8 Secrets to Growth and Retention for Your App

Out of the millions of apps in the app store, only several thousand will acquire a sustainable user base and consistently get traffic.

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By Andrew Tang


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As the mobile landscape continues to evolve, it is becoming increasingly difficult for entrepreneurs to grow their apps and retain their users. The market is hyper-competitive and oversaturated, and most people only use the apps they really need.

According to Quettra, the average mobile app loses 77 percent of its daily active users within the first three days after an install. Within 30 days, it's lost 90 percent of its daily active users, and within 90 days, it's over 95 percent.

Related: Apple Wants to Teach You How to Make Apps

It's no wonder why out of the millions of apps in the app store, only several thousand will acquire a sustainable user base and consistently get traffic. So, how does one go about maximizing retention and growth? I chatted with Denys Zhadanov, the VP of marketing at Readdle, a company that has amassed over 65 million app downloads worldwide, and Joyce Solano, VP of marketing at LeanPlum, an analytics company that focuses on mobile and has retrieved many insights about the current mobile landscape to give insight about how to navigate this difficult space. Here is what they had to say about growth and retention.

1. Use email marketing to re-engage your users.

With all these new marketing channels now available, many marketers overlook one of the most fundamental tools of marketing -- email. According to Zhadanov, email marketing is one of Readdle's main tools to boost engagement and retention among its users. Email marketing can be used to re-engage customers and provide value to ultimately bring them back into your app. Readdle specifically uses email to give customers tips on how to use its products, and it has seen fantastic results.

2. Collect massive amounts of user feedback.

Many entrepreneurs nowadays rush to release a product (trust me, I've been there) when it hasn't had enough testing and feedback. Although there always needs to be a sense of urgency, don't delay acquiring your feedback until after launch. Always be collecting feedback from friends, family and potential users, and pay attention to your product. It's also really important to combine both feedback from your users in person, and also feedback from data. Only taking in the picture as whole will allow you to make strong, data-driven decisions and also allow your intuition to take you in the right direction.

Related: 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You 'App'

3. Build growth into your platform as a feature.

For those of you out there running on low budgets, this is an extremely important tip. Build as many sharing options into your app as possible. People naturally want to share, so if you can place the sharing options cleverly, you can use this to generate huge amounts of organic traffic without paying a single cent. This is definitely a low hanging fruit that some people underestimate. Make sure that you make it as easy as possible to let your users grow your app for you.

4. A/B Test earlier, and make data-driven decisions.

Solano says that one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is that they A/B test too late into the game. Testing should begin immediately so that you can learn as quickly as possible. Your app's success will depend on how quickly you can learn and make decisions. If you aren't experimenting, you are holding yourself back from learning about your product. Think about it from a biological standpoint. Over time, the most successful mutation wins the gene pool. If you aren't making many experiments, then you are not optimizing your product for success in the market.

Related: 6 Tips and Tricks to Get the Most Downloads for Your Apps

5. Rethink your onboarding experience.

Because of how competitive the app industry is nowadays, this is very important to the users who do download your app. If you want to acquire high levels of retention, you need to make sure that the minute users download your app and sign up, they get accustomed to using the app and know that your app offers something valuable. Solano points out that user onboarding is arguably the most important aspect of growth and retention. If you are getting tons of traffic but not successfully onboarding your users, then you are wasting your efforts on getting traffic. What's the point of acquiring more users if none of them are staying on your app? You can figure out where users are dropping off using tools like LeanPlum and Mixpanel.

6. Be actionable with your data and make holistic decisions.

It's one thing to measure everything in your funnel, but another to use that data to drive action. Much of the tech craze has been about data, but that data is useless unless being actively used to better your product. In a nutshell, don't use data as a rear-view mirror -- use it to guide your decisions about product changes and features, and take into account how the data is fitting in the whole picture. By looking holistically at the bigger picture, and also using data to guide you, you can have a grounded confidence in your progress.

Related: How Can App Makers Improve Revenue and Keep Users Engaged?

7. Time your push notifications and use emojis.

LeanPlum did a study and found that 63 percent of push notifications are sent at the wrong time. While push notifications can be extremely helpful in re-engaging your users, having them timed properly is key. Timing depends on the geographical location of your users and also on your app. LeanPlum developed its own optimal time algorithm using machine learning to figure out when the optimal time to send your push notifications is. It also found that using an emoji increased engagement by 9 percent.

8. Focus on product, not marketing.

At the end of the day, if your product is good and adds value to your customers' lives, they will continue to use it. Focus on the product. There's a reason why you've heard this cliche a million times -- it's because it's true. Your product is the foundation on which you can build and sustain your customer base. If you don't have a strong foundation, everything else you build on top of it will collapse. Make sure your product is absolutely amazing and that users can't say no to it.

Andrew Tang

Founder/CEO at Keybloc

Andrew Tang is the founder and CEO of Keybloc. He studied at UCLA before becoming active in the tech industry. He loves product design, creative marketing and also start-ups in general. 

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