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The Smartphone App Retention Challenge

Engagement breeds retention

December 17, 2015

App developers—and the marketers who work with them—are faced with several challenges. A creative idea for a useful or fun app is worth little without the marketing needed to make sure that app actually gets on users’ home screens. But even then, whether app downloaders will engage is an open question.

Average Retention Rates* over the First 3 Weeks for Mobile Apps Worldwide, by User Activity vs. Inactivity, Jan-April 2015

Several researchers have found that engagement and retention for mobile apps drop over time—sometimes quickly, and often steeply.

But research from Appboy suggests that even if users are not immediately delighted with apps, some of them may stick around.

Based on data from the beginning of 2015, app users who were active during the first week they had an app were highly likely to continue engaging after three months, with an 82% retention rate. Among users who were not active during the first week, just 37% would still be using the app three months later.

But some of those inactive users started engaging during week two, and those who did so brought their retention rate up to 74% after three months.

Among users who became active only in week three of having an app, 69% were still retained after three months.

The data suggests that while immediate engagement helps an app grab and maintain ultrahigh retention rates, the lack of immediate use is not a dealbreaker. If consumers remember why they download an app a week later and check it out then, there’s a good chance they will stick around for the long haul.

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