App Engagement And Retention: 5 Tips To Keep Users Coming Back To Your App

4 min read

Many developers choose to focus on growing their user base, investing vast amounts into acquiring new users. But user acquisition is only one part of the story – engaging and retaining these users is just as valuable for success.

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Various studies suggest that apps are shedding up to 70% of users in as little as 90 days. That’s a considerable amount of users that in many cases, have cost money to acquire.

So here are five pillars to follow so that you can work on improving your user engagement and retention.

Getting Onboarding Right

To keep users engaged, it’s important to have a lean and optimised onboarding process. The key is to focus on communicating value and limiting the waffle. Too much information can become as much of a barrier to retention as no onboarding process.

Robust onboarding will help to reduce churn and boost engagement. Finding the sweet spot that communicates how to use your app without overloading the user can seem like a delicate balance, but luckily we’re here to show you what a great onboarding process looks like.

  • Focus on one value proposition – and make it your core proposition – an onboarding process aims to communicate to the user the core benefit that your app will bring. Keeping this to one core benefit will help to avoid confusion.
  • Only highlight core features – similarly, sticking to core features will avoid overwhelming the user and let them quickly understand how they can use your app
  • Only ask if you need it – if your app requires permissions to function, then ask with a clear description of why. But always ask – is this something I need to ask for now, or can I do it at a later stage?
  • Keep it as quick as possible – less is more – don’t skip over any fundamental parts, but remember the drop off rate will grow incrementally with every task the user has to perform before using the app.
  • Optimise sign up if necessary – there are quicker ways to sign up if this is necessary to the app’s function. This will include apple single sign-on for iOS as well, so there are no excuses for lengthy signup processes.

Think About Incentives

An excellent way to keep your users coming back to your app is to offer some time-sensitive incentives. This works best if you incentivise daily visits – for example, giving a reward for the first seven days each day the user returns to the app.

To vastly increase the user’s understanding of your app, link these rewards to key feature demos, and see them engage with the app in the desired way to achieve a related reward.

This can take many forms depending on the type of app, but generally ensuring that the reward is valuable and the user can clearly understand the benefits of the reward is important. Remember to offset these incentives against any monetisation potential. 

This doesn’t have to stop during an initial period. Incentives can work over long periods if the user internalises the incentive. And most importantly, you’ll see that DAU number shoot up.

Push Notifications Have To Be Done Right

It’s hard to talk about engagement and retention without talking about push notifications. These are a great tool to grab the user’s attention and remind them of your app.

However, push notification can become abusive very quickly. Implemented poorly, they can have a negative effect on retention and do more to put off users than keep them engaged.

For push notifications and engagement, quality is better than quantity.

Push notifications do work when implemented correctly. Various studies have stated that they can increase retention anywhere in the range of 50% to 150%.

Notifications have to follow these three main rules:

  • They should be tied to a specific CTA or incentive
  • They must be well-timed and delivered at an acceptable frequency
  • They must be personal – more on this in the next section

Focus On Personalisation

Personalisation is a crucial part of any app engagement strategy. But what do we mean when we talk about personalisation?

It is the process of aligning the user experience with the user’s needs and preferences.

This can be achieved in many ways – it’s simple to add the user’s name and other account information. But we want to do more to keep users coming back to our app again and again.

To keep users engaged, it's important to have a lean and optimised onboarding process.Click To Tweet


Push notifications are a great way to illustrate this point. A generic push notification might work with a specific incentive or compelling CTA, but to generate long term engagement notifications must offer personalised content.

This starts with data collection by having the right amount of user data (behaviour, location, etc.) to customise push notifications, content, and views.

For example, sending relevant messages based on location is one way to drive engagement in specific moments. A contextual notification provides enormous value for the user because it not only reminds them of your app; it demonstrates the benefits when they are needed most.

The proof is in the surveys – studies have shown that post push notification engagement almost tripled when the notification is tailored to the user.

Use Feedback And Remember To Test

No developer will get their app right on the first attempt. That’s why it’s important to measure the key engagement and retention metrics while testing and iterating the features we have already mentioned.

Remember that your users are an important tool to help understand low app engagement and retention.

Create a two-way dialogue between your users – provide them with the chance to provide feedback when they are using your app, and their experience is fresh in mind.

Another great source of information to help improve engagement and retention is to look at the reviews that come in through the app stores. Identify common complaints and trends in the UI – these might be stopping users from getting the most from your app.

Instilling a testing and iteration mentality to your app is sure to help you with engagement and retaining users for longer. Set up analytics and test to understand why your users behave as they do!

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