Mobile Growth Basics: User Retention


According to Business of Apps, an average app’s number of daily active users (DAUs) will decrease by 77% within the first three days after install. After the time and resources spent on UA campaigns, this drastic drop is disappointing to marketers. No app can keep every user that it acquires, though. That’s where mobile retention comes into play.

Retention is the number of individual users that engage with an app at least once during a predetermined period of time. It is often tracked by retention rate. This is calculated by dividing the number of an app’s active users at the end of a period by the number of active users at the beginning of that period. 

Retention is typically measured on Day 1, Day 7, and Day 30. Statista reports that across all categories, retention rate is, on average, 25.3% on Day 1 before dropping to 5.7% on Day 30. 

Why is user mobile retention important?

A high retention rate is key to increasing a user’s lifetime value (LTV) and building a foundation for steady app growth and longevity. Retention efforts typically cost less and user fewer resources than user acquisition and even acts as a UA tactic since a happy user is more likely to refer others to the app. 

How to improve user retention

Improving retention rates starts with improving UX. A user who enjoys engaging with an app or who builds it into their routine is likely to become a longterm active user. A community of long-term, loyal users is more profitable than a mass of new users with no connection to the app.

There are several simple ways to build this community and improve user connection. Let’s explore a few. 

  • Establish good onboarding – Like when onboarding a new employee, onboarding for an app should be a simple, stress-free process. Guide users through the important benefits, features, or processes of your app and avoid overwhelming them with too much information. Consider which features are “second nature” or shared with popular apps to avoid over explanation (likes, comments, scoreboards, etc.).
  • Integrate personalization91% of customers are more likely to interact with brands that provide personalized offers and recommendations. Marketers can choose to integrate static or dynamic personalization to build user loyalty and reduce churn. Static personalization focuses on unchanged factors — think of adding a user’s name to a “Welcome Back” message. Dynamic personalization, on the other hand, is based on behavioral factors. E-commerce apps often implement dynamic personalization by recommending new products based on past purchases.
  • Optimize in-app messaging and push notifications – Apps that use targeted in-app messaging have shown retention rates ranging from 61-74% within 28 days of users receiving a message. In-app messaging can be integrated into the onboarding process, used to announce new features, or added to drive engagement. Alongside in-app messaging, push notifications power retention. When customized and used sparingly, push notifications can boost retention rate 3-10x

Mobile user retention resources

Tracking user retention is crucial to maintaining app success and a great tool for understanding what you can do better. Explore more strategies for improving retention with the following resources: