Mobile App User Retention and Engagement

Marketers are finding life a bit, shall we say, tricky at the moment – and a lot of this is down to mobile users.

Mobile usage is on the rise – it overtook desktop usage in 2016, while Google has launched their mobile-first index.

Moreover, mobile users behave very differently to desktop users and – quite naturally – this has led to some communication mishaps.

Businesses have launched apps to get mobile users onside, but the painful truth is that less than 1 in 4 of us who download an app actually carry on using it.

In other words, mobile app retention and engagement throughout the user’s journey is a major focus area for big and small advertisers alike in a mobile-first world.

This article will act as a guide that will show you what you need to be aiming for in regards retention and engagement rates, before highlighting how to increase both.

Retention and Engagement Rates: Where Does Your Company Stand?

What’s a good retention rate?

According to research, the average mobile app retention rate across all industries is 20% after the first 90 days.

This means that 80% of users churn within three months – an eye-popping statistic if ever there was one.

Of course, retention rates differ from one industry to another, but the sector that enjoys the most retention – the media and entertainment sector has a retention rate of 24% after 90 days.

This can mean two things to you:

1) If your retention rate is below industry standard, you need to do better

2) If your retention rate is at the industry standard, you need to do better (because 20% isn’t good enough for any of us).

Let’s take a look at what you need to do to increase mobile app user retention and engagement:


In 2018 we have moved from personalization to individualization.

And individualization is what mobile users crave the most.

Mobile users want you to tailor content to them specifically and not large segments. This includes more personalized messages geared towards their specific needs.

The content you deliver should be based on their in-app behavior, location and preferences. The good news is that once you start to individualize the user experience, you should see a marked increase in engagement, retention and conversions. Ad sequencing is a great way to help achieve this.

Omnichannel Experience

Is your app integrated with all your other marketing channels? If it isn’t, you’re missing a massive trick.

For an app to keep users engaged, it needs to merge with your overall marketing strategy. If it does, your users will feel properly connected to your brand.

Put simply, if a user engages with your app on one marketing channel and then another, only to find a disjointed, seemingly disconnected experience, it will cause confusion – and churn.

To help you create a seamless omnichannel experience, work on your brand and keep it consistent on all your channels. Create a logo, identify your core values and purpose, and establish a color theme.

Demonstrate the Benefit in Your App Store Listing

If you don’t ram home the benefits of your app in your app store listing, this has to change.

Too many developers leave money on the table with their app store listing. They focus on the features but they don’t convince a user enough of the ultimate value that the app offers in the long term.

Start using your app store listing to increase engagement and not downloads. Get into the minds of users by convincing them how this app is going to vastly improve their lives/solve a problem they have.

Re-engage and Retarget

When 60% of users are opting-out of push notifications, effective re-engagement is a problem. How to activate your users?

Effective re-engagement techniques and retargeting strategies based on user data can help to create smart audience segments and dynamic creatives to send compelling reminder message outside the app, such as via social media, email or even search ads.

Ask Users for Feedback

There’s often nothing better than getting direct feedback from your app users themselves.

Two-way communication is key if you want to grow your app audience and boost retention, and the added bonus is that if you catch an irate customer and garner feedback as soon as possible, it’s a lot less likely that they’ll go on to leave you a negative review.

Moreover, showing that you care about your users and that you want to improve the user experience is a surefire way in and of itself of boosting engagement and long-term loyalty.

Ensure There is In-App Messaging

In-app messaging is so important to the success of your app. In fact, it’s been known to boost retention by as much as 3.5X.

Mobile users move quickly; they want answers on the go – they don’t want to be left waiting. By adding in-app messaging in the form of a live chat, you can easily boost your retention rates. Instead of having to wait hours for an answer, by which time they’ve abandoned the app, the user can get a solution there and then.

Regularly Upgrade the UI

Once you start seeing your mobile app as a living thing that, like all living things, needs care and attention to grow and evolve, you’ll start addressing the UI more.

In other words, you’ll regularly update it.

When you upgrade the UI, do it based on the needs of your users. What are their needs? To find out, do what we suggested above – gather feedback.

The more upgrades you carry out, the smoother and easier you app will be to use – and the more your engagement and retention will increase.

However, it is normal to have minor bugs upon launch. But if your app lags, crashes or has slow load times – these factors are all unacceptable to users and your retention rate and other metrics will suffer.


These are ways to boost mobile engagement and retention. In our digital world, it always appears that it’s hard to keep someone’s attention. But as you can see, as long as you do the right things, holding someone’s attention and growing your audience is totally doable. 

Michelle Deery is a copywriter for Heroic Search, a SEO agency based in Tulsa. Her content has been featured in Entrepreneur magazine. She focuses on technology and marketing and is passionate about growth.